Among the various secret Nazi plans to win WWII that involved the occult, clones, brain transplants, looted gold, and lost arks, the most fearsome of all (according to this movie at least, but it’s probably a bit biased) was the creation of the Death Corps.
The Death Corps, as both the narrator and later Peter Cushing would explain, were a bunch of thugs and murderers who were turned into zombies that lived only to kill. Now, I would have just thought that those things would be called Nazis, but these Death Corps guys were apparently Nazis that had turned it up a notch.
Like regular Nazis, they were inhuman bloodthirsty animals that craved only violence, but unlike regular Nazis, they couldn’t be killed. In fact, they even went as far as to engineer these Death Corps types so that they would be particularly adept at surviving in the deserts of Africa or the winters of Russia. The particular Death Corps group that runs amok in this movie are of the underwater variety (this way they could man submarines that never had to surface).
The fact that our boys went over there and banjaxed these barbaric boobs is all the more impressive when you consider all the covert missions they must have undertaken to destroy the catalog of B-movie projects Mengele had cooked up. However, and I’m not trying to take anything away from the Greatest Generation, if those legions of Nazi monsters were anything like the ones depicted in this film, the only question I have is why it took us so dang long to win the war in the first place.
Sure, these pasty-faced blonde SS guys looked like a million bucks of scare when they silently rise out of the depths and start walking around, but you have to question the success of the program when these killing machines can be defeated by simply tearing their sunglasses off in the middle of the day, causing these goofs to flop around screaming “Mein Blue Blockers! Mein Blue Blockers!”
What was the reason for that particular weakness? They’re supposed to be running around underwater in subs all day long. Presumably, it isn’t going to be pitch black in the sub, just because it’s got a crew of zombies. Besides, if the whole point of the program is to get a bunch of troops that don’t have to surface in their subs, why does it have to be a bunch of killer zombies?
If their job is to sail around in their sub sinking crap and never surface, they aren’t ever going to get involved in hand to hand combat. Just find a way to re-animate dead sailors and stick them on the sub. If you can create a race of super soldiers that exist somewhere between life and death and rip people up with their bare hands, doing a little voodoo on a submarine crew should be stuff any loser in the Hitler Youth could do.
Where the movie really started to smell like a thirty year-old waterlogged SS uniform though was when it became apparent that nothing beyond a bunch of people running around an island while these expressionless freaks chased after them was going to happen. No plan for world domination. No plan to turn other people into zombies. No plan to resurrect the Third Reich. No plan to even fix up the old abandoned hotel that their old commander Peter Cushing was living in!
To be fair, Peter did mention that the hitch in the Death Corps’ giddyup was the fact that while these guys loved killing people, they never really distinguished between the enemy and their fellow Nazis, resulting in a lot of what we’d probably call “friendly fire” incidents. But really, couldn’t they come up with something better than just having the former child star of the Flipper TV series running around swamps and using his getaway rowboat to escape the clutches of these things?
Minimal action and even less story drops anchor all over this one. Both Cushing and co-star John Carradine are squandered (they don’t even share a single scene!) in roles of little importance. (Though Cushing is the commanding officer of these creatures, he doesn’t do anything in the movie but explain what the zombies are before getting bumped off.)
While the film does sport very effective and creepy scenes of these guys rising from the waters, the movie gives them very little to do. They chase some people, choke them out, bust up some of the hotel, and get fried in the sun. Other than the menace they are to the five or six people on the island that we don’t care about, they wouldn’t seem to be much of a threat to anyone else. If they ever managed to make it to civilization, how much damage could six of these things do before we got around to hiding their Oakleys?
They are the best looking Nazi zombies I’ve seen, outclassing their undead brethren from Zombie Lake, but the utter lack of ambition the movie has confines all of it to the category of forgettable, inoffensive (except maybe for that bit with the oven) time waster.
And don’t fret for John Carradine in this movie. Though he looks worse than the zombies, he actually went to appear in forty more films after this one!
© 2015 MonsterHunter