ZOMG! Nazis!

Posted on July 3, 2013

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A couple of times at Forces of Geek, usually at Halloween, I wrote compilation columns. I watched a whole bunch of related movies, and then gave quick reviews of each one.

This week marks the first of those compilation posts at my blog. We are kicking it off big, too! All of these movies have something to do with World War II in Europe.

I know you can see that first movie title, but trust me.

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They Saved Hitler’s Brain (1968)

This is a made-for-TV movie, and it’s awful.

Basically, the Nazi’s saved Hitler’s entire head (not just his brain) in a glass jar – his living head. Sometimes it’s played by a guy with his head in the glass jar and his body hidden under the table the jar is sitting on. Other times it’s obviously a wax dummy head.

The Nazi’s wait until the ‘60s, because that’s when this killer nerve gas gets developed. They kidnap a scientist to keep him from distributing an antidote for the nerve gas so they can conquer the world using that gas.

The best thing about it is Nestor Paiva, who MST3K fans will remember as Load Load from Revenge of the Creature – so it’s just the perfect way to cap my marathon (it has the earliest date, but was the last film I watched).

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Zombie Lake (1981)

This French film, also known as Le lac des morts vivants, is the soft porn entry in our marathon. There is a tremendous amount of female nudity. Plus, when the camera lingers on a zombie attack, it looks more like sex than monsters devouring a person.

The mayor of a little French town delivers a lot of exposition about the local lake, and about how stories stretch back to Black Masses conducted at the lake during the Middle Ages.

There is also a nice little back story about one German soldier who rescues a villager from a strafing run by allied aircraft and then gets to second base, which is apparently enough to get the village woman pregnant. Somehow, forty years later, their daughter is still a little girl and zombie daddy recognizes her, motivating him to save the town.

The zombie makeup basically consists of green skin paint, when they remembered to apply it.

It’s just a bad, bad movie – and it’s still better than They Saved Hitler’s Brain.

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Oasis of the Zombies (1982)

This French film is also known as The Treasure of the Living Dead. During the closing days of the North African theater of WWII, a German unit hid $6,000,000 of gold at an oasis in the desert. Now some college kids want to go looking for it.

This movie spent way too much time on a romantic backstory between a WWII officer and a sheikh’s daughter. It should have spent that time building the characters of the college kids.

The zombies are laughably bad. The scariest looking ones are obviously rubber masks on sticks.

Then again, you can’t expect much from a movie where the main character’s response to seeing all his friends killed by Nazi zombies is, “Well, I guess I found myself.”

This movie should totally have been part of Mystery Science Theater 3000’s oeuvre. It would have been hilarious.

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Max Manus: Man of War (2008)

Don’t let the title fool you. This is not an overblown WWII superhero movie. Instead, it’s the true story of a Norwegian man, Max Manus.

In 1940, Max was one of the Norwegian volunteers who went to Finland to fight the Soviets. While the Soviets never got more than a few kilometers into Finland, Norway surrendered in two months – ironically, making it the country that held out longest of all those invaded.

After recovering from his wounds, Max helps found the Norwegian Resistance. After being arrested by German soldiers and Norwegian collaborators, Max escapes to Scotland where he trains with the Free Norwegian military as a saboteur.

I thought this was a nuanced portrayal of people, and far less whitewashed than many biographies.

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Dead Snow (2009)

Norway makes some pretty damn good movies, and this is one of them. In fact, it makes Zombie Lake and Oasis of the Zombies look like student films.

Speaking of students: A bunch of Norwegian medical school students take a vacation in a remote hunting cabin. They meet a man there who tells them a story about the Nazi occupation during World War II, and how the oppressed villagers drove the Nazis into the forest in the winter, to die.

Of course, the Nazis didn’t die. They turned into zombies! Now the medical students have to fight to stay alive. A gory romp into the niche genre of Nazi zombie survival horror.

One of the things that I loved about this movie was they way they made it part of the real world. The students have seen the zombie movies that we have. They try all the things they learned from those movies.

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Everyman’s War (2009)

Brother’s Thad and Craig Smith set out to tell their father’s story. Don Smith served in the 94th Infantry and was involved in the fighting along the Siegfried Line in the winter of 1944. His sons wrote and directed this film.

The movie focuses on the humanity of the people involved. The battle sequences are very short, and very late in the film. I was deeply moved by the film, and even teared up at the end.

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Age of Heroes (2011)

This movie made the marathon for a reason. James Bond fans know that Ian Fleming, Bond’s creator, worked in British Naval Intelligence during World War II. This movie is about the first mission of 30 Commando, a unit that Fleming had a hand in creating. 30 Commando’s job was to infiltrate German-held territory and to steal technology.

By coincidence (I’m sure), 30 Commando’s commander is played by Sean Bean, who played a traitorous MI-6 agent in Goldeneye, a 1995 James Bond movie.

This movie jumps right into World War II, with no explanation for the 1940 retreat through France, the capitulation of Norway, or why there is a Norwegian resistance. It goes right to establishing characters, runs through a de rigueur training sequence, and crashes into the mission. Things go horribly wrong, of course.

There’s not a lot of depth here. The Germans are all horrible. The Norwegians are brave and oppressed. The British are courageous, loyal, and honorable. Still, it’s a cut above most war/adventure movies, and I really enjoyed it.

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The Devil’s Rock (2011)

Just before D-Day, two ANZAC commandos raid a Channel island occupied by Nazis. Only nothing there is what they expected. It seems the Nazis summoned a demon, and the ritual to subdue it requires two people. The demon killed everyone but the SS officer in command. He’s out of luck, unless he can convince one of his sworn enemies to help him.

Starring no one you’ve ever heard of, The Devil’s Rock wants to be a tense, locked-room, thriller with minimal cast and location. It just doesn’t work. They wait too long to really show the demon’s frightening manipulations. She’s not scary until then, just gorey.

Having said that, all the technical aspects are top-notch. The acting is good. It’s just the script and direction that needed more.

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Iron Sky (2012)

In this Finnish movie, the 2018 Presidential elections (automatically wrong – US Presidential elections happen in years evenly divisible by 4, e.g. 2012, 2016, 2020) are riding on a new manned expedition to the dark side of the Moon.

The lunar mission has a secret purpose, however: Locating ample supplies of Helium-3 (a real substance sought for nuclear fusion research).

The mission goes bad when it stumbles across a secret Nazi base established in 1945. The Nazis have not progressed much, scientifically, and desperately need additional computer technology to get their giant flying saucer working.

Excellent special effects combined with competent acting and decent (albeit not great) character development make this a fun movie to watch. It was certainly my favorite of the movies I had not seen before (Dead Snow is still my overall favorite).

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Nazis at the Center of the Earth (2012)

Some medical researchers in Antarctica stumble across a subterranean Nazi base…except they don’t. They’re tricked into going there by the leader of their research group, who is secretly in league with the Nazis. Jake Busey! Robot Hitler! Undead Nazi cyborgs!

Let me begin by saying that nothing from Asylum Studios is ever good, okay? The moment you see that logo, the best you can hope for is hilarious, trashy, fun.

Nazis at the Center of the Earth comes close a couple of times. The complete lack of anything even remotely resembling verisimilitude or scientific accuracy kept throwing me out of the movie – and I am not even close to being a scientist.

Robot Hitler was hilariously fun, though.

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Outpost: Black Sun (2012)

In 1945, a Nazi scientist named Klausener was working on a top-secret super weapon. Flash forward to the present day, and a modern Nazi hunter uncovers Klausener’s deadly secret: An army of zombie stormtroopers, on the march through Eastern Europe! As long as they stay within the radius of Klausener’s electromagnetic field, the zombies are invulnerable. Unfortunately, every military in the world wants that machine.

If you watch a lot of British TV, you’ll recognize Richard Coyle (Coupling, etc) and Clive Russell (Spaced, Coronation Street, Game of Thrones, etc). So at least this cast is recognizable.

There’s a trend in movie cinematography and lighting to use “realistic lighting,” even in dark situations. I think it’s lazy crap. Movies are a visual experience. If your lightning keeps us from seeing what’s happening, then you are making a radio play, not a movie.

Outpost: Black Sun has too many scenes of lazy crap. It also fails to make us care about the zombie attack, the special forces soldiers, the engineer and the reporter/Nazi hunter. So the sudden but inevitable betrayal is meaningless, and I stopped caring what I was watching.

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Posted in: Movies