The VRAs – Frozen Scream (1975)

This is our ongoing series about films that were banned by the British government, using the Video Recordings Act of 1984. You have the right-wing gutter press and a few Christian pressure groups to thank for these films becoming more famous than they had any right to be (in all but a few cases), and the fact they’ve now virtually all been re-released, uncut, while the law remains in place, tells you more about moral panics than it does about the content of the films. See the VRAs “mission statement” here.

It’s been a while since we did a video nasty, and that’s because, if we’re being honest, they’re sort of samey. Slow-paced late 70s euro-thrillers with occasional nudity and a few scenes of ultra-violence, and with the passing of the years and the wide availability of movies so violent they make the video nasties look like family films, it makes the whole pursuit sort of pointless. But, I run a movie blog that only a handful of people read, a pursuit far more pointless than that, so let’s go nasty!

Although “Frozen Scream” is apparently American, its pitiful dubbing and weirdly bland locations mean it could easily have been another Italian “epic”. The Girards, Ann and Tom, are having a nice conversation on the phone, she visiting her parents, he sat in his office, but the happiness is to be short-lived as he’s chased through his house by a bunch of robe-clad dudes who are invulnerable to bullets and…okay, here’s where the first weird thing happens.

He dies, and she apparently witnesses it. But, minutes ago, she was out of town, right? Whatever. Because she’s a woman and this was the 1970s, people are way more interested in telling her to shut the hell up and get on with her life than they are in believing her, so she calls on her ex-boyfriend Kevin, who’s now a cop, to help her out. And here’s where the second weird thing happens.

For the first half of the movie, every now and again we’ll be treated to some of the cop’s voiceover, which appears to be inserted at random – it’ll just play over conversations that seem sort of important, start halfway through scenes, and so on. It’s a genuine bad-movie-classic sort of choice, and I love it (I actually paused the DVD to make sure the sound of the voiceover wasn’t coming from somewhere else).

The plot involves some drug which apparently makes you immortal, but which Dr Lil Stanhope (Renee Harmon, also the producer and co-writer) thinks can turn you into a low-temperature zombie. Sure, why not? Given her mover-and-shaker status, it sort of explains why her performance is wooden even by the standards of this sort of garbage, her extremely thick German accent not exactly helping matters. You know how I mentioned dubbing above? Well, her sidekick, the weird old doctor guy who’s doing the actual experiments, Dr Sven, was dubbed by a guy whose voice definitely does not look like it ought to be coming out of that body.

One of Kevin’s earliest voiceovers is saying how he and Ann were once a couple until she suddenly left him one day for Tom – a red herring so enormous that you may well boo when it’s left unresolved at the end. Anyway, even though her husband died mere days ago, he’s desperate to get her back, which must have looked a little creepy then and seems almost pathological now – but, he’s the hero of the piece. Hurrah for the 70s!

Then there’s the flashbacks, which aren’t announced, and with all the men sort of looking the same, you could be forgiven for not realising are even flashbacks. I think Ann and Tom were in a cult, based round the idea of eternal life? Which sort of explains why he was so unhappy to see his cult brothers at the beginning of the movie, and why they were invulnerable. But when you don’t even get a wobble-fade for your trip back in time, there’s understandably going to be some confusion.

One of the most fun things about these video nasties is trying to figure out why they were banned in the first place. Some of them (“Toolbox Murders”, for one) were just because of the similarity of the name to other, more famous slasher movies, I’m sure. One of them, “Contamination”, was even re-released, uncut, with a 15 certificate (sort of like an R, I guess?) several years later. There’s almost no nudity in “Frozen Scream” so it’s down to gore, and that’s pretty minimal too – an axe to the head, with the aftermath shown in lots of detail, and a shard of glass to the face. I feel bad for the gorehounds of the mid 70s, trying to get their thrills from such meagre fare.

It’s not a bad movie, particularly. It’s even interesting, in places, as the flashbacks and the bizarre voiceovers give it a vaguely surreal air; plus, the party scene where the band plays copyright-abusing versions of famous rock-n-roll hits is an all-time classic. Completely decent ending too.

But overall it’s not all that good, either, with a script that, hilarious mockery aside, is just rotten from top to bottom. Were it not for its status as a video nasty it would be legitimately completely forgotten, like…all those 70s horror movies that no-one gives a damn about.

Rating: thumbs down

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