Dear reader, my masochistic streak re: terrible movies has given you yet another review. I was under the impression that the Nazi zombie genre was fairly small, but after un-enjoying “Zombie Lake”, I discover there’s loads of the bloody things. We won’t be reviewing “Dead Snow”, because I watched it just before starting with the ISCFC and hated it, but at the urging of no-one (okay, my wife likes zombie movies and hates Nazis, so there was a little encouragement) I’ll review every Nazi zombie movie I can lay my hands on. I want no-one to have a bad entertainment decision and blame me for not writing a thousand words of nonsense about it!
We’ve done underwater Nazi zombies, but this is their sand-dune dwelling cousins. A pair of beautiful holiday-makers in a jeep stop to stretch their legs, and clearly our fascist undead friends are horny, as they pop up from the ground and get to eating.
Er…hold on a minute. This sounds a bit like “Zombie Lake”, right? And by “a bit”, I mean “they’re pretty much the same movie”. Let’s do a list of ways they’re the same:
- Zombie nazis
- Roused by hot females
- A very long flashback to WW2, where a soldier has a baby with a woman who dies in childbirth
- At the end of the flashback, some badass Allies whup Nazi ass
- Stupid ending where all the Nazis are wiped out, after appearing indestructible to that point
- Involvement of Jess Franco
I don’t know what went on, but Franco, after quitting “Zombie Lake” due to the tiny budget, went back to work for Eurocine the next year and appears to have re-used significant portions of his own script. It’s really extremely similar, so I’m presuming there’s a good story behind it (well, better than the story they chose to put on screen). At least this one didn’t have a chuffing dead Nazi as the romantic lead!
The reason all these people want to go into the desert is down to good old Nazi gold. It turns out that the transport we see in the flashback had $6 million worth on it, although the Allies never bothered searching the trucks or anything like that. The sole survivor of the Nazis decides after 35 years he probably ought to swing by and pick the gold up, so he goes to the sole survivor of the Allies, gets the map and then just kills him. I don’t know, if you can’t trust a fascist, who can you trust? He also seems pretty chill when the other guy tells him his soldiers might well be zombies now, expecting they’ll still listen to his orders (spoiler: they don’t).
I wrote in my notes “looks like two groups are converging on the gold”, but that might have been slightly fun and exciting, so it doesn’t happen. The son of the dead English soldier, who’s now a student in London, also learns about the gold and decides to round up a bunch of his student friends and go too, but they don’t arrive til the other group are pretty much slaughtered, and don’t really do much of anything themselves. There’s an idea that the zombies are protecting the gold, although who they’re doing it for is a conundrum never solved.
There’s a couple of incidents which date this movie better than a receipt from opening night. The flashback involves the Allied soldier meeting and falling in love with a Muslim woman – there’s even a sex scene where she goes full frontal. Could you imagine the storm of abuse such an image would get in a movie today? It’s perhaps handy to remember that in the post-WW2 period, there was a lot of that Eastern eroticism sold to Western audiences, and pre-revolutionary Saudi Arabia (for example) was seen as a bit of a pleasure palace. This sort of casual indifference (to modern eyes) to Islam extends to when the son gets to Africa, and he and his friends stroll through a group of men kneeling in prayer, literally striding over them in a few instances. It’s perhaps the most shocking image of the entire thing!
There’s one really cool-looking zombie in this, an obvious model of a skull with half a jaw, and bits of skin hanging off. Most of the money must have gone on that, because the rest of the zombie makeup appears to be glue and a smidge of white paint, smeared all over the face – better than “Zombie Lake”, but then everything is better than “Zombie Lake”. They look pretty good, though, so I shouldn’t be too mean, even if their hair isn’t very 1940s military, more late 70s hipster. The location is interesting too – after seeing dozens of bloody jungle zombie movies, to see one set in the desert is interesting by the mere fact of its uniqueness.
You’ll need to really hold on to that small segment of positivity, though, as this movie is just dull. Way too much padding, way too little real incident, and there’s one line which makes me fear for the European youth of the 1980s – “let’s make Molotov cocktails, like in school”. No one element is really really awful, but it all comes together to just suck the life out of you. It’s not like there’s even much of the tricks of the exploitation director’s trade on display – no gratuitous nudity, barely any gore. There’s a moderately funny bit where, after burning all the zombie corpses, our main couple get horny and have sex very close to the piles of undead – not the moment I’d choose, but whatever. The end also has some scenes shot from above, where the sand is very clearly a few handfuls thrown on a sand-coloured blanket, indicating re-shoots (or a very lazy set designer).
The thing is…it ought to be pretty easy to make a Nazi zombie movie. The 20th century’s greatest villains when they were alive, and now they’re dead? It should be a no-brainer. In both this and “Zombie Lake”, the uniforms the zombies were wearing was the least relevant thing about them. Why not try and make them a bit Nazi-like? Or use more of the trappings of their political creed, have them attack someone wearing a Star of David first? Anything other than this dull nothing would have been preferable.
Another movie which looked great on video shelves in the 1980s, but really ought to have stayed there.
Rating: thumbs down