I never intended to review 1964’s Frozen Alive. Okay, so I actually did. I had even posted on the Horror And Sons Facebook page that it was a review that I would be working on in the near future. While I have previously told readers that I intended to do something and then not actually done it, this lack of “follow through” is not something that sits well with me.
Then, I watched the film. It’s not a “horror” film, which I knew going in. It’s also not exactly a “science fiction” film, as many of the film’s theories are now taken as science fact, or at least a strong scientific possibility. Instead, it’s more accurate to call the film a “character study”. You can even call it a “melodrama”. Truth be told, it’s not far from a god-damned soap opera. Unfortunately, no one gets possessed and Jack Wagner never makes an appearance.
WARNING: The following review contains numerous spoilers. In fact, I give away the entire movie. Don’t be upset about that though. I assure you, you’ll have no desire to actually watch it.
Dr. Helen Weiland (Marianne Koch, who would appear in A Fistful of Dollars the same year), and her partner, Dr. Frank Overton (Mark Stevens, a writer/director/producer/actor for a number of both Hollywood and European productions), have made significant progress with their research on suspended animation. Having built their own experimental device (essentially a cryogenics chamber), they need only test the machine on a human specimen. However, their financial backer threatens to pull the scientists’ funding if they even think of experimenting on a living person, fearing the media backlash if the specimen were to die.
Making matters worse for Frank, his wife, Joan (Delphi Lawrence – The Man Who Could Cheat Death, Bunny Lake Is Missing), becomes convinced that her husband is spending all of his time at the lab because he is having an affair with his partner. Despite the fact that Joan’s low self-esteem has made her a raging alcoholic who spends every moment that her husband is not around with her ex-lover, Frank has never really given the idea of a romance with Helen much thought. Well, at least not until his wife gave him the idea!
After an evening’s bender with the ex, Tony (Joachim Hansem – The Boys From Brazil), Joan steals the man’s unregistered handgun and stumbles her drunk ass over to the institute where Frank and Helen conduct their research. She begins waving the gun around, making a few rambling, nearly-incoherent threats to Helen before eventually being subdued. Joan is taken home by her husband, where he attempts to continue the fight. In her inebriated state, the gun discharges, nearly hitting Frank!
Shocked sober by what she has done (and more accurately, what she could have done), Joan vows never to drink again. Frank removes the clip from the pistol and stashes it away in a desk drawer. The marriage shows signs of being salvageable. However, the moment that Frank leaves the house to return to the lab, Joan once again calls Tony and has him stop over for a visit, if only to return the gun that she had stolen. While boasting about her newfound sobriety (of less than 24-hours), she begins haphazardly waving the gun around again. Unbeknownst to all, a single round was left in the gun’s chamber, which takes this golden opportunity to lodge itself deep in Joan’s chest.
As she dies, Tony tries to hide the fact that he was ever there. The son of the local police chief, he seems more concerned with being linked to an unregistered firearm than he does about his dead lover. With all signs of his presence now removed, detectives instinctively point the finger at the most likely suspect: Joan’s husband!
However, by this time, Frank finds himself with no other recourse for proving that the suspended animation device works than to test it on himself! Although she initially protests, Helen soon gives in, as she too knows there is no other viable option. The police arrive at the lab and discover what Frank has done, which they take as a sign of guilt, believing that the scientist is more willing to risk death in his experimental stasis chamber than to face justice for his alleged crime.
At first, the experiment looks to be a smooth success. Fortunately, Tony soon develops a conscience and confesses the full details of Joan’s death to his father. At around the same time, the experiment goes awry and Frank’s life hangs in the balance. However, there is no “downer” ending. Frank survives the experiment, his project is deemed a success and allowed to continue, and he and Helen live happily ever after as a couple. Joan, on the other hand, is still very much dead.
Frozen Alive was a British/German co-production, which helps not only explain the film’s Berlin setting, but also explains the presence of so many German accents in the cast. The film was directed by Bernard Knowles, who began his career in film working as an acclaimed cinematographer on numerous films from the late-1920’s through the mid-1940’s. Knowles then moved into directing, switching from film to primarily television work in the 1950’s. Some may find it interesting to know that Knowles was also the uncredited “director” of The Beatles’ “Magical Mystery Tour” television special, with the Fab Four taking full directorial credit for themselves. I say “some” may find this interesting. I don’t. Fuck the Beatles.
Frozen Alive was written by Evelyn Frasier, who would spend the remainder of her career working in television as well. The fact that the film was written by a woman may explain the uncommon presence of a strong-willed, intelligent woman in what was, and probably still is, a male-dominated genre (science fiction). Presumably because of her involvement, we are refreshingly presented with a female character who doesn’t immediately turn to jelly in the face of adversity and then has to rely on her male counterparts to (presumably) rescue her. Granted, it’s still not enough to make Frozen Alive entertaining.
Ultimately, Frozen Alive is…. well, it’s more than a little boring. As I said earlier, it’s like watching a soap opera, only without all the adultery, back-stabbing, and murder. Okay, it actually has all of those things, but it’s still kinda boring. Watch at your own risk!
Frozen Alive was released to Blu-ray in 2017 by Retromedia Entertainment as part of a double-feature with 1953’s Phantom from Space. I would say that you should watch that movie instead, but it too is quite boring. AMAZON LINK: https://amzn.to/2LnS1Lf