Film Review

Shock Waves  (1977)

todayFebruary 22, 2024 43

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By – Gareth Jones

For fans of low budget zombie movies, late 70’s horror with a bit of art, innovative minimal scores, Peter Cushing and John Carradine cameos

A few Sundays ago, I was lucky enough to be perusing one of my favorite places on Earth, Seasick Records.  I went in just to relax, say hello to friends, with no intention of buying anything.  I thought, why not just flip through the used soundtrack section just in case.  Well, I was rewarded with a doozy.  Waxworks Records has become one of the premiere go-to boutique record labels that specializes in releasing a wide range of scores and soundtracks, from recent films like Barbie to early classics like The Bride of Frankenstein.  Neither of these need any kind of spotlight, but Waxwork also releases little known scores often from B and C grade horror films.  Such is the case with what I found, Richard Einhorn’s score for Shock Waves. It is considered to be one of the first full electronic scores for film and was Einhorn’s first score.  He later went on to scoring other horror films such as The Prowler, Don’t Go In the House, and Blood Rage before becoming an in-house composer for PBS.  I had never seen the film so I grabbed the score and went home to watch the film on TUBI (of course) and boy, was I rewarded with an unusual and fascinating film.

Shock Waves was one of many lower tier films that had new and upcoming actors as well as cameos from the old guard.  In this case, we have Brooke Adams in her first lead role, one year before becoming a significant star in Days of Heaven, The Great Train Robbery, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers which all came out in 1978, quite a year.  On the other side, we have the icon himself, Peter Cushing, and the Carradine paterfamilias John, getting a nice paycheck and adding a level of charm that only they could bring. It is efficiently directed by Ken Wiederhorn who would go on to direct Meatballs II and The Return of the Living Dead II. Both of which may  have had their highest moments in the form of the roman numerals in the titles. Shock Waves may be his “best” work.

Now, to the plot (what there is of it.) Shock Waves tells the tale of a group of tourists aboard a decaying old boat with the decaying old captain (John Carradine) joined by a young, handsome, mustachioed novice sailor (played by Luke Haplin who would go on to fame with Flipper) and and ugly, drunkard cook played by Don Stout in his only cinematic role. The passengers include the aforementioned Brooke Adams as well as Chuck (the wannabe lothario) and an annoying couple who are skeptical of this boat and crew. The damaged boat gets close to an abandoned ship and an island whose sole inhabitant is Nazi in hiding Peter Cushing.  Apparently, Cushing was an officer in charge of an elite squadron of zombie soldiers created to live underwater with enhanced strength and ruthless killing abilities.  They have been dormant waiting for a chance to rise again, and the ship in peril and its unlucky passengers provide that opportunity.   

Needless to say, the film is filled with many ridiculous scenes with hammy acting and large gaps in plot and character development.  In spite of this, or maybe because of this, I found the film entertaining.  In fact, the zombies themselves were impressive, especially rising in unison from the water.  All of this was greatly enhanced by the electronic score of Richard Einhorn.  Much like another film starring Peter Cushing that came out in 1977, the theme song for the zombies is expertly used to build suspense and expectation.  The location is greatly enhanced by the score and the set pieces built around the zombies lead to some entertaining kill scenes and while not original it should satisfy fans of the genre. It is not gory, but ominous.

Shock Waves is the perfect Saturday afternoon relaxing genre flick.  It is not going to tax your intellect but it should provide you with some amusement as the electronic grooves of Einhorn sets the mood.  I am glad I took a chance on the vinyl and the movie.

Available as mentioned on the free streaming site, TUBI.

Written by: Gareth Jones

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