Nothing in this world is quite as awesome as a brain-eating, flesh-devouring rotting undead corpse. Unless, of course, you stick a swastika on the crypt-dodger, causing the zombie’s awesometer to erupt and burst with epic consequences. With the latest addition to the genre, War Of The Dead out on DVD on the 28th May (2012), here’s a brief guide through the world of concentration camps, little moustaches and brain-noming.
The story of the cinematic goosestepping grave-walkers dates back to a time before the undead had even considered tucking into a warm helping of human innards. Twenty years before Romero’s groundbreaking Night Of The Living Dead, the Nazi zombies (or zombie nazis if you wish) struck the celloid in Revenge Of The Zombies. This Monogram movie (a company who also brought us the 40′s ‘classic’ King Of The Zombies) stars exploitation icon, Mr. John Carradine as a Nazi leader created a Third Reich of ‘living’ corpses. Directed by Steve Sekely who went on to create sci-fi classic The Day Of The Triffids, this early Nazi-zombie-sploitation flick proves to be quite entertaining today, if slightly dull.
The Nazis laid low in their tombs for a few years following this, with the exception of The Frozen Dead, it wasn’t until 1977 when they rose their ugly rotten faces from the soils of the grave again. An undeniable classic, Shock Waves is easily one of the greatest movies of this sub-genre and is loved by zombie fans around the world. A cult favourite despite it’s limited distribution, the film is best known for its starring of the iconic Surrey horror star Peter Cushing and is a must see! The poster has become synonymous with the genre, which is no surprise.
What followed in the 80s (a time when the zombie boom was at a high) was anything but atmospheric and eerie nazi zombie films. Kicking of the decade of shoulder pads in ’81 is the rather obscure little ‘gem’ Night Of The Zombies. With the inclusion of porn-god Jamie Gilis (who recently returned to the zombie genre with the hilariously bad Die You Zombie Bastards!) in the center role you’ll have a very good idea of the quality of this film. Time hasn’t been kind to this cinematic crime with the film remaining firmly on VHS only with no future DVD releases in sight.
Enter Jean Rollin. Taking over from Italian sleaze director Jesus Franco, Rollin (who has created some beautiful slices of exploitation cinema including The Grapes Of Death) attempts to save the film from the pits of so-bad-its-good, but doesn’t quiet succeed. Nudy girls and green Nazi shamblers abound in this bizzare movie that’s a treat for all cult enthusiasts. From the still-breathing ‘dead’ person to clearly seeing the sides of the swimming pool set…uh, I mean the exotic and erotic outdoors lake. It may not be the greatest film ever made, but it’s undeniably entertaining!
Running up close behind in ’83, is Jess Franco’s official addition to the ssombie cycle. Revolving around a group of characters that venture out into the desert in seach of a huge pot of Nazi treasure, things turn nasty when the pot is revealed to be cursed! Cue Nazi Zombies and scantily clad female action. Oasis Of The Zombies proved to be the final nail in the coffin for the fuher’s army of the living dead as sure enough the mini-genre was shoved into the realm of forgotten films.
But, we all know you can’t keep a zombie down! With Romero’s return in 2005 with Land Of The Dead, the British homage to all things unliving, Shaun Of The Dead, the hugely successful Resident Evil series and the collosal hit Zombieland, the mid to late naughties witnessed a phenomenal come back with a bite. Countless movies, games, books, comics, music, television shows, toys and everything in between erupted from the grave and bombared popular culture like never before. The decade well and truly belonged to the zombies. It’s no surprise then that amongst this surge, Nazi Zombies clambered out of their crypts yet again. This time however, no longer were they a product of throwaway sleazy exploitation (as fun as that is) . Instead the SS Undead featured in some of the most entertaining living dead films of this boom. Starting with Zombies Of War, then Outpost and it’s sequel and finally ramming up the reputation in Norway’s Dead Snow to the latest film War Of The Dead, Nazi Zombies were/are at the height of awesomeness. Saved by comedy and a ressurgence of rotten cadavers, these films proved not only to be stylish but hillarious too. Add to this the incredibly popular Call Of Duty Zombie mode and it’s clear to see just how far Nazi Zombies have come.
Who knows perhaps in some secret laboratory, Hitler has risen from his grave and is building an army without a pulse once again?!