Off-Season Reviews: Frozen Alive (1964)
Not to cast doubts on Frozen Alive, but when your film kicks off with a science conference concerning “low temperature research,” you’re in trouble. “You” covering everyone. The cast for thinking they’ll ever work again after this picture. The producers for thinking they’ll ever make their money back. And us, the audience, for having to sit through the longest film in the history of film. Sure the sleeve says it’s only 60 minutes long, but it plays out as the cinematic equivalent of Sunn 0))).
You have to love these movies from the 50s and 60s. The Drs. Helen Wieland (Marianne Koch) and Frank Overton (Mark Stevens) are giving a presentation on their newly discovered technique of deep freezing chimpanzees, and then bringing them back to life. The biggest hubbub at the conference is over whether they should be allowed to test their techniques on humans; not about the ethicality of testing on animals. PETA would have a field-day with this one!
No joke, 12 minutes into the film and the characters are now leaving the science conference. 28 minutes into the 60 minute film and a gun shows up in the hands of Dr. Frank’s drunken and jealous wife, Joan Overton (Delphi Lawrence). Finally, some conflict that’s not philosophical!
There’s a number of story arcs set to collide with Delphi’s powerhouse performance. (Her careening and barking at both Frank and her boyfriend on the side, Tony (Joachim Hansen), is easily the film’s best performance. It’s so natural it’s hard to believe she might not have actually been drunk.) She’s jealous of Frank’s closeness with lab partner Helen, probably fueled by guilt over her own relationship with Tony. Helen’s angry because her partnership with Frank is being broken up right before their major breakthrough. And Tony, poor Tony, got Joan drunk and now just wants her to stop waving his gun around so he can write his newspaper article.
And in a plot twist I certainly didn’t see coming, Frank, Helen, and even “don’t point that thing at me, not even in jest!” Tony take the bullet. It’s Joan, after sobering up! Shoots herself! With a unregistered gun. The eyes, naturally, turn towards Frank, who, strangely, just happened to offer himself as the lab’s first human experiment after his wife comes off the sauce.
It’s not noted in the film, but it’s entirely probable that his decision to become a human guinea pig is because Joan sobered up. If she’s that combative drunk, one has to wonder how she’ll react sober when she doesn’t get the last garlic roll.
So the cops want to question Frank, who can’t be reawakened without jeopardizing the experiment and possibly brain damaging him. Leading to tension when… the cops decide, “okay, we’ll wait for the experiment to end as planned.” So no tension at all.
Oh wait, tension because we don’t know if he’ll come out okay. Seriously, that’s Frozen Alive’s big cliff-hanger: will Frank still be able to talk when he awakens? No more mention of his dead wife, or of Tony, who, as the owner of the unregistered gun in question, probably should’ve been questioned first.
I know the cops obviously wouldn’t know about Tony and the gun, but that’s where the neighbors come into play. Joan wasn’t shy about shooting the thing, and they both had numerous nights on the town together. I would’ve hoped someone noticed something.