Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Frozen Scream (USA, 1975)

People with no budget and talent make something like Carnival of Souls (1962 / trailer  / full fantastic film); people with no budget and no talent make something like Frozen Scream.
The latter, a truly obscure flick of which we had never heard before, found its way into our DVD player primarily because it was on the flipside of our The Red Monks (1988 / trailer) DVD and we wanted to see both sides before we try (probably unsuccessfully) to unload the DVD to some unsuspecting sucker on eBay.
Since that night that we popped the DVD into our outdated but preferred mode of film-screening technology, we've learned a bit more about the cinematic monstrosity to which we subjected our eyes: once banned as "video nasty" in Great Britain for about the length of time it takes to pee, the resulting guilt-by-association is the movie's only true claim to fame and the only reason that it has survived its 15 seconds of infamy and is still mildly remembered today. Indeed, were more people to see this movie, it would surely gain the non-reputation it deserves and disappear, instead of hanging around like the malignant, cancerous "cult film" it supposedly is.
Then again, perhaps not: as Frozen Scream is one of those movies that is so bad, so incompetent, so unbelievably what-the-fuck that it makes most Ed Wood films look professional in comparison. One is tempted to simply write it off as "what-were-they-thinking, oh-they-needed-a-tax-deduction" trash, but, in truth, although an unbelievably inept film, Frozen Scream displays an earnestness shared by all those involved that, regardless of the respective lack of talent, makes the viewer realize that the people involved in the project were probably truly serious about it. Serious or not, however, it isn't surprising that it took the movie's director, Frank Roach, another nine years before he ever made another "movie", his last, Nomad Rider (1984 / scene). (Let us pray to Allah that he makes no other.)
The true mover-and-shaker behind Frozen Scream seems to have been Renee Harmon (18 May 1927 — 26 November 2006), seen above, who co-wrote, co-produced, and starred in the movie as Dr. Lil Stanhope. Renee Harmon was a "buxom and attractive" acting and screenwriting teacher and author — buy her books Film Producing: Low Budget Films That Sell, Teaching a Young Actor: How to Train Children of All Ages for Success in Movies, TV, and Commercials, Film Directing: Killer Style and Cutting Edge Technique, How to Audition for Movies & TV, and The Beginning Filmmaker's Guide to a Successful First Film on Amazon — who, going by the movies she had a hand in, was working in a field for which she had no talent. (See the other projects she took part in, Al Adamson's  Cinderella 2000 [1977 / trailer] and William Sachs' Van Nuys Blvd. [1979 / trailer] — the two best films on her resume — and those she wrote & produced & acted in, The Executioner, Part II [1984 / a trailer of kinds / full disaster], Hell Riders [1984 / scene], Lady Street Fighter [1985], and Night of Terror aka Escape From The Insane Asylum [1986 / scene] for further proof of her noteworthy sub-psychotronic Z-talents.)
The best thing that can be said about Renee Harmon, actually, is that the accent she exhibits throughout Frozen Scream, which we assume is her real accent seeing that she was born and raised in Germany, is almost as thick as that of Uschi Dirgart. Unlike Harmon, however, Dirgart at least also usually displayed other more-appealing factors in the trash she participated in, including a natural charisma that was often still fully palpable even when she was dressed. Here in Frozen Scream, though, Harmon displays as little natural charisma as she does flesh or talent — she, like everything in the movie, is a train wreck of terribleness that is as repulsive as it is insanely and inexplicably fascinating. That so few involved ever went on to do anything else is not surprising; what is amazing, however, is that one — Wolf Muser (Caged in Paradiso [1990 / theme & final credits]) — did, and is still active today as a character actor, if rarely.
The plot, as far as we could tell, revolves around two doctors with bad accents, Dr. Lil Stanhope (Renee Harmon) and Dr. Sven Johnsson (Lee James of The Female Bunch [1971 / trailer]), who are involved in nefarious experiments to achieve immortality. When hubby Tom (Wolf Muser) dies, wife Ann (Lynne Kocol) gets back together with ex-boyfriend Kevin (Thomas McGowan of Die Hard Dracula [1998 / trailer]) to find out the truth about ... something. Some people die, other people are revived, there's a love story, a priest, indiscriminate murders, parties, dream sequences, flashbacks, and enough surreal behavior and out-of-the-blue turns in the storyline to make for one incomprehensible film. What's more, as if the movie wasn't disjointed enough, it is then made all the more incomprehensible by an occasional, subsequently-added clarifying voiceover of one character, Kevin McGuire, that clarifies nothing and only makes the movie more confusing. There are bursts of badly staged "gory" killings, most of which don't have anything to do with the plot itself — guess being immortal makes you kill-happy — and one fabulous death by dancing at a party where everyone continues dancing and partying despite a dead blonde (Sunny Bartholomew). Mix all that with crappy acting, incomprehensible montage and editing, grade-school directorial skills, and a total lack of compositional skills and you have one astonishing and muddled piece of celluloid flotsam.
Frozen Scream gives meaning to the word bizarre, if unintentionally, and is entertaining only as a sum of its various incompetencies. As such, Frozen Scream is also a rare, one-of-a-kind cinematic experience, but of the kind that can only be recommended to fans of bad films. Perhaps, in the end, it doesn't make you laugh as much as a film as bad as this one should, but it definitely does leave you open-mouthed and amazed that anything this terrible could be committed to celluloid.

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