Sunday, June 13, 2010

Achtung Zombi: 5 Undead National Socialists

After 65 years, the world is still collectively squeamish at the thought of the heart of Western Civilization committing spiritual and intellectual suicide. The Nazis still loom in our memory. Low brow media like horror movies and comic books do not shy away from poking a stick into our fear of National Socialism rising from the dead. They do it, however, with the language they know. The language of monsters. This fear (that happens to be, unfortunately, based in reality) of Nazi ideas and beliefs being figuratively undead is embodied by Nazis who are literally undead. These five ghastly goose-steppers are some of the most memorable.

(FUNF) Von Klempt from Mike Mignola's Hellboy
Mignola is not the master of the undead comic book Nazi. That title will always belong to Jack Kirby (see below) but Mignola's Hellboy is rotten with them. In a bit of historical retconning he made Rasputin, the horny pet monk of Czarina Alexandra, a Nazi collaborator and immortal wizard. There was also Kronen, a scientist who always wore gas mask, whom was turned into a badass ninja cyborg by Guillermo del Toro in the first Hellboy movie. Von Klempt makes the list because not only he was an undead disembodied Nazi head (more on that later) but also because he controlled an army of cybernetic gorillas. Poland never had a chance.

(VIER) Aqua-Nazi-zombies from Shock Waves
I was excited about watching Shock Waves. I remember the VHS box as a kid. It's about zombies who are not only Nazis (Nazbies? Zomzis?) but they live underwater. It's the Creature from the Black Lagoon + George Romero + Mein Kampf. How could this not be amazing? What a surprise when someone replaced my fresh-from-Amazon DVD of this cult classic with a chronically dull and ineptly made snoozefest. Besides being terrible, Shock Waves shows that movie zombies are scary because they're your next door neighbors. They're your family who now want to eat you. Nazis were always brainwashed villainous a-holes so Nazi zombies are not that much of a stretch from reality.

(DREI) cursed Nazis from Dead Snow
These zombies look great. The movie has some cool gore. It also has a fat guy in a Peter Jackson's Braindead t-shirt spouting clever dialogue like "This is just like Evil Dead" and other annoying nerd references. Dead Snow is too precious for its own good and it attempts to mask the fact that it is extremely derivative by being insufferably arch and referential. The zombies themselves are pretty cool though. If you want something creepy and Nordic read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo or watch Mamma Mia.

(ZWEI) Adolf Hitler
I was toying with the idea of watching They Saved Hitler's Brain for this post but life is too short. All I know is that part of the movie was filmed in the early 60's and parts were filmed in the late 60's. This means that one of the leads looks like Don Draper while the other looks like a bargain basement porn star. I did watch a clip that shows a disembodied Hitler head hooked up to a machine featuring a lot of dials and switches. As an added bonus, this Hitler-machine has a handle making the Fuhrer's head completely portable. Talk about convenience!

Probably the best undead Hitler story is "He's Alive" from The Twilight Zone. Like all of Rod Serling's best scripts, its twist is almost laughably meaningful but hearfelt. The late Dennis Hopper gives one of his best early performances as a Neo-Nazi who finds out that his mysterious benefactor is Hitler's ghost.

(EINS) Three way tie: Hate Monger, The Red Skull, and Armin Zola
It's logical that the greatest creator of monster Nazis would be a Jewish World War II veteran. Jack Kirby was the master of comic book krauts. If they weren't actively deformed like the three winners, they looked like Neanderthals with monocles. The Hate Monger (the guy in the purple KKK outfit) should technically be listed under #2 since the Fantastic Four revealed that (SPOILER WARNING) he was actually Hitler with ray gun. The Red Skull (soon to be played by the suitably bulbous-headed Hugo Weaving) has cheated death on several occasions. Once he came back in a body cloned from Captain America by this guy:

Armin Zola, continuing with the theme of Nazi heads where no Nazi heads should be, downloaded his mind into a robotic body. His face is projected on a computer screen in his chest. The image of the perfect master-race living on as a bunch of malformed goons is the irony at the heart of Nazi horror. Zola and the others on this list show that even death will not interfere with the lust for lebensraum. If your original genes were Aryan it doesn't matter if you are currently a robot, a zombie, or a head in a jar.