first try at human cryogenics can either mean death for Mark Stevens or, if he survives, being arrested for his wife’s murder
You know you’re off to a good start on a cheapo B movie when there’s a glaring typo in the opening credits (unless the actor’s name really was WoFLgang). I picked this one to watch because Mark Stevens was in it and Bernard Knowles directed. Knowles started off as a cinematographer, working on The 39 Steps and Gaslight, but was a familiar name to me from directing A Place of One’s Own and the Margaret Lockwood movie Jassy. A review of his credits reveals he also directed a lot of TV, including the Robin Hood series with Richard Greene.
Stevens plays a scientist working on breakthrough cryogenics research, aka “low temperature” studies, which at the start of the movie wins a prestigious (“second only to the Nobel!”) award based on its effectiveness with monkey subjects. Before he can move on to testing on a human guinea pig, Stevens and his research partner (Marianne Koch, Fistful of Dollars) are pulled from the project to work on something else. Meanwhile, Stevens’ bored and cheating wife (Delphi Lawrence, Bunny Lake is Missing), who’s thrilled about the big money from that prize, wrongly suspects Stevens is fooling around with lab-mate Koch. Lawrence goes on another bender with her mystery writer boyfriend, makes a drunken scene at Stevens’ lab, then accidentally shoots herself, leaving Stevens as the prime suspect. Trouble is, by that time, Stevens has volunteered to freeze himself and is already solid, oblivious to what’s happened, so the rest of the story concerns delaying attempts to thaw him out for questioning, and letting the experiment proceed as planned.
The movie is nothing special but not entirely bad either; it certainly doesn’t look like a low budget production, with all those computers and beeping humming sciencey contraptions, and mildly creative effects. Where it skimped is the writing, which leads to silly lines and a bumpy pace and progression. It’s slow to ramp up, considering it’s only 74 minutes in total and takes almost an hour to get to the Frozen Alive part, which must violate some rule about promises made in titles (an overly long time is spent on a happening lounge scene and Stevens’ marital misunderstandings and make-ups).
Even so I still found Frozen Alive an OK time-passer. Regular readers of this blog know by now I like cheesy B movies, and it helps that I go into them expecting a bit less and willing to forgive a bit more. The kitschy jazzy 60’s atmosphere gives it a light touch. The suspicion of the wife’s murder combined with the question of whether Stevens will even live through the first human freezing both provide suspense; when he looks like he’ll squeak out of one situation, the other gets dire. Stevens, thoroughly grey, still looks amazing and manages to give weight and believability to this fluff, Koch does a decent job too and the implied romance between them is a plus. Only for Stevens completists and those who like a light and inoffensively nonsensical sci-fi suspenser.