“Frozen Nazis” are not, as you might expect from the title, a new themed ice lolly for extreme right-wingers, but the latest gang of incompetents I’ve watched trying to invade the Seaview in the Irwin Allen classic “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea”. Technically these Nazis were only “frozen” into suspended animation (not ice) after being exposed to a special gas by accident in a WWII Nazi sea lab.
Just as an aside, if frozen Nazis were actually an ice lolly I’ve already imagined the sort of commercial it would get. A family is seated around a dining table and the mother says “Hands up if you want a frozen Nazi”. You can guess how they’d raise their hands. Well, I think it’s funny.
For the purposes of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, two Nazis fell into suspended animation in 1945 while they were working on undersea vengeance weapons.
They were awoken in “1980” when the Seaview arrived on the scene.
Helpfully, these Nazis had been issued with 20th Century Fox’s war cliché bible, and made full use of it. Not only did they do everything in a leering, robotic, bolt upright master-race way (to the accompaniment of clicked heels, Nazi salutes, and Heil Hitlers), but they were experts in the karate chop of oblivion, and in finding chloroform to overpower guards. If they’d carried a pouch containing limitless supplies of plastic explosive, no war film cliché would have been missed in this episode.
The Nazis were taken on-board Seaview because the script demanded it. There’s no other reason to do it.
Naturally they were left alone almost immediately with the sub’s doctor so they could overpower him. Two of the Seaview’s gullible mute telepathic guards were posted outside Sick Bay to provide what is laughingly known as “security” on the sub.
No good ever came of guards being out in the corridor on an Irwin Allen show. This episode is no exception.
One of the conventions of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea is that whenever anyone comes aboard the sub and doesn’t know their way around, a classified map is pinned up on a wall for their convenience.
The head Nazi, rarely without his irritating master race smile, engages the idiot doctor in conversation to allow his cohort to subdue him with the never-failing karate chop of oblivion.
Their next task is to trick the gullible mute telepathic guards into Sick Bay and subdue them by using some chloroform thoughtfully left in a cabinet for just such an purpose.
One of the Nazis returns to the sea lab in order to advance the Thousand Year Reich through a stockpile of missiles. Luckily after all this time they don’t work.
The other is left on Seaview to capture something vital as a “threat”. Nobody visiting Seaview for the first time ever has any problems in locating the most important places on the sub, and this particular Nazi finds something that suits his purpose with the certainty of a heat-seeking missile. He locks himself away in the “Automatic Maneuvering Control” for the glory of the Fatherland, and a chance to issue an ultimatum; something Nazis were inclined towards it seems. Footnote to this scene: the Automatic Maneuvering Control had not, as far as I can recall, ever been seen before on the sub. It appears to have been invented for the express purpose of giving a maniacal Nazi something to capture. This phenomenon was a feature of Irwin Allen shows. Things that had never existed before could appear without warning, and vanish just as quickly. Expediency is all that matters.
Seaview’s officers hatch a plan to open the door of the room the Nazi is hiding in. They want to flush him out by using gas grenades while he is ranting his way through the final seconds of a deadline.
They force the door open, and lob some grenades inside. Predictably, the Nazi has already escaped through a ventilation duct as the crew try to rush him. Episode after episode whenever someone is confined in a room on Seaview, eventually they spy the room’s ventilator grille, which for convenience (the convenience of script writers) is almost wide enough to drive a family car through. Prisoners and scriptwriters realise in an instant they can escape that way.
Once they are out, they find their way to somewhere sensitive like the missile room (well sign-posted in the ventilator). When they get there, they lock the hatch to the room from the inside, and the crew are left banging on the door out in the corridor.
Eventually one of the bigwigs (Richard Basehart or David Hedison) will turn up and say “Go to the stores and get some cutting gear…..we’ve got to get in there”. Each time this happens I say out loud “Why bother? Just give someone a leg-up into the ventilator system and you can get in the missile room the same way the Nazis/aliens/pirates/mad-scientists/werewolf/wax-men/monster with the joke teeth did.” They never work it out though. If there isn’t enough running time left in the episode, Nelson or Crane send for explosives instead of cutting gear – but all they really need is a ladder to get into the vent. The upshot of all this is that both Nazis end up in the missile room once the head Nazi has swum back from the Sea Lab.
Despite the Seaview’s missiles being “theoretically” protected by a “fail safe” system, it never proves to be a hindrance to evildoers. All you really need to launch Armageddon from Seaview is to put a cup of coffee down on a firing button, or lean against one. Any button will do.
The Nazis manage to fire off one of Seaview’s stock footage Polaris missiles in a random direction, and gloat about it briefly.
In due course there’s the usual choreographed struggle on the studio floor during which the Nazis are subdued, and the rogue stock footage missile is destroyed.
In a deviation from VTTBOTS’s usual laughs-all-round ending, Nelson speculates in a slightly eye-rolling way about the possibility of other frozen Nazis being “out there.”
Cut to stock shot of the Seaview sailing away, and end titles.
I confine myself to occasional viewings of VTTBOTS for my own good. I’ve a lot of affection for the freewheeling madness it embodies, and respect for how enormous the production pressures were in those days. That said, there’s only so much in the way of its conventions I can take without holding an open dialogue with the TV throughout the episode. I’m not sure what my neighbours make of that. In another couple of episodes, season 4 will be beckoning to me with all of the off-the-charts lunacy that implies. The season 3 set has an interview with David Hedison in which he said Richard Basehart wasn’t used to doing TV – he’d been accustomed to more serious film work. It took him a couple of years to become numbed/resigned to his humiliation playing opposite wax-men, wolf-men, men-fish, seaweed monsters, and men in lobster suits with big claws. For those first couple of years Hedison said Basehart had a “tendency to drink too much”. I’m assuming this was diplomacy-speak for Basehart being paralytic on-set much of the time. Having watched some of the season 3 episodes, I can understand why. I don’t usually have much alcohol at home, but as the series has worn on I’ve begun to think about slipping out to get a few bottles of gin. It just seems the natural thing to do if you’re going to watch someone in an orange plastic monster outfit saying “Soon thousands of us will hatch from our eggs Admiral, once the radiation from Seaview’s nuclear plant has accelerated the development of our embryos”. If anyone can think of a way of working that into conversation (or better still a CV) please leave a comment and let me know.