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Author, film researcher and member of the Swedish Military History Commission.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Waffen-SS Viking Vampire

In the Waffen-SS chapter of Swedes at War my co-author and I mention the only movie (so far) about Swedes in the SS: "Frostbite". Here I can describe the movie a bit more.

"Frostbite" (Swedish title: "Frostbiten") was released in 2006 and was a pioneering work in many respects. The first Swedish vampire movie; the first Swedish film to include a massive amount of modern special effects and the first movie featuring a Swedish soldier of the Waffen-SS.

Nordic and German soldiers of the SS-division "Wiking" in the winter battle scene from the vampire movie "Frostbite". The soldier to the far left is clutching a Panzerfaust anti-tank weapon. Photo courtesy of Solid Entertainment.

Like the Waffen-SS soldier on the cover of Swedes at War, the main character of "Frostbite" belongs to the 5th SS Division "Wiking". "Frostbite" was not, however, the first movie with a horror theme to be shot up here in Swedish Lapland, but the second. It is rather ironic that our first ever horror movie focused on the midnight sun, whereas the plot of "Frostbite" turned around the polar night phenomenon.

Selecting the most relevant genre for "Frostbite" is difficult. Some have suggested vampire comedy. I am not able to suggest anything better using just two words, but with more words I´d say it starts out extremely seriously as a movie about the WWII Eastern Front, with vampires sneaking into the story in a rather credible way, and then the movie transforms. There is zero comedy element in the first segment, the ten-minute long part in Ukraine 1944.

The main character (at least while in Ukraine) is a Swedish SS-volunteer, Gerhard Beckert. He holds the rank of a Unterscharführer, a kind of junior sergeant. Together with a Swedish-speaking Finnish comrade and a few German soldiers he is cut off from his company. They belong to "Wiking", apparent also from their cuff titles.

Among the insignia worn by the Swedish vampire-to-be one can notice a tank destruction badge (on the upper right arm) and cuff title (on the lower left arm) of the "Wiking" division. Photo courtesy of Solid Entertainment

The movie is actually very close to reality in two respects here. First, the name of the Swedish SS-volunteer is quite similar to that of an actual Swede in the SS. It signals German family. This is a realistic detail - several Swedes in the Waffen-SS had a German father or mother. Secondly, it is realistic to portray the Swede (Gerhard Beckert) as part of a multinational group. It was only in the "Nordland" division that Swedes were really concentrated so that a Schwedenzug, a Swedish platoon, could come about.

"Wiking" soldier retreating with his Panzerfaust and MP 40 submachine gun. Photo courtesy of Solid Entertainment

Could it be that the man behind the script, Daniel Ojanlatva, and the director, Anders Banke, were well-versed in the reality of the Swedes in German uniform? I think so. The plot and main location of the story in northernmost Sweden are also explained by the fact that Ojanlatva comes from Kiruna, which like the town where the movie mainly was shot, Kalix, is located in the county of Norrbotten (Swedish Lapland), where yours truly also resides.

About the plot of "Frostbite" I will here only add that the SS-veteran Gerhard Beckert surfaces in present-day Kalix as a medical doctor and because of two careless colleagues at his hospital, Beckert's past as a SS-soldier infected by a Ukrainian vampire catches up with him. Alas, there is then only a brief flashback into his wartime past.

If you can accept the way that the movie changes from dead serious to comedy, and especially if you are into vampire movies, I do think you will want to see this one. By the way, it seems that the Swedish moviegoers generally had a problem with the switch from serious to comedy, but the Russian moviegoers did not. The movie was no big hit in Sweden but did really well in Russia. Presumably, the Russians were better at appreciating the Arctic and the Russian opening music, the classic 1940s song "Dark Night".

Watch the movie till the very end and you will see some rather funny credits.


  1. What a concept! While I'm not normally into vampire movies, it might be fun to watch. I'm just glad that someone made an effort to make the serious part authentic!

  2. I recommend "Rymdinvasion i Lappland". A tru cult-movie that has everything including aliens and cold climate.