Directed by George A. Romero
Written by George A. Romero, Paul McCollough (story)
Produced by A.C. Croft
Director of Photography S. William Hinzman
Music by Bruce Roberts
Cast: Lane Carroll, Will MacMillan, Harold Wayne Jones, Lloyd Hollar, Lynn Lowry, Richard Liberty & Richard France
1973/103 mins/Color/Dolby Digital 2.0
1.66:1 Anamorphic/English/US/NTSC Region 1
Web Site: http://www.blue-underground.com/
Review from the Blue Underground DVD
Caught in the center of two of Romero's trademark films (NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, DAWN OF THE DEAD) is his 1973 viral-thriller THE CRAZIES. With present day films such as Wolfgang Peterson's OUTBREAK (1995), and more recently Danny Boyle's 28 DAY'S LATER (2002), Blue Underground finally unleashes this well deserved film that started the pandemic Ð George Romero's THE CRAZIES.
The premise here is simple Ð the small Pennsylvania town of Evans City has an apocalyptic problem. A plane containing an "experimental vaccine" crashes in the local water supply causing the spread of an infectious virus (Trixie) in the area. Once word reaches the Pentagon, the military are sent to quarantine the area, by containing the virus and not letting carriers bring it outside the town parameters Ð and of course chaos ensues. Outfitted in anti-contamination suits and gasmasks the military scour the cityscape as a virtual war progresses. People with the virus revolt due to the effects of craziness the infection brings, and local townsfolk revolt to protect their homestead, causing an abundance of white suit squib-squirting.
Amongst the chaos of Evans City, our fateful protagonists are on the run Ð Judy (Lane Carroll) a Nurse, her fiancé David (Will MacMillan), and their friend Clank (Harold Wayne Jones, KNIGHTRIDERS), both of which are volunteer firefighters. Near the outskirts of town the trio meet up with Artie Bolman (Richard Liberty, best known for his equally distorted role as Dr. Logan from DAY OF THE DEAD) and his teenage daughter Kathy (Lynn Lowry, I DRINK YOUR BLOOD) Ð whose effects of the infection are evident. The group strives to survive their almost eventual demise, fighting the army of military soldiers as well as themselves and infection. Can the group make it through the night, or will infection be too much and cross the allocated parameters causing the president to send a plane on (as they call) a "training mission" equipped to nuke the small town?
Built with a miniature budget ($270,000) for its Hollywood counterparts of the era, THE CRAZIES is one of Romero's best pieces of work. While not being a technical marvel, its many flaws do reside at bay while its superb story and energy shines through. The idea of Armageddon is frightening, which is why the film sucks you in, getting the viewer so involved. Although the acting of the leads is well rounded and effective, THE CRAZIES does sport its fair share of inadequacies in that department as well since many of the minor roles were executed by citizens living in the area at the time. But as I mentioned, with its flaws its merit is prominent.
Another Romero favorite Richard France who played the scientist on TV in DAWN OF THE DEAD has a similar role as Dr. Walls one of the creators of the Trixie virus. Being the creator, he spends the majority of the film arguing with his superiors as he struggles to save the town from eminent toxicity, aiming to create a cure for the virus. Another noteworthy role would probably be for me to mention Lynn Lowry since she has been in such films as I DRINK YOUR BLOOD (as mentioned earlier) and Cronenberg's SHIVERS, but the female performance I rather enjoyed wasn't hers, but instead the little known Lane Carroll as Judy. This was the only film I've seen this woman in, but with her presence in this film, I would have thought her career would have gone further. From IMDB I can only figure that this was her last role, her roles prior being minimal, in Romero's other film that disappeared into obscurity THERE'S ALWAYS VANILLA, and the Schwarzenegger cheese-fest HERCULES GOES BANANAS. Her performance didn't stand out above the rest, but for whatever reason I just can't pinpoint, her presence stood out for me.
Surrounded by a very serious tone, THE CRAZIES still manages to have humor (one of the officials stuffing his face with a sandwich while discussing the nuking of the town), cheese (intentional or not), and the realistic utter chaos caused by civilians when confronted with conflict. With Romero films the overall breakdown in society is usually prevalent, and this is no exception. Much like the zombies in the dead films, here the infected are acting upon primal instant of sex and violence, while the regular uninfected townsfolk and the military start war with one another. You don't know whose side to be on since everyone is acting like animals. The film is not a gore-fest like DAWN OF THE DEAD or an instant cult classic like NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD Ð but thankfully it isn't a steaming piece of shit like Romero's most recent mistake BRUISER. Arguably this is Romero at the top of his game. Now still, at this time he hadn't perfected his skills, this was remember his second feature, but with a film like THE CRAZIES riddled with minor flaws, no matter what, it still holds up. One simply can't complain about a savage granny with a thirst for blood (and knitting)!
Blue Underground presents THE CRAZIES anamorphic with a 1.66:1 aspect ratio. For the most part the picture is vibrant and saturated with color but during certain sequences grain can be apparent on the film. This does not hinder the enjoyment of the film, and for a film made 30 years ago it looks great. The audio is in a 2 channel Dolby Digital mono presentation and presents the film well. A 5 channel mix of this original soundtrack would be pointless due to the less than perfect original source sound recording for the film. The score by Bruce Roberts works well but when you hear the same military-esque drum beats, throughout the duration of the movie it does get redundant and is somewhat limiting to what the film could be with alternate music.
The supplements herein are a commentary between Blue Underground head honcho, Bill Lustig, and Romero. The two admire one another's careers while discussing the more technical side of filmmaking and the difficulty of filming on a low budget. Romero is quick to point out the shortcomings of THE CRAZIES while still enjoying the film after all these years. Many may enjoy this commentary but it really didn't enhance the film for me. I don't feel it would be a loss if this didn't exist on the DVD at all. Hardcore Romero fans will disagree, and many will thoroughly enjoy it but for me, it really didn't do much for me. No new ground was covered and it just seemed like a time waster. Next up there is a short and sweet 14 minute interview with Lynn Lowry, complete with excerpts from her demo of films titled 'The Cult Film Legacy of Lynn Lowry'. The extras are finished off with an abundant stills gallery, two trailers and a well rounded Romero bio. The DVD packaging is great with really nice cover art and a spiffy mini poster insert.
This Film Features:
Review by Chris Mayo. All Right Reserved. 2004. ©
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