The Crazies (1973)

Why are the good people dying?

Welcome back, everyone, to the third and final review for the Arrow Video release of George A. Romero: Between Night and Dawn (6-Disc Limited Edition) [Blu-ray + DVD] Box Set.  This time I am reviewing The Crazies (1973), Romero’s biggest and most complex movie up to that point in his career.

After Season of the Witch (1972), Romero teamed up again with producer Lee Hessel, with whom he worked on There’s Always Vanilla (1971). Hessel had a new screenplay that he liked, written by Paul McCullough, but he asked Romero to rewrite it and focus on more of the military aspect (which was confined to only the first 10 to 20 pages in the original draft). With a plan in place, Hessel gave Romero a budget of $270,000.00; and he was off to the races.

Filmed in and around Evans City and Zelienople, small towns outside of Pittsburgh, The Crazies tells the tale of biological warfare and what happens when it breaks out in rural America. When an experimental bio-weapon, code named “Trixie” is accidentally released into the water supply of a rural farm town, all those exposed to it to go “crazy,” and the military must come in to try to contain the outbreak before it becomes an epidemic. Not all those that have been exposed to “Trixie” become homicidal. Some exposed just sit and laugh to themselves, or walk through a field using a broom to sweep the grass, while others may try to stab you to death with a pair of knitting needles, or douse themselves in gasoline and light themselves on fire.

Half of the film focuses on the military, led by Colonel Peckem (Lloyd Hollar) and his efforts to control the outbreak while fighting off those that have been exposed to “Trixie.” If he cannot control the outbreak, or find a cure, government officials have a “final solution” in place that will wipe Evans City off the map in a blast of nuclear fire. The other story focuses on a group of townspeople that include two volunteer firemen, David (Will McMillan) and Clank (Harold Wayne Jones).  David’s pregnant girlfriend, Judy (Lane Carroll), joins them, as well as two additional townspeople, Artie (Richard Liberty, who would later play Dr. Logan, a.k.a. Dr. Frankenstein, in George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead) and his daughter Kathy (the always creepy Lynn Lowry). Our group makes a desperate attempt to flee the city and the ever closing cordon set up by the military.

The Crazies, in my opinion, was George’s “test” for making a big budget film and was the biggest stepping stone on his path to making Dawn of the Dead, the picture that would cement his place in film history and start a whole new horror sub-genre, the “zombie apocalypse.” Like Night of the Living Dead, and Dawn of the Dead, The Crazies does not have a very happy ending, and like all of Romero’s movies, it has a lot more to say than the subject matter would lead you to believe. The Crazies also has the distinction of having a remake that, in my opinion, was just as good as the original.  Once you have had a chance to watch the original, the 2010 remake starring Timothy Olyphant is definitely worth a viewing.

So, that’s it for the Arrow Video release of George A. Romero: Between Night and Dawn Limited Edition Box Set. I hope you found the reviews as enjoyable as I did watching these three very different films from one of my favorite directors. I will see you all soon with a new review for the “Junk Drawer.” Until then, happy viewing!

 

USA/C-103 minutes/Dir. George A. Romero/Wr. George A. Romero/Cast: Lane Carroll, Will MacMillan, Harold Wayne Jones, Lloyd Hollar, Lynn Lowry, Richard Liberty, Richard France, Harry Spillman, Will Disney, Edith Bell, Bill Thunhurst, Leland Starnes, A.C. McDonald, Robert J. McCully, Robert Karlowsky

If You Like: It’s right in the title of the Arrow Video box set Between the Night and the Dawn. If you are a fan of George A. Romero early zombie films, Night of the Living Dead (1968) and Dawn of the Dead (1978), you might be interested in seeing what the master did in the meantime.

Video: The Arrow Video release of The Crazies is presented is presented within George A. Romero: Between Night and Dawn (6-Disc Limited Edition) [Blu-ray + DVD] on a High-Definition Blu-ray (1080p), as well as on a standard DVD. For The Crazies, the doctor prescribes the following special features:

  • A brand new 4K restoration from the original camera negative
  • A brand new audio commentary by Travis Crawford
  • Romero Was Here: Locating The Crazies, Romero historian Lawrence DeVincentz takes us on a guided tour of Evans City, PA and the locations used in The Crazies
  • Crazy for Lynn Lowry, cult star Lynn Lowry discusses her early career including her role in The Crazies
  • Q&A with Lynn Lowry filmed at the 2016 Abertoir Film Festival
  • An audio interview with producer Lee Hessel
  • Behind-the-scenes footage with optional commentary by Lawrence DeVincentz
  • Alternate Opening Titles
  • Image Galleries
  • Trailers & TV Spots
  • A reversible sleeve featuring original and newly-commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx
  • A limited edition 60-page booklet featuring new writing on the films by Kat Ellinger, Kier-La Janisse, and Heather Drain is included within the main box

Streaming: At the writing of this review, The Crazies is not available to stream.

More to explore: For more rage filled “zombie” fun you can always watch Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later (2002).

Fun Fact: According to George A. Romero, the only problem that came up with the people of Evans City, where the film was being shot, was during the filming of the final scene. In the conclusion, Colonel Peckem has to strip down and change clothes before being lifted off by the helicopter. Some of the locals saw the scene as it was being shot and took offense to the sight of a nude man outside. Romero said lawyers had to be called in to resolve the issue.

For more Info: Take a peek at The Zombies That Ate Pittsburg: The Films of George A. Romero by Paul. R. Gagne (1987) and The Cinema of George A. Romero: Knight of the Living Dead (Directors' Cuts) by Tony Williams (2003).

 

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