Our reviews of The Crazies (2010) (published June 18th, 2010), The Crazies (1973) (Blu-ray) (published February 5th, 2010), and The Crazies (2010) (Blu-ray) (published June 25th, 2010) are also available.
It's the end of the world as we know it…and they feel fine.
Writer/director George A. Romero is best known for his zombie trilogy (Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead) and his Stephen King adaptations (Creepshow, The Dark Half). But did you know that in 1973 the guy also made a movie about a killer virus codenamed Trixie? If not, then it's time you walked—no, ran—to your local video/DVD outlet and picked up Romero's low budget cult classic The Crazies. Languishing on cruddy VHS copies for years, The Crazies has been unleashed on DVD care of Blue Underground.
Facts of the Case
It's mass panic when the small town of Evans City, Pennsylvania, becomes quarantined due to the release of a deadly virus known as "Trixie." This toxic virus, when infected, leaves the victims either dead or undeniably insane. In a whirlwind of guns, military men and gas masks, Evans City suddenly becomes a war zone as marshal law is declared and folks begin turning into raving lunatics. When a batch of survivors escapes into the Pennsylvanian countryside (including Day of the Dead's Richard Liberty and cult favorite Lynn Lowry, as father and daughter respectively), things begin to heat up as one by one they're infected with the debilitating disease. Back in the military camp a frustrated Colonel Peckham (Lloyd Hollar) and a frantic scientist (Richard France, Dawn of the Dead) attempt to find a cure to Trixie and keep the virus from spreading outside the restrictive quarantine.
The Crazies is an early effort by Romero, and it sure does show with cheapo effects and even cheaper sets. However, even with the constraints of a low budget, Romero is able to add an unusual amount of depth and thought into the proceedings. As with Dawn of the Dead, Romero shows that he has a deft hand at creating both horrific entertainment and social commentary. In The Crazies, Romero points a jaded eye at the American military and the how the government is often the citizen's most disturbing enemy. Through most of the flick the military troops are decked out in deathly white suits and black gas masks that make them appear to be vile cousins of Storm Troopers—their faceless intrusion and seemingly carefree death march feels prophetic in our own troubled biological times.
Otherwise, The Crazies is a minor horror/action movie in the vein of Stephen King's The Stand, albeit in a limited scope. The film gets a tremendous boost from Romero's fast paced editing which keeps it moving like bullet train from start to finish. A few Romero zombie flick regulars are featured (Liberty was the wacky doctor in Day of the Dead and France a frustrated TV scientist in Dawn of the Dead), though the rest of the cast are basically no name faces that meld far into the background.
The acting is squarely amateurish, though often no worse than many other movie of this time period. The effects (mostly gunshot wounds) are achieved with red paint being splattered on a person's body (total effects cost: $23.88). Even with its drawbacks, the film has a rough, edgy feel that works to its advantage. Utilizing an idea originally explored to some degree in Night of the Living Dead, biological death is still as chilling now as it was nearly thirty years ago. Even the victims of the disease will remind viewers of Romero's classic horror staple.
I wouldn't consider The Crazies to be one of Romero's best works, but it is entertaining and at times eerily frightening. This is worth checking out if Romero's superior Living Dead trilogy is nowhere to be found.
The Crazies is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Ahh, fans will certainly be thrilled to see this film in what I think is its first ever widescreen presentation. While the image contains a fair amount of grain and dirt (including some nicks and scratches on the original negative), overall this is a decent looking image for its age and budget. Some colors appear slightly washed out, but blacks are mostly solid and dark. If you don't expect a miracle you should be happy with what Blue Underground has done with this transfer.
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono in English. Unfortunately, there wasn't a whole lot to work with when it came to this mix. The effects and music are generally clear of most distortion, though I had to strain a few times to understand all of the dialogue. Otherwise, this is an only passable sound mix. No alternate soundtracks or subtitles are available on this disc.
Fans of the film will go "crazy" when they see all the extra features included on this disc. Though it's not jam packed, Blue Underground has included a few fine extra features for Romero fans to gnaw on. Here's a rundown of what's on this disc:
Commentary Track by Director George Romero and William Lustig: This is a real gem that should thrill Romero fans. Romero seems to be a very jovial, interesting guy who has a lot to say about the film. Lots of production and casting information is shared (as well as the story's subtext), plus a history of much of Romero's career. Romero is joined by William Lustig who, aside of being part of the Blue Underground/Anchor Bay companies, was also a horror director himself (his films include the entertaining Maniac Cop and 1997's Uncle Sam). This track is a worthy listen if you have the time.
"The Cult Film Legacy of Lynn Lowry" Featurette: Lowry, who plays one of the teenage daughters in the film, is given her own featurette, which traces her work in film starting with her appearance in director Lloyd Kaufman's (The Toxic Avenger) cheesy B-movie The Battle of Love's Return to the cult classic Shivers to her present career as a lounge singer. Of course, there's also a fair amount of time spent on Lowry's turn in The Crazies and her working relationship with Romero. Fans will eat this up. Bonus feature: lots of gratuitous nudity.
Trailers, TV Spots, Poster Gallery and Romero Bio: Rounding out the disc are two anamorphic theatrical trailers for the film; well over 200 (!) images from the film, production, and advertising campaign; two TV spots; and a lengthy bio on Romero that even mentions a hopeful fourth entry into his Living Dead trilogy (tentatively titled "Dead Reckoning").
They're wacky! They're nutty! They're The Crazies and they're comin' to get you! This is apparently one of Romero's personal favorites, and it's worth checking out to see what Romero was up to after the surprise success of Night of the Living Dead. Blue Underground's work on this title is far better than anyone expected.
The Crazies is just crazy enough to work! Case dismissed!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Blue Underground
• Commentary Track with Director George Romero and William Lustig
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