The Crazies (1973)
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Airplane crashes outside of a small Pennsylvania town and unleashes a bio chemical substance that turns the locals into murderous psychotics. The government steps in, but only makes things worse... far worse.
George Romero's films have long been known for their violence, disturbing nature, and social commentary and this early film is no exception. The Crazies has exciting action wrapped all in a thought-provoking and unsettlingly believable story. There's plenty of moments of gore and a number of scenes that are quite horrific (burning preacher anyone?). Romero's direction is nicely done, providing tense atmosphere and using the rural locations of Pennyslvania well.
Cast-wise some of the performances of this film seem a bit forced, but the performers do manage to hold it together. Harold Wayne Jones, Will MacMillian, and Lloyd Hollar are the best stand-outs.
While The Crazies is often forgotten among the horror films of the 70's, it's a good film from a great director. A must for Romero fans.
*** out of ****
George A. Romero has once again created a unique movie utilizing a small budget and a large cast of mostly volunteers. The camera work and editing is what makes this movie work. The acting is not that bad and the writing is very inventive and creative. Many look upon this movie as a trial run for his more successful zombie sequel Dawn of the Dead, others have called this a mere reworking of Night of the Living Dead. I have to say that this is a very entertaining movie that works despite the boundaries of it's limited budget. A social commentary that still rings true today.
Highly recommended for George A. Romero fans.
A germ warfare bug is accidentally released into the water supply of a small western Pennsylvania town named Evans City (where it was actually filmed). It turns some into placid zombie-like creatures and some into out-of-control maniacs. The Army comes in and imposes martial law and the local civilians do a good imitation of the zombies from "Night of the Living Dead".
The cast is a bunch of locals (western PA/NE Ohio) who fortunately for us all with low thresholds of pain did little acting after this project. Poor acting combines with poor editing to make it impossible to determine who among the citizens and the troops has the disease, is just stressed out, or is just trying to party hard. Romero's direction is extremely weak and he has trouble throughout keeping the cast in character.
Romero had discovered with "Night of the Living Dead" that there was serious exploitation potential in stories about the breakdown of society and this is where he really tries to focus his film. There is an underlying theme of social commentary as this was the time of serious social protests (Kent State just across the state line), distrust of the federal government, and our winding down involvement in Viet Nam. Romero was also drawing from his fascination with 1950's sci-fi themes regarding irresponsible science.
Unfortunately the best aspect of "Night of the Living Dead", its simplicity, is sacrificed as Romero has just enough resources to turn the film into an exercise in excess. There are several tangential plot points (voice recognition systems, a B-52 with a nuclear warhead, a frustrated scientist) that go nowhere but use up a lot of time getting there.
But these obvious problems are not the film's ultimate downfall. That comes from the film's lack of organization on the most fundamental level; which means it is extremely boring. No suspense is generated because there is no sense of progress or advancement of the storyline. Instead the same three basic scenes are repeated over and over until Romero is able to cobble together a feature length production. There are a handful of civilians trying to evade the Army troops, there are a handful of Army officers whining about how difficult their job is, and there are a handful of national security advisers back in Washington tossing around doom and gloom predictions. The film simply alternates between these three groups, with the segments completely interchangeable. The editor could have assembled them in any order and they would have not altered the flow of the story.
There are a couple of unexpectedly stylish scenes to watch for; the shooting of the flower child girl in the pasture, with a flock of sheep passing quietly in the foreground. And the infected woman with a broom sweeping the grass.
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
There's really no gore in this Romero film, but we do see plenty of gun battles that look cheap and amateurish. The only memorable character is Dr. Watts, played by Richard France, who's overacting is so bad that I actually liked his time on the screen. You can see he's trying real hard.
The Blue Underground anamorphic DVD looks nice and it contains a short interview with co-star Lynn Lowry who explains some of her experiences on the film as well as her failed film career. Also a decent commentary track by George Romero who wishes he could have done more with it if he had a bigger budget.
As long as one doesn't compare it to Romero's other films like the DEAD trilogy or MARTIN (1977), then it's better than most 70s low budget efforts in that cheap, charming way. I think it's worth a look.
6 out of 10
"The Crazies" is a tale of paranoia and madness in a period when the world was afraid of a bacteriological war. The plot is based on a total stupidity from the authorities that send the army to contain the virus in a small town but does not provide any explanation to the population, invading real estates and breaking in homes. The lead scientist is another stupid character. Surprisingly this year it was released a remake of this average film. Last time I saw this film was on 04 July 2000. My vote is six.
Title (Brazil): "O Exército do Extermínio" ("The Extermination Army")
Written & directed by George A. Romero I really disliked this poor excuse for a film. The script by Romero is about as dull and slow as you can imagine. The film itself is too long and just plain boring, although I did like the last 10 or 15 minutes & the downbeat ending. The Crazies also has a lot of similarities with Romero's infinitely superior Dawn of the Dead (1978), the female lead being pregnant, a fight against inhuman faceless enemies (all the soldiers wear gas masks), the lone survivors who question whether they should stay or leave & a degeneration into petty squabbling and in-fighting. All the characters are very unlikable too, both military and civilian. The fact that the acting is poor throughout doesn't help things either. The violence & gore is non-existent, there are some gunshot wounds, that's it. Overall the film is very rough on a technical level and becomes a real chore to watch. I had heard very good things about the Crazies, but I just can't see anything in it even remotely enjoyable. Maybe I was expecting too much but having Romero's name on the credits as director gave me high expectations that weren't met. Anyone familiar with Romero's other horror like Dawn of the Dead, Creepsow (1982), Martin (1977), Day of the Dead (1985) & expect something similar then prepare to be very disappointed. Proceed with caution.
"I can't believe how shoddily this whole operation is being run!" shouts one army guy, and I tend to agree. I agree that a military operation can be run this badly only in the mind of an idiot who hasn't got a clue how the military really handles ANY kind of emergency. "The army is nobody's friend", says a civilian ex-soldier on the lam, and then proceeds to kill about a dozen soldiers, and the viewer is supposed to side with him. Even the town's police force try to rebel, threatening to use force even, and one cop gets shot accidentally as a result. The town's doctor is uncooperative, and the town's mayor is even worse - he's in hysterics over this whole operation. Does everyone in this town hate the army so much? Does Romero really think that there is/was so much hatred of the army in the public that people at all levels, from garbage man to mayor, would refuse to cooperate? And in a small town? Romero must be an idiot. He must have been reading too much hippie literature (if such an oxymoronic thing even exists) or he must be one of those left-wing morons who think that the U.S. government is always looking forward to an opportunity to nuke its own people. Romero would have us believe that top government people are just itching to finally nuke a couple of Americans into orbit.
There are MANY ultra-dumb actions and decisions which Romero's military undertakes. For example, the town's entire populace is being dragged out of their homes and gathered into a high school gymnasium. Excuse me, but if some of the inhabitants are infected, and others aren't, then wouldn't it make more sense to leave everyone at home so that the infected ones don't infect the rest? I mean, come on. NO ARMY IN THE WORLD can be this dumb. Except Romero's army, for they are imbeciles. And naturally, this Romero army gathers the townsfolk in a must unpleasant and unfriendly manner. You see, Romero's U.S. army hates civilians and will take any opportunity to make them suffer when they get the chance. Romero's U.S. army isn't even well-trained. They can barely handle civilians, some of whom have never held (semi)automatic rifles in their hands. The way they get bumped off by our duo of ex-berets is simply ridiculous. These two were playing Rambo before Rambo even existed. Just because they are ex-berets we are lead to believe that they are practically invincible. In fact, it's pathetic how Romero wants us to root for the main trio of outlaws, when in fact their actions were being irresponsible, selfish, and driven by panic. Romero would be surprised by this, but I was rooting for the military (even if it was Romero's military, no ordinary military of course) to bump off the trio of runaway idiots. One can almost sense how much Romero enjoyed having so many soldiers killed; more soldiers than civilians seem to get bumped off here.
There were other dumb things. For example, the genius-scientist who is sent to help with the crises: this guy said early on that an antidote for the virus is nowhere in sight and that the government had been looking for one in vain for three years already. But then, suddenly, a day or two later, this same guy makes a major breakthrough with finding the antidote! What a COINCIDENCE. And to make things even more absurd, he makes this breakthrough in a hastily assembled lab which lacks the necessary assistants and equipment that he normally has at his disposal (he complains about the microscope, for example). How idiotic! Actually, the film had potential. The action is good and the premise opens a lot of exciting possibilities for a horror/action film. Unfortunately, Romero's hatred for men in green uniforms has gotten in the way of making a sensible and credible martial-law virus movie. For an intelligent approach to this idea of a virus infection being contained by the government one should look no further than for "Andromeda Strain", even "Outbreak". For a childish, paranoid, and generally silly approach to this theme this film is ideal.
My biggest complaint is the grossly inaccurate military use in the story.
When the inhabitants of a small town in Western Pennsylvania are exposed to a virus through their local water supply and begin turning into homicidal maniacs the army duly turn up, call martial law, and quarantine the town. We soon learn that the army knows all-too-well the extent of the hazard they are facing as the virus, known as 'Trixie', was designed by the military as an experiment in germ warfare and was accidentally released into the town when an army aircraft crashed nearby. For the alert (read: pedantic) zombie-phile, this is enough to rule the movie out of deserving the "zombie" tag as the victims are not re-animated corpses but the very alive victims of a disease with no known cure. Nevertheless, the threat the infected / zombies pose means that the soldiers have been ordered to take no chances and, as panic escalates to fever-pitch, the soldiers fail to distinguish between psychotic symptoms of the disease and justified hysterical fear for one's (uninfected) life which in turn unceremoniously erases the line separating the soldiers from the unthinking killers they are trying to contain.
As with the 'Dead' films, Romero's focus is on characters amidst the chaos and the film follows a small band of townspeople trying to escape the quarantine and the tangible threat of the military as well as the intangible threat of possible contagion from a disease they know nothing about. The cast are largely inexperienced and while the acting is competent, in parts it comes across as a bit wooden and crucially detracts somewhat from the potential pathos as the movie builds to its climax. However, for horror connoisseurs it's cool to spot Lynn Lowry, who plays Kathy, who would go on to be directed by David Cronenberg in his psycho-sexual parasite horror 'Shivers' two years later. In addition, Kathy's father in the film is played by Richard Liberty, who would go on to put in a memorable performance as Dr "Frankenstein" Logan in 'Day of the Dead' more than a decade later.
In addition to some patchy-but-passable acting, the film's real Achilles heel is that it's a high budget idea trapped within the constraints of a low budget, in contrast to 'Night of the Living Dead' which was a low budget idea and worked easily within such confines. As such, many of the locations and action sequences seem to struggle and the film is lucky that it can rest on some interesting ideas and the talent of its director. However, saying this, things do seem to come together towards the end and work up to a denouement with a fair amount of pathos it's just tempting to suggest that if Romero had made the film later in his career with more money at his disposal the film would have carried a much harder punch than it does in actuality. For Romero fans its arguably a must-see, but for the less dedicated movie-goer the 2010 remake, or even better '28 Days Later' or (in my opinion, the superior) '28 Weeks Later' may be more rewarding.
A fairly creaky but still chilling movie, and a cult classic, with an original big-government bad-army premise that must have been frighteningly real at the time: a germ warfare mishap has infected a town and the army has moved in to quarantine the entire area. And kill or let die anyone not cooperating.
The powerlessness of the individual against an army determined to be heartless (out of necessity) is a theme that worked then as well as now. But if there is some sympathy for the individual doctors and army personnel, since they are doing what needs to be done to prevent further outbreak, you can only feel growing anger that this kind of situation could actually happen. If bio-weapons exist, it seems eventually one will be released by mistake, and then what? Will it be like the Japanese nuke plant after a tsunami, where evacuations and appropriations are "required" in the name of national security. And is the solution to bio warfare the dropping of an atomic bomb? Maybe.
That's at the core of this film. There is of course a couple at the center of the struggle to evade the authorities and survive. And infighting, questions of who to trust, how to figure out who is infected (going back to "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," of course), and fear of infection itself pepper the film with drama and sometimes incredulity. There is also the hope of finding someone immune to the disease, which turns out to be slim, especially when the real cures get obscured by events.
All of this would work better with better acting. Director George Romero got away with some raw and imperfect acting in his very original "Night of the Living Dead" in 1968, but that was partly because everyone was either panicked or behaving like a zombie (there were, for sure, a couple great leads in that one). Here, though, most people are ordinary folk, and between their clunky acting and the even more clunky filming (in raw color), it just smells too much of a throw-together affair. Too bad, because the premise is terrific.
There are other movies that push this kind of idea, by the way, and push it better, the most famous probably being "The Andromeda Strain" from 1971. However, if this kind of rough-edged production doesn't bother you, I think you have a kind of low-brow high-brow classic, appealing to all kinds of sentiments.
The Performances are all amateurish, and not really worth going over.
Bottom line. I was going to say this is worth a look for curiosity's sake, but even that is pushing it. Stick to Romero's better works.
George Romero's first really good movie after Night of the Living Dead is this engrossing low-budget thriller with some creepy moments and surprises. The actors are a mixture of semi-professionals and amateurs. I know Romero went for this approach to add some realism to the movie. Sometimes it works; sometimes it is pretty campy. A lot of these people can't act to save their lives. Most of the movie is people yelling at each other but there is quite a bit of action (of the uncoordinated variety). The '70s aesthetic and rural location shooting is a plus. Definitely worth a look. Also, 2010 remake wasn't half-bad.
Viewing it again I realise what a mess it really is, containing poor acting, where everyone seems to think they need to shout every few seconds. The action is still good, but the plot is all over the place, with nothing making much sense, though the gist of the story is actually good.
A good example of a film that has really dated badly
This is a review of George Romero's "The Crazies", a horror film released in 1973, and 2010's "The Crazies", a remake directed by Breck Eisner, son of media mogul Michael Eisner.
The better of the two, Romero's film sees the US military accidentally releasing a biological weapon into a small town's water supply. This bio-agent turns the town's population into raving, murderous lunatics. As a result, the US government swiftly quarantines the town. Much violence ensues.
Romero's film is shapeless, overlong, lacking in tension towards its final act and nowhere as good as his zombie movies. It's also frequently brilliant. It's a mad, hilariously anarchic, politically incorrect mob of a movie, filled with manic energy and many strange passages, some of which were deemed shocking back in the early 1970s. Kubrick's "Dr Strangelove" - Romero borrows Kubrick's all-percussion soundtrack – and Peter Watkins' "Punishment Park" seem to be the chief influences.
Like Romero's zombie movies, "The Crazies" simmers with post-Watergate distrust. Our heroes are government hating Vietnam vets, and much of the film observes as various social institutions (the state, the nuclear family, the church) fester, implode or explode. Significantly, Romero paints contemporary society as being "crazy" long before the bio-agent was released; it was already waiting to discharge. The contaminated water merely shatters civilization's last facades and brings various latent abominations and/or unspoken feelings rushing to the surface. It was always going to happen. Or, as Romero says in interviews, "what's crazy is that it hasn't already occurred."
Unsurprisingly, themes of incest and militarism abound. A father has sex with his daughter, priests set themselves on fire (echoing the famous self-immolation photographs of the Vietnam war, in which Buddhist monks set themselves alight), soldiers tear down villages like the Nazis' liquidated ghettos, helicopters echo Vietnam's Hueys, and much of the film paints military and government figureheads as being as mad and irrational as the infected townspeople. Pretty soon it becomes clear that the state's method of treating the madness is itself madness, Romero eradicating the line between infected and the uninfected; they're all crazy, the government mimicking the volatile, violent behavioural patterns of those contaminated. "You can't just push people around like this!" one man yells. But no one listens. Everyone's being pushed.
The film's pacing is slowed by various sequences which focus on annoying bureaucrats and fast-talking figureheads. Though grating, Romero's intentions with these scenes are nevertheless correct. State bureaucracy, in which men and women spend as much time fighting each other, red tape and the inefficiency of procedure, is itself virus-like and counter-intuitive; nothing gets done, everyone infected with a kind of bureaucratic madness. Elsewhere scenes show rural idylls and totems of conservative America torn apart by mad patriarchs (the film's opening sequence is "Night of the Living Dead" in microcosm). Hilariously, few people are even given a chance to succumb to the virus; the military kills them more efficiently and rapidly than the virus ever could. One of the film's jokes is that a perfectly functioning military apparatus is far more illogical, bloated and morally messed up than the collapsed, lawless hordes it battles.
Fittingly, the name of the film's bio-agent is Trixie, literally "the bringer of joy". On an allegorical level, it is the state's blunders, its inherent violence, which are directly inspiring an almost carnivalesque explosion of public mayhem. The military steps in to violently clamp down on these outbursts, but they're not fast enough. Oppositional groups clash, lock horns and slaughter one another in a mad, incoherent festival which does nothing but destroy any form of potential socio-political progress. An early 70s capitalist order is assaulted, but rather than enabling progressivism in the formation of a new social order, things are only further debilitated and any rational functions necessary for future formations are swiftly put down. The film ends with a pregnant woman dying (and with her the hope of a future), and two rugged men stepping out of the conflict's wreckage. One's an African American, airlifted above the carnage (symbolically outside and above it all), another's a fireman who embodies the adjusted (immunized) man of tomorrow: cynical and a Vietnam vet, but with a traditional love for marriage, servitude and stability (his first lines stress his love for "moderation"). The lyrics "Heaven Help Us" play over the film's closing credits.
There are countless parallels between "The Crazies" and Romero's earlier and later films. Two obscure ones: Richard France, who looks like a cross between Orson Welles and Francis Ford Coppola, plays "men of reason" in both "The Crazies" and "Dawn of the Dead". His character's always warning populaces (Richard's an Orson Welles scholar, his character having many overlaps with Welles' "War of the Worlds" radio-play). Then there's "The Crazies'" plot itself, which echoes Romero's earlier "Season of the Witch", in which the banalities of the bourgeois drive an oppressed housewife's to various subversions and perversions.
Released in 2010, Breck Eisner's "The Crazies" removes the politics of Romero's film but largely tells the same tale. It's a safe, clean and sanitised movie; like licking an Ipod while rubbing a credit card on your crotch. Glossy, overproduced, expensive looking and immaculately pressed, the film moves, looks and feels like plastic. While some of its horror moments elicit some thrills, it's mostly all very conventional and clichéd.
Still, some of Eisner's changes are interesting. While Romero has officials talking of dropping a nuke on the infected town, Eisner does it for real (encapsulating the film's philosophy: spectacle over politics). Elsewhere he spares the life of a government soldier (who helps our band of rebels), whilst the far more pessimistic Romero outright murders the very same character.
7.5/10 - See 2009's "Carriers", 2011's "Contagion" and 1978's "Invasion of the Body Snatchers". Worth one viewing.