The Crazies (1973)
the crazies | george a. romero | lane carroll | will macmillan | harold wayne jones | infection | action | sci-fi | sci fi | lloyd hollar | lynn lowry | richard liberty | richard france | harry spillman | will disney | edith bell | bill thunhurst | military
Film: The Crazies
Director: George A. Romero
Writer: George A. Romero
Starring: Lane Carroll, Will MacMillan and Harold Wayne Jones
This was a film that I actually remember checking out when I was home from college. Dawn of the Dead is my favorite horror movie and I really liked most of the other George A. Romero films. At the time of first seeing this, I thought it was a cool infected film from the guy who started the modern zombie film. Now after a couple of viewings, I really can see more of the social commentary here. The synopsis is the military attempts to contain a manmade combat virus that causes death and permanent insanity in those infected, as it overtakes a small Pennsylvania town.
We start this seeing a little girl as she prepares for bed. She gets mad at her brother who is trying to scare her. Things take a turn though when they discover their mother has been killed and the father is insane. He ends up burning their house down.
It then shifts to the bedroom of David (Will McMillan) and Judy (Lane Carroll). He is a volunteer firefighter and they can hear the siren going off. She is a nurse and the two of them were just making love. She reveals that she is pregnant and doesn’t want him to go. She has to answer the phone where it turns out to be the doctor for the office she works in, asking her to come in.
She drives David to the firehouse where we see the firefighters heading off and he joins his best friend, Clank (Harold Wayne Jones). He’s also a volunteer firefighter and he heads off to help as well. The house they’re going to belongs to the crazy man from the beginning. The sheriff is there and it is revealed there are soldiers in town. The sheriff doesn’t know a lot and just wants the guys to do their job.
At the doctor’s office, he is talking with the soldier in charge. The doctor is Brookmyre (Will Disney) and Major Ryder (Harry Spillman). All of the soldiers, Dr. Brookmyre and Judy are all given antibiotics to prevent whatever virus was released here. There was an airplane and it crashed in the area, with a virus getting released into the waters called ‘Trixie’. Dr. Brookmyre doesn’t like what he’s seeing and gives Judy a dose for David, along with some needles and tells her to flee.
In Washington D.C., we see a bunch of officials trying to decide what to do with Evans City. The man who will assume command is sent in is Colonel Peckem (Lloyd Hollar). Also a scientist is sent in who worked on the project as well. His name Dr. Watts (Richard France) and he goes against his will. He thinks he can better served by not, but the officials want someone there in the thick of it all. As a way to prevent this from spreading, a bomber flies over top of the town while a cover up is formulated.
Inside of the perimeter, Judy meets up with David and Clank where they’re taken into custody. In the van are Artie (Richard Liberty) and his daughter Kathy (Lynn Lowry) along with an older man. They get away and must sneak out of this town before it is too late. The problem being that this virus makes people crazy and we get to see townspeople that are infected along with soldiers. Plus to see what happens in small town American when martial law takes over and people don’t know necessarily what they’re doing or what’s happening.
As I kind of alluded to earlier to start my review, this one actually has way more allegory than some of his other ones and a bit more in your face. The first thing that really struck me about this is how scary this film is, because it definitely could happen. It makes you wonder the story you are seeing on television is what’s really happened or that is what is released to explain it away. These people were going about their daily lives when this airplane crashed and the virus got loose into the water stream, infecting them.
We also get to see the ineptitude of bureaucracy. Don’t get me wrong, I think that government works in creating order. I do think there’s some social commentary about Vietnam here though. We have these officials in DC deciding what is going to happen, but we see that inside the town, they don’t have the resources or man power to actually do it. They also make the tough decision that if they’re going to wipe out the town to save the country, they will. It also goes back to being scary to just make that decision without regard for the citizens here. Dr. Watts does get really angry that he’s slowed by getting to the people he needs to talk to due to verifications and what not. His lack of patience is also his downfall.
What I find intriguing about this film as opposed to its remake, I find it terrifying that you can’t tell who is infected and who is not. Now you can when they’re acting funny and going crazy. The thing is though, they really kind of become a version of their character without really worrying about social norms anymore. There aren’t the mental blocks to stop them from doing certain things. In the remake, you can tell who is infected as their look changes and that they become more aggressive to attack others. That does ramp up the tension, but the not knowing is scary to me. Since I’m already here, I do think that the effects are good for the budget and era. The blood is a bit bright, but I have a soft spot for that. I also think Romero did an excellent job in shooting this as well.
That then will take me to the acting for this film. I thought that McMillian was solid as the lead here. He is a former Green Beret while his buddy Jones is former Army. I do believe that people that would survive in this situation would be former military. I like that David is smarter so Clank defers to him, but he’s willing to do what needs to be to survive. Carroll was solid and I feel bad for her in the end. This has a bleak ending so that really contributes. The military guys are all solid and believable along with the officials in DC. I thought it was cool to see France, who I know from Dawn of the Dead, Liberty from Day of the Dead and Lowry as well. They round out the movie for what is needed and I thought those that go ‘crazy’ really did play that up for sure.
Since I kind of touched on the ending, I will shift to the pacing. I do think that this is a bit slower if I’m going to be honest. I don’t want to say that it is boring though. This really just shows the trappings though of government and in turn the military. We do get some pretty good action though, it doesn’t waste any time and I actually thought seeing some people start to lose it made my anxiety go up. With how it ends, I really dug that as it really seems to crush hope and I prefer those types of endings if I’m honest.
The last thing to cover would be the soundtrack. This one really plays up the military motif with having like a drum beat that was very military sounding. I thought that really fit for what they’re going for here and I can also see that it is a bit heavier handed than some of his other films actually. I still dug it, just not his best soundtrack or one that I would revisit outside of watching this one again.
Now with that said, this film is one of Romero’s earlier efforts, but I can really see his talent here for sure. I like the social commentary that we have with how ineffective government and officials can be, as they meddle with this military operation on American soil. It is quite scary that something like this could legitimately happen and it could be covered up like it is. I think this is a bit slower as it focuses on that, but that’s what they’re going for. I thought the acting was fitting for the film with some cool cameos by actors I really enjoy. The effects are solid and I really like the concept here. The soundtrack fit the film, it is just not the best from Romero or one I would revisit outside of this movie. Not the best effort from this director, but if you like social commentary or films about infected individuals, gives this one a viewing. I think that it is above average overall for me.
My Rating: 7.5 out of 10