The Crazies


1h 39m 1973

Brief Synopsis

An experimental virus turns the inhabitants of a small-town into killers.

Film Details

Also Known As
Crazies
MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Horror
Sci-Fi
Release Date
Jan 1973
Premiere Information
not available
Country
United States
Location
Evans City, Pennsylvania, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 39m
Color
Color
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Synopsis

An experimental government germ weapon, code name "Trixie", leaves its victims either dead or irreversibly insane. When the virus is accidentally unleashed in Evans City, Pennsylvania, the small community becomes a war zone of panicked military, desperate scientists, and friendly neighbors turned homicidal maniacs. A small group of citizens flees to the outskirts of town where they hide from gun-toting soldiers while battling their own depraved urges. However, even if they can escape the madness of the plague, it is unclear whether or not they will be able to survive the unstoppable violence ahead of them.

Film Details

Also Known As
Crazies
MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Horror
Sci-Fi
Release Date
Jan 1973
Premiere Information
not available
Country
United States
Location
Evans City, Pennsylvania, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 39m
Color
Color
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Articles

The Gist (The Crazies) - THE GIST


When it was first released in 1973, George A. Romero's The Crazies was seen by many critics as an imitative and less effective version of his earlier cult phenomena, Night of the Living Dead (1968) but, despite some superficial similarities, the film's thought-provoking and completely plausible premise is much more relevant three decades later. At the time, however, due to inadequate distribution and a confused marketing campaign (in some areas, the film was released under the title Code Name: Trixie), The Crazies vanished from theatres before it had a chance to find its audience. Today its frenzied, fever-pitch narrative depicting a germ warfare weapon gone awry and a society breaking down to its most primitive level under martial law seems remarkably prescient for a 1973 film. It's also one of the rare times that a film's obvious low-budget, lack of a name cast and crude shock effects work in its favor, giving it a raw immediacy not unlike a breaking news story.

Romero dispenses with a conventional plot set-up, opting instead to open the film in full crisis mode in the wake of a cataclysmic event: a military plane carrying an untested biological virus with no known antidote has crashed near Evans City, Pennsylvania (a real place) and soon there are reports of homicides and psychotic behavior by the local residents. The area is quickly surrounded by gun-welding militia in white biohazard suits and gas masks who attempt to round up all of the town's survivors and quarantine them until an antidote can be found. In the ensuing chaos, a small band of local residents manage to escape confinement and hide in the woods. Among them are an elderly man who is already affected with the virus; a father and daughter, Artie (Richard Liberty) and Kathy (Lynn Lowry); an unmarried couple expecting their first child, David (W. G. McMillan) and Judy (Lane Carroll), and Clank (Harold Wayne Jones), a former army buddy of David. Romero escalates the tension by cutting between the atrocities committed by the government-sanctioned troops under martial law while depicting the growing paranoia of the escapees, some of whom succumb to their dark sides. In the film's grim final chapters, Artie acts out his incestuous feelings toward his daughter while Clank becomes increasingly addled and violent, his rage intensified by his jealousy of Artie and Judy, his former girlfriend. Like the ironic conclusion of Night of the Living Dead, Romero doesn't play to genre expectations and avoids a neat formulaic ending which may be too downbeat for some tastes but stays true to the film's apocalyptic vision.

A film that can be appreciated on multiple levels, The Crazies works as a cautionary tale about the dangers of a military regime. Or as a doomsday scenario of how the social order breaks down when people are forced to survive by their wits without any resources. Or as a Vietnam allegory. The death and destruction that visits Evans City has clear parallels to the massacre at My Lai. Some scenes are even more direct in their referencing, particularly the scene where a priest protests against soldiers entering his church by immolating himself; it's clearly inspired by that famous newsreel clip of a Buddhist monk setting fire to himself in defiance of South Vietnam's Diem regime. The Crazies can even be seen as a black comedy. The title could be referring to the heavily-armed soldiers mindlessly carrying out their orders without questioning the morality of their actions. Romero's sly, subversion sense of humor is constantly on display and no scene better illustrates this than the one where a soldier in full biohazard dress is unexpectedly stabbed to death with a knitting needle by a seemingly sweet, docile old lady.

Even if it didn't have all of these fascinating curves, The Crazies would deserve a place in cult cinema history for the casting of Lynn Lowry alone. In her famous final scene, when she wanders into a deadly standoff with a band of armed soldiers - "Do you want to play with me?" - you can't help but think of the 1970 Kent State University shootings by Ohio National Guardsmen in the way the scene is shot and played. Lowry's little-girl-lost quality is perfect for this role as she drifts from quiet panic into a beatific form of madness. The actress's early career was distinguished by her appearance in a number of seminal fringe movies from her blood-crazed hippie girl in I Drink Your Blood (1970) to her double role in the adult film industry melodrama Sugar Cookies (1973) to a sex-parasite victim in David Cronenberg's They Came from Within (aka Shivers, 1975) to her bisexual swinger in Radley Metzger's Score (1973) to her ill-fated hooker in Paul Schrader's remake of Cat People (1982). The Crazies, though, might be her real moment of glory and easily one of her best performances.

George Romero has often stated that The Crazies is a personal favorite of his even though its poor reception and distribution was a great disappointment. Tony Williams, in his comprehensive reference work The Cinema of George A. Romero, aptly sums it up when he writes, "The Crazies is an important film. It reveals Romero as beginning to articulate clearly his creative role as a knight of the living dead, whether they be fictional human characters, zombies or cinema audiences."

Producer: A.C. Croft
Director: George A. Romero
Screenplay: Paul McCollough, George A. Romero
Cinematography: S. William Hinzman
Film Editing: George A. Romero
Music: Melissa Manchester, Bruce Roberts
Cast: Lane Carroll (Judy), Will MacMillan (David), Harold Wayne Jones (Clank), Lloyd Hollar (Colonel Peckem), Lynn Lowry (Kathy Bolman), Richard Liberty (Artie Bolman).
C-103m.

by Jeff Stafford
The Gist (The Crazies) - The Gist

The Gist (The Crazies) - THE GIST

When it was first released in 1973, George A. Romero's The Crazies was seen by many critics as an imitative and less effective version of his earlier cult phenomena, Night of the Living Dead (1968) but, despite some superficial similarities, the film's thought-provoking and completely plausible premise is much more relevant three decades later. At the time, however, due to inadequate distribution and a confused marketing campaign (in some areas, the film was released under the title Code Name: Trixie), The Crazies vanished from theatres before it had a chance to find its audience. Today its frenzied, fever-pitch narrative depicting a germ warfare weapon gone awry and a society breaking down to its most primitive level under martial law seems remarkably prescient for a 1973 film. It's also one of the rare times that a film's obvious low-budget, lack of a name cast and crude shock effects work in its favor, giving it a raw immediacy not unlike a breaking news story. Romero dispenses with a conventional plot set-up, opting instead to open the film in full crisis mode in the wake of a cataclysmic event: a military plane carrying an untested biological virus with no known antidote has crashed near Evans City, Pennsylvania (a real place) and soon there are reports of homicides and psychotic behavior by the local residents. The area is quickly surrounded by gun-welding militia in white biohazard suits and gas masks who attempt to round up all of the town's survivors and quarantine them until an antidote can be found. In the ensuing chaos, a small band of local residents manage to escape confinement and hide in the woods. Among them are an elderly man who is already affected with the virus; a father and daughter, Artie (Richard Liberty) and Kathy (Lynn Lowry); an unmarried couple expecting their first child, David (W. G. McMillan) and Judy (Lane Carroll), and Clank (Harold Wayne Jones), a former army buddy of David. Romero escalates the tension by cutting between the atrocities committed by the government-sanctioned troops under martial law while depicting the growing paranoia of the escapees, some of whom succumb to their dark sides. In the film's grim final chapters, Artie acts out his incestuous feelings toward his daughter while Clank becomes increasingly addled and violent, his rage intensified by his jealousy of Artie and Judy, his former girlfriend. Like the ironic conclusion of Night of the Living Dead, Romero doesn't play to genre expectations and avoids a neat formulaic ending which may be too downbeat for some tastes but stays true to the film's apocalyptic vision. A film that can be appreciated on multiple levels, The Crazies works as a cautionary tale about the dangers of a military regime. Or as a doomsday scenario of how the social order breaks down when people are forced to survive by their wits without any resources. Or as a Vietnam allegory. The death and destruction that visits Evans City has clear parallels to the massacre at My Lai. Some scenes are even more direct in their referencing, particularly the scene where a priest protests against soldiers entering his church by immolating himself; it's clearly inspired by that famous newsreel clip of a Buddhist monk setting fire to himself in defiance of South Vietnam's Diem regime. The Crazies can even be seen as a black comedy. The title could be referring to the heavily-armed soldiers mindlessly carrying out their orders without questioning the morality of their actions. Romero's sly, subversion sense of humor is constantly on display and no scene better illustrates this than the one where a soldier in full biohazard dress is unexpectedly stabbed to death with a knitting needle by a seemingly sweet, docile old lady. Even if it didn't have all of these fascinating curves, The Crazies would deserve a place in cult cinema history for the casting of Lynn Lowry alone. In her famous final scene, when she wanders into a deadly standoff with a band of armed soldiers - "Do you want to play with me?" - you can't help but think of the 1970 Kent State University shootings by Ohio National Guardsmen in the way the scene is shot and played. Lowry's little-girl-lost quality is perfect for this role as she drifts from quiet panic into a beatific form of madness. The actress's early career was distinguished by her appearance in a number of seminal fringe movies from her blood-crazed hippie girl in I Drink Your Blood (1970) to her double role in the adult film industry melodrama Sugar Cookies (1973) to a sex-parasite victim in David Cronenberg's They Came from Within (aka Shivers, 1975) to her bisexual swinger in Radley Metzger's Score (1973) to her ill-fated hooker in Paul Schrader's remake of Cat People (1982). The Crazies, though, might be her real moment of glory and easily one of her best performances. George Romero has often stated that The Crazies is a personal favorite of his even though its poor reception and distribution was a great disappointment. Tony Williams, in his comprehensive reference work The Cinema of George A. Romero, aptly sums it up when he writes, "The Crazies is an important film. It reveals Romero as beginning to articulate clearly his creative role as a knight of the living dead, whether they be fictional human characters, zombies or cinema audiences." Producer: A.C. Croft Director: George A. Romero Screenplay: Paul McCollough, George A. Romero Cinematography: S. William Hinzman Film Editing: George A. Romero Music: Melissa Manchester, Bruce Roberts Cast: Lane Carroll (Judy), Will MacMillan (David), Harold Wayne Jones (Clank), Lloyd Hollar (Colonel Peckem), Lynn Lowry (Kathy Bolman), Richard Liberty (Artie Bolman). C-103m. by Jeff Stafford

Insider Info (The Crazies) - BEHIND THE SCENES


The initial script for The Crazies was written by short story author Paul McCollough. Cambist Films, which distributed Romero's indie romantic comedy There's Always Vanilla (1971), liked the first ten pages of the script but asked Romero to rewrite the rest of it to their satisfaction.

The movie was shot on location in Evans City and Zelienople, Pennsylvania

In the opening scene, the cinematographer for The Crazies, S. William Hinzman plays the insane father who murders his wife and torches the house. His own children play the terrified kids in the scene. The house was originally slated for destruction by the local fireman as a practice run and Romero got permission to film the burning of it. Hinzman was also the cinematographer on Night of the Living Dead (1968) and appeared as the first zombie in that movie.

The budget for The Crazies was approximately $270,000 and it was Romero's first Union film but he also employed a lot of actors from Pittsburgh and non-professionals from Evans City and Zelienople.

In several scenes in The Crazies, local cops, doctors, fireman and workers from other professions were hired to play themselves.

Composer Bruce Roberts rejected a conventional approach to scoring the film and choose to use drum tracks for the majority of scenes, underlining the militaristic aspects of the narrative. In some cases snatches of traditional songs are used ("When Johnny Comes Marching Home") and natural sounds (dogs barking, a radio announcer in the background, crickets chirping) were utilized to fill in a lot of the "dead air." Roberts went on to score the Barbara Streisand comedy, The Main Event (1979), directly after The Crazies.

The kinetic, rapid-fire editing style Romero employs in The Crazies prefigures the fast, almost subliminal style that MTV refined and became famous for in later years.

The Crazies was an extremely low-budget film in which very little footage was wasted. Romero found ways to work in what he calls "dog shots," which are cutaways and coverage which can be used for reaction shots or montage sequences.

A lot of the audio mixing in The Crazies, particularly the voices of soldiers and extras and specific sound effects, were completed in post-production in the basement of Romero's Latent Image Studio.

No Hollywood stuntmen were used in The Crazies. Local firemen and licensed fireworks professionals handled all of the action sequences, including the creation and employment of blood squibs.

Sources:
The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film
Incredibly Strange Films (Re/Search)
Dark Visions: Conversations with the Masters of the Horror Film by Stanley Wiater
The Cinema of George Romero: Knight of the Living Dead by Tony Williams
The Crazies DVD Commentary by George Romero (Blue Underground)

Compiled by Jeff Stafford

Insider Info (The Crazies) - BEHIND THE SCENES

The initial script for The Crazies was written by short story author Paul McCollough. Cambist Films, which distributed Romero's indie romantic comedy There's Always Vanilla (1971), liked the first ten pages of the script but asked Romero to rewrite the rest of it to their satisfaction. The movie was shot on location in Evans City and Zelienople, Pennsylvania In the opening scene, the cinematographer for The Crazies, S. William Hinzman plays the insane father who murders his wife and torches the house. His own children play the terrified kids in the scene. The house was originally slated for destruction by the local fireman as a practice run and Romero got permission to film the burning of it. Hinzman was also the cinematographer on Night of the Living Dead (1968) and appeared as the first zombie in that movie. The budget for The Crazies was approximately $270,000 and it was Romero's first Union film but he also employed a lot of actors from Pittsburgh and non-professionals from Evans City and Zelienople. In several scenes in The Crazies, local cops, doctors, fireman and workers from other professions were hired to play themselves. Composer Bruce Roberts rejected a conventional approach to scoring the film and choose to use drum tracks for the majority of scenes, underlining the militaristic aspects of the narrative. In some cases snatches of traditional songs are used ("When Johnny Comes Marching Home") and natural sounds (dogs barking, a radio announcer in the background, crickets chirping) were utilized to fill in a lot of the "dead air." Roberts went on to score the Barbara Streisand comedy, The Main Event (1979), directly after The Crazies. The kinetic, rapid-fire editing style Romero employs in The Crazies prefigures the fast, almost subliminal style that MTV refined and became famous for in later years. The Crazies was an extremely low-budget film in which very little footage was wasted. Romero found ways to work in what he calls "dog shots," which are cutaways and coverage which can be used for reaction shots or montage sequences. A lot of the audio mixing in The Crazies, particularly the voices of soldiers and extras and specific sound effects, were completed in post-production in the basement of Romero's Latent Image Studio. No Hollywood stuntmen were used in The Crazies. Local firemen and licensed fireworks professionals handled all of the action sequences, including the creation and employment of blood squibs. Sources: The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film Incredibly Strange Films (Re/Search) Dark Visions: Conversations with the Masters of the Horror Film by Stanley Wiater The Cinema of George Romero: Knight of the Living Dead by Tony Williams The Crazies DVD Commentary by George Romero (Blue Underground) Compiled by Jeff Stafford

In the Know (The Crazies) - TRIVIA


The Crazies appeared 22 years before Wolfgang Petersen's virus epidemic blockbuster Outbreak (1995) starring Dustin Hoffman, yet many scenes in it - especially the ones involving the protective white-suited task force - seem to mirror events in the Romero film.

Richard France, who appears as Dr. Watts in The Crazies, is also a writer and film critic. A well-known Orson Welles scholar, he appears in the documentary, The Battle Over Citizen Kane, which aired on PBS.

After seeing The Crazies, producer Richard Rubinstein wanted to meet Romero and their introduction led to a rewarding collaboration with Rubenstein serving as his partner on Martin (1977), Knightriders (1981) and many other films.

The song under the closing end credits for The Crazies - "Heaven Help Us" - was sung by Beverly Bremers and composed by Carole Bayer Sager and Melissa Manchester. Ms. Sager would go on to pen the lyrics to "Nobody Does It Better" (the theme songs from The Spy Who Loved Me, 1977), "Through the Eyes of Love" from Ice Castles (1978) and other films. She married composer Burt Bacharach in 1982 and they collaborated on many songs including the hit, "On My Own." Melissa Manchester was once a backup singer for Bette Midler and began her solo career in 1973 with the debut album, "Home to Myself." She became a Grammy award-winning singer and hit-maker with such songs as "You Should Hear How She Talks About You."

The Crazies was one of several movies that Romero shot in Pennsylvania including his later Stephen King adaptation, The Dark Half (1993), which was filmed in Pittsburgh. For a brief period that city was a popular movie location that was spotlighted in Mrs. Soffel (1984), Groundhog Day (1993), The Silence of the Lambs (1991), Striking Distance (1993) and many others.

Producer Ivan Reitman saw Lynn Lowry in The Crazies and decided to cast her in David Cronenberg's They Came from Within (aka Shivers, 1975). She later said that she accidentally stabbed Cronenberg on the set during the filming of a violent scene where his arm was visible as the attacker.

Lynn Lowry made her film debut in Lloyd Kaufman's The Battle of Love's Return (1971). Kaufman would go on to found Troma Pictures, home of no-budget exploitation films such as The Toxic Avenger (1985) and Surf Nazis Must Die (1987). Lynn Lowry gave up feature filmmaking temporarily for theatre work in the nineties and is currently performing as a cabaret singer, though in 2005 she began making film appearances again.

Sources:
The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film
Incredibly Strange Films (Re/Search)
Dark Visions: Conversations with the Masters of the Horror Film by Stanley Wiater
The Cinema of George Romero: Knight of the Living Dead by Tony Williams
The Crazies DVD Commentary by George Romero (Blue Underground)

Compiled by Jeff Stafford

In the Know (The Crazies) - TRIVIA

The Crazies appeared 22 years before Wolfgang Petersen's virus epidemic blockbuster Outbreak (1995) starring Dustin Hoffman, yet many scenes in it - especially the ones involving the protective white-suited task force - seem to mirror events in the Romero film. Richard France, who appears as Dr. Watts in The Crazies, is also a writer and film critic. A well-known Orson Welles scholar, he appears in the documentary, The Battle Over Citizen Kane, which aired on PBS. After seeing The Crazies, producer Richard Rubinstein wanted to meet Romero and their introduction led to a rewarding collaboration with Rubenstein serving as his partner on Martin (1977), Knightriders (1981) and many other films. The song under the closing end credits for The Crazies - "Heaven Help Us" - was sung by Beverly Bremers and composed by Carole Bayer Sager and Melissa Manchester. Ms. Sager would go on to pen the lyrics to "Nobody Does It Better" (the theme songs from The Spy Who Loved Me, 1977), "Through the Eyes of Love" from Ice Castles (1978) and other films. She married composer Burt Bacharach in 1982 and they collaborated on many songs including the hit, "On My Own." Melissa Manchester was once a backup singer for Bette Midler and began her solo career in 1973 with the debut album, "Home to Myself." She became a Grammy award-winning singer and hit-maker with such songs as "You Should Hear How She Talks About You." The Crazies was one of several movies that Romero shot in Pennsylvania including his later Stephen King adaptation, The Dark Half (1993), which was filmed in Pittsburgh. For a brief period that city was a popular movie location that was spotlighted in Mrs. Soffel (1984), Groundhog Day (1993), The Silence of the Lambs (1991), Striking Distance (1993) and many others. Producer Ivan Reitman saw Lynn Lowry in The Crazies and decided to cast her in David Cronenberg's They Came from Within (aka Shivers, 1975). She later said that she accidentally stabbed Cronenberg on the set during the filming of a violent scene where his arm was visible as the attacker. Lynn Lowry made her film debut in Lloyd Kaufman's The Battle of Love's Return (1971). Kaufman would go on to found Troma Pictures, home of no-budget exploitation films such as The Toxic Avenger (1985) and Surf Nazis Must Die (1987). Lynn Lowry gave up feature filmmaking temporarily for theatre work in the nineties and is currently performing as a cabaret singer, though in 2005 she began making film appearances again. Sources: The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film Incredibly Strange Films (Re/Search) Dark Visions: Conversations with the Masters of the Horror Film by Stanley Wiater The Cinema of George Romero: Knight of the Living Dead by Tony Williams The Crazies DVD Commentary by George Romero (Blue Underground) Compiled by Jeff Stafford

Yea or Nay (The Crazies) - CRITIC REVIEWS OF "THE CRAZIES"


"Night of the Living Dead [1968] suggested that Romero was an unusual if none too clearly defined talent; two non-horror movies later, The Crazies proved it...he brilliantly updates the riddle Don Siegel posed in Invasion of the Body Snatchers [1956]: how can one tell who is infected and who isn't?...Good dialogue and performances, too. Altogether, enough plusses to excuse weak plotting and occasional lapses into cliché."
Tony Rayns, TimeOut Film Guide

"Fast-moving, low-budget horror movie that also attempts to be a satire on rigid, military attitudes; it does achieve a certain frisson by its driving relentlessness and copious killing."
Halliwell's Film & Video Guide

"A frightening commentary on martial law. Fast-paced editing breathes an exciting tempo into this low-budget film, Romero's personal favorite."
John Stanley, Creature Features: The Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Movie Guide

"A far slicker film than Romero's debut, Night of the Living Dead which this is virtually a remake of, The Crazies suffers from looking too calculated. In place of the rugged, disturbing atmosphere of his first film, this (like David Cronenberg's similarly infected remake of his classic, The Parasite Murders, 1975, Rabid, 1977) sees Romero overstriving for effects...The movie's one point of departure from Night of the Living Dead is Romero's pointed contrast between the military, who, as they follow orders, are revealed to be as crazed as the Crazies, and the care and concern shown each other by the members of the group they hunt."
Phil Hardy, The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction Movies

"Average paranoia movie...Romero is better at maintaining a high body count than being profound."
Sight and Sound

"In Romero's malevolent comedy of errors, everything that can possibly go wrong does. This is an interesting treatment of Vietnam analogy as horror film, although it's often too unfocused and downbeat for its own good. It's well edited, though, with the idea of the military becoming just as big a threat as the "crazies" well brought off."
James O'Neill, Terror on Tape

"Almost unlimited blood and gore....an onslaught of horror upon horror."
Cinefantastique

"Frightening and exciting...a surprising, neglected treat!"
All Movie Guide

by Jeff Stafford

Yea or Nay (The Crazies) - CRITIC REVIEWS OF "THE CRAZIES"

"Night of the Living Dead [1968] suggested that Romero was an unusual if none too clearly defined talent; two non-horror movies later, The Crazies proved it...he brilliantly updates the riddle Don Siegel posed in Invasion of the Body Snatchers [1956]: how can one tell who is infected and who isn't?...Good dialogue and performances, too. Altogether, enough plusses to excuse weak plotting and occasional lapses into cliché." Tony Rayns, TimeOut Film Guide "Fast-moving, low-budget horror movie that also attempts to be a satire on rigid, military attitudes; it does achieve a certain frisson by its driving relentlessness and copious killing." Halliwell's Film & Video Guide "A frightening commentary on martial law. Fast-paced editing breathes an exciting tempo into this low-budget film, Romero's personal favorite." John Stanley, Creature Features: The Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Movie Guide "A far slicker film than Romero's debut, Night of the Living Dead which this is virtually a remake of, The Crazies suffers from looking too calculated. In place of the rugged, disturbing atmosphere of his first film, this (like David Cronenberg's similarly infected remake of his classic, The Parasite Murders, 1975, Rabid, 1977) sees Romero overstriving for effects...The movie's one point of departure from Night of the Living Dead is Romero's pointed contrast between the military, who, as they follow orders, are revealed to be as crazed as the Crazies, and the care and concern shown each other by the members of the group they hunt." Phil Hardy, The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction Movies "Average paranoia movie...Romero is better at maintaining a high body count than being profound." Sight and Sound "In Romero's malevolent comedy of errors, everything that can possibly go wrong does. This is an interesting treatment of Vietnam analogy as horror film, although it's often too unfocused and downbeat for its own good. It's well edited, though, with the idea of the military becoming just as big a threat as the "crazies" well brought off." James O'Neill, Terror on Tape "Almost unlimited blood and gore....an onslaught of horror upon horror." Cinefantastique "Frightening and exciting...a surprising, neglected treat!" All Movie Guide by Jeff Stafford

The Crazies


When it was first released in 1973, George A. Romero's The Crazies was seen by many critics as an imitative and less effective version of his earlier cult phenomena, Night of the Living Dead (1968) but, despite some superficial similarities, the film's thought-provoking and completely plausible premise is much more relevant three decades later. At the time, however, due to inadequate distribution and a confused marketing campaign (in some areas, the film was released under the title Code Name: Trixie), The Crazies vanished from theatres before it had a chance to find its audience. Today its frenzied, fever-pitch narrative depicting a germ warfare weapon gone awry and a society breaking down to its most primitive level under martial law seems remarkably prescient for a 1973 film. It's also one of the rare times that a film's obvious low-budget, lack of a name cast and crude shock effects work in its favor, giving it a raw immediacy not unlike a breaking news story.

Romero dispenses with a conventional plot set-up, opting instead to open the film in full crisis mode in the wake of a cataclysmic event: a military plane carrying an untested biological virus with no known antidote has crashed near Evans City, Pennsylvania (a real place) and soon there are reports of homicides and psychotic behavior by the local residents. The area is quickly surrounded by gun-welding militia in white biohazard suits and gas masks who attempt to round up all of the town's survivors and quarantine them until an antidote can be found. In the ensuing chaos, a small band of local residents manage to escape confinement and hide in the woods. Among them are an elderly man who is already affected with the virus; a father and daughter, Artie (Richard Liberty) and Kathy (Lynn Lowry); an unmarried couple expecting their first child, David (W. G. McMillan) and Judy (Lane Carroll), and Clank (Harold Wayne Jones), a former army buddy of David. Romero escalates the tension by cutting between the atrocities committed by the government-sanctioned troops under martial law while depicting the growing paranoia of the escapees, some of whom succumb to their dark sides. In the film's grim final chapters, Artie acts out his incestuous feelings toward his daughter while Clank becomes increasingly addled and violent, his rage intensified by his jealousy of Artie and Judy, his former girlfriend. Like the ironic conclusion of Night of the Living Dead, Romero doesn't play to genre expectations and avoids a neat formulaic ending which may be too downbeat for some tastes but stays true to the film's apocalyptic vision.

A film that can be appreciated on multiple levels, The Crazies works as a cautionary tale about the dangers of a military regime. Or as a doomsday scenario of how the social order breaks down when people are forced to survive by their wits without any resources. Or as a Vietnam allegory. The death and destruction that visits Evans City has clear parallels to the massacre at My Lai. Some scenes are even more direct in their referencing, particularly the scene where a priest protests against soldiers entering his church by immolating himself; it's clearly inspired by that famous newsreel clip of a Buddhist monk setting fire to himself in defiance of South Vietnam's Diem regime. The Crazies can even be seen as a black comedy. The title could be referring to the heavily-armed soldiers mindlessly carrying out their orders without questioning the morality of their actions. Romero's sly, subversion sense of humor is constantly on display and no scene better illustrates this than the one where a soldier in full biohazard dress is unexpectedly stabbed to death with a knitting needle by a seemingly sweet, docile old lady.

Even if it didn't have all of these fascinating curves, The Crazies would deserve a place in cult cinema history for the casting of Lynn Lowry alone. In her famous final scene, when she wanders into a deadly standoff with a band of armed soldiers - "Do you want to play with me?" - you can't help but think of the 1970 Kent State University shootings by Ohio National Guardsmen in the way the scene is shot and played. Lowry's little-girl-lost quality is perfect for this role as she drifts from quiet panic into a beatific form of madness. The actress's early career was distinguished by her appearance in a number of seminal fringe movies from her blood-crazed hippie girl in I Drink Your Blood (1970) to her double role in the adult film industry melodrama Sugar Cookies (1973) to a sex-parasite victim in David Cronenberg's They Came from Within (aka Shivers, 1975) to her bisexual swinger in Radley Metzger's Score (1973) to her ill-fated hooker in Paul Schrader's remake of Cat People (1982). The Crazies, though, might be her real moment of glory and easily one of her best performances.

George Romero has often stated that The Crazies is a personal favorite of his even though its poor reception and distribution was a great disappointment. Tony Williams, in his comprehensive reference work The Cinema of George A. Romero, aptly sums it up when he writes, "The Crazies is an important film. It reveals Romero as beginning to articulate clearly his creative role as a knight of the living dead, whether they be fictional human characters, zombies or cinema audiences."

Producer: A.C. Croft
Director: George A. Romero
Screenplay: Paul McCollough, George A. Romero
Cinematography: S. William Hinzman
Film Editing: George A. Romero
Art Direction:
Music: Melissa Manchester, Bruce Roberts
Cast: Lane Carroll (Judy), Will MacMillan (David), Harold Wayne Jones (Clank), Lloyd Hollar (Colonel Peckem), Lynn Lowry (Kathy Bolman), Richard Liberty (Artie Bolman).
C-103m.

by Jeff Stafford

The Crazies

When it was first released in 1973, George A. Romero's The Crazies was seen by many critics as an imitative and less effective version of his earlier cult phenomena, Night of the Living Dead (1968) but, despite some superficial similarities, the film's thought-provoking and completely plausible premise is much more relevant three decades later. At the time, however, due to inadequate distribution and a confused marketing campaign (in some areas, the film was released under the title Code Name: Trixie), The Crazies vanished from theatres before it had a chance to find its audience. Today its frenzied, fever-pitch narrative depicting a germ warfare weapon gone awry and a society breaking down to its most primitive level under martial law seems remarkably prescient for a 1973 film. It's also one of the rare times that a film's obvious low-budget, lack of a name cast and crude shock effects work in its favor, giving it a raw immediacy not unlike a breaking news story. Romero dispenses with a conventional plot set-up, opting instead to open the film in full crisis mode in the wake of a cataclysmic event: a military plane carrying an untested biological virus with no known antidote has crashed near Evans City, Pennsylvania (a real place) and soon there are reports of homicides and psychotic behavior by the local residents. The area is quickly surrounded by gun-welding militia in white biohazard suits and gas masks who attempt to round up all of the town's survivors and quarantine them until an antidote can be found. In the ensuing chaos, a small band of local residents manage to escape confinement and hide in the woods. Among them are an elderly man who is already affected with the virus; a father and daughter, Artie (Richard Liberty) and Kathy (Lynn Lowry); an unmarried couple expecting their first child, David (W. G. McMillan) and Judy (Lane Carroll), and Clank (Harold Wayne Jones), a former army buddy of David. Romero escalates the tension by cutting between the atrocities committed by the government-sanctioned troops under martial law while depicting the growing paranoia of the escapees, some of whom succumb to their dark sides. In the film's grim final chapters, Artie acts out his incestuous feelings toward his daughter while Clank becomes increasingly addled and violent, his rage intensified by his jealousy of Artie and Judy, his former girlfriend. Like the ironic conclusion of Night of the Living Dead, Romero doesn't play to genre expectations and avoids a neat formulaic ending which may be too downbeat for some tastes but stays true to the film's apocalyptic vision. A film that can be appreciated on multiple levels, The Crazies works as a cautionary tale about the dangers of a military regime. Or as a doomsday scenario of how the social order breaks down when people are forced to survive by their wits without any resources. Or as a Vietnam allegory. The death and destruction that visits Evans City has clear parallels to the massacre at My Lai. Some scenes are even more direct in their referencing, particularly the scene where a priest protests against soldiers entering his church by immolating himself; it's clearly inspired by that famous newsreel clip of a Buddhist monk setting fire to himself in defiance of South Vietnam's Diem regime. The Crazies can even be seen as a black comedy. The title could be referring to the heavily-armed soldiers mindlessly carrying out their orders without questioning the morality of their actions. Romero's sly, subversion sense of humor is constantly on display and no scene better illustrates this than the one where a soldier in full biohazard dress is unexpectedly stabbed to death with a knitting needle by a seemingly sweet, docile old lady. Even if it didn't have all of these fascinating curves, The Crazies would deserve a place in cult cinema history for the casting of Lynn Lowry alone. In her famous final scene, when she wanders into a deadly standoff with a band of armed soldiers - "Do you want to play with me?" - you can't help but think of the 1970 Kent State University shootings by Ohio National Guardsmen in the way the scene is shot and played. Lowry's little-girl-lost quality is perfect for this role as she drifts from quiet panic into a beatific form of madness. The actress's early career was distinguished by her appearance in a number of seminal fringe movies from her blood-crazed hippie girl in I Drink Your Blood (1970) to her double role in the adult film industry melodrama Sugar Cookies (1973) to a sex-parasite victim in David Cronenberg's They Came from Within (aka Shivers, 1975) to her bisexual swinger in Radley Metzger's Score (1973) to her ill-fated hooker in Paul Schrader's remake of Cat People (1982). The Crazies, though, might be her real moment of glory and easily one of her best performances. George Romero has often stated that The Crazies is a personal favorite of his even though its poor reception and distribution was a great disappointment. Tony Williams, in his comprehensive reference work The Cinema of George A. Romero, aptly sums it up when he writes, "The Crazies is an important film. It reveals Romero as beginning to articulate clearly his creative role as a knight of the living dead, whether they be fictional human characters, zombies or cinema audiences." Producer: A.C. Croft Director: George A. Romero Screenplay: Paul McCollough, George A. Romero Cinematography: S. William Hinzman Film Editing: George A. Romero Art Direction: Music: Melissa Manchester, Bruce Roberts Cast: Lane Carroll (Judy), Will MacMillan (David), Harold Wayne Jones (Clank), Lloyd Hollar (Colonel Peckem), Lynn Lowry (Kathy Bolman), Richard Liberty (Artie Bolman). C-103m. by Jeff Stafford

Quote It (The Crazies) - QUOTES FROM "THE CRAZIES"


"I have a feeling that if anything happened to this baby, you won't marry me." - Judy to David

"Stay away from people!" - Dr. Brookmyre

"They're giving the soldiers some kind of injection. They say there's not enough for the town." - Evans City policeman

"This was exactly the kind of thing we wanted to prevent." - Peckem

"I'm a combat man. I shouldn't even be here. I just happened to be available - even expendable! - Peckem

"Trixie has been in those containers for six days. Any truck driver could have taken it out of the perimeter."

"How can you explain away a town which has been wiped from the map or a people into mindlessness?"

"All of these people dying and my father can't feel that." - Kathy

"The chick's got the bug." - Clank to David

"Action, adventure. Evans City's only Green Beret. I couldn't believe this was me." - David

"How can you tell who's infected and who isn't? - David

"Some of the rednecks who live in this area could be shooting at each other and not even care." - David

"Few of the men have ever been told of this...If these men knew the whole truth they'll be breaking the perimeter themselves."

"The Army's nobody's friend. We know cause we've been in." - Clank

"How does the Army get involved in anything! I don't know. It's a police action. The Army only tells us what they want to. We're only following orders." - David

"David, the Green Beret! Strong man! Hey man, you really messed up. I thought that David was Special Forces. I thought he was some kind of god. I never came close to it. Regular Army was all I made." - Clank

Compiled by Jeff Stafford

Quote It (The Crazies) - QUOTES FROM "THE CRAZIES"

"I have a feeling that if anything happened to this baby, you won't marry me." - Judy to David "Stay away from people!" - Dr. Brookmyre "They're giving the soldiers some kind of injection. They say there's not enough for the town." - Evans City policeman "This was exactly the kind of thing we wanted to prevent." - Peckem "I'm a combat man. I shouldn't even be here. I just happened to be available - even expendable! - Peckem "Trixie has been in those containers for six days. Any truck driver could have taken it out of the perimeter." "How can you explain away a town which has been wiped from the map or a people into mindlessness?" "All of these people dying and my father can't feel that." - Kathy "The chick's got the bug." - Clank to David "Action, adventure. Evans City's only Green Beret. I couldn't believe this was me." - David "How can you tell who's infected and who isn't? - David "Some of the rednecks who live in this area could be shooting at each other and not even care." - David "Few of the men have ever been told of this...If these men knew the whole truth they'll be breaking the perimeter themselves." "The Army's nobody's friend. We know cause we've been in." - Clank "How does the Army get involved in anything! I don't know. It's a police action. The Army only tells us what they want to. We're only following orders." - David "David, the Green Beret! Strong man! Hey man, you really messed up. I thought that David was Special Forces. I thought he was some kind of god. I never came close to it. Regular Army was all I made." - Clank Compiled by Jeff Stafford

The Crazies


George Romero's earliest pictures might be an acquired taste if you're not used to his unique style of mixing blood and guts narratives with a moral tacked on. For all their astute paranoia, they're so haphazardly shot they look like outtakes from the Zapruder film. Night of the Living Dead, of course, established Romero's m.o., with dead-meat Pittsburgh zombies being offed in a variety of gruesome ways by "trapped" innocents. Literally everyone is out to get you in Romero's world, even if you're already dead, and the nominal hero usually winds up in a shallow grave by the time it's over. Don't expect this stuff to be adapted into a Broadway musical.

The Crazies, which has been released on DVD by Blue Underground, is so similar to Living Dead it inadvertently edges toward sequel territory. Romero sticks more government mayhem into the narrative this time, but you still find yourself simply waiting for people to mutilate each other. Despite its low budget, this game plan has recently gained unexpected depth: even with a surfeit of tedious establishing scenes and often ineffective performances, The Crazies scores points in 2003 for featuring a germ warfare program run amok.

The U.S. government - in a move that, 30 years ago, was clearly meant to reflect our real-life nuclear proliferation lunacy - starts experimenting with germ-based weapons. One of the germs, code named "Trixie," is tailor made to create the kind of "yeah, right" chaos that always fills a Romero narrative. If its victims aren't killed outright, they're turned into maniacs who attack anyone who gets near them. There's no antidote to this sickness, which means it can be milked for all the gore it's worth.

When Trixie is accidentally unleashed on the unsuspecting citizens of Evans, City, Pennsylvania, government troops are called in to contain the situation. As in Night of the Living Dead, a Pennsylvania town is perverted by its now-murderous citizenry while several survivors are forced to kill or be killed. Their gruesome endings arise via infected friends or trigger-happy peacekeepers, and, even if they live, they might become "crazies" themselves. Yikes.

Blue Underground presents The Crazies in 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen. Romero's technical standards have never been the highest, so it's not surprising that some of the picture, even after a re-mastering, is grainy. But it's a small drawback. That's more than can be said for the sound mix, which has been cleaned up for this release while retaining much of the original muddiness. The dialogue, however, comes through loud and clear, so you won't miss any of the screams.

There's an optional commentary by Romero, who's joined by Blue Underground's Bill Lustig. Romero has always been happy to discuss the details of his low-budget productions, and, quite refreshingly, he's not above pointing out his own limitations as a filmmaker. His insights are always entertaining ("in a crisis, you can't tell who's crazy and who isn't") and also reveals that The Crazies was filmed in Evans City, Pa. (the same location as Night of the Living Dead. There's also a lively 15-minute interview with Crazies co-star Lynn Lowery (a mini-tribute plays like a parody of a B-movie actress' trials and tribulations in the business), photos from the shoot, posters, two TV spots, and two theatrical trailers. Overall, it's an appealing package that does Romero, and this virtually forgotten film, justice.

For more information about The Crazies, visit Blue Underground. To order The Crazies, go to TCM Shopping.

By Paul Tatara

The Crazies

George Romero's earliest pictures might be an acquired taste if you're not used to his unique style of mixing blood and guts narratives with a moral tacked on. For all their astute paranoia, they're so haphazardly shot they look like outtakes from the Zapruder film. Night of the Living Dead, of course, established Romero's m.o., with dead-meat Pittsburgh zombies being offed in a variety of gruesome ways by "trapped" innocents. Literally everyone is out to get you in Romero's world, even if you're already dead, and the nominal hero usually winds up in a shallow grave by the time it's over. Don't expect this stuff to be adapted into a Broadway musical. The Crazies, which has been released on DVD by Blue Underground, is so similar to Living Dead it inadvertently edges toward sequel territory. Romero sticks more government mayhem into the narrative this time, but you still find yourself simply waiting for people to mutilate each other. Despite its low budget, this game plan has recently gained unexpected depth: even with a surfeit of tedious establishing scenes and often ineffective performances, The Crazies scores points in 2003 for featuring a germ warfare program run amok. The U.S. government - in a move that, 30 years ago, was clearly meant to reflect our real-life nuclear proliferation lunacy - starts experimenting with germ-based weapons. One of the germs, code named "Trixie," is tailor made to create the kind of "yeah, right" chaos that always fills a Romero narrative. If its victims aren't killed outright, they're turned into maniacs who attack anyone who gets near them. There's no antidote to this sickness, which means it can be milked for all the gore it's worth. When Trixie is accidentally unleashed on the unsuspecting citizens of Evans, City, Pennsylvania, government troops are called in to contain the situation. As in Night of the Living Dead, a Pennsylvania town is perverted by its now-murderous citizenry while several survivors are forced to kill or be killed. Their gruesome endings arise via infected friends or trigger-happy peacekeepers, and, even if they live, they might become "crazies" themselves. Yikes. Blue Underground presents The Crazies in 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen. Romero's technical standards have never been the highest, so it's not surprising that some of the picture, even after a re-mastering, is grainy. But it's a small drawback. That's more than can be said for the sound mix, which has been cleaned up for this release while retaining much of the original muddiness. The dialogue, however, comes through loud and clear, so you won't miss any of the screams. There's an optional commentary by Romero, who's joined by Blue Underground's Bill Lustig. Romero has always been happy to discuss the details of his low-budget productions, and, quite refreshingly, he's not above pointing out his own limitations as a filmmaker. His insights are always entertaining ("in a crisis, you can't tell who's crazy and who isn't") and also reveals that The Crazies was filmed in Evans City, Pa. (the same location as Night of the Living Dead. There's also a lively 15-minute interview with Crazies co-star Lynn Lowery (a mini-tribute plays like a parody of a B-movie actress' trials and tribulations in the business), photos from the shoot, posters, two TV spots, and two theatrical trailers. Overall, it's an appealing package that does Romero, and this virtually forgotten film, justice. For more information about The Crazies, visit Blue Underground. To order The Crazies, go to TCM Shopping. By Paul Tatara

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1973

Released in United States 1973