“The Crazies” (1973)
Studio: Cambist Films
Starring: Will MacMillan, Lane Carroll, Harold Wayne Jones, Richard Liberty, Lynn Lowry
Directed by: George A. Romero
Running Time: 103 min.
Synopsis: A chemical weapon turns the people of a small town into crazy maniacs.
Social commentary has always been one of George A. Romero’s main elements in every feature film he has done. This is no different with his 1973 film, The Crazies. Released five years after his outstanding feature film debut, which was the classic Night of the Living Dead, that changed the world of horror forever and gave birth to the modern day zombie. The Crazies may not be a classic like Romero’s other films such as Night, Martin, and Dawn of the Dead, but it is still a great film to watch.
A military plane carrying a biological weapon goes down in a small town and the chemical gets into the water supply. This causes people in the town to go crazy. The town residents start killing one another with guns, knives, fire, and their bare hands. The military comes in to try and control the problem, but it meets resistance from town officials who feel the military is bullying everyone around and not telling them the whole truth about the whole situation.
Meanwhile, two firemen, David (Will MacMillian) and Clank (Harold Wayne Jones) and David’s girlfriend, a nurse, Judy (Lane Carroll) cope with the problem by trying to get out of town, but they are met with military who want to contain everyone so the disease doesn’t get out to other cities. The three are taken away and locked in an army truck with a man, Artie (Richard Liberty of Day of the Dead fame) and his daughter, Kathy, played by 70’s horror and grindhouse siren, Lynn Lowry. The five of them somehow escape the army and go out on their own to figure out what is really happening and to escape the town.
The film is almost Night of the Living Dead lite, just with no one being dead and eating human flesh. This film makes you wonder who the real enemy is. Yes, there are people running around who are mad and killing everyone, but the army is very reckless themselves and want to wipe out everyone and ask questions later. There are a few people in the army including a scientist who wants to get a cure for the illness and stop all the crazies with using the least force possible, but even they are being jerked around by their superiors.
There are plenty of scenes in this film that have great impact or send a message. I can remember a scene where the army, who are decked out in white suits and gas masks, are gathering up people in their homes to get them all quarantined. Some symbolic things in this scene are a little boy who has a toy army gun and the military arrives in his house and a scene where there are green plastic toy army men on the floor and the military steps on them when they are going through a house.
Other scenes that stick out are when one of the army men are at a house and goes upstairs to find an old lady knitting. He says hello to the lady and she approaches him slowly and stabs him with her knitting needle. She returns to her chair and as other army men come to the wounded man’s aid, the woman just sits there and smiles and says hello to the other men. A few other standouts are when some key characters die, and I don’t want to give it away, but those scenes have great impact and are emotional.
When the film was released it did not play in many cities and fell off the radar. The film was re-released and known by many other names such as Code Name: Trixie, The Mad People, and Experiment 2000. The film reached more of an audience when it was released on home video. The story idea for the film was originally written by Paul McCollough and was entitled The Mad People. Romero was hired to direct the film and the producers wanted him to rewrite the screenplay. McCollough’s original script just had the military in the film for the first twenty minutes and the rest of the story was about survivors of the town, but Romero extended the subplot with the military and made it go throughout the whole film.
The Crazies is a must see for any Romero fan or any horror fan. The film mixes horror, action, suspense, and of course, social and political commentary. Romero would later add these action and military elements to his classic film Dawn of the Dead the follow-up to his first film Night of the Living Dead. So, check out The Crazies if you haven’t yet, it is a good movie to watch.