DirectorGeorge A. Romero
Release Date(s)1973 (March 13, 2018)
Studio(s)Pittsburgh Films/Cambist Films/Libra Films (Arrow Video)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: B
After the passing of George A. Romero, I had the distinct feeling that many of us would be going back and reevaluating his work – specifically his less popular work. Post-Night of the Living Dead, he went through, what I consider to be, a “wandering” artistic phase. If he was able to get the backing and the support to do so, he would dip his toes into foreign creative waters and try to make whatever he wanted. At the same time, he wasn’t interested in repeating himself or being typecast as nothing more than a horror director. Eventually, that did come to pass, but only because he had decided to make a sequel to Night of the Living Dead of his own free will. But before Dawn of the Dead changed the course of his career forever, he attempted a few things that wound up not working critically or commercially.
This pre-Dawn phase began with There’s Always Vanilla and Season of the Witch, but continued with The Crazies, also known as Code Name: Trixie. A precursor to what he would later do with his Dead sequels, it showcases his view of what a crumbling society would be like in the face of a crisis: chaos. In the town of Evans City outside of Pittsburgh, a virus outbreak has occurred, which is causing people to exhibit bizarre, sometimes violent and destructive behavior. While the army arrives in town to try and unsuccessfully contain it, a ragtag group of seemingly immune survivors attempt to avoid the troops and somehow escape from it all.
The Crazies, more than any of his other early films, clearly reminds me of Dawn of the Dead while I’m watching it. Not only for its subject matter, but by the style of editing, which George was beginning to get a firm grip on aesthetically. His style seems to be coming to fruition here and the sequences involving the firemen in the beginning can be directly linked to the opening scenes of Dawn. While the film itself isn’t one hundred percent effective, particularly due to some of the schmaltzy musical choices that seem out of place, it demonstrates disorder better than almost anything George would make later.
For Arrow Video’s presentation of the film, a new 4K restoration utilizing the original 35mm camera negative and a color reversal intermediate element was carried out. Truth be told, I’ve always felt that The Crazies was an unremarkable film visually, but Arrow Video has made the most of it. Grain is a bit splotchy with a definite “breathing” quality to the footage, which is more pronounced on backgrounds with solid colors. Texturing and detail are excellent and color reproduction is remarkably improved, especially reds which really pop, as well as skin tones. Black levels aren’t thoroughly deep, but fairly decent with good shadow detail and pleasing brightness and contrast. It’s also stable with next to no film damage leftover other than some minor weak spots, which are minimal. The audio for the film is presented via an English 1.0 LPCM track with optional subtitles in English SDH. It features extremely mild dynamics with mostly good dialogue reproduction, although the army folks in their masks are a little difficult to make out sometimes (perhaps by design). Sound effects have some mild bite to them, but the score has very little impact and is pretty dim within the mix.
As for the supplemental features, there’s a new audio commentary with film journalist Travis Crawford and podcaster Bill Ackerman; Romero Was Here: Locating The Crazies, a location tour with film historian Lawrence DeVincentz; Crazy for Lynn Lowry, an interview with the titular actress; a Lynn Lowry Q&A from the 2016 Abertoir film festival in Aberystwyth, U.K.; a short audio interview with producer Lee Hessel, conducted by his son; 8mm behind-the-scenes footage with optional audio commentary by Lawrence DeVincentz; a set of alternate opening titles; two separate image galleries (filming locations and collectible scans); 2 theatrical trailers; and 2 TV spots. All of this is the same material that’s found in the previously released George A. Romero: Between Night and Dawn Blu-ray boxed set, which we also reviewed. Missing altogether from Blue Underground’s DVD and Blu-ray releases is an audio commentary with Romero and William Lustig and The Cult Film Legacy of Lynn Lowry featurette.
The Crazies is an obvious jump to what George would do next with Martin and Dawn of the Dead, but for anyone interested in his career outside of straight horror movies, it’s a fine film in its own right. It’s not perfect, but it manages to demonstrate a filmmaker who is learning both how to make films and how to navigate the business of them. For that reason alone, it’s a wonderful lesson in low budget filmmaking against adversity, regardless of your opinion of the film. And with a quality high definition transfer and entertaining extras, it’s a must for fans.
- Tim Salmons