Saturday, 25 October 2014

31 Days of Horror: The Crazies (1973)

The Crazies (1973)
Director: George A. Romero
Starring: Lane Carroll, Will MacMillan, and Harold Wayne Jones
Running Time: 103 min

  I've seen the remake of this film but it has taken me forever to actually watch the original, although George A. Romero has been one of my favourite for a horror directors for a long time.  I'm not even sure what to expect for this version, all I know is that there is an air born contagion that is making people crazy and getting a copy of this film has been really tricky, so I hope it's good.

  After a father goes bananas and kills his wife, then sets their farm house ablaze, which traps his children inside, local firefight and ex-Green Beret, David manages to crawl out of bed from his pregnant wife, Judy and stumbles down to the fire station.  Judy, who is the town's... nurse, gets called in to work as well to help the doctor with the crispy children.  When she arrives, she is surprised to see that the doctor's office is filled with military personnel and they demand that she helps them inoculate the soldiers with a serum that will protect them against the virus.  What virus, you ask?  Well apparently, a plane crashed with an experimental biological weapon called "Trixie" and has contaminated the water supply of this town.  "Trixie" will either kill a person after some time or turn them into raving murderous lunatics!  So, the military has now blocked all roads leaving this small town and declared a state of martial law.  Also, the army is rounding up the citizens and stuffing them into the high school gym, even the nerdy ones, to contain the contamination, while they search and develop a cure for this deadly virus.
  However, the town doctor doesn't like this idea and is worried about Judy and the baby.  So, he gives Judy enough of the vaccine for her and David and tells her hide out far away from town.  The pregnant woman gives the army the slip and heads out to find David.  Luckily, David and his buddy, Clank think that fighting this fire is for chumps and take off to find Judy and learn the truth about what is going on in their back water town.  On the way into town, they run into Judy, as well as the army and they are all thrown into the back of a truck to be brought to the high school gym.  Inside the the back of the truck, they meet a man and his daughter and some other old coot that claims he has the bug.  Judy gives everybody the scoop on what's happening but unfortunately, their captors took the vaccine she had for David.  On a brief stop, David and Clank overtake their captors, steal the truck, and ditch the old infected coot behind.  They head out to the hills and try to find safety with there new friends.
  There not the only ones army is having a hard time containing because this the revolting townspeople are fighting back and the army can't determine whether it's the virus or just people standing up and against them.  Is there any way that the military contain this cluster fuck that they created and get a cure out pronto?  Can David and Judy avoid the not only the Army but the virus as well and live happily ever after with their baby in a boarded up house built for two? Will we ever find out why that dudes name is Clank? That's a sound, not a name!

  There are certainly some similarities to George A. Romero's earlier classic "Night of the Living Dead" in this film but the focus of the film doesn't seem to be on the survivors, but more on the military and how they are trying controlling the out break.  Which is interesting, because unlike "Night", they know what the virus is and they are trying to develop a vaccine using the rudimentary tools of a high school science lab and the it's almost amusing that the bureaucracy of the military is not only getting in the way and slowing down the efforts but it is causing detrimental issues with finding the cure.  They voice recognition checks are the most frustrating, because although this may be a good idea, the process in 1973 seemed slow and arduous. 
  Also, I think that is funny that some of the soldiers are taking things, like fishing rods and stuff when the are rounding people up or when they are pilfering the corpses and dividing it amongst themselves, after they've burned the bodies.  Unfortunately this makes these characters more human for me.  I know these actions are wrong and abhorrent but I'm sure that this as happened more often than one wish to believe.
  Finally, Romero has some good twists in the plot at the end and I was surprised about some of the taboos that he begins to touch on three quarters of the way into the film.  He really starts getting nasty near the end with some subjects that I haven't seen him delve into before.  It's kinda gross but it does add that sick splash to make the picture just right.

 However, this was not the rampaging, crazy, people, bloody, tear down, repulsive, gore driven film as I was expecting, but I don't think that it's George's fault.  The idea to focus on the military was the idea of the producer Lee Hassel.  He liked the army aspect of Paul McCullough's screenplay, "The Mad People" which spent most of the story on the survivors and maybe 20% of the time with the army.  He wanted it flip flopped with more army stuff, so Romero rewrote it for him.  In some ways, this is more of an action thriller and there isn't as many murderous lunatics as I would have liked, but there are still some very gruesome scenes with people head's exploding, grannies with knitting needles and there are lot of people getting shot in the head.  Aim for the head!
  Also, there are some issues with audio because it is hard to here an actor's lines when they are wearing a gas mask.  Some of the dialogue is just barely audible, when these soldiers are giving orders and or just chatting.  Luckily, there isn't really that much narratives and it's mostly filler, so it isn't that important but still, those lines were written for a reason. Future filmmakers remember this!

  Still, this is a very good film and I think Romero fans will not be disappointed.  It's a slower pace than his other work and a lot more talky but there is definitely a good story here and it has some disgustingly fun effects.  So, if you are spent from watching all of Romero's "Dead" films and not brave enough to watch "Knightriders", then go crazy and throw this on, you'll probably find it infectious!


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