Saturday, March 20, 2010

Still Crazy After All These Years

Pittsburgh, Pa.

With the remake now in theaters, I figured it was time for a post on George Romero's The Crazies (1973).

While Night of the Living Dead was still in the process of building its cult audience, Romero directed two commercially disappointing films, the drama There's Always Vanilla (The Affair, 1971) and the supernaturally-themed Season of the Witch (Hungry Wives, 1972).

The Crazies was a return to form, although sandwiched as it was between Romero's zombie classic and his artistic tour-de-force Martin (1977), it's always seemed like something of an ugly stepchild in the Romero oeuvre.

In the film, the government attempts to cover up the accidental release of a bioweapon (code named Trixie) into the water supply near Evans City, Pa. The military swoops in, declares martial law and quarantines the community, but the hazmat-suited soldiers soon find themselves confronted by the now infected citizens, who have been turned into homicidal maniacs by the chemical.

The Crazies initially had a very abbreviated theatrical release in 1973, and according to a 1978 clip in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, it never even played a theater in Romero's home town. It was re-released under the title Code Name: Trixie and under its original title by the newly formed Laurel Entertainment in 1976. The film nevertheless had a clear influence (along with David Cronenberg's Rabid) on many of the infection-themed zombie films of the past decade -- notably 28 Days Later and Zack Snyder's 2004 remake of Romero's Dawn of the Dead.

You can read TIME magazine's take on The Crazies from the April 2, 1973 issue here, where the unnamed reviewer describes Romero's scripts as hovering "dangerously close to illiteracy."

And just for fun, you can compare trailers below:

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