Monday, July 26, 2010

Review: George Romero's "The Crazies" Mocks Bureaucracy

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 57 (of 2010) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Crazies (1973)
Running time: 103 minutes (1 hour, 43 minutes)
WRITERS: Paul McCollough and George A. Romero
CINEMATOGRAPHER: S. William Hinzman (director of photography)


Starring: Lane Carroll, W.G. McMillan, Harold Wayne Jones, Lloyd Hollar, Lynn Lowry, Richard Liberty, Richard France, Harry Spillman, and Will Disney

The Crazies is a 1973 satirical drama and military thriller from director George A. Romero (Night of the Living Dead). The film, which has some elements from the horror genre, takes place in a small Pennsylvania town. There, the military is trying to contain an outbreak of a manmade virus that causes death or permanent insanity in those it infects.

The Crazies has two major storylines. One focuses on how politicians and the military try to contain the outbreak, and the other focuses on the civilians who try to stay alive during the chaos, in particular a quartet led by two former serviceman. The action takes place in and around the small town of Evans City, Pennsylvania. Apparently, a few weeks before the story begins, an army plane crash-landed in the hills near the town. The plane was carrying a biological weapon – a top-secret virus codenamed Trixie.

Heavily-armed U.S. troops (clad in white NBC suits) arrive in Evans City and declare martial law. In an attempt to contain Trixie and see which citizens are infected, the military begins to gather the citizens in a central location, but as the military sets up a quarantine perimeter outside of town to stop the virus from spreading, chaos ensues. Two Vietnam veterans who are now firemen, former Green Beret, David (W.G. McMillan), and infantryman, Clank (Harold Wayne Jones), hatch a plan to leave town. With them are David’s pregnant girlfriend, a nurse named Judy (Lane Carroll); Kathie Fulton (Lynn Lowry), a teenager; and her father, Artie (Richard Liberty). Their escape attempt may be too late for some, as the madness caused by Trixie begins to set in.

Many viewers probably consider The Crazies to be a horror movie, especially because it is directed by George Romero. Much of the film, however, is a pointed satire of military and political bureaucracies, focusing on the intractability of the decision and policy makers and also the general disorganization of institutions that are supposed to be quite organized. This satire is certainly interesting, but it slows the narrative, sometimes to a crawl. Still, Romero’s sly wit and blunt commentary occasionally give birth to some good scenes (like the standoff between the military and the local law).

The best parts of the film involve the quintet trying to escape the madness. These five people exemplify the character traits, personalities, and actions that are typical of characters in Romero films that are trapped in some kind of doomsday scenario. The actors’ good performances bring freshness to these familiar Romero types. W.G. McMillan as David and Lane Carroll as Judy have excellent screen chemistry and seem like a real couple. The Crazies reflected the chaotic times in which it first appeared, but McMillan and Carroll are still the heart of this film. Their characters’ trials and tribulations add drama to this film and make it seem like more than just pointed satire.

6 of 10

Monday, July 26, 2010


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