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Category:    Home > Reviews > Thriller > Horror > Mystery > Outbreak > Murder > The Crazies (1973/Blue Underground Blu-ray)

The Crazies (1973/Blue Underground Blu-ray)

 

Picture: B     Sound: C+     Extras: B     Film: B

 

 

Following Night Of The Living Dead (1968), George Romero tried to continue his success and this led to two films he was not in total control of, then came one where he picked up where he left off as a visionary director and auteur, the original 1973 version of The Crazies.  Recently remade as a cash-in piece that threw out the script to this original gem, this is one of what I consider the trilogy of underrated Romero works, along with Martin and Monkey Shines.  The story is about an outbreak wrecking a small town and threatening to spread all over the place.

 

It turns out the disaster is manmade, a virus from a secret government project code named “Trixie” and when it is unleashed, everything falls apart.  Instead of zombies, we get people going mad and killing, the whole insanity causing a breakdown of authority in general and the military naturally intervenes, only resulting in more chaos and an all-out crisis.  But instead of an actioner or a formula film done to death, Romero’s script (co-written with Paul McCollough) is a character study of such a situation, its anatomy and the serious consequences thereof.  It also has the matter-of-fact look and feel of Night Of The Living Dead, which works to its benefit.

 

It is also an influential film, for which 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later (both reviewed elsewhere on this site) would not be possible, but it is also a fully realized work and since it was not a big hit in its time, never received the following it deserved and has been overshadowed by Romero’s six (and counting) zombie films, the original Crazies has been lost in the shuffle, but it shows Romero’s growth as a serious filmmaker and one of the most important of his generation.  This is an original, mature work with serious suspense and is really about something and not some mere, trivial genre film.

 

Then human nature kicks in and Romero once again uses a thriller to make big statements about society, this one has not been heard out as much and is more relevant than ever.  Though it may repeat some parts of the structure of Night Of The Living Dead, The Crazies actually is very different in that the crisis happens in a broader, more open way with a dark ending that none of his zombie films possess and a look and feel (muted color no other film of his ever had or will have) that makes this a one-of-a-kind important Romero work.  The cast of mostly unknowns is also effective enough and the acting matches the mood of the film perfectly.

 

If anything, this is almost a kind of flipside/self-contained sequel to Night Of The Living Dead in a way the later sequels could not be because they have a different set of goals, but since its release, hardly any film about a viral outbreak has come close to its genius.

 

The 1080p 1.66 X 1 digital High Definition image is a big surprise, looking like a fine film print with limited grain, limited age, limited detail issues and though it can still have flaws, delivers the film the way it should look, far surpassing all previous DVD and other video editions to date.  This is the first major cinematography work of Romero collaborator S. William Hinzman, who co-starred in several of his films, made some of his own in the genre and is still working in the business today.  You also get some fine depth shots, interesting compositions and on Blu-ray, get to rediscover the look of the film as it really is.  The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) lossless 1.0 Mono is just fine for its age, as clean and clear as you can expect a theatrical mono film from its time to be. Bruce Roberts score is effective and furthers the narrative well.

 

Extras include TV Spots, original Theatrical Trailers, The Cult Film Legacy Of Lynn Lowry featuring an interview with Miss Lowry and a terrific feature length audio commentary track by Romero.

 

All in all, this is a very pleasant surprise and shows once again the trouble Blue Underground goes through in making their Blu-ray releases so good.  This goes perfect with the Blu-rays already issued of Night Of The Living Dead (see our region-free British Blu-ray review elsewhere on this site), Dawn Of The Dead (unreviewed, but a solid presentation) and Day Of The Dead (reviewed on Blu-ray on this site), all holding up very well and proving Romero at his best is every bit a master of suspense as the other post-Hitchcock filmmakers like De Palma, Cohen and Clark.  The Crazies is at least a minor classic and maybe more, which is why having a great Blu-ray of it makes it one of the best back catalog releases of the year.

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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