THE CRAZIES (1973)
aka Code Name: Trixie
Article 4868 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by George A. Romero
Featuring Lane Carroll, Will MacMillan, Harold Wayne Jones
What it is: Nightmarish science fiction thriller
A plane crash releases a bioweapon virus into the drinking water of a small Pennsylvania town. The military places the town under martial law to try to keep the virus from spreading, but some of the citizens resist, and the situation begins to spiral out of control…
In this movie, Romero tries to capture the same magic that resulted in his classic NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, and though this movie doesn’t have anywhere as high a reputation as that one, I think he succeeds for the most part. The scenario is truly nightmarish; a virus developed by the military with no known antidote infects a town. The virus either kills its victims or drives them mad, and the desperate attempts of the military to keep it contained while keeping it a secret results in armed resistance from the citizenry, many of whom have become homicidal in the process. The story follows roughly four storylines; there’s the military staff trying to keep things under control, a couple that’s trying to escape from both the military and the infected citizenry, a scientist trying desperately to find a solution, and the political and military forces behind the scene trying to figure a way to cover up the truth and minimize the damage. With the possible exception of the people involved in the fourth of those storylines, the people involved are somewhat sympathetic and trying to do the best they can in a situation that is rapidly disintegrating, and trying to fight a battle that may have already been lost. Like NOTLD, it’s a low budget movie with a cast of unknowns, and the story is kept moving by some excellent editing. Granted, the situation isn’t quite as archetypal as that of the earlier film, and the quieter, sadder ending doesn’t have the same level of shock. Nevertheless, I was on the edge of my seat throughout this one, and I found it a worthy entry in Romero’s oeuvre.