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Its code name is ‘Trixie,’ an experimental government germ weapon that leaves its victims either dead or irreversibly insane. When the virus is accidentally unleashed in Evans City, Pennsylvania, the small community becomes a war zone of panicked military, desperate scientists and gentle neighbors turned homicidal maniacs. A small group of citizens – firefighters David (W.G. McMillan) and Clank (Harold Wayne Jones), and David’s nurse girlfriend Judy (Lane Caroll) – flee to the town's outskirts where they hide from trigger-happy, possibly Trixie effected soldiers. Meanwhile, Dr. Watts (Richard France), a key man in the development of Trixie, is rushed to the town’s high school science room to develop a cure.

 The Crazies: Arrow Video 4K Remaster
 The Crazies: Blue Underground BD
Pandemic movies are, at their heart, disaster movies and disease/infection-driven stories, like Cornel Wilde’s No Blade of Grass (1970), Robert Wise’s The Andromeda Strain (1971), and Kinji Fukasaku’s Day of Resurrection (Japanese: Fukkatsu no hi; aka: Virus, 1980), flourished alongside big-budget studio behemoths that exploited fears of natural disasters, like John Guillermin & Irwin Allen’s The Towering Inferno (1974), Mark Robson’s Earthquake (1974), and Ronald Neame & Irwin Allen’s The Poseidon Adventure (1972). Between his zombie opuses, the king of politically-infused horror, George A. Romero, dealt with the moral ambiguities of pandemic circumstances with The Crazies (aka: Code Name: Trixie).

Starved of the budget necessary to develop big action set-pieces (the production costs were reportedly set around $275k) and competing with the impossibly tight suspense of The Andromeda Strain, Romero chose to focus on the emotionally disturbing possibilities of a government-developed bio-germ. As in his zombie films, he exploited the unpredictability of violence, specifically the idea that, given the right circumstances, loved ones could turn against each other with no warning. He depicts this most viscerally in a sequence where a sweet old lady suddenly stabs one of the military stooges to death with her knitting needle, but a more alarming moment is one where a devoted father (Richard Liberty) is infected and attempts to rape his daughter (Lynn Lowry). When Breck Eisner remade The Crazies in 2010, he and screenwriters Scott Kosar & Ray Wright recognized the modern relevancy of Romero’s basic plot. However, while they kept the inept government cover-up and an inciting house fire sequence, they did away with other subplots in order to focus on the damage Trixie was inflicting on innocent citizens. The ‘crazies’ were also essentially recast as zombies, signifying an enduring Hollywood focus on reflexive violence over more abstract dread, like a contagious disease that can cause incest.

 The Crazies: Arrow Video 4K Remaster
 The Crazies: Blue Underground BD
Though not as moody or moving as Romero’s best non-zombie film, Martin (1978), The Crazies is a mostly effective thriller with a lovely intimate streak. Romero’s draconian sense of comic book irony cuts through what could’ve been a more classic (and boring) exercise in suspense. Romero’s dueling worlds of documentarian immediacy and over-the-top & gloomy plotting really begin to take shape in an artistic sense here. Not surprisingly, the most memorable moments exist outside of the basic plot, when Romero takes time to capture his patented form of hyper-reality. Visually speaking, he is developing his mix of largely static camera work and quick cutting to convey action. He’d perfect the look with Dawn of the Dead (1978), whereas this time, he tends to overcut even simple dialogue sequences to a dizzying effect. This style perhaps dates the film a little more than it should, but, otherwise, the rough and naturalistic qualities work in the small budget’s favour by creating a genuine documentary feel.

Video


Here in North America, The Crazies was released on VHS via Vista Home Video and was reissued on the format in the ‘90s by both Redemption Video and Anchor Bay Entertainment. Blue Underground released DVD and remastered Blu-ray versions, before losing the rights to Arrow. Arrow chose to restore the original film elements in 4K, alongside other early Romero films: There’s Always Vanilla (1971) and Season of the Witch (1972). All three movies were grouped in a Limited Edition set called George Romero Between Night and Dawn. Now, each is available as a standard-issue Blu-ray. For the sake of comparison, I’ve included screen caps from Arrow’s remastered transfer (top) and Blue Underground’s original release (bottom); both of which are presented in 1.66:1, 1080p video.

 The Crazies: Arrow Video 4K Remaster
 The Crazies: Blue Underground BD
The Arrow release is an improvement, but not such an extreme improvement that you need to throw out those old Blue Underground discs (especially if people are still selling them for a mint on eBay). The 4K resolution scan helps to bring out extra detail and fine textures, including film grain. The BU disc has a cleaner colour quality, which serves it well during the vivid daylight sequences, but this appears to be, in part, the result of softer edges and a smidge of DNR. Arrow’s remaster sports generally a warmer, more natural palette that produces more delicate hue variations, despite the fine grain sheen’s muddying qualities. The most notable difference, however, is the tonal depth. BU’s disc opts for harsh, hard shadows during darker interior sequences and this causes blobby black crush. Arrow’s more even-handed blacks and colour gradations are clearly superior in these cases and, along with those sharper details, enough reason for fans to upgrade.

Audio


The original mono sound is presented in LPCM 1.0 (as opposed to the BU disc’s 2.0 mono DTS-HD Master Audio track) and was also transferred directly from the original film sources. There’s only so much Arrow could do to ‘fix’ this particular track, which was designed to match the film’s hectic, documentary style. The sound quality is relatively consistent and there aren’t any buzzing or ‘hiccups,’ but there’s not a lot of depth for the track to draw from. That said, Romero did experiment more with sound design here than he did for any of his previous films and, arguably, more than any of his films until Creepshow in 1982. The music is all library/catalogue selections (plus Beverly Bremers’ “Heaven Help Us”), similar to what Romero had done for Night of the Living Dead, Martin, and Dawn of the Dead (though the latter also used some of the Goblin cues from the Italian cut). It’s so non-invasive and indistinct that it blends pretty neatly into the flat, yet clean track.

 The Crazies: Arrow Video 4K Remaster
 The Crazies: Blue Underground BD

Extras


  • Commentary by Travis Crawford – Sadly, Arrow was not able to lease Blue Underground’s Bill Lustig-hosted commentary with Romero, but this critic/expert track is the next best thing. Crawford, who has written for Fangoria, Film Comment, and contributed to the giant tome 1001 Films To See Before You Die, keeps things tight and professional. His full-bodied discussion covers everything from cast & crew members’ careers and production history, to in-depth explorations of Romero’s filmmaking style and The Crazies’ relation to his other movies.
  • Romero Was Here (12:24, HD) – DeVincentz revisiting the Evans City, PA filming locations.
  • Crazy for Lynn Lowry (15:54, HD) – In this new interview with the cult star, Lowry recalls her early modelling and acting career, including Lloyd Kaufman’s The Battle of Love’s Return (1971), David Durston’s I Drink Your Blood, Radley Metzger’s Score (1974), and The Crazies.
  • 2016 Q&A with Lowry from Abertoir Film Festival in Aberystwyth, UK (35:52, HD) – The actress fields questions on a myriad of subjects.
  • Lee Hessel interview (4:32, HD stills) – An audio interview with the producer conducted by his son Brad in 2014.
  • Behind-the-scenes footage (6:26, HD) – 8mm on-set footage with optional commentary by Romero historian Lawrence DeVincentz.
  • Alternate opening titles (00:35, HD)
  • Still gallery slideshows
  • Two trailers and two TV spots


 The Crazies: Arrow Video 4K Remaster
 The Crazies: Blue Underground BD

Overall


The Crazies often feels like a dry-run for larger and more ambitious movies, but it endures on repeat viewings, thanks to its melancholic character moments, bleak tone, and intense editing style. Arrow’s new edition isn’t head and shoulders above Blue Underground’s OOP Blu-ray, but the 4K remaster does make notable improvements to overall detail and colour quality. The new extras also impress, despite the lack of George Romero commentary.

 The Crazies: Arrow Video 4K Remaster
 The Crazies: Blue Underground BD

 The Crazies: Arrow Video 4K Remaster
 The Crazies: Blue Underground BD

 The Crazies: Arrow Video 4K Remaster
 The Crazies: Blue Underground BD

 The Crazies: Arrow Video 4K Remaster
 The Crazies: Blue Underground BD

* Note: The above images are taken from the Arrow Blu-ray (top) and Blue Underground Blu-ray (bottom), then resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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