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The Crazies (1973)

March 16, 2010

The Crazies (1973)

The Crazies

As I promised, I would review the original one to go along with the remake, and for once in my life, I have to say that the remake was much better.  This film gets bogged down in trying to be something more then simply a horror film.

The story is very similar.  A plan crashes next to a small town and a biological weapon leaks into the towns water supply infecting the town members.  It even starts the same way without spending any time building up the event that causes the infection but jumps straight into the infection stage.  This time it is a volunteer fire fighter, his fiance, and a buddy of theirs who have to try and fight for survival against the military hoping to out last and out hide the onslaught of the quarantine.

There are two areas that make this film less then what the remake were.  The first thing is the character development of the main characters, David, Judy, and Clank.  At no point in time do you really feel sympathy for them.  They are made to be self righteous, perfect characters who have real characteristics that someone can latch onto and sympathize with.  Where as in the original Joe Anderson’s Deputy was a very sympathetic character when he becomes infected, Clank, the buddy, simply doesn’t create any empathy in his role.  The only one that slightly does out of the three is Judy, and she is very much second fiddle to David and Clank, so any sympathy she might have warranted doesn’t really take hold.

The other area that this film suffers is with the military.  In the remake, the military is basically kept behind the gas masks and is very faceless.  In this film, they try and create a military that you are supposed to hate.  They mock them military for being clueless and make them look like stormtroopers with their ability to shoot at anything, whereas the “heroic” towns people can be on a dead sprint with a shotgun at their hip and nail a soldier at 200 yards.  Very early on in the film they explain why this is.  They make a reference to the Vietnam War, which was still going on at the time.  The view of those making the film is clearly written on this film as they try and force feed you an evil, incompetent military.  Their are only two members of the military who don’t meet those standards, both of them middle-management types, for lack of a better term.  The lowest level are basically soulless and too stupid for anything more.  The upper level is conniving and  idiotic.  The two who are, maybe, supposed to garner any sympathy for the military at all are forced into a situation being handled poorly.

The one redeeming feature of this film is the character of Kathy, played by Lynn Lowry.  She is one of the crazies, who devolves throughout the film into madness.  There is really very little other interaction with the crazies other then on a mass scale.  Kathy ends up being stuck along with the main group for a little while, so we get to see her, and her father, go crazy on a more personal level.  She ends up devolving wonderfully never seemingly going berserk, but instead she plays a very calm and irrational and erratic sort of crazy.  Her death is marred by a very stupid line thrown in, but being that this film really comes across as a cult classic as much as a horror film to today’s audience, it isn’t a bad thing, completely.

This version of The Crazies probably carried more weight when it came out with it being in the middle of the Vietnam War.  To people viewing it now, it just seems extremely contrived in terms of a plot and beats the viewer over the head with the message that it wants to give.  This could still work if the message were still relevantly portrayed (see Crash a few years ago) but as it stands it is simply a B movie that isn’t good (or bad) enough to be deemed a cult classic.  George A. Romero has definitely had much better work that is worth checking out over this mess of a film.

Entertainment Grade: C

Critical Grade: D

Overall Grade: D+

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