Combustible Celluloid
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With: Lane Carroll, Will MacMillan, Harold Wayne Jones, Lloyd Hollar, Lynn Lowry, Richard Liberty, Richard France, Harry Spillman, Will Disney, Edith Bell, Bill Thunhurst, Leland Starnes, A.C. McDonald, Robert J. McCully, Robert Karlowsky
Written by: George A. Romero, Paul McCollough
Directed by: George A. Romero
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 103
Date: 03/16/1973

The Crazies (1973)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Half Masked

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

George A. Romero's fourth feature film may have been an attempt to get back in the saddle after disappointments like There's Always Vanilla (his only dramatic, non-genre attempt) and Season of the Witch. But even though The Crazies recalls his zombie films, it was still a box office disappointment, perhaps due to its lack of horror elements and its preponderance of talky government agents.

A plane carrying a deadly virus crash-lands near a small town, and the toxin gets into the drinking water, causing people to go either nutty or homicidal. The military moves in and sets up camp to try and contain it, but it soon becomes clear that they're really the movie's bad guys, while the humans who try to escape are the ones we root for.

In a way, it's the opposite of Night of the Living Dead, and looks forward to Day of the Dead with its depiction of bickering, cold-hearted military personnel. When focusing on them, Romero ramps up the soundtrack, including many chattering voices at once, and edits with a staccato sputter, keeping everything off-kilter and slightly annoying. Watching them is no picnic either, as they argue, find ways to assign blame and set up stupid things like voice print identification before anyone can speak to anyone else.

Best of all, they spend the entire movie wearing gas masks and white suits so that they look the same and their speech is unintelligible. Meanwhile, our five heroes try to make their way through the countryside to freedom. Though it sounds like it ought to have more in the way of exploitation and gore, Romero shoots it straight, hoping his social commentary will carry it.

It works superbly, though it will no doubt disappoint those hoping for something different. The astonishingly beautiful Lynn Lowry (Shivers, Fighting Mad) has one of her few movie roles here as one of the humans.

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