Happy fourth of July, readers! I hope you take a break from getting drunk, wearing tricorner hats, and blowing your hands off with firecrackers to read my blog.
To celebrate the birth of our nation, I chose a movie steeped full of anti-government messages and Vietnam era paranoia. I present 1973’s The Crazies by George Romero.
I hate to say this but…it wasn’t as good as I thought it would be. It was a bit of a letdown. There, I said it, I stand by it. This movie was a Charleston Chew of a movie. It’s not a candy you would normally eat but an elderly neighbor gave it to you for Halloween and technically it is chocolate and sugar, so you eat it anyway. For me, it was like someone switched my delicious Milky Way with a Charleston Chew.
The movie’s about the effects of a biological weapon that causes violent insanity that’s accidentally dropped near the small town of Evans City, PA. The military almost immediately enters the city and declares martial law. The movie follows two subplots. First, there’s the government’s attempt to contain a potentially disastrous outbreak. Then, there’s the story of five survivors trying to leave the afflicted area.
Unfortunately, the movie suffers from some flaws. When the movie’s focused on the government’s reaction to the outbreak, it’s mostly people yelling at each other. It reminds me of the old adage from when I was in theater school that loudness doesn’t equal emotion. It’s kind of like Romero took all the pundit scenes from Dawn of the Dead and made a movie out of them. But he didn’t even have the decency to include my favorite character, the eyepatch guy.
Secondly, if you’re going to call your movie The Crazies, then you’d better damn well make sure that there are some damn crazy people in your movie. I had such high hopes when the movie opened up with a guy beating his furniture with a stick while spewing gibberish. It was as if the rage zombies from 28 Days Later learned how to use tools. But that’s about as crazy as it gets. Later on there’s a high school gym full of crazies and they’re mostly just milling around and waving their arms in the air. There’s been moments full of more craziness at Barry Manilow concerts. I was expecting face-eating, screaming, drooling crazy, dernit!
Finally, you can never accuse George Romero of being subtle, but some of his imagery is a little heavy-handed. But there’s no actual action going on, really, so it just becomes absurd. I mean, the military’s supposed to be reacting to a very dangerous biological outbreak that they want contained at any cost, but we’re never shown anything that would justify such a reaction.
This movie did have it’s interesting points. As someone who’s interested in the Vietnam War era and who actually studied Vietnam-era literature in college, I did find some moments to be interesting. A priest sets himself on fire at one part, and that was an interesting counterpoint to Buddhist monks setting themselves on fire. And I did like that the main protagonist of the survivors subplot, Dave, was a former Green Beret in Vietnam.
My final judgement is that the movie just didn’t go far enough. The outbreak wasn’t deadly enough and the government just wasn’t bad enough. So I recommend this if you’re a Romero completist but I can’t really get behind this movie. Maybe the remake is better…?