Film Review : The Crazies (1973) George A. Romero and Alternative Genre Filmmaking to Hollywood
Updated: Jul 30, 2021
FILM AND REALITY
Local Film Industry and Local Genre Filmmaking
In the neoliberal societies of today, local film industry and local genre filmmaking outside of the centre of filmmaking Hollywood or Tokyo are relatively ignored. In Asia, especially Japan, local film industry doesn’t exist at all. Hong Kong as a local city lost its own independent film industry when it heavily depends on state subsidies and mainland-joint projects. Fortunately Hong Kong actually has kept its star system and advanced westernized genre filmmaking techniques however Hong Kong became ''the 2nd Taiwan'' in terms of dependency to subsidies.
Constitutionally one of local provinces of China, Taiwan is basically still not improved fundamentally due to its decades of KMT bureaucratic cultivation of small ''elite'' groups, state subsidies however Taiwan more aggressively enhanced its internet marketing, propaganda campaigns by infiltrating many US tech giants in recent years.
Furthermore, Taiwan is strategically buying awards and nominations at international film festivals by donations and cooperation with foreign advertisement agencies. Its network can be used on their political agenda, too. However it can’t help them creatively despite their paid ''official records'' because their genre filmmaking itself is still poor and inferior to Japan and Hong Kong until today. Major hit in Taiwan is nothing in Japan.
There are only local cinemas where mainly distribute major studio films outside of the centre of filmmaking. For Japan, It is always centralized by Tokyo and its advertisement giants Dentsu and Hakuhodo. Thus local filmmaking / independent filmmaking for nationwide distribution is a miracle. It makes local film schools totally useless. And decent jobs in film-related industries are limited in leading advertisement companies. Neoliberalism sucked up the traditional employment system and film industry at the same time. It extremely differs from so called studio system era in 1950s and 60s.
About US, although some would say that US film cities outside of Hollywood are Austin, Chicago and New York. It’s absolutely true and many Asian countries send their publicly funded ''agents'' to their film schools to mainly study M.F.A. programs. One thing is specifically unique that even Hollywood itself is a local city within Los Angeles (Washington D.C. is their capital city) yet the status of being a centre of film industry is another aspect. The centre of filmmaking in one country is movable. For instance, film centre in US was shifted from Chicago and New York during the silent era.
Chicago was the original center of the film industry, thanks to an alliance between filmmaking patent holder Thomas Edison and Chicago’s Essanay Studios and Selig Polyscope. Essanay launched the film career of silent star Charlie Chaplin before Chaplin and the film industry headed west, precipitating the decline of the city’s filmmaking prominence. (1)
For China, their centre of filmmaking moved from Shanghai to Hong Kong (part of it moved to Taiwan with KMT in 1949; mainly movie equipment) and then went back to Shanghai and Beijing now. For Japan, film production in Kyoto is dead in 1960s (only art department of Toei partially remains but waiting for its complete closure) and there is only Tokyo. For Taiwan, it's Taipei.
Being geographically close or located in film cities is definitely important to make films like George A. Romero suggested. Evans City and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania had such geographical and industrial conditions in late 1960s and 1970s. The king of horror, creator of modern zombie cult George A. Romero was and still is the champion of local film production. His advantage was that he could make brilliant local genre films outside of film cities or centre of filmmaking. He made two cult movies like The Night of the Living Dead (1968) and The Crazies (1973) in Evans City, Pennsylvania with massive and corporative support from the local city. His aim was to make Hollywood-like films outside of Hollywood. This concept and his spirit still inspire many filmmakers who are facing neoliberal reality of the today’s world. Making genre films under the local conditions. Romero proved that local independent genre filmmaking is possible and capable to produce well-made genre cult movies.
Back to Hong Kong, there were 326 films released in Hong Kong in 2019. However Hong Kong’s total box office revenue (1,923,196,382 HKD; 1.9 billion HKD) declined 1.75 % in 2019 compared to 2018 due to the anti-extradition bill riots. The total Hong Kong local film production was only 46 (box office hit means over 10 million HKD); non local films were 280 (box office hit means over 60 million HKD). (2)
It lost its balance and safety as a local industry. Hong Kong films drastically lack social comments due to its escapism and short term commercial considerations. It is time to learn how film masters faced the local barriers and difficulties to challenge Hollywood films.
RT published an op-ed Bored in coronavirus quarantine? Here are the best epidemic movies to crank up your panic! which written by Michael McCaffrey on March 7, 2020. He suggested biohazard movies. Such as:
RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2011)
12 MONKEYS (1995)
28 DAYS LATER (2002)
WORLD WAR Z (2013)
ANDROMEDA STRAIN (1971)
CONTAGION (2011) (3)
Among above, OUTBREAK (1995) was based on Marburg virus epidemic in 1967 not Ebola virus; CONTAGION (2011) was based on Nipah virus outbreak in Malesia in 1999 not SARS. Both films unrealistically took narrative from another virus epidemics thus did not directly refer to Ebola or SARS-COV. They still can say that those are not direct exploitation of them. Others on the list are pure fiction far from reality.
However both films are master pieces on contagion disaster film genre. OUTBREAK (1995) borrowed a plot from The Crazies (1973). The pentagon wants to nuke the deadly virus infected small town in US. However it did not bring any dramatic tense to the story in The Crazies (1973).
Epidemic in US is now very close to the ‘extreme situation’ depicted in The Crazies (1973). Police is unable to hold prisoners and even won’t arrest criminals. Furthermore police themselves got infected by SARS-COV2 and went on sick leave, reported on March 26.
Thousands of New York City Police Department (NYPD) officers have called off sick, and more than 200 have confirmed cases of the coronavirus, according to Police Commissioner Dermot Shea.
Shea said about 3,200 officers were out sick Wednesday, triple the normal rate and constituting 9 percent of the force, as the coronavirus outbreak continues to sweep through New York. (4)
Like this film, a pentagon contractor was confirmed positive died on March 21.
The Pentagon on Sunday announced the first Defense Department-related death from coronavirus.
A Virginia defense contractor who had tested positive for COVID-19 and worked at the Defense Security Cooperation Agency died March 21 at a hospital in Crystal City. (5)
Military takeover of the entire town or city did not occur in CONTAGION (2011). The Crazies (1973) must be added to the recommending film list because it is a classic which contains all elements in the genre. I love The Crazies (1973) for its content, style and independent spirit. It’s close to us in terms of local filmmaking and reality of COVID-19 pandemic.
WHO, CDC and the notorious bio lab Fort Detrick are depicted or mentioned in numerous bio hazard disaster flicks. Always being a suspicious origin of US biowarfare, Fort Detrick was closed temporary since July 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic. And now reopened on March 30, 2020.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has restored a military laboratory on Fort Detrick to full capacity, approximately eight months after shutting down research in its top laboratories.
……In July, the CDC issued a cease and desist order for work in biosafety level 3 and 4 laboratories, where researchers handle dangerous pathogens like Ebola and the bacteria causing the plague. The order came after the CDC noted lapses in biosafety protocols during a site visit.
The two breaches reported by USAMRIID to the CDC demonstrated a failure of the Army laboratory to “implement and maintain containment procedures sufficient to contain select agents or toxins” that were made by operations in the biosafety level 3 and 4 laboratories, according to a report obtained last year by The Frederick News-Post.
The CDC revisited USAMRIID multiple times since July, allowing the laboratory to resume partial operations in November. Each follow-up visit allowed a little more work.
STORY STRUCTURE OF FILM
ACT1 SET UP
A biological weapon Trixie virus which made at Fort Datrick secretly yet accidentally released in water reserve in Evans City, Pennsylvania while delivering by aircraft. Trixie makes infected people incurably mad or absolutely dead. It spreads in the entire city and causes riots and arson at a farm house. (establishment)
Protagonist, ex-Green Beret, firefighter David (Will McMillan), his pregnant wife, nurse Judy (Lane Carroll) and another firefighter, ex-infantryman Clank (Harold Wayne Jones) are called up and go to work for emergency. Meanwhile, the US military in Nuclear, Biological, Chemical suits with gas masks led by major Ryder (Harry Spillman) arrives in Evans City to contain outbreak of Trixie takes over clinic where Judy works for. (Inciting incident)
In Washington D.C., government meeting concludes that Colonel Peckem (Lloyd Hollar) and Fort Detrick scientist Dr. Watts (Richard France) must go to Evans city to contain the virus. Furthermore, US government prepares a contingency plan to nuke the city once the epidemic out of control. For this, government also deploys nuke bombers.
David and Clank leave the fire site after they hear about the military presence in town and suspicious virus outbreak. They go to pick up Judy. On the dark road, David, Clank and Judy encounter each other after Judy drives a car and run away from the clinic where US military occupied. (End of ACT1; set up all dramatic contradictions)
ACT2 RISING CONFLICTS
David, Judy, Clank, Kathy Fulton (Lynn Lowry), her father Artie (Richard Liberty) and Frank Winston (David Barber) captured and confined in a large military van by soldiers however the five without Frank Winston (David Barber) escape after the van gets assaulted by infected locals. David and Clank drives the van and decide escaping from Evans City thus they first drive toward country club building to hide temporarily. They will be arrested if the soldiers catch up with them. (Beginning of ACT2; Complication)
Crisis further complicates after US army quarantines everyone in town. Anyone attempts to escape from Evans City will be shot at the site. When the army quarantines town people at school, the Mayer and sheriff quarrel with Colonel Peckem (Lloyd Hollar) yet end up sheriff’s suicide with a gun. Military control versus civilian control is a core conflict.
The US army evicts residents from their homes. In one case, a soldier gets stabbed by a smiling old woman with her knitting needle. Town people almost go insane due to the Trixie virus. Another unit of soldiers are also assaulted by infected militia. (Complication)
At the country club, Artie quarrels with David and Clank on if they should go back to the town or not but all of them agree to follow David’s initiative under the circumstances. (Midpoint; Point of No Return)
On the next day, they try walking through the nearby woods yet they encounter more soldiers and a helicopter chasing them. David and Clank open fire on the helicopter then it’s destroyed by their gun shots. Later they come to a farm house where occupied by three sentries but Clank kills all of them after one of captives tells truth about quarantine and some of them tries to reach for a gun. They hide at the farmhouse for a night. (Rising conflicts)
Trixie infected local priest (Jack Zaharia) goes mad and touches himself with gas like famous TOUCHING MONK in 1963. (Rising conflicts)
Artie goes mad and rapes his daughter Kathy Fulton, then he commits suicide after he is heavily beaten up by Clank. In the next morning, infected Kathy wanders outside of farm house where bunch of soldiers find and surround her. When she screams soldiers shot her. Possibly infected Clank manages David and Judy to escape by shooting several soldiers but he himself gets shot in the head. (End of ACT2: The Worst Situation for main characters)
Dr. Watts finally finds a natural immune from one of blood samples from patients and decides going back to Fort Datrick to make vaccines however soldiers misrecognize him as one of quarantined patients at the school. And they push him into confinement with crazies. Dr. Watts gets killed in following provocation by crazies, one of them pulls him and then he bounces down the stairs to death.
In the evening, soldiers creeping toward their hiding place, a construction factory. David hides obviously infected Judy in brick wall surrounded her. After David kills two soldiers to take Judy out of there, she misrecognizes David as one of them due to its robbed NBC suit from one of them. When Judy runs away, David calls her however militia suddenly appears and mistakenly kills her. David kills several of them for a revenge but one of militia is recognized as David’s fellow firefighter. Finally, David surrenders to soldiers. (Solution)
Colonel Peckem is allocated to another infected city Louisville by a helicopter. (Solution)