Crazies, The / Code Name: Trixie (1973)

“All hell’s broke loose in town; nobody knows what’s going on!”

Crazies Poster

Synopsis:
When a madness-inducing biological agent is accidentally dropped by the U.S. government into the water supply of Evans City, Pennsylvania, the military arrives to quarantine the town; but many of its citizens have already started to go crazy from the effects of the virus, and chaos soon erupts.

Genres:

Review:
Five years after making his auspicious debut film — Night of the Living Dead (1968) — George A. Romero wrote and directed this like-minded tale of a small town struck with mass hysteria; this time, however, rather than relying on a supernatural plot device (zombies), Romero — ever the social critic — places the blame squarely on the U.S. government. As noted in Daniel Griffin’s “Film as Art” review (see link below), the Vietnam War parallels are too obvious not to notice: in an enormous FUBAR (Vietnam or Iraq, anyone?), the United States initiates a deadly mess — why would they let a virus without an antidote leave the CDC to begin with? — then completely botches its own efforts to keep Americans safe. Perhaps predictably, it’s up to a small group of “revolutionary” citizens — including a volunteer fireman (W.G. McMillan) and his pregnant girlfriend (sympathetically portrayed by Lane Carroll) — to escape and defend themselves; but there’s no telling when the virus may catch them as well. Despite its occasionally uneven narrative, this bleak, timely cautionary tale — which apparently is being remade next year — is well worth a look.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • An effective portrayal of paranoia and chaos in the face of government-induced catastrophe
    Government Crazies
  • Several powerful, shocking scenes — including a priest setting himself on fire, and a grandma calmly stabbing someone to death with her knitting needle
  • Fast-paced editing

Must See?
Yes, for its status as a cult movie.

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One Response to “Crazies, The / Code Name: Trixie (1973)”

  1. A must as a cult film, certainly, but praise is due mostly to the film’s first half.

    What director Romero achieves most successfully here is a full realization of the sense of widespread panic when a whole town goes…well, crazy. As noted, the editing is top-notch as confusion quickly descends on and runs through the town. As expected, the unexpected reigns – and Romero particularly captures the terror of people (including loved ones) turning on each other with a memorable immediacy.

    Then, unfortunately, things slow down a bit, revealing that the plot has less direction to go in than may have been anticipated. There is, of course, some tension as a vaccine is sought. But Romero doesn’t appear to have at his disposal the endless possibilities that the undead previously gave him. (That, of course, all changed when Romero returned to form with the ‘Dead’ sequels.)

    The second half does have certain elements that prevent the film from completely losing its way – and the whole idea of our government showing scant concern for its people remains potent.

    But there is something of an imbalance. Even so, it is indeed very much worth a look as part of Romero’s work.

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