The Crazies

The Crazies (1973)
Blue Underground
Cast: Richard France, Lynn Lowry, Richard Liberty, Lane Carroll
Extras: Commentary Track, Interview Featurette, Trailers, TV Spots

In 1973, five years before his zombie shocker "Dawn of the Dead" made him a household name among horror fans, George A. Romero created "The Crazies," which has now been prepared in high definition by Blue Underground for the first time. With the theatrical start of the remake opening next week, clearly it was time refresh our memories how Romero's pandemic nightmare played out.

In a Pennsylvania small town people suddenly seem to go stark raving mad, laying waste to everything around them and killing everyone in sight. Instantly the military puts the town under martial law and tries to round up all 3000-some inhabitants. Wearing protective biohazard suits, it turns out that a biological warfare weapon has been accidentally unleashed on the town after a plane crash and yet, the military is woefully unprepared to deal with the situation. Shooting everyone who appears to act strangely, the military is desperate to maintain a perimeter around the town. Meanwhile a small group of people tries to escape the military clutches while also trying to avoid the killing crazies that seem to pop up just about everywhere.

"The Crazies" is very clearly the predecessor of "Dawn of the Dead" and carries Romero's signature all over. The similarities are unmistakable, as the movie's tone is identical to his zombie epic, as well as many parts of the story itself, ranging from the small group of survivors that is slowly driven to the brink of sanity and gradually decimated and the looming fear of contamination, to the threat of mindless killers roaming about the town and barren countryside.

The movie has a good sense of pacing, starting out with all cylinders firing, the establishing the premise and gradually building in suspense as things spin more and more out of control. The strong visuals of the film – including the biohazard-clad military guys – make the experience and memorable and lasting one.

PResenting the movie in a clean 1080p high definition transfer, "The Crazies" looks pretty awesome, considering that it is a low budget production and given the film's overall age. While the visuals may look dated with their muted colors, costumes and hairdos, the transfer makes sure it is restored as faithful as possible. There are a few instances where the print showed some signs of wear, but it was never really distracting form the overall viewing experience. The image has deep blacks, rendering solid shadows that give the image depth, while colors are faithfully reproduced, giving the movie its vintage look. No compression artifacts or excessive grain are evident.

The audio on the disc comes as a DTS-HD Master audio track that is faring reasonably well also, all things considered. Unfortunately the audio elements of the production are flawed to begin with so the track, even though it is remastered and remixed, can only do so much. Dialogues are harsh throughout without much of a bass roll-off and the mix is a bit unbalanced also, producing scenes were dialogue appears to much in-you-face where it should have more ambience, etc. All these are shortcomings of the actual production however, and not of the DVD.

As extras, Blue underground has included a commentary track with director George A. Romero. Romero is a very good commentator on his films and this one is no exception as he describes how the project came about and what inspired him to do this story, as well as to how it fits in his body of work.

Also included is the interview featurette "The Cult Film Legacy of Lynn Lowry," and the movie's trailers and TV Spots.

"The Crazies" is a child of its time and it is clearly a child of George A. Romero. It foreshadows "Dawn of the Dead" in so many ways that it is an important part of horror history, as well as Romero's work, and thus deserves to be seen. Now available in glorious high definition, this is clearly the best way to experience it.