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The Crazies

Film poster
Directed by George A. Romero
Produced by A. C. Croft
Written by Original screenplay:
Paul McCollough
George A. Romero
Starring Lane Carroll
Will MacMillan
Harold Wayne Jones
Richard Liberty
Lynn Lowry
Music by Bruce Roberts
Cinematography S. William Hinzman
Editing by George A. Romero
Distributed by Cambist Films
Release date(s) United States March 16, 1973
Running time 103 min.
Language English
Budget $275,000

The Crazies (also known as Code Name: Trixie) is an American 1973 horror/action film about the effects of the accidental release of a military biological weapon upon the inhabitants of a small American town. The film was written and directed by George A. Romero, and starred Lane Carroll, Richard Liberty and Lynn Lowry.



The film has two subplots, one of which follows the efforts of civilians to stay alive during the disaster. The other involves the efforts of political and military leaders to contain the epidemic of violent insanity induced by the weapon.

Set in and around the small town of Evans City, Pennsylvania, the central characters are fireman David (W.G. McMillan), his nurse girlfriend Judy (Lane Caroll) and fireman Clank (Harold Wayne Jones), who harbors feelings for Judy. It is established that David was a Green Beret and Clank an infantryman, who both served in Vietnam. The town has been subject to strange events of late, including an arson fire at a local farm committed by a demented farmer. Judy and David have extra cause for concern, since Judy is pregnant with David's child.

Meanwhile, heavily armed U.S. troops clad in white NBC suits with gas masks, arrive in Evans City, led by Major Ryder, who takes over the doctor's office where Judy works. It is revealed that an army plane carrying an untested bioweapon recently crash-landed in the hills near the town, infecting the water supply with a top-secret virus code-named "Trixie", causing victims to either die or become homicidal. "Trixie" is highly contagious. In Washington D.C., government officials order Colonel Peckam (Lloyd Hollar) to go to Evans City to help contain the virus, while a government scientist, Dr. Watts (Richard France), arrives in town to find a cure before the virus is able to spread outside the quarantine perimeter.

Washington authorities decide to maintain airborne bombers armed with nuclear weapons to destroy the infected town, if necessary. Further mayhem ensues when the army cordons off the town, shooting anyone attempting escape. The soldiers are assigned to quarantine the townspeople in the local high school, and the ensuing chaos results in the local sheriff being shot with his own pistol. While the townspeople are being rousted from their homes, a soldier encounters a serene-looking elderly woman. Dropping his guard, he urges the woman to come with him, and she fatally stabs him with her knitting needles. At this point, nearly all of the villagers have been infected. A small group of soldiers are killed by several villagers armed with firearms and dynamite, after which an infected woman sweeps the bloodied grass. The local priest is infected. The priest, aghast at soldiers rousting his flock, douses himself with a keg of gasoline, and immolates himself (a reference to Buddhist priests who immolated themselves in protest during the Vietnam War).

The remainder of the film focuses upon the travails of David, Judy, Clank, teenager Kathie Fulton (Lynn Lowry) and her father Artie (Richard Liberty), after soldiers confine them in a large van. The five people manage to escape, with intentions of leaving town.

Gradually going mad from the virus, Artie has sex with his suddenly deranged daughter Kathie. Upon discovering the pair, Clank retaliates by beating Artie, who then apparently hangs himself. A visibly shaken Kathie wanders outside, only to be killed by trigger-happy soldiers, and Clank kills several soldiers in defense before being shot in the head. Judy, now visibly infected, is killed in a crossfire between soldiers and deranged townspeople (nicknamed "Crazies" by the soldiers). Angry and frightened, David surrenders to the military. He knows that he is immune to the virus, but spitefully keeps it a secret.

As in much of Romero's work, the military is depicted as foolish and abusive. In this film, the soldiers isolate Dr. Graham in the middle of a disaster area with primitive facilities. Graham's insistence that he might find a cure in a proper laboratory are overridden with threats of brute force. When the doctor finally develops a possible cure, he is mistaken for one of the infected while attempting delivery of the vaccine and forced into a quarantined area by soldiers. The test tubes containing the vaccine are then shattered after the doctor falls to his death when pushed down a flight of stairs by a stampede of "Crazies".

The film's final scene shows a disconcerted Colonel Peckam being ordered to relocate to another infected city. He boards a helicopter, leaving a city in chaos.


According to Romero on the DVD commentary track this project began life with Paul McCollough, who authored a screenplay entitled The Mad People. The script dealt with a military bioweapon that was accidentally released into a small town, with the military subsequently trying to cover up the incident and the townspeople revolting. Romero revealed that the military subplot was only featured in the first act of the script, and the rest of the film focused on the survivors and their attempts to cope with what was happening. The director called McCollough's script "very existential and heady".

The screenplay was read by Lee Hessel, a producer who owned Cambist Films and with whom Romero had previously worked on There's Always Vanilla. Hessel expressed interest in it and offered to finance it as Romero's next film, but only if the director would be willing to rewrite McCollough's screenplay to focus on what Hessel considered the most interesting ingredient of the story, namely the military takeover of the town, which occurred in the first 10 to 20 pages. Romero agreed and rewrote the script, and he was given a budget of approximately $270,000.

The film was shot in and around Evans City and Zelienople, both small towns in Pennsylvania about 30 miles north of Pittsburgh. Romero claims that the majority of people in the towns were very cooperative and happy to help with the production.

The director has claimed he feels that the major reason The Crazies failed at the box office was due to poor distribution. He stated that Hessel made a true attempt to adequately market the film, including releasing it under a variety of titles in different parts of the country, but that it never managed to catch the public's eye. The film did not have a wide release, instead playing in a limited number of theaters before opening in a different market.[1]


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