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Film / The Crazies (1973)

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The Crazies (also known as Code Name: Trixie) is a 1973 Sci-Fi Horror movie written and directed by George A. Romero (of Living Dead Series fame).

After its water supply is accidentally contaminated by a bioweapon, a small town in Pennsylvania suffers from a string of violent attacks among its citizens, ranging from beatdowns to arson. Firefighter David (Will McMillan) and his pregnant wife Judy (Lane Carroll) find themselves thrust into all this, and to top things off the U.S. military quarantines the town with orders to shoot and kill anybody who attempts to escape, whether infected or not. Now David and Judy must try their damnedest to leave town before either the infected or the military get them.

Despite failing at the box office and getting mixed reviews, the movie gained a huge cult following and managed to get a remake in 2010.

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This film provides examples of:

  • All for Nothing: Watts synthesizes an antidote, but while he runs around trying to find Peckham to tell him, he's mistaken for a local and herded into the high school gym. He ends up getting killed and the antidote is destroyed.
  • Ambiguous Situation: Since people infected with the Trixie virus become delirious and homicidal, the army assumes that anyone behaving mindlessly is a "crazy". However, Dr. Watts notes that this doesn't rule out the possibility that some of the crazies are actually uninfected people panicking in response to the military takeover.
    Dr. Watts: The whole thing's insane! How can you tell who's infected and who isn't?
    • Throughout the movie, the townspeople revolt against the army, which results in multiple battles between the two sides. While the audience can easily pick out a couple of rebels as obviously infected (such as the woman sweeping the grass with a broom while following the others), it is ambiguous if the other rebels are infected too.
    • As a nurse, Judy gets an antibiotics injection, presumably giving her body a better chance of fighting off the virus. However, in the climax, Judy starts acting erratically; whether this is due to her pregnancy or the virus is not made clear since she dies before David can verify.
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    • Downplayed for David. After Judy dies, he becomes catatonic due to the trauma or the virus. It's implied that he is one of the rare characters immune to the virus, but the doctors don't bother checking to confirm if that indeed is the case.
  • Anti-Villain: The infected are by no means malevolent, but several are extremely dangerous to the people around them without even realizing it, like Clank and Artie once they become infected.
  • Artistic License – Biology: The military gives its soldiers and doctors antibiotics aka antibacterial substances to defend themselves from the Trixie virus. That said, Colonel Peckem refers to Trixie as a bacteriological weapon at one point, so it's unclear what exactly Trixie is supposed to be.
  • Come Back to Bed, Honey: David and Judy. "You ignore the fire signal and I'll ignore the ringing phone."
  • Creator Cameo: Had the president ever turned around, the viewers would have seen it was director George Romero.
  • Cutting the Knot: Subverted; when someone tries to cut through the red tape, it only makes things worse (see Just Following Orders).
  • Double-Meaning Title:
    • The army dubs the infected townspeople as "crazies" since the Trixie virus turns its victims into murderous maniacs.
    • On the other hand, Dr. Watts points out that some of the crazies are actually healthy people resorting to violence against the military presence.
    • In addition, the entire situation is incredibly stressful and crazy, driving otherwise rational people insane.
  • Downer Ending: Dr. Watts is killed and the cure smashed in a fight between soldiers (who assume Watts is infected and try to force him into a quarantined area) and the infected. Trixie had already spread beyond the town before the events of the film and infected a city. The one character who is immune keeps silent about it out of spite.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: David tries this but it backfires, causing Judy to flee in panic; then David is attacked by townspeople thinking he's a soldier and Judy gets shot.
  • Driven to Suicide: Artie.
  • Evil Army: Played straight from the view of the townspeople. Subverted by showing Reasonable Authority Figures acting under conditions of great stress, limited time, information and resources, and idiotic restrictions from higher authority.
  • The Faceless: Only the back of the President's head is seen, made all the stranger by having him only appear on a Video Phone screen.
  • Gun Struggle: The first indication that things are starting to go pear-shaped. Sheriff Cooper resists being forcibly disarmed by the military, and ends up being fatally shot.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Clank realises he's infected and draws off the soldiers chasing his friends.
  • Here We Go Again!: The film ends with Peckhem being sent to another town where Trixie has broken out.
  • Hero of Another Story: Several of Watts' colleagues are working on trying to cure the disease outside to town, offscreen. The final scene mentions they've found an immune monkey among their test subjects which gives them hope for immune humans (although the soldiers in town aren't good at finding any immune humans among the quarantined people).
  • Idiot Ball: The security restrictions hamper any attempt to deal with the crisis effectively. The top scientist on the Trixie project is sent into the town to do a job that any lab technician could do, then he's not allowed to send blood samples out of the city due to the quarantine.
  • The Immune: David. Too bad he's the only person in town they never test for immunity and is too angry over what's happened to tell them.
  • Improbable Weapon User: The infected old lady who stabs a soldier with her knitting needles.
  • Just Following Orders: A bureaucrat gets frustrated by the slow response to the crisis, and orders the next available member of the Trixie team into the crisis zone. Cue Dr. Watts futilely arguing with the military police driving him to the plane that it makes no sense for the developer of the Trixie virus to be sent into the town where he doesn't have access to his laboratory or computers; all they need is someone to take samples.
    Soldier: I'm sorry, sir. Those are the orders.
    Dr. Watts: Orders, my ass! Stop the car! (they don't) You're going to have a hell of a time getting me on that plane, soldier.
    Soldier: Maybe so, sir, but we'll do it.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: The sheriff's deputy initially fights back along with him but surrenders when his boss dies.
  • Man on Fire: One of the soldiers burning bodies goes crazy. He gets torched with a flamethrower. Also a priest goes mad and imitates a certain Buddhist monk.
  • Major Injury Underreaction: Kathy just gives a quiet "Oh" after being fatally shot.
  • Militaries Are Useless: Because Armies Are Evil and plagued with severe amounts of obstructive protocols, which people adhere to even when they make things worse.
  • Modesty Bedsheet: Averted — well it was The '70s!
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Artie after realizing he's had sex with his own daughter. He goes and hangs himself (assuming Clank didn't kill him).
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: The doctor Judy works for warns her to flee and gives her some medicine to use against the virus. This action is well-meant but breaks down trust and communication between the police and civilians even more in the short term, and Judy gets killed, when she might have survived in quarantine.
  • No Name Given: The lab technician prominently seen assisting Watts is never named.
  • Nuke 'em: A SAC bomber is kept on permanent patrol above the town, though it's never actually used.
  • Papa Wolf: Subverted. Artie is too scared to protect his daughter Kathy effectively, and ends up going crazy and having sex with her.
  • Pet the Dog: At one point during the rather rough round up of civilians, a soldier is seen starting to carry away a little girl, only to move back and let her pick up the stuffed animal she was whimpering for.
  • Please Wake Up: In the opening scene.
  • Plunder: Several soldiers are shown stealing abandoned property and, in one scene, stripping the dead of their valuables before burning the bodies.
  • Poor Communication Kills: A literal version of this trope; the officer originally sent to deal with the crashed plane wasn't told he's dealing with a bioweapon, so treated it as a routine clean-up job to be handled discreetly. The crisis team has to communicate through a voiceprint security system that delays communication. The media blackout means that the townspeople end up fighting the military, because they don't understand what's happening or that they shouldn't drink the water. Dr. Watts rushes out without telling the technician working with him how he found the cure.
  • Quarantine with Extreme Prejudice: Both versions of the film showcase the military cordoning off the town and then killing first anybody trying to leave, and then everybody inside, in the attempt to contain The Virus.
  • Raster Vision: Used for a Video Phone showing only the back of the President's head.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    Dr. Watts: It just astonishes me how shoddy this whole operation is.
    Col. Peckhem: Nothing astonishes me anymore.
  • Red Shirt Army: Justified; the soldiers are wearing white Hazmat Suits that restrict their vision and makes them stand out in the woods. They're also rear echelon troops (from a chemical warfare unit) fighting Clank, a Vietnam veteran.
  • Right Hand Versus Left Hand: Pretty much every problem that could have been prevented in this crisis goes to shit because of a lack of communication between all of the parties that are each integral to doing so, going from the military not telling the townsfolk, local law enforcement and emergency services why their town is being quarantined and their populace rounded up like cattle, to bringing Dr. Watts into the danger zone with no means of collecting samples or developing a cure and so on.
  • Science Is Bad: The core of an argument between Colonel Peckhem and Dr. Watts. Peckhem accuses Watts and his fellow scientists of (incorrectly) assuring the military that the Trixie virus was 100% benign; Watts counters that the actual figure was a bit less than that — based on standards set by the military.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance
  • Stepford Smiler: One of the symptoms.
  • Trigger-Happy: Clank after becoming infected. Not the soldiers contrary to what some viewers think; they lose several people trying to talk armed civilians into putting down their weapons.
  • Video Phone: A video link is set up with the President of the United States so he can, if required, authorize the use of nuclear weapons to contain the virus. However, as the President spends the entire conversation sitting with his back to the camera, one wonders why George Romero didn't just have him talking over a telephone speaker.
  • Your Head Asplode: Happens to a Gas Masked Mook.


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