with John Amplas, Lincoln Maazel, Christine Forrest
(aka Code Name: Trixie) (1973)
A military plane carrying biological warfare agents crashes near the fictitious Evans City, Pennsylvania. The virus gets into the town's water supply and has two effects on the infected: death or irreversible insanity. The military moves in to contain the situation, and things rapidly get out of control. The local populace regards the Army as an invading force as they try to round up everyone and take them to the high school as a marshalling point. Soon the highly contagious virus infects the whole town and spreads to the soldiers as well, while a government scientist races to find an antidote. The Crazies features some great setpieces as the virus spreads... a little old lady smiles sweetly and stabs a soldier to death with a knitting needle. A young woman sweeps with a broom while soldiers and locals have a bloody firefight around her. A soldier swings his rifle wildly at his comrades until they shoot him. Made in the shadow of both Vietnam and Watergate, The Crazies contains plenty of allegory; an invasion by military force, government cover-up and duplicity, madness and eventual genocide. Scenes with the president show only the back of his head as he speaks in detached tones. Like Night of the Living Dead, The Crazies offers no hope, no comfort and sure as hell no happy ending. Romero himself has a somewhat gassy role as Evans City's mayor.
(akaThere's Always Vanilla) (1969)
with Diane Russo
It's said that Romero wanted nothing to do with this film after its completion, and refuses to discuss it to this day. Long considered to be Romero's "lost film," The Affair was not available in the U.S. at all (never having been theatrically released) until Video Search of Miami unearthed it. This sophomore effort (his first feature after Night of the Living Dead) is difficult and often exasperating, but worth watching nonetheless. It's kind of a quasi-existentialist counterculture love story, rife with bad rock music and hipster dialogue. A proto-slacker hooks up with a model who's striving to get ahead in commercials while he writes and tries to figure out what the hell he wants out of life. The characters spend a lot of time pondering the meaning of their existences, until eventually he bullshits his way into a position at an ad agency. She winds up pregnant (after telling him she is, then retracting it), finding out much later that he also has a kid by another girlfriend (he thinks), which signals the beginning of the end of their relationship. It's a problematic movie; the script is actually fairly intelligent and literate, and the talent (unfamiliar from any of Romero's other films, except for Diane Russo from Night of the Living Dead) is believable, but the rambling narrative makes the intent of the story pretty unclear; it's as though the thrust of the writing is all towards character development and not towards a resolution of plot. There's also a sleazy producer of commercials involved, which is an interesting aside since commercials were Romero's bread and butter before he did NOTLD. This effort was produced by Russo and Streiner, the same guys that produced and helped line up finances for NOTLD; it makes me wonder if there was some kind of behind-the-scenes arm twisting going on for Romero to make this picture. If you can wade through the rather turgid story (or lack thereof), The Affair is at least interesting as a stiff sort of period piece, but is pretty flawed, with a sort of hurried, amateurish look all the way around. I can understand Romero wanting to wash his hands of it, but it's not really that bad.