There's Always Vanilla/The Affair (1972)
*½/**** Image B- Sound C+ Extras A-
starring Ray Laine, Judith Streiner (née Ridley), Johanna Lawrence, Richard Ricci
written by R. J. Ricci
directed by George A. Romero
Season of the Witch/George A. Romero's Season of the Witch/Hungry Wives/Jack's Wife (1973)
***/**** Image A- Sound B+ Extras B+
starring Jan White, Ray Laine, Joedda McClain, Bill Thunhurst
written & directed by George A. Romero
The Crazies/Code Name: Trixie (1973)
***/**** Image A Sound B+ Extras B-
starring Lane Carroll, W.G. McMillan, Harold Wayne Jones, Lloyd Hollar
screenplay by Paul McCollough & George A. Romero
directed by George A. Romero
by Bryant Frazer George A. Romero, one of the unquestioned masters of American horror cinema, never intended to be a horror filmmaker. It's one of the great ironies in film history. When the Pittsburgh-based writer and director ventured from industrial filmmaking (via his production company, The Latent Image) into features, he made a horror movie not out of any claimed interest in or affinity with the genre, but simply because exploitation pictures were considered the safest investments. And for years after its release, the man who made the epochal Night of the Living Dead (1968)--not just the blueprint for the modern zombie movie, but also a metaphor for U.S. misadventures in Vietnam and a disturbing allegory for inhuman behavior among the living--was still apologizing for what he perceived as its shortcomings. "There's so much terrible dialogue, and there are several really poor performances," Romero said in a 1972 CINEFANTASTIQUE interview conducted by local actor Sam Nicotero, who was playing the role of a sheriff's deputy in Romero's then-in-production sci-fi/disaster hybrid, The Crazies. "Technically, the film is not that bad--but, Christ, our commercial work is better than that."
Despite the commercial success of Night of the Living Dead, the money never really found its way back to Romero's team, and he felt he lacked the resources to craft a sequel that would meaningfully expand on the milieu of the first film. Further, he didn't want to be typecast as a horror director. As a result, it would be a decade before Romero made his second zombie movie, Dawn of the Dead. Arrow Video's pointedly-titled boxed set "George A. Romero: Between Night and Dawn" is meant to shine new light on the films he made in the interim. It collects three titles that were shot in and around Pittsburgh and released to little fanfare over a two-year period in the early-1970s, taking as their subjects entrenched sexists, alienated housewives, an out-of-control military, and American society in transition--with nary a rotting shambler in sight.
First up is the shot-on-16mm There's Always Vanilla, a story of bad love between erstwhile musician Chris Bradley (Ray Laine), the reluctant heir to a Pittsburgh baby-food tycoon, and commercial actress Lynn Harris (Night of the Living Dead alumna Judith Ridley), who's getting tired of being treated like a prop by slick directors hawking beer. (The setting is the Pittsburgh commercial production community, offering a glimpse of the real world Romero and his colleagues at The Latent Image worked in at the time.) Chris and Lynn meet by chance at a train station when she smacks him in the face with a high-gated turnstile while rushing to an audition. He offers an unrequested critique of her portfolio of headshots and tells her she has a big ass, but he also offers her a ride in his Jeep; somehow, Cupid's arrow strikes its mark. The narrative is framed as a story told by Chris, repeatedly cutting to fragments of an extended, fourth-wall-breaking monologue delivered by Laine in a bucolic, tree-lined setting.
But the film questions his moral authority. Example: He's seen hooking his philandering father up with a prostitute friend for a one-night stand at the apartment of an old flame, who, seeing him for the first time in the better part of a decade, claims to have mothered his child. (Surveying the multi-generational spectacle, she introduces the kid to "your daddy and...your daddy's daddy.") What principles he displays are part of an inclination to self-aggrandizement. He weasels his way into trying out as a copywriter at a firm run by old guys aiming to sell to "the Pepsi generation" by citing his experience as a pimp: "I feel as though a pimp makes a natural advertiser. They both deal with the public in the same way, offering a release, a solution to frustrations, a fulfillment of desires." He balks, almost immediately, when asked to create a campaign to convince young men to enlist in the military, but it falls on Lynn to remind him that nihilism isn't a philosophy. Chris knows what he doesn't want--he doesn't want a son, he doesn't want to sell out to The Man, he doesn't want to join the family business as a pablum-monger--but hasn't the foggiest clue what he does want. The film takes its title from a late-in-the-game conversation between Chris and his father, who floats the ice-cream metaphor in an attempt to convince him of the virtues of mediocrity.
There's Always Vanilla was based on a screenplay by Rudy Ricci, an old college classmate of Romero's. Ricci had written and directed a half-hour black-and-white short, At Play with the Angels, as a demo reel for Laine's acting career, and he later described it as "a fun romp." Ricci was dubious about the prospects for developing the film as a feature and had trouble keeping up with scripting deadlines. As a result--according to Paul R. Gagne's career-spanning 1987 tome The Zombies That Ate Pittsburgh--Romero had to complete the picture with an unfinished script, relying on Laine's straight-to-camera monologue asserting Chris's anti-establishment bona fides as a way to fill out the project with extra material that could be made up on the day of shooting. It sounds messy (and it is), but the results at least imbue an otherwise-bland work with some directorial personality. Cutting back and forth between the sequential narrative and Chris's running after-the-fact commentary gave the film a jagged, non-temporal structure very much in keeping with the aggressive editorial style that became one of Romero's trademarks.
It also allowed Romero to adopt a skeptical position with regard to the character's banal counter-cultural musings--especially his insistence on minimizing his emotional involvement in the romantic relationship. "I didn't have anything in mind, just my thing and the chick's," he muses at one point. A sex scene is conflated, via a series of quick, Nic Roeg-style flash-forwards, with preparations for a commercial shoot, bath bubbles daubed just so across a pair of bare breasts, emphasizing the gratifying but--for Chris at least--transactional nature of the lovemaking. The story eventually fizzles out as Chris decides he's allergic to commitment and splits town, though Romero musters a brief, harrowing sequence that sees Lynn visiting a clandestine abortionist. He cuts from her drive to the doctor's unmarked office to a clueless Chris speaking to camera, complaining that he has no idea where she's gone and reckoning it's time he called the whole thing off, anyway. Lynn steps into a barely-finished apartment, her face half-shadowed, and takes instruction from the doctor. With her horror rising, the movie roars briefly to life.
The feminist undercurrent implicit in There's Always Vanilla's criticism of its protagonist's casual chauvinism comes to the fore in the Romero-scripted follow-up, a Pittsburgh-set character study shot on 16mm under the working title Jack's Wife. Joan Mitchell (Jan White) is a suburban wife and mother disturbed by her abusive husband, Jack (Bill Thunhurst), her disrespectful daughter, Nikki (Joedda McClain), and the sense the years are slipping away from her. After Nikki runs away from home (a development Jack blames Joan for), Joan allows herself to slip into a casual affair with one of Nikki's boyfriends, Gregg (Vanilla's Laine again), a student teacher at the local university. Over time, the potent combination of marital ennui and sexual anxiety--Joan has recurring (and genuinely scary) nightmares of a masked intruder breaking into her house and pursuing her into its darker corners--leads her to an interest in witchcraft. Toting around a how-to volume on becoming a witch and consulting with a tarot-reading acquaintance (Ginger Greenwald), she schools herself in the dark arts, a development that leads to madness and liberation, practically at once.
Sex and the supernatural are the selling points, but Romero is most interested in the conflict created by elements of the 1960s urban counterculture as they began to assert themselves against traditional suburban mores. While the second-wave feminist movement may have arrived most forcefully on college campuses, it also helped ordinary middle-aged women see the raw deal they had gotten for decades for what it was. The film opens with an impressionistic dream sequence that has Joan and Jack walking on a trail through the woods. She follows a few paces behind him, absorbed in the morning newspaper; he pushes tree branches out of his way and lets them snap back to scratch her face. When they get home, he beats her about the head with a newspaper, like a bad dog, then puts a leash on her. It's followed immediately, head-to-tail, by another dream that's even creepier, this one featuring a salesman or some other type of company man who gives Joan a walking tour of her own house, ticking off an inventory of the furniture from a clipboard, introducing her to her daughter and local ladyfriends, and suggesting she indulge in a little afternoon delight with the handyman. "You've really gotta get with it, Mrs. Mitchell," he urges.
This is not subtle stuff; the scenes where Joan hashes out her dreams with a goateed, pipe-sucking psychiatrist straight out of central casting are pretty ripe. Yet Romero demonstrated real directorial chops here. There's a long, uncomfortable scene early on that's remarkable in its rawness. Joan and her friend Shirley (Ann Muffly, brassy but also sad and vulnerable) hang out with Nikki and her boyfriend, who's a real shit-stirrer. He decides it would be fun to give Shirley an ordinary cigarette that's been doctored to look like a joint, over Joan's objections, and watch her take a puff and react like she's high on cannabis. The trick works too well: Shirley freaks out, her tightly-wound psyche taking the opportunity to lay itself bare. "I'm worried about my heart," she cries, as Gregg leans in voyeuristically. "I'm not finished yet! I want to do things." Romero's camera peers into the scene from a distance, and he cuts it to run long--it's a full 10 minutes of build-up and emotional eruption before the intensity breaks. It's brave, it's harrowing, and it's unlike anything else I can think of in Romero's oeuvre.
Unfortunately, Romero's funding collapsed before production began, forcing him to scale back his script to be achievable on a fraction of the proposed budget. With that reduction in ambition, the film's iffy commercial prospects were similarly reduced. On its first release, the distributor titled it Hungry Wives and promoted it as sexploitation, to little gain at the box-office. It is one of Romero's sexier films, granted, but that's not to say there's anything in it for the trenchcoat crowd. After Dawn of the Dead became a hit, a reissue borrowed a new title from the Donovan song "Season of the Witch" (which Romero does actually use to great effect in the film), to suggest a horror excursion. (While the version presented on disc bears the Hungry Wives title card, Arrow's box art promotes it as Season of the Witch--a regrettable but perhaps understandable decision, given that's the title under which the picture is widely available on home video.) Commercial performance aside, Romero always seemed to look back on the picture fondly, suggesting that it might be worth remaking with a proper budget, and it was a key work in his development as a director, showcasing his fundamental seriousness of purpose as well as his ability to work with actors.
Although Romero generally claimed to be a Ford/Hawks/Welles type of cinephile and didn't often mention Cassavetes or Bergman as favourite directors, if at all, that's how a lot of this film plays--as an intriguing combination of the former's downbeat cinéma vérité style and the latter's more artfully-composed 1960s chamber pieces. Season of the Witch also saw an evolution in Romero's hyperactive editorial style, both in terms of how well he develops the emotional trajectory of a conversation and in the economical way (in the sense of not only narrative but also budgetary economy) he moves between sequences, skipping connective material and establishing shots in favour of staying close to the characters. Finally, Season of the Witch testifies to his empathetic qualities, delving sensitively into the experiences of older women marginalized by their supporting role in the lives of their families. It's not the story of his own life, but he digs into the milieu with conviction.
Last up is The Crazies, the only one of the three films to have gained much traction over the years with Romero's core audience. That's mainly because it's a 35mm genre film--albeit apocalyptic sci-fi rather than apocalyptic horror--but partly, too, because it's such an accomplished piece of work, expressing modern-era anxiety over the U.S. government and its military misadventures in the raw terms of a conspiracy thriller. It's less thoughtful and nuanced than Season of the Witch, though it's more consistently intense, with a genuinely nerve-racking political dimension. The picture begins with a frightening pre-credits sequence depicting two young children who wake up to find their father--the first of many "crazies" we meet--wildly smashing their furniture and dousing their farmhouse with kerosene; their mother has been killed in their sleep. The opening credits appear over a martial snare-drum beat that hints at the authoritarian crackdown to come as the federal government descends on Evans City, Pennsylvania. Long story short, some kind of infectious bio-toxin has contaminated the water supply, where it is turning the townspeople into giggly, ferocious monsters.
Major Ryder (Harry Spillman) and Colonel Peckem (Lloyd Hollar) are the hard-boiled army types who arrive on the scene in crisis mode. Their job is to establish martial law, herd the populace into internment camps, and prevent anyone from leaving the quarantine zone--and their orders are enforced by gas-masked, rifle-toting soldiers who swarm the countryside, rounding up civilians and throwing corpses on fires after looting their homes and emptying their pockets of valuables. At least high-strung biologist Dr. Watts (playwright and film critic Richard France, who plays a similarly manic character in Romero's Dawn of the Dead) is able to commandeer the local high-school chemistry lab to search for an antidote to the toxin. But the film's real protagonists are David (W.G. McMillan) and Judy (Lane Carroll), an optimistic young twosome who signify the best in humanity--he's a firefighter and she's a nurse. When they're rounded up in the back of a van with some other townies, David and Judy go rogue, stealing some guns and hitting the road with their buddy Clank (Harold Wayne Jones, later seen in Day of the Dead) to figure out what's really going on in Evans City. An incestuous subplot involving a man (Richard Liberty, who would likewise appear in Day) and his daughter (Lynn Lowry) who join David, Judy, and Clank on the run demonstrates that Romero can be as cynical about ordinary families as he is about government entities.
The Crazies does represent Romero's first real broadside against establishment thinking, blaming the military-industrial complex first for poisoning the Evans City citizenry, and second for the paralyzing, dehumanizing policies that make it impossible for good men to reverse the damage. As an example, the film acknowledges that even the central policies driving its story are dopey: prevented from leaving the danger zone, Dr. Watts complains that "any truck driver" could have carried the bug out of the area days before roadblocks were set up. Meanwhile, authorities are hamstrung by a complicated voiceprint verification system that presupposes that the real challenge on the ground is impostors using a police radio, rather than the need to organize a coherent crisis response. (Romero himself is said to have provided V.O. for the radio chatter.) The Crazies is probably the most energetically edited of all Romero's films. It's cut pretty much from head to toe with the sort of caffeinated aesthetic familiar to generations that grew up watching MTV and Michael Bay movies but that must have been alienating and disorienting back in 1973--a powerful aesthetic metaphor for panic and paranoia.
France's character makes his entrance in an almost hilariously overheated sequence that alternates quickly back and forth between his indignant rage at being forcefully transported to the crisis zone, where he'll be cut off from scientific resources that could help him resolve the emergency, and the single-minded barking bureaucrats sending him there. A scene where a gang of townspeople bursts out of the woods and attacks a group of soldiers is edited at a completely frantic pace that's guaranteed to raise your blood pressure; the military drum music of earlier scenes has now given way to the diegetic percussion of gunfire and dynamite sticks. As the skirmish unfolds on screen, it raises the question: are citizens attacking the military because they've been turned violent by a toxin in their drinking water, or do they represent an organized, rational rebellion against a military takeover? Or is it some combination? Even more than Night of the Living Dead, The Crazies, with its chaotic scenes of resistance in the face of oppression, seems to explicitly invoke the American misadventure in Vietnam. By film's end, it's hard to tell for sure who the titular "crazies" really are, or what constitutes genuinely aberrant behaviour--which is, of course, the point.
THE BLU-RAY DISC
Arrow Video's decision to package these three films together in a single box was a worthwhile curatorial impulse. There's Always Vanilla benefits greatly from its proximity to the two films that followed it, helping reveal as it does the incipient traces of what would become Romero's signature style contained within it. Season of the Witch is a more successful film, but it builds on elements already found in its predecessor in interesting ways. That doesn't exactly make it a more impressive achievement, but it does make it easier to read as the work of an auteur. Ditto for The Crazies, which applies some of Romero's earlier formal achievements to a doomsday scenario that clearly prefigures Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead to come. Arrow has commissioned new artwork by Gilles Vranckx, featured along with the films' original key art on reversible sleeves, and they've compiled a limited-edition booklet exclusive to the boxed set with writing from Kat Ellinger, Kier-La Janisse, and Heather Drain. Unfortunately, none of this material was made available for this review, though its inclusion speaks to Arrow's determination to lead a new generation of cinephiles to these lesser-known titles. Then again all three movies will be available as standalone releases in March; depending on how the discounts shake out, that may be a more attractive way for frugal viewers to go. The biggest knock against this set is the unexplained absence of 1977's Martin. The story of a young man (John Amplas) who believes himself to be a vampire, Martin has interesting parallels with Season of the Witch and is considered by many writers to be the best film from this period of Romero's career. It's a shame that Arrow couldn't surmount whatever rights issues may have kept it from being part of the package.
AV quality is quite good throughout the set, considering the age and state of the materials, with Arrow keeping artifacts at bay by encoding each title at a standard average video bitrate of 35 Mbps. Granted, There's Always Vanilla has an occasionally dubious-looking transfer. Per Arrow's liner notes, the 16mm-originated feature was scanned (at 2K) from a 35mm internegative blow-up made on badly-faded negative duping stock. As a result, Arrow struggled to draw a full spectrum of colours out of the imagery. Some scenes look pretty good but others are poorly balanced or exhibit a flat, almost beige look. A few shots have an unnaturally oversaturated palette, and the prevalence of pink-on-pink or brown-on-brown skin tones can be distracting. Despite it all, a velvety grain texture helps smooth things out. The picture is presented with black bars on either side of a 1.37:1 image, a decision I'm not sure I understand since I'd expect Romero would have composed his shots with industry-standard 1.85:1 widescreen exhibition in mind. (Were U.S. movie theatres still equipped to show films at Academy ratio in the early-'70s?) The monaural sound, transferred from an optical track, is not great, with limited dynamics and presence; hums and room tone sporadically threaten to swallow weakly delivered lines of dialogue. Much better is the transfer for Season of the Witch, sourced from the original 16mm negative at 4K resolution and similarly presented at 1.37:1. Colours are full and naturally saturated, flesh tones are rich and realistic, and shadow detail is well-delineated all the way down to the solid, stable blacks. The closest thing I have to a complaint is the chunky nature of the film grain; it's more gravelly than I'd expect. (Then again, we are dealing with 16mm here.) The monaural audio track, too, is a few notches above the previous film in terms of both recording and reproduction quality. Finally, The Crazies has been scanned from both the 35mm camera negative and a colour reversal intermediate at 4K. Grain is much smoother this time around except in the darkest shots; colours and especially skin tones look great, and dynamic range is exceptional. The mono soundtrack is clean and quiet when it comes to noise but unremarkable otherwise, with limited punch. I'm not sure how this compares to Blue Underground's 2010 Blu-ray transfer, as I've only seen their years-earlier DVD version, but it's hard to imagine this new 4K scan doesn't represent an improvement on what was available at the time.
Supplements are fairly plentiful across the board. Each title gets a full-length audio commentary from Travis Crawford, a dogged film critic and programmer with the instincts of a historian, who goes into detail on the background of just about every lead and significant supporting player who appears on screen, in addition to the producers and financiers behind the scenes who allowed (or more likely didn't allow) Romero to realize his vision on screen. He won me over about five minutes into There's Always Vanilla, when he all but apologizes for failing to track down biographical info on the band Barefoot in Athens, who earned a music credit. Crawford isn't here to be impartial--he's an obvious Romero booster who takes the job of cataloging these pictures seriously, and he refers often to Romero's own feelings about the trilogy collected herein. He's joined on The Crazies by Supporting Characters podcast host Bill Ackerman. Supporting Characters sounds like an amazing podcast, but as a commentor Ackerman doesn't say much beyond firing off questions that throw Crawford off his script. He and Crawford do have an interesting exchange about John Carpenter--and, more specifically, widescreen aspect ratios--that serves to crystallize what it is that's so distinctive about both directors' approaches. I'd quibble with some of Crawford's critical insights, but all three of these tracks are worth listening to, as they offer broad insight into American independent filmmaking of the period in general and Romero in particular.
Documentary featurettes are a mixed bag from disc to disc. There's Always Vanilla is home to "Affair of the Heart: The Making of There's Always Vanilla" and "Digging Up the Dead: The 'Lost' Films of George A. Romero." "Affair of the Heart" (30 mins., 1080p) is a brand-new documentary that taps producers John Russo and Russell Streiner, actors Judith Streiner and Richard Ricci (a.k.a. The Rev; he played a TV commercial director in Vanilla), and sound recordist Gary Streiner for commentary over a soft-jazz music bed. It's not your typical set of fond remembrances. "We were beginning to come apart at that time," recalls Ricci, remembering the creation of Night of the Living Dead as a more "democratic" process. On Vanilla, he says, "we had a director who knew what he was doing. We had a writer who wanted to direct [and] thought he knew what he was doing. There was conflict constantly." Russo, meanwhile, announces that one chapter of his forthcoming memoir is titled "Fame Without Money." "Digging Up the Dead" (16 mins., SD upscaled to 1080i) is a standard-def Romero interview ported over from a previous Anchor Bay DVD pairing Vanilla and Season of the Witch. Romero admits that the Latent Image team had initially hoped they could make it another success on the order of Night of the Living Dead, but it was not to be. "It was an awful experience," he says. "I have very little recollection of what went on during the production of that film and I care very little about it." He warms up for the discussion of Season of the Witch, which he reckons would be worth remaking someday, musing "there are still a lot of guys out there who just keep women locked up in cages."
"There's Always Vanilla Film Locations" (11 mins., 1080p) has "Romero historian" Lawrence DeVincentz talking over a slideshow of contemporary photographs of locations used for scenes in the film (some of them featuring him or his buddy Spooky Daz Sargeant in the frame matching the pose of the original actors) with authentic production stills occasionally appearing in an inset. Lawrence and Daz also provide "There's Always Vanilla Collectible Scans" (1 min., 1080p) a slideshow of publicity stills, the fim's one-sheet poster, the VHS art for a limited-edition 2013 reissue from Sub Rosa Studios Productions under the title The Affair, box art and the VHS label from the Something Weird Video release, and, hilariously, a French-language brochure promoting "le 'transit expressway' de Pittsburgh." Capping things off is the requisite theatrical trailer (1:45, 1080i).
Toplining the Season of the Witch extras is "When Romero Met Del Toro" (56 mins., 1080p), a career-spanning 2016 conversation in Romero's Toronto apartment with Guillermo del Toro, who continually embarrasses the older director with his encyclopedic fandom. "I don't think it's often that you can trace the birth of an entire genre to a filmmaker," del Toro tells him early on, referring to Night of the Living Dead. "I had no idea," Romero responds. "I love the idea that I'm credited with this, but I don't think I really deserve it." Romero has plenty of stories to tell, and del Toro draws them out with loving insight into his themes and preoccupations, like how he deals with religion and human relationships. "The biggest thing that I can take credit for is that I said no often," Romero finally allows. "'This is garbage, and I'm not going to do it.' And that's it." Passed along from the earlier Anchor Bay double-feature DVD is "The Secret Life of Jack's Wife" (17 mins., SD upscaled to 1080i) an interview with Jan White, who remembers her surprise at learning a feature film was being made in Pittsburgh, of all places. She discusses her reservations over the nude scenes--and her on-set conversations with her body double--and her feelings about the picture's commercial failure. Archival materials comprise a 104-minute version of Season of the Witch, extended with almost 15 minutes of deleted scenes that have been inserted from a relatively crummy-looking SD master. (The footage has been normalized to 1080p.) Alternate opening sequences (SD upscaled to 1080i, each running about 3:30) are presented, and they're more or less identical except for title cards reading Jack's Wife and George A. Romero's Season of the Witch. The disc is filled out with a much shorter DeVincentz Location Gallery (2 mins., 1080p) and Collectible Scans slideshow (3 mins., 1080p) that has some vintage promo materials from Jack H. Harris Enterprises, including publicity stills, newspaper ads, and shots of various home-video packages, such as a cool Japanese LaserDisc sleeve. Lastly, there are two trailers, one for the film's reissue as Season of the Witch (1:44, SD upscaled to 1080i) and another for the original Hungry Wives release with what I'll describe as an aspirationally sultry voiceover (1:30, SD upscaled to 1080i).
For The Crazies, Arrow gives Lynn Lowry the Scream Queen treatment. (According to Crawford's commentary, Lane Cooper was approached but declined to participate.) In a newly-commissioned interview featurette called "Crazy for Lynn Lowry" (16 mins., 1080p), she discusses her career, beginning with her move to Manhattan's East Village and an early effort to become a model before auditioning for her debut in I Drink Your Blood. "That movie changed my life," she says, recalling the easy availability of drugs during the production. Before starting work on The Crazies, she remembers screening Jack's Wife and There's Always Vanilla--but not, incredibly, Night of the Living Dead!--to get a sense of what Romero was like. Also on board the disc is a Q&A with Lowry (36 mins., 1080p) shot at the 2016 Abertoir Film Festival in Aberystwyth, Wales that spans her career, including that time she accidentally stabbed David Cronenberg with a fork.
With Lowry out of the way, DeVincentz gets license to run wild across the rest of this Blu-ray platter. The extended-length "The Crazies Filming Locations" (27 mins., 1080p) offers the usual assortment of then-and-now comparisons--the school! the church! the firehouse!--copiously illustrated with DeVincentz's own photographs, plus a plug for the guided tours he runs during the area's annual Living Dead Weekend event. But wait, there's more! In "Romero Was Here: Locating The Crazies" (12 mins., 1080p), DeVincentz actually appears on camera to discuss Romero's shooting sites in and around Evans City. Near the end of the piece, he even heads into Night of the Living Dead territory with a visit to the Evans City Cemetery, made famous by that film. While Pennsylvania locals may get a kick out of it, this is still an awful lot of disc space dedicated to some pretty run-of-the-mill locations.
DeVincentz also contributes "The Crazies: Collectible Scans from Lawrence Devincentz" (6 mins., 1080p), assembling scans of CINEFANTASTIQUE magazine (the issue containing the interview by Sam Nicotero that I mentioned way back at the top of this review) and VIDEO WATCHDOG, promo materials for The Crazies (among them an assortment of newspaper ads and a one-sheet bearing the title Code Name: Trixie, as well as European lobby cards showing a variety of alternate titles in different languages), Blu-ray, DVD, and VHS sleeve art, a German press kit, and other memorabilia. "The Crazies: Behind the Scenes Footage" (6 mins., 1080p) is a collection of 8mm footage from Nicotero's collection taken on the day the production shot the burning farmhouse, offering glimpses of a young Romero at work. Colour commentary is provided on an optional audio track by, you guessed it, DeVincentz. Producer Lee Hessel is represented by an audio-only interview (4 mins., 1080p video slideshow) in which he has trouble remembering the film's title, then gripes mainly about its failure to make money despite his best efforts. "Anyone who makes a movie without having distribution is stupid," he says. The disc additionally contains an alternate opening title reading Code Name: Trixie (0:33, 1080p), along with two trailers (3 mins. apiece, 1080p) and two TV spots (1:00 and 0:30, SD upscaled to 1080i). It's a large quantity of extras, sure--but it's notable for missing any contributions from the filmmakers themselves. It's a shame the Romero commentary that accompanied Blue Underground's DVD and Blu-ray releases of The Crazies wasn't available to Arrow, as it would have gone a long way towards improving the scope of this particular slate of extras.