Both versions are the well-known 'infection-spread-Zombie-movie' in essence... if not technically 'zombie' movies in reality; there be no shambling corpses in "The Crazies".
The remake was good, and managed to keep the main story the same without taking anything away, simply just updating the original.
The original seems quite dated to today's audience, but it is a Romero film through and through with a good yet simple plot and some creepy costumes (mainly gas masked military men). However, often the characters are a bit dull and the script isn't the most interesting.
When a plane carrying a chemical weapon which turns people into violent, homicidal killers, crashes into the reservoir of a small town in America practically infecting the whole population, the military move in to contain the situation.
We follow a small group of survivors led by fireman David (Will McMillan), his pregnant nurse wife, Judy (Lane Caroll), and David's firefighting buddy, Clank (Harold Wayne Jones). They wind up picking up a few stragglers such as a father, Artie (Richard Liberty) and his virgin (remember that bit, it's important) teenage daughter, Kathy (Lynn Lowry) - who totally reminds me of the female gelfling muppet in The Dark Crystal!!!! Anyone else? No? Just me, then...
There's also a few other survivors, but their characters are barely worth mentioning.
David, Judy, Clank and the gang are trying desperately to escape the town, and avoid the armed forces who have been instructed to capture or kill civilians on sight. As they try to make their way through the panic, they also have to avoid the hordes of crazy infected people who are trying to kill everyone! Peasy. Oh, and also, any one of the 'survivors' could be infected, too!
In conjunction with this story, we also follow the military leaders as they try to both stop the infected people escaping and going on the rampage, and also try to find a cure. It's just a shame that in true horror film style, they're pretty much incapable of doing either effectively.
As I mentioned, the script isn't much to get excited about, and other than a few jumpy scenes and some effective but simplistic effects, you can guess what's coming for most of the film. But, as an idea the plot is unsettling. As someone who considers insanity as one of my top 5 fears, I have to hand it to Romero that this film really hits the button. Unfortunately, the lack of budget affects the execution and overall feel of this film and allows it to suffer. I also think more time was spent bigging up the military as the main obstacle, rather than the infected nutters...
Definitely watch this version before the remake, though, to fully appreciate the story!
There's a scene in this film which is far more shocking than anything in the remake! Quite disturbing.
Not a great Romero film by any means, but not the worst horror from the 70s by far!
[Picture: Cambist Films]