There's a New Crazies In Town (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

In 2003, Blue Underground released George Romero's 1973 not-quite-a-zombie movie, The Crazies on DVD. And in they released a decent if unexceptional blu-ray upgrade in 2010. But between those two points, in 2008, a German DVD company called Anolis released a 2-disc special edition DVD steelbook with a bunch of exclusive extras. How do they all stack up? Well, gee, maybe we can find a website that would tell - oh! Hey, that's what we do here! What a happy coincidence. Let's take a look.

Update 10/9/15 - 3/4/2018: Blue Underground's blu was pretty good, but Arrow's stepped into the arena with a 4k scan of the OCN and all new special features.  They released it late last year as part of their impressive Between Night and Dawn boxed set; but a week from next Tuesday, they'll be releasing The Crazies (as well as the other discs from that set) as solo releases.  So if money's tight, or, like a lot of fans, you're just more into The Crazies than the other films, now you can get this new edition by itself.  But they don't have Blue Underground's extras... or Anolis's.  If you have the first blu, is it worth double-dipping?  Are the extras so good that you need all three discs?  Read on!
The Crazies is a dark and compelling follow-up to Night Of the Living Dead, even if it's not literally a sequel like Dawn would be. Here, instead of the dead going crazy and killing people, ordinary people are inexplicably going mad and killing people. It takes the deeply personal, unsettling notion of us being attacked by our own in Night and brings it even further home. What do you do when your loved ones slowly start to exhibit signs of this new mental illness and become increasingly dangerous, but are still essentially themselves? When do you pull the trigger on your daughter? And in The Crazies, Romero introduces the other half of the problem - something that's since come up in tons of zombie and other horror films throughout the years, from The Walking Dead to Romero's own Dead sequels - the idea of our own government and becoming a lethal threat when our populace goes out of control. And yet I don't think any have managed to match Romero's iconic imagery of The Crazies' white clad gas masked soldiers. They're the more memorable monsters than the crazies themselves.
Not that it's a perfect film. I've heard a number of horror fans say they prefer the glossier remake. I'm not among them, but I definitely concede its problems. It features questionable over-acting, especially by some unconvincing extras, mixed production values and a soundtrack that particularly stands out as amateurish whenever they resort to stock library cues like the drum march they play during all the military-themed scenes. And the budgetary limitations are obvious, like when the story calls for a dramatic helicopter crash but they obviously can't afford to actually show us the helicopter crash.  So they work around it and Romero tries to give us the next best thing, but obviously an actual crash would've better for the film had they been able to achieve it.  So sure, this one isn't for the teenagers who want every movie to be a Marvel movie.  But at its core, this still holds up as a pretty effective, disturbing little horror film.
1) 2003 BU DVD, 2) 2008 Anolis DVD, 3) 2010 BU blu, 4) 2018 Arrow blu.
In terms of the framing, there's not a huge difference between any of the four versions here; they're all anamorphic and slightly pillar-boxed.  Anolis is a smidgen taller at 1.62, BU's DVD is 1.66, and both blus are 1.67:1.  But really the framing is just adjusting slightly differently across every release, seemingly arbitrarily.  Anolis has a sliver around the edges more than BU, BU's blu lowers the framing a tiny bit (look at the major's hands in the second shot).  Meanwhile Arrow pans a smidgen to the left.  technically, they're all different, but the shifts are so minute that practically speaking, you could say they'll all give you the same viewing experience.
1) 2003 BU DVD, 2) 2008 Anolis DVD, 3) 2010 BU blu, 4) 2018 Arrow blu.
Now, naturally The HD images also take away a little of the DVDs' softness; and between the DVDs, the Anolis is a bit visibly softer as you get in close.  But neither blu exactly adds a world of new detail. The most notable difference really is that the colors are bolder on BU's blu, perhaps to the point of slight over-saturation.  It's also pushing towards the reds.  The major looks pretty flushed here; and when you go back up to the full-sized shots, his wall is noticeably more yellow on the BU blu than the other discs' greens.  It's telling that Arrow's blu reigned them back in again.  They've also cleaned up some speckling and noise, which is nice.  But really, Arrow's new HD scan doesn't prove all that superior to BU's older one, apart from the colors.

The blus also have lossless audio (DTS-HD with BU and LPCM with Arrow), but all four disc's audio tracks are all sourced from the fairly flat and thin original mono track. Of course, that's infinitely preferable to some revisionist, artificially enhanced sound mix with added effects.  But essentially, you're never going to get a sexy, sonic experience out of The Crazies.  Both blus also feature optional English subtitles (BU's blu also throws in French and Spanish), but Anolis only has German and the BU DVD offers not at all.
Blue came up with a couple strong extras for their original DVD release, primarily an audio commentary by George Romero himself, that pretty much answers all the questions fans have had for decades. They've also got a nice, 14-minute interview featurette with Lynn Lowry, focusing on her career overall rather than The Crazies specifically. That's about it, though, apart from a couple trailers, TV spots and photo galleries. And disappointingly, Blue Underground didn't come up with anything new for their 2010 blu-ray.

They also didn't port over the new German extras, which would've been nice. Anolis's set does include the Romero commentary, as well as the trailers and galleries from the BU discs. It doesn't have the 14-minute Lowry interview, because instead they've created their own 46+ minute interview with her. They also have an all new Lynn Lowry audio commentary, which is admittedly a little redundant with the interview - she tells several of the same anecdotes in almost exactly the same way. But there's still plenty of new material across both compared to BU's brief feature. She also recorded a funny, new intro to the film for the Anolis set. There's a nice little booklet, as well; but the text is all in German. Blue Underground's DVD had a single sheet insert, and nothing for the blu.
Lowry's Anolis introduction... the video quality's higher on her actual interview.
Arrow, on the other hand, has an entirely new crop of special features.  But it doesn't have any of the extras from the Blue Underground or Anolis discs.  That Romero commentary in particular is a big loss.  What we get instead is an expert commentary by Travis Crawford, who's knowledgeable, but a little all over the place.  He's forever interrupting himself, telling us what he'll talk about later, switching topics mid-sentence, pointing out things on-screen after they're long off-screen, etc.  So it's ultimately an informed but frustrating listen that's challenging to follow.

Next up, we get a great little tour of the shooting locations in and around Evans, PA.  The host really knows his stuff, gets access inside some of the key houses, and the town has even got a little Romero museum there, so it's a really great little video tour.  Then there's an on-camera interview with Lynn Lowry and a recording of a Q&A with her from an I Drink Your Blood screening.  These are good, but if you've seen the Anolis and BU discs, you've heard almost all of this before.  There's even some anecdotes repeated verbatim between the two features on this disc.  There's a brief but amusing audio interview with producer Lee Hessel, who doesn't have very fond memories of the film.  The remake gets a few mentions as well, which is interesting.  Finally, there's a few minutes of 8mm footage shot behind the scenes of The Crazies, with some helpful audio commentary by Lawrence DeVincentz, who also hosted the Evans tour.  Finally, there are two trailers, two TV spots, alternate opening credits (with the Codename: TRIXIE title card) and a stills gallery.  Arrow's blue has reversible artwork and a card for another of their releases (mine was The Slayer).  And if you bought the Before Night and Dawn box, you also got a 60-page booklet about the three films in that set.
So to summarize, Arrow's blu-ray is the one to watch. But it's a modest enough upgrade that you might want to prioritize other titles over this one if you've already got the BU blu or even one of the DVDs. Those German DVDs are a must for Lynn Lowry fans, with all the new content featuring her; but even if you're not so big on Lynn, it's still the edition with the best extras. If you're a real fan of The Crazies, I'd recommend pairing the Arrow blu with the Anolis set.  That nets you best edition of the film and almost all of the extras.  And once you've watched the Lowry intro, her Arrow interview, her Anolis interview, her Q&A and listened to her commentary, I think you'll be 100% fine with missing out on her 14-minute BU interview. But you'll want to hang onto that Romero commentary, which again, was carried over to the German DVDs.

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