December 2017


Between Night and Dawn… George A. Romero Box Set
Arrow Films/MVD
Blu-ray Review By: Jaime Pina

This set provides Romero fans with a chance to collect excellent editions of two of his most obscure films plus The Crazies in one box. He wasn’t exactly looking to be a master of horror when he started out so this set gives us a glimpse at Romero’s intentions shortly after the triumph and then disappointment of Night Of The Living Dead. Romero had stated many times that his favorite movie was the Michael Powell film Tales of Hoffmann, a musical fantasy and far cry from zombie plagues and sensitive vampires. The contents of this box consist of a romantic comedy/drama, a suburban drama that may or may not have supernatural overtones and a political action thriller.

Three years after the debacle of Night Of The Living Dead Romero and The Latent Image tried their hand at another feature film. Instead of the reliable horror film formula they chose to make a hip romantic comedy with mixed results. While the film is certainly interesting and has Romero’s fingerprints as a director stamped all over it, it is not quite the disaster he has claimed it to be but it has some problems. Judith Streiner (Judith Ridley of NOTLD) is an appealing female lead but the somewhat arrogant male lead character portrayed by Raymond Laine is disappointing in the leading man department. He simply lacks the charm to carry the film. It’s as if they thought they found the Pittsburgh Marcello Mastroianni but that’s exactly what he comes off as. On the other hand Judith Streiner looks great on camera and with her red and black hair she totally comes off as the Pittsburgh Brigitte Bardot and it works well. Too bad she didn’t make more films. There is some cool hippie rock n’ roll in the early parts of the film and it appears that Streiner had a body double during the nude scenes. It’s worth seeing as one of Romero’s baby pictures, but not something worthy of repeat viewings.

The film looks very good considering how obscure it is and the psychedelic scenes in the beginning are colorful and the sound is crisp. The making of documentary is outstanding and essential in explaining how the people behind NOTLD picked up the pieces afterwards.

Filmed under the superior title Jack’s Wife, Romero’s third feature was retitled by the distributor to Hungry Wives and then re-released after the successful release of Dawn Of The Dead as Season Of The Witch. While there are spells cast in the film Romero remains vague as to whether the craft is true or just all in the protagonists mind.

Jan White stars as a bored suburban housewife who turns to witchcraft first as a passing interest and then starts trying actual spells. She has troubles with her lousy husband and resorts to casting a spell to attract her daughter’s lover played by Raymond Laine of There’s Always Vanilla.

Jack’s Wife is low key and moody and there is a lot of talk. But it is an interesting drama with a satisfying, if slow build up and climax. White makes an enigmatic leading lady as she plays a woman stripped of all life from being stuck in a miserable marriage. She plays the role mostly emotionless in the early parts and only really lights up at the end. It’s a tough ploy for actor and director but the payoff works. Laine fares much better here as the tripped out boyfriend. The disc is full of extras although no making of doc. Included are a conversation between Guillermo de Toro and Romero, different trailers and opening title sequences and a great visit with actress Jan White carried over from Anchor Bay.

While taking steps to learn the art and business of the film craft with these early films, if he was also seeking an identity The Crazies and it’s follow-up Martin, were truly warm up exercises to the film that would clearly define him after NOTLD. From martial law to the gas masks and guns to the rebellious private citizens, The Crazies contains key ingredients he would carry over into his Dawn Of The Dead stew.

Originally titled Codename: Trixie, The Crazies concerns a chemical warfare transportation mission gone wrong. As the chemical infects certain citizens violent acts start to break out and the military arrives taking over the town and trying their best to corral the citizens without creating panic or suspicion. A small group of people tries to escape as the military tightens their grip and soon it becomes a matter of wondering if anyone in the group has been infected. Along with cult icon Lynn Lowry, the film features a few actors who would appear in later Romero films including Richard France (the eye patch scientist in Dawn Of The Dead), Richard Liberty (Dr. Frankenstein of Day Of The Dead) and Harold Wayne Jones (Knightriders).

Well acted and tightly directed, The Crazies has been widely available for years and certainly looks great in this Arrow release. There is no making of doc but there is a look as some of the locations used for the film and a delightful visit with Lynn Lowry. So the box set is great for Romero fans and the extras make it essential.