This collection presents three early films from the legendary horror director, George A. Romero, who sadly passed away in July of 2017. The horror master was best known for his series of gruesome and satirical horror films about an imagined zombie apocalypse, beginning with Night of the Living Dead (1968), which is often credited as the inspiration for the fictional zombie of modern pop culture. However, as this box of Romero delights shows, the director shouldn't be defined simply as the father of the zombie subgenre. The movies included in this box set are: There's Always Vanilla (1971), Season of the Witch (1972) and The Crazies (1973).
Before his passing, Romero went on the record calling There's Always Vanilla his worst film. The less said about this one the better, but it follows the life of a former US Army soldier, who has become a drifter and falls in love with a local actress, before completely messing it up. Completists will be happy it is included here so that they won’t have to buy an individual release of what Romero himself called "a total mess".
Quickly moving on, Season of the Witch feels closer to what you expect from a George A. Romero film. It is about a bored housewife, Joan Mitchell (Jan White), who is shocked to find out that a local woman, Marion (Virginia Greenwald), is a witch. Soon, Mitchell begins experimenting with Witchcraft herself, as well as other things with her daughter's boyfriend. The film's distributor cut major parts of the film and changed its title to Hungry Wives, marketing it as a softcore pornography film. The film tries to use witchcraft and the occult, to try and say something about the Feminist movement, but possibly due to the edits the message has been somewhat lost. Romero never fails to hold the attention of his audience throughout, though.
Finally, The Crazies is by far the best film included in this box set, and perhaps Romero's best non-zombie film. The film is about the accidental release of a military biological weapon in a small American town, and tells, essentially, two different but related stories. The first follows the civilians who have to battle both ‘the crazies’ (victims of a virus code-named causing them to become homicidal), as well as US soldiers ordered to shoot anyone on sight. The other involves the political and military leaders trying to contain the epidemic. While not quite living up to the promise of Night of the Living Dead, the film is a cult classic in its own right and was good enough to warrant a remake, released in 2010. If this was a review of just this film I'd have to give it eight stars. The other two films are interesting but not in the same league as The Crazies and Romero's zombie films.
GEORGE A. ROMERO: BETWEEN NIGHT AND DAWN / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: GEORGE A. ROMERO / SCREENPLAY: RUDY RICCI, GEORGE A. ROMERO / STARRING: RAYMOND LAINE, JUDITH RIDLEY, JAN WHITE, LANE CARROLL, WILL MACMILLAN / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW