Neil (Jack Palance) owns an antique store in London. It's not terribly successful - we know that from an early juncture, when we witness Neil and his assistant Ronnie (Martin Potter) speaking about how to handle their debtors - but does act as a front for a secret Satanic coven who meet regularly in the basement.
The coven's God is an African doll with bug eyes, which goes by the name of Chuku. The legend goes that this deity offers material rewards in return for blood sacrifices. This is something Neil believes to have witnessed for himself, following an altercation one evening with former coven member Muriel (Kathleen Byron). He accidentally kills her mid-argument, spilling blood on Chuku; the following morning he discovers a horde of golden coins in a new antique.
Convinced that the statue will produce more riches if provided with a fresh supply of blood, Neil sets about keeping it satisfied - with the reluctant help of beleaguered Ronnie. First a drifter (Julie Ege) picked up in a pub. And then, when the cops start sniffing around the place, Neil ventures further afield - using drunken landlady and former flame Dolly (Diana Dors) as his oblivious alibi...
CRAZE is absolute hokum. Its director, Freddie Francis (THE SKULL; MUMSY, NANNY, SONNY AND GIRLY etc) apparently hated it. But, do you know what, it's fantastically entertaining fare.
The plot is kept simple and is propelled by an unfussy (disinterested?) direction which allows each scene to play out in rapid succession. The cinematography is attractive enough - indeed, it's a very well-lit and colourful film - but the emphasis here is very much on sticking to Herman Cohen's single-minded script and playing it all out for maximum schlock value.
Palance is great. I'm not sure what nationality his character is meant to be (English, per Henry Seymour's source novel of the same name) but his accent is all over the place. Who cares? He squints, he grins inappropriately and he plays the tough guy in that thoroughly charming, old-school manner. He's ridiculous, of course, but he never knew it.
The rest of the cast is most interesting. Alongside Ege and Dors, we also have Trevor Howard as the police chief, Suzy Kendall as a victim and a young David Warbeck as a suspicious detective. Throw in Hugh Griffith and Edith Evans, and your "wow" is fully allowed. Justified, even.
Brisk, trashy, curiously British in its quirkiness and suitably macabre when required to be - in a deliciously Grand Guignol manner - CRAZE is a film as mental and seemingly slapdash as it is endlessly entertaining. I loved every minute of it.
The film is presented uncut on Nucleus Films' excellent UK DVD. The 1.85:1 transfer is 16x9 enhanced and boasts beautiful warm colours along with deep blacks and true flesh tones. Images are crisp and detailed: there's precious little room for complaint here.
Likewise the English 2.0 audio is a solid proposition throughout, as are the optional English subtitles - well-written and easily readable at all times.
An animated main menu page leads into a static scene selection menu allowing access to CRAZE via 12 chapters.
And then there are the bonus features...
Jonathan Rigby is on hand to give an excellent assessment of the film, even drawing parallels to the likes of M, in the thoroughly engaging new documentary "Crazy Days". Filled with pertinent background information, insight into key scenes and the film's concepts - as well as its literary origins - this is a great, visually attractive and slickly edited proposition which was produced by Nucleus Films themselves. Everything from Palance's reputation on set to his character's confused sexuality is discussed in this marvellous piece, along with news of Francis's admission that he couldn't be bothered with the film. Rigby even likens a scene from CRAZE to a similar one in video nasty ABSURD!
Next up is a fantastic trailer reel for films directed by Francis. Disclaimers appear for some of the titles Nucleus couldn't lay their hands upon, but what is here is pure entertainment: previews for PARANOIAC, NIGHTMARE, DOCTOR TERROR'S HOUSE OF HORRORS, TRAITOR'S GATE, THE SKULL, DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE and many more. Beautiful.
A generous, beguiling stills gallery follows.
The disc is defaulted to open with trailers for THE PLAYGIRLS AND THE VAMPIRE and GIVE US TOMORROW.
Great film, great disc.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by Nucleus Films|
|see main review|