Shout Factory’s “DIRTY MARY, CRAZY LARRY” and “RACE WITH THE DEVIL” double disc! (Movie Review)
Many might consider EASY RIDER or THE TRIP to be the infernal inception of the Peter Fonda phenomenon. As an impressionable 9 year old, however, who first encountered Fonda while he was exploding from a 12″ B&W Magnavox screen during the World Television Premiere of DIRTY MARY, CRAZY LARRY and shortly followed up by the incendiary RACE WITH THE DEVIL, the concept of this perfect double bill was already indelibly seared into my young, malleable brain.
Shout! Factory astutely combines the films for their Blu-ray debut this Tuesday, June 4 (BUY HERE). First up on the bill we have DIRTY MARY, CRAZY LARRY, starring Peter Fonda, Susan George (STRAW DOGS) and Adam Roarke (THE STUNT MAN). The film, directed by John Hough, clearly demonstrates an underlying, and vaguely supernatural uneasiness. Lets be clear, this is a southern US hicksploitaition film from the British director responsible for TWINS OF EVIL and THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE! The script was based on the 1963 visionary pre-muscle car phenomena novel THE CHASE by Richard Unekis. Director Howard Hawks originally tried to lens the project with Steve McQueen in mind for the role ultimately played by Peter Fonda. Needless to say that version never happened and the project bounced around various producers and studios. The last attempt to launch the project before it ultimately ended up with 20th Century Fox was to feature David Soul and Sam Elliott in the leads! Finally, what we ended up with in this 1975 production is all you could ask for in a smash-up film. The relentlessly pursuing sheriff (Vic Morrow, 1990:THE BRONX WARRIORS) taking it perfectly personal while avenging the supermarket manager (Roddy McDowall, THE FANTASTIC JOURNEY), whose supermarket was knocked off during an election year to kickstart the Nascar careers of the rascally anti-heroes Larry Rayder (Fonda) and Deke Sommers (Roarke). After our race car reprobates team up with Mary Coombs (George), the trio eludes an escalating police dragnet in an orgy of car chase mayhem. It has a ’69 Dodge Charger R/T 440, it has the sex appeal, it has the speed, but most importantly this film rises above many through what’s going on underneath it all. This shadowy southern element becomes apparent in the film’s last seconds and squarely elevates DIRTY MARY, CRAZY LARRY right next to VANISHING POINT and TWO LANE BLACKTOP as one of the most influential films in this genre.
The cinematography is beautifully transcendent and the primary score throughout is the roar of car engines, which are precisely and judiciously augmented by the memorable theme song only when absolutely critical for a dramatic pummeling. As a matter of fact, the arresting theme only plays in its entirety as the credits role. This film leaves you firmly under its spell.
This leads up to what arguably could have been a stand-alone release in this great double bill from Shout! Factory. Fresh from their paring in the Fonda-directed THE HIRED HAND, Peter Fonda and Warren Oates re-unite in the incredible Satanic car chase thriller RACE WITH THE DEVIL. Directed by Jack Starrett, the man who put Billy Jack in cuffs, it’s arguably his pinnacle film culminating a tapestry of high-octane cinema that began as early as his 1969’s RUN ANGEL RUN. It has a simple set-up: deep woods campers in the southern outback stumble onto a ritual Satanic murder that leads to an insane struggle for survival against a dark conspiracy. Together with wives (Lara Parker of DARK SHADOWS and Loretta Swit of FREEBIE AND THE BEAN) and their state-of-the-art 1975 Winnebago, Roger Marsh (Fonda) and Frank Stewart (Oates) must outrun and eventually engage Satanic cultists in an all-out battle. The effectiveness in the use of the lonely bleak southern landscapes makes the state of Texas one of the best characters in the film. Speaking as someone familiar with northern Texas and Louisiana, there is a starling authenticity to the scenes of their travels as more (and seemingly all) of what they encounter become part of a faceless Satanic majority in their path. If anyone can get out of a mess like this, it is the likes of Warren Oates and Peter Fonda, and they do… to a point. The ending is even more chilling than the ending of DIRTY MARY CRAZY LARRY. A grim, hopeless finale that is right up there with seminal generation-changer EASY RIDER.
This is the perfect Drive-In, mind-fuck-Fonda, double-bummer bill of the 1970s!
The Disc itself gives you a fine film transfer preserving the original 35mm aspect ratio with a standard stereo mix that should remind everyone of the drive- in.
You also get Featurettes RIDE THE WILD SIDE, featuring interviews with John Hough and Peter Fonda, and HELL ON WHEELS featuring a great Peter Fonda interview. And yes, there is audio commentary with director John Hough, Executive Producer Paul Maslansky and actress Lara Parker.