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Dirty Mary Crazy Larry(1974)
No synopsis for Dirty Mary Crazy Larry.
For more about Dirty Mary Crazy Larry and the Dirty Mary Crazy Larry Blu-ray release, see Dirty Mary Crazy Larry Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on June 10, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Peter Fonda, Susan George, Adam Roarke, Kenneth Tobey, Lynn Borden, T.J. Castronovo
Director: John Hough
» See full cast & crew
Dirty Mary Crazy Larry Blu-ray Review
Bonnie and Clyde and Clyde.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, June 10, 2013
Note: This film is currently only available in this bundle: Dirty Mary Crazy Larry / Race with the Devil.
By the 1970s, both Jane and Peter Fonda had emerged from the rather formidable shadow cast by their father Henry, and both had achieved a certain iconic status as leading members of the counterculture. Peter of course had become an instant exemplar of the so-called "youth movement" when he co-wrote, produced and starred in 1969's Easy Rider, a film which many attribute as jump starting the Independent Era which would soon flourish in Hollywood and help put yet another nail in the coffin of the big studios. Jane had already started making waves with various activist causes in a number of social issues, including Civil Rights and, a bit later, the brief Native American occupation of Alcatraz. But shortly after Easy Rider stormed the beaches of American cinema, Jane became probably the most notable celebrity to regularly voice anti-Vietnam sentiment, including her infamous trip to North Vietnam that resulted in the "Hanoi Jane" soubriquet which still follows her around in certain right leaning circles. What's kind of ironic about all of this is that both of the Fonda children actually started their screen careers rather traditionally. Both Fondas got some training on the stage before matriculating to the silver screen, but in the early 1960s at least, both of them essayed roles that probably any young actor or actress would have played. Jane, while showing her range in such early pieces as Walk on the Wild Side, was just as often a glamour girl or "nice" girlfriend type, while Peter was a surprisingly bland leading man in such fare as Tammy and the Doctor. But there must be an almost genetic political streak in the Fonda bloodline; many people either don't know or don't remember that Henry himself was a vocal supporter of Democratic candidates and office holders through the years. And with success (and in Jane's case at least, an Oscar for 1971's Klute) at hand, both Fondas could pretty much set their own course in the 1970s. Which brings us to the rather odd pairing of two Peter Fonda films in this Shout! Factory release.
There seems to be an almost genetic predisposition in America that we sometimes—often against our better natures— tend to root for the bad guys. Bonnie and Clyde, an outing which despite its major studio imprimatur seemed to presage the coming dominance of the independent film movement, makes this tendency crystal clear. And in its own lo-fi way, Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry does more or less exactly the same thing, getting the audience to identify with a bunch of thieves and hooligans who end up leading a whole lot of police on a pretty insane high speed chase after having committed a relatively nonviolent but still disturbing heist of money meant for cashiers at a supermarket.
There is actually a third wheel in Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry, one who might be termed Relatively Sensible but Still Kind of Menacing Deke (Adam Roarke), who along with the titular Mary (Susan George) and Larry (Peter Fonda) make up the focal trio of the film. We meet Larry coming out of Mary's apartment one morning, where the two have obviously had a one night stand. Larry hooks up with Deke and the two take off in their hot rod, waking Mary, who is quite obviously not glad to be on the receiving end of a "wham bang thank you ma'am" moment. We find out that Larry and Deke have plotted a crime where Deke will hold a young wife and daughter hostage while Larry robs their husband and father (Roddy McDowall).
Larry is a former NASCAR driver and Deke is his best buddy and mechanic, and the two have dreams of using their newfound cash to reestablish their careers. Except for the fact that pesky Mary has tailed Larry and almost keeps him from getting away from the crime scene. Larry tells her she's welcome to tag along and to simply say when she's had enough. That, in essence, is pretty much all we get in terms of character background, and if Leigh Chapman and Antonio Santean's screenplay (from a novel by Richard Unekis) pays some passing attention to attempts at minimal development, it's largely for naught, for Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry is about one thing and one thing only: spectacular chases and even more spectacular crashes.
Director John Hough, who cut his teeth on the British series The Avengers and who had just experienced a major success with The Legend of Hell House directly prior to Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry, helms the film with surprising élan, given its kind of B-movie, drive-in fodder ethos. The trio is chased by a couple of diehard cops, chief among them a really resolute guy played by a typically intense Vic Morrow, who goes to untold lengths (and heights—he spends the last third of the film in a helicopter) to bring the bad guys (and gal) to justice.
The film plays on the romance of muscle cars much the same way that Easy Rider played on the romance of the motorcycle. Fonda's Larry, usually stuttering out weird little laughs that aptly help define that "crazy" epithet, starts out in a Chevy Impala but ultimately goes for a kind of yellowish-pea green Dodge Charger, managing to evade a horde of police in their own souped up rides along the way. There are a number of standout sequences here, from an opening getaway where Larry uses a construction ramp to jump over a surprised crew to several spectacular close calls as he leads his merry troupe on a journey "s-o-u-t-h", as Deke spells it out for Mary. The amazing thing about all of these stunts is that Fonda actually is driving quite a bit of the time, and that all of them were done practically. There was no process work whatsoever in this film. Hough states in his commentary that that is one reason he made sure to show people surviving (well, most of them anyway) after each crash.
Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry is a rather unexpectedly entertaining piece, given its kind of smarmy characters and its decidedly one note plot. The three stars, along with Morrow, all do very nice work, given the constraints the screenplay place on them. And Hough stages things exquisitely, drawing a nice parallel between amber waves of grain and the madmen who drive through them.
Dirty Mary Crazy Larry Blu-ray, Video Quality
Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Shout! Factory with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.85:1. This is another solid effort on the part of Shout!, which continues to resurrect films fans probably thought they'd never see in high definition, and to present them with nicely filmic transfers. The biggest issue with Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry, which in fact is not that big of an issue, is sometimes just slightly variable contrast. Some of the interior shots within various cars tend to suffer just slightly, at least in relation to what is otherwise a really nice looking high definition presentation. Colors are accurate and very nicely saturated, fine detail is quite good in the film's close-ups, and depth of field is extraordinary in some of the aerial footage.
Dirty Mary Crazy Larry Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry's original mono track is presented via a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix. The film is interesting in that it has next to no score, just an opening and closing theme. That leaves the rest of the soundtrack to be filled by dialogue and lots of foley effects in the chase scenes and resultant crashes. The DTS track is surprisingly lively, with a rather unexpected low end.
Dirty Mary Crazy Larry Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Dirty Mary Crazy Larry Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry was a huge hit for Fox, unexpectedly so, and while the film is certainly no underappreciated masterpiece, it's also easy to see why it was so popular in its theatrical heyday. The film is brisk, to the point and just one heck of a lot of fun. Anyone who thinks the (non fatal) crashes are the best part of car races is sure to love this film. Recommended.
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