Saddle up, motor heads, because someone finally (thankfully) saw fit to release one of the classic high-speed car chase films of all time onto DVD in that of Dirty Mary Crazy Larry (1974)...and who doesn't love 93 minutes of high octane, exhaust pumping, tire squealing, rubber burning, celluloid muscle car mayhem? Well, probably any number of people, but who cares? There's plenty out there to keep them happy...like The Piano...one of my girlfriends favorite films...shudder...anyhoo...this wonderful bit of Americana was directed by...an Englishman named John Hough, who made his initial mark directing the very popular early 60's spy show `The Avengers', before moving on to such feature films as Twins of Evil (1971), The Legend of Hell House (1973), and Escape to Witch Mountain (1975)...I think this was actually the first American film he directed...starring in this film is Peter `Heavenly Blues' Fonda (The Wild Angels, Easy Rider, Race with the Devil), Susan George (Fright, Die Screaming, Marianne, Straw Dogs), and Adam Roarke (Nam's Angels, Frogs). Also appearing is Kenneth Tobey (Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, X-15), Roddy McDowell (Planet of the Apes, The Poseidon Adventure), and Vic Morrow (The Bad News Bears, Humanoids from the Deep).
As the film begins we see a character named Deke (Roarke) arriving at a roadside motel, picking up another character named Larry (Fonda), who is indeed the `Crazy Larry' portion of the title. As Larry leaves his motel room we see yet another character, named Mary (George), sprawled out on the bed...and, if you guessed her character was the `Dirty Mary' portion of the title, you'd be right...we'll learn later how they were blessed with these particular modifiers attached to their names...anyway, Larry and Deke proceed to rob a grocery store, but not in the usual way one would go about it, you know, with guns and such, but in a unique way that allows Larry to stroll in, pick up a load of cash, and stroll back out...their method appears to be the result of a great deal of planning, but the plans goes slightly awry when Mary shows up, annoyed by the fact that Larry left her after their one night stand without saying goodbye (you can begin to get a sense as to why she's called `Dirty Mary'). The trio takes off, and soon afterwards the police get involved, particularly Captain Everett Franklin (Morrow), who, for some reason, seems to take the robbery a bit too personal. After some close calls and fast escapes, the group transfers to a souped-up 1969 limelight yellow Dodge Charger and the real fun begins as the police employ any number of tactics, including a bear in the air (that's tactical surveillance using a helicopter), but Larry, who's fearless behind the wheel) and Deke have a few tricks up their sleeves and under the hood...
I remember seeing this film way back in the mid 1970s on television, but I couldn't recall much except for the Charger and the spectacular ending, which I won't reveal as its quite a kick in the guts, and I'd hate to spoil it...the plot is pretty simple, with some rather complex characters. The reasoning behind the robbery involves Larry, who's a racecar driver, and Deke, his mechanic, wanting to get back on the racing circuit desperately in need of a car, which costs money. Conventional methods have failed, so they resort to theft by means of an elaborate and well thought out plan. The character of Larry is interesting as he's not what one would consider a `people' person, but put him behind the wheel and he'll drive the hell out of a car, which, for some reason, seemed a perfect match for that of Peter Fonda, at least back in 1974. It's not that he's intentionally mean, but he lives within the moment, his head filled with visions of NASCAR grandeur, and his relationships with others seem to only extend far enough as to not interfere with his real passion, that of driving, and driving fast...his mechanic Deke understands this, and allows Larry a certain amount of leeway in terms of taking the verbal pot shots offered up by Larry. Mary, on the other hand, takes exception at the verbal abuse directed towards her by Larry (at one point her called her `Supercrotch', and it wasn't meant in a positive manner) as she desperately wants his attentions, resorting to various annoying, obnoxious, smart mouthed tactics to get it (by the way, the `Dirty' part of Dirty Mary comes from the sense that she's gotten around quite a bit, if you know what I mean)...apparently she's hooked on Larry due to the fact that she sees him as a means to get out of the probable humdrum life in the small town, and also because he has the qualities a strumpet like herself admires (I get the feeling she's not terribly particular when it comes to men). I was surprised how well Ms. George (I have to admit, I'm not her biggest fan) did in her role, especially being able to mask her English accent...but then I read where some of her dialog was dubbed, so I guess she didn't hide it as well as I thought. And then there's Captain Franklin, played by Morrow...I really liked how he wasn't presented as an idiotic buffoonish type, but as a smart, no-nonsense agent of law enforcement with a bit of a vindictive side. From what I've said so far, you may be thinking `What's all this junk about characters and such? I thought this was a chase film.' Well, don't let my jibber jabber put you off...it is...and there's plenty of action throughout the film. One aspect I really liked about the stunts were that they were all kept within the realm of reality...there weren't really any overly spectacular car flips, wipeouts, or explosions...what I mean is the stuff you find in other films where the filmmakers really try to go over the top to impress the audience. Here there's a feeling of plausibility that comes from honest to goodness stunt work sans all the pyrotechnics. One could almost smell the burning of the rubber, feel the force within the cars as their engines surged forth, and taste the dust kicked up as the pursuit leads down unpaved, backwoods California roads. All in all, a well-crafted, exploitive actioneer from the mid 70's with some good acting, excellent direction, a trim and amusing script (a good deal was improvised), and a whole lot speed.
Anchor Bay entertainment provides an excellent looking widescreen (1.85:1) picture, enhanced for 16 X 9 TVs, on this `Supercharger edition' DVD release, along with three audio tracks including Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Digital 2.0, and PCM Mono. There are a number of special features including a newly made documentary titled `Ride the Wide Side' (30:26) with interviews from director John Hough, Peter Fonda, and Susan George, along with a commentary track with Hough moderated by DVD producer Perry Martin, two theatrical trailers, two TV spots, three radio spots, a commercial for the 1969 Dodge Charger, talent bios, poster & still gallery, previews for other Anchor Bay releases like Race with the Devil (1975), Butch & Sundance: The Early Years (1979), Moving Violations (1985), and License to Drive (1988), and a six page booklet inside the DVD case chocked full of interesting information about the film, with the cover displaying an reproduction of the original poster for the film.