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Dirty Mary Crazy Larry / Race With The Devil

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    Ian Jane
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  • Dirty Mary Crazy Larry / Race With The Devil


    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: 4/12/2011
    Director: John Hough/Jack Starrett
    Cast: Peter Fonda, Susan George, Adam Roarke, Vic Morrow / Peter Fonda, Warren Oates, Loretta Swit, Lara Parker
    Year: 1974/1975
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movies:

    A Peter Fonda double feature? That's right! Throw in some Warren Oates, dirt bikes, Satanists, Susan George, a giant RV and some muscle cars and you're in for what Shout! Factory aptly describes as an Action-Packed Double Feature! Here's how and why…

    Dirty Mary Crazy Larry:

    Since the Anchor Bay DVD went out of print some years ago, it's up to Shout! Factory to bring back John Hough's 1974 car chase drive-in classic Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry in grand style! Or at least, basically the same style that Anchor Bay brought it out in, which is, let's be honest, pretty grand.

    Peter Fonda (of Easy Rider) plays a race car driver named Larry who has seen better days. His career isn't what it used to be and maybe it's time he started looking at other options to pay the bills from here on out. Larry and his buddy/mechanic Deke (Adam Rourke of The Stuntman) decide that the best way to get rich quick and move on to greener pastures is to rob a grocery store and out run the police through California to financial freedom in Mexico! Unfortunately, Larry decides to sleep with a woman named Mary (Susan George of Straw Dogs and Enter The Ninja) the night before the robbery is to go off, and she decides for the two boys that she's going to be coming along on their adventure.

    When the time comes for the old snatch and grab, the three of them pull of the plan reasonably easy, robbing the store (managed by Roddy McDowell of Planet Of The Apes!) by holding his family at gun point until he hands over the goods. They hit the road in their Dodge Charger, putting the pedal to the floor and gunning it south. What they don't take into account is that the cops who gives them chase, lead by Everett Franklin (Vic Morrow of Humanoids From The Deep), while use every trick in the book to stop them cold. Dirty Mary and Crazy Larry are going to have to drive fast and furiously through the back roads of Southern California to make it out, and they're also going to have to learn to survive life with one another along the way.

    Plot wise and character wise, this film leaves a lot to be desired. The story isn't too far off from Sam Peckinpah's The Getaway (at least the initial premise) and neither Larry nor Mary are really all that memorable as people. The romantic subplot panders to the audience and doesn't add much value to the film, and the humorous moments spread throughout the film are neither funny nor interesting.

    So why bother?

    The car chases, baby, the car chases. Made in the days before CGI ruined big screen stunt driving, Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry is chock full of fantastic chase scenes and car stunts that are sure to appease anyone into muscle cars and what they can do. Not only that, but the film also features a lot of great footage of the terrain where the entire thing goes down and plenty of action throughout. Yeah, Peter Fonda kind of sleep walks through it all and Susan George isn't any better than 'just okay' in her role but the sheer volume of high speed chases and jumps and stunts more than make up for it. The pacing is tight, the cinematography is handled very well, and there's a gratuitous 'Vic Morrow as the heavy' factor that can't be disputed.

    It wouldn't be tough to argue that the film is hung on a very skeletal plot, but there's enough car chase action, explosions, and fantastic stunt work to make it easy to overlook the fact that we've seen this all before. None of this is original, none of this is high art, but all of this is entertaining. Turn off your brain and enjoy this one. It sure beats the pants of more modern fare like The Fast And The Furious or Italian Connection remakes.

    Race With The Devil:

    Jack Starrett's 1975 horror/action/thriller hybrid shows the director's roots - he got his start on 1969 biker film Run, Angel, Run and would hone his skills on such seventies fare as the Starsky & Hutch television series and blaxploitation fare like Cleopatra Jones and Slaughter. In Race With The Devil he'd combine all those elements that make for a great drive-in movie with some fun performances from two popular leading men of the era, Warren Oates (Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia) and Peter Fonda (Easy Rider).

    Written by trash master Lee Frost (director of notorious nasties like The Climax Of Blue Power and Love Camp 7) and Wes Bishop (who worked with Frost on other projects such as The Black Gestapo), the film follows two pals who run a motorbike shop together - Roger March (Fonda) and Frank Stewart (Oates). Along with their wives, Kelly (Lara Parker of Dark Shadows) and Alice (Loretta Swit of M.A.S.H.), they all pile into Frank's new $36,000 motor-home and head on out of Dallas to get some much needed rest and relaxation in Colorado, where they intend to do some skiing.

    On the first night of their trip, they decide to pull off the main highway and crash for the night in a secluded area of the Texas desert. After the girls have gone to bed for the night, Frank and Roger notice a bonfire across the river. When they pull out their binoculars to check it out, they witness a Satanic cult who sacrifice a woman to their dark master. When Alice turns on the lights to call the boys in, the cult members see them and give chase. Our four heroes high tail it out of there but the cult's fingers stretch all across the state and the travelers soon find out that the membership was a lot bigger than the dozen or so people they saw decked out in robes in the desert that night. Even the local Sheriff (R. G. Armstrong of The Ballad Of Cable Hogue) is acting suspicious, and then there's that red pickup truck that seems to be following them from town to town…

    Part action movie, part horror thriller, Race With The Devil kicks it into high gear about fifteen minutes in and doesn't let up until the end credits hit the screen. This one is all about the chase and the direction is tight, making great use of the claustrophobic RV interior and contrasting it in interesting ways with the wide open road that it's barreling down. The cultists, supposedly members of an actual sect, are creepy and convincing during the sacrifice scene, as their chants mount and their bloodlust finally boils over, and even creepier outside of the ceremony, giving knowing glances towards the travelers as they move from one location to another, looking for safe haven.

    Oates and Fonda, who also starred alongside one another in 92 In The Shade made the very same year, have got a great on screen chemistry together which makes their struggle for survival all the more interesting and all the more fun. During the action scenes, both men have the air of the 'common man' about them that make them easy to root for and easy to sympathize with.

    In short, there's enough tension and enough action in the film that you're easily able to overlook the plot holes and ridiculous premise and just enjoy seeing the two titans of 70s b-movies do their thing. Car chases, shotguns, devil worshippers, a snake or two and some creepy campers make this one well worth checking out.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry looks fantastic in this razor sharp 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Colors are bold and bright, black levels are rich and deep and there are no problems with mpeg compression at all. Though there are a few spots where you're likely to pick out some edge enhancement if you're looking for it, it's minor even when it is there and in terms of print damage, aside from a speck here and there, there really isn't a whole lot to complain about. A very fine coat of film grain is present on the picture but it's never distracting and generally speaking, the movie looks great.

    As far as Race With The Devil goes, the 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is pretty sharp, with nice color reproduction and very strong black levels that stay deep throughout the film. There aren't any problems with mpeg compression and only some slight edge enhancement and line shimmering (check out some of the plaid shirts, this is where you'll really notice it). Print damage shows up once in a while in the form of the odd speck or two here and there but for the most part it is kept firmly in check. Some moderate film grain is present but it doesn't prove to be too distracting. Overall, this is a very nice transfer indeed, with plenty of foreground and background detail.

    You've got your choice of watching Dirty Mary Crazy Larry in a newly created Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix or a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix. Closed captioning is available, also in English. While purists will enjoy the stereo mix (which sounds remarkably clear), those who have the capability should give the 5.1 Surround Sound mix a shot at least to check out the directional effects during some of the car chase scenes. Your subwoofer will get quite the work out and when the engines kick in, you're going to feel it. This track does everything right, it presents the dialogue perfectly clearly through the center channel (except where someone is talking from somewhere else on the screen) and uses the surrounds for atmospheric effects and the odd bit of background music. Overall, the sound on this DVD is handled very nicely.

    The English language Dolby Digital Mono soundtrack for Race With The Devil isn't going to 'wow ' you but it gets the job done well enough. The score is lively and rather bouncy sounding and the dialogue is always pretty clean. At times things are a little on the flat side but such is the case with most thirty year old low budget films. There's not much to complain about here. An English closed captioning option is available.

    Perry Martin moderates an interesting commentary track for Dirty Mary with director John Hough who spends a great deal of time explaining some of the technical difficulties (or lack thereof) of the stunt driving used throughout the film and who provides a great deal of technical information about the film. Hough, prompted by Martin's questions, discusses his career in general as well as how he became involved with the film, and he also fills us in on some of Peter Fonda's activity from around the same time period. It's a pretty informal commentary but an interesting listen with some interesting trivia and information presented.

    Ride The Wild Side is an all new documentary that takes a look at the making of the film through some interviews with Peter Fonda, Susan George and John Hough. Hough obviously still enjoys the film quite a bit and while he covers some of the same ground that he goes over in the commentary track, it's still interesting to hear him out. Susan George is also fun, recalling her times on set and some of the fun she had in the roll. Sadly, Peter Fonda doesn't have a whole lot to add to this, but hey, he's in there even if he doesn't seem to remember a whole lot of the details.

    Rounding out the extra features on the first disc are a theatrical trailer, a couple of radio spots, two television commercials, a still gallery, and trailers for a few other Shout! Factory properties.
    The Dodge Charger promo spot that was on the Anchor Bay disc hasn't been ported over and neither have the bios, but other than that, everything else is here.

    For Race With The Devil, Executive Producer Paul Maslansky and actress Lara Parker are joined by moderator Perry Martin for a fun and interesting commentary track. Maslansky and Parker don't need much coaching, as they both remember the film quite vividly and aren't afraid to share their experiences making the movie with the audience. Maslansky explains the ambiguity of the ending and why it was chosen and Parker has no shortage of tales to tell about Oates and Fonda on the set.

    Up next is a video interview with Peter Fonda entitled Hell On Wheels in which the star discusses his career and how Race With The Devil was completely different than many of the films he'd made up to that point, most of which were biker movies. He's also got plenty of stories about Warren Oates, as the two were friends off set as well as on, and he mentions how cold it was shooting in the desert at night in Texas. The interviews are spiced up a bit with plenty of photos from throughout Fonda's career, some behind the scenes photos and some candid shots as well.

    Rounding out the extra features for Race are a promotional still gallery, a behind the scenes still gallery, a theatrical trailer for the feature, two radio spots, and trailers for a few other releases from Shout! Factory.

    It should be noted that the discs in the set received for review, which appear to represent finished product, are mislabeled. The Dirty Mary Crazy Larry DVD actually contains Race With The Devil and vice versa.

    The Final Word:

    If you already own the Anchor Bay DVD releases, there's not much reason to bother with this set but since those two discs are long out of print, it stands to reason that if you don't have them, this release from Shout! Factory is the way to go. It carries over almost all of the special features and looks just a good as the older releases did. It's available at a very fair price and the two films both hold up really well as great examples of seventies action/drive-in style entertainment.














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