After lingering in DVD obscurity for years, Anchor Bay finally brings John Hough's 1974 car chase drive-in classic Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry in grand style!
Peter Fonda (of Race With The Devil and 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.
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 overall, the movie looks great.
You've got your choice of watching the film in its original English language Dolby Digital Mono track or in either a newly created Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix or a Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround mix. Closed captioning is available, also in English.
While purists will enjoy the original Mono 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.
Perry Martin moderates an interesting commentary track 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 are a pair of theatrical trailers, a couple of radio spots, two television commercials, a great vintage TV commercial for a 1969 Dodge Charger, a still gallery, and some text biographies of the key cast and crew members involved in the production.
Car chase and road movie fans, check this one out as soon as you get the chance. Anchor Bay presents Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry in a gorgeous transfer, great audio quality that provides an excellent new surround sound mix and the original mono mix, and plenty of interesting extra features. What more can you ask for? Highly recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.