Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Released on May 17, 1974
Directed by John Hough
Written by Leigh Chapman and Antonio Santean, from the novel by Richard Unekis
Cast: Peter Fonda, Susan George, Adam Roarke, Vic Morrow, Roddy McDowall, Kenneth Tobey, Lynn Borden, Eugene Daniels, Elizabeth James, James W. Gavin, Janear Hines, Adrianne Herman
One of the most non-stop and action-packed car chase movies I’ve ever seen, and a fun one to boot; Peter Fonda, Susan George, and Adam Roarke star as a trio of losers on the run after a robbery, making their escape in a pair of punched-up vehicles—a Chevy Impala and a Dodge Charger—while being chased by car and helicopter cross-state by the local police. It was a drive-in cult success during it’s run in the summer of ’74, and is jam-packed with thrilling wall-to-wall chases, crashes, and stunts, all courtesy of British director John Hough.
Fonda plays Larry, a race car driver with dreams of taking NASCAR by storm; Roarke plays Deke, his more level-headed mechanic. Together they rob a supermarket of $150,000, which they hope will help finance their climb into big-time racing, but during their getaway they find themselves saddled with a passenger: Larry’s one-night stand Mary, played by George. The three then spend the rest of the film trying to evade police dragnets, roadblocks, and vehicular pursuit, with angry sheriff Vic Morrow working the chase via helicopter.
At first I was put off by the lack of likeable characters, and didn’t care if anyone won; our three leads were reckless fools and none too bright, while Morrow’s sheriff was nothing but a flat-out dick. But after awhile I accepted everyone for who they were, and concentrated on the chase, and the abundance of cool action sequences and shots staged by Hough. And there were other factors which made this an enjoyable watch as well: the character interactions, the constant bickering between Larry and Mary, and some good lines of dialogue that had me chuckling out loud throughout.
And those stunts! It was nice to see an action film where everything on-screen was real, and performed by real people. Many times you could tell that Fonda was actually behind the wheel when various turns, skids, and collisions took place, and it was obvious that Morrow was in the helicopter as it pursued the Charger at high speeds. One shot in particular was just plain awesome: the Charger powering into a left-hand turn with the copter right behind, tilted down to where its blades were nearly touching the ground. In fact, I love that shot so much, I think I’ll share it with you here.
Though Dirty Mary Crazy Larry was basically nothing but a ninety-minute car chase, it was done with gusto, and as a drive-in action flick it most certainly delivered the goods (and a sudden, no-nonsense ending that was just outstanding). The characters weren’t necessarily ‘heroes’ in the common meaning of the term, but you couldn’t help watching them and being fascinated by them, like one can’t help stopping and staring at a car accident…or a train wreck. (7/10)