BluRay/DVD Reviews

MOTOR MADNESS BLURAY DOUBLE FEATURE – DIRTY MARY CRAZY LARRY & RACE WITH THE DEVIL

By • Jun 7th, 2013 •

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You gathered your friends together in your Ford Maverick, stopped at Shakey’s Pizza, then went to the drive-in to catch movies that featured lots of car crashes, rebellious heroes and other non-stop thrills that made 1970’s cinema so great. Shout Factory has released DIRTY MARY CRAZY LARRY and RACE WITH THE DEVIL, two 70’s smash-’em-up classics on Blu-Ray. Both DIRTY MARY and RACE, which look, sound and feel fun on Blu-Ray, star motorcycle-movie icon Peter Fonda who, in recently filmed interviews for this new packaging, lovingly talks about both movies here, giving delicious bits of background production material.

DIRTY MARY- CRAZY LARRY

It’s not too clear how Mary earned the title “Dirty”. She’s never really dirty, but “dirty” looks better on the marquee than the more appropriate “Behavioral Disorder Mary.” Certainly Larry (played with gusto by Peter Fonda) earns his title of “crazy”. Larry and his brother (Adam Rourke) rob a grocery store simply to fund their legit auto racing careers. Along the way, they pick up a wild tempered drifter, Mary (Susan George). Off they speed in Larry’s muscle car with the law in major pursuit. This hair-trigger trio will spend the rest of the film dodging, sometimes breathlessly within inches, the men in blue.

Clearly the target audience for DIRTY MARY is middle-American car culture, an audience that loves loud, fast cars, wild women and detests speed traps and local cops. It’s no accident that the
police trailing Larry and Mary are buffoonish and easily flustered. The film plays out a wild, twisted version of a car culture’s fantasy.

Helming DIRTY MARY is the youthful John Hough, who started in his native England directing episodes of THE AVENGERS. His feature film directing credits include drive-in horror hits such as TWINS OF EVIL and THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE (in fact, Roddy McDowell, the star of LEGEND, has an unbilled cameo here as the spooked grocery store manager Fonda holds up). DIRTY MARY is one of Hough’s first American works, and his view of the wide open plains and Mountain Dew-fueled car crazies makes this film a Blu-Ray must have. And then there’s that explosive ending….

RACE WITH THE DEVIL…

…is THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT on a highway. Car-and motorcycle fans Roger (Peter Fonda) and Frank (Warren Oates) gather up their wives (Loretta Swit and Lara Parker) in a massive recreational vehicle for a vacation in the mid-west wilderness. In the moonlit plains one night, Roger and Frank witness s satanic ritual where a masked high priest, wielding a dagger, sacrifices a nude woman. Our two heroes are discovered by the cultists and the chase begins. It’s suspense in high gear as the chase piles through the wilderness, an RV park, and finally the open highway.

After the runaway success of DIRTY MARY, Twentieth Century Fox rushed RACE WITH THE DEVIL into production. Despite the often unbearable suspense, I find several faults with this film. Fonda and Oates’ characters are established as loving motorcycle racing. In fact, Fonda did his own motorcycle work here. How come their amazing motorcycling skills, which are introduced many times over, never come into play? The two ladies pretty much have nothing to do, but huddle into corners and squeal. RACE’s co-writer Lee Frost started to direct, but shortly after production began, he was fired and Jack Starrett was bought in to replace him. Starrett was a talented Texas-born grindhouse movie director who already had such drive-in hits as CLEOPATRA JONES, SLAUGHTER and CRY BLOOD APACHE under his belt. He peppered RACE with much delightful horror and smash-‘em-up adrenaline. Filming commenced at a breakneck pace mostly because the studio scheduled a nationwide opening of the film only three months off. There is a debate regarding RACE’s alarming ending. Some say it’s a cop-out, others call it inventive. I feel it displays disturbing nightmare logic (which is great for any horror movie) but is terribly inconsistent with Fonda’s and Oates’ alpha-male born-to-ride characters. I refuse to give the ending away, because RACE, as flawed as it is, is a lot of fun, and who am I to spoil the fun? According to actress Lara Parker, who does a terrific commentary track here, the freakish ending was a last minute decision. Ms. Parker tells us of her own idea of the ending, and I think it would have been an improvement. Remember, she had just spent five years on the goth soap opera DARK SHADOWS, and now writes horror literature, so she does know her spooky stories! A friend of mine described that she once witnessed a similar devil worship ceremony in Texas. An animal was used instead of a person. That’s a disturbing example of life imitating art.

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