DVD REVIEW: DIRTY MARY, CRAZY LARRY / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: JOHN HOUGH / SCREENPLAY: LEIGH CHAPMAN, ANTONIO SANTEAN / STARRING: PETER FONDA, SUSAN GEORGE, ADAM ROARKE, VIC MORROW / RELEASE DATE: SEPTEMBER 15TH
We meet our anti-heroes Larry (Fonda) and Deke (Roarke) as they are pulling off an audacious ransom/extortion demand on an executive (an uncredited Roddy McDowall). This money will enable Larry to enter a NASCAR racing tournament on the other side of the country. But he has just had a one-night stand with a pretty blonde, Mary (Susan George), and he's not too pleased to see her sat in the passenger seat of his getaway vehicle. She insists on tagging along, and with the police on their trail sooner than they'd hoped, they have no choice. Sheriff Franklin (Morrow - a great character actor, now more famous for losing his life - and head - while filming John Landis' Twilight Zone the Movie section) is in lukewarm pursuit; outwitted on almost every turn, commanding his troops from the air in the police helicopter (better to be in rather than under it, we suppose).
Cue ninety minutes of car chase action, interspersed with some fantastic humour and great, if not too OTT, crashes along the way. With a rough line in 'of its time' dialogue (he tells Mary to 'braid her tits' at one point), Larry is abrasive, selfish, and incredibly focused, although despite the methods, has only valid intentions at heart.
Dirty Mary, Crazy Lazy almost epitomises the '70s Americana car-chase movie, despite being directed by a Brit (Hough, Twins of Evil, The Legend of Hell House). There's no fat on these bones; it concludes as quickly as it begins, but that's not a negative. It's a dour, full stop of an ending that underlines the recklessness and single-mindedness of Larry and, indeed, a generation.
Without resorting to the slapstick of the later Smokey and the Bandit films, it still manages to be a whole lot of fun, cramming a few gags in among with the spills, thrills, and crashes. Fonda, already a pop culture icon at this point, is suitably laid-back as the career-driven Larry, while Roarke (also a veteran of the bikesploitation movies of the time) plays his put-upon mechanic Deke with a weary, defeatist edge. Morrow's rogue sheriff really shines, eschewing the need of a badge or gun, his dogged pursuit of the trio gives the film a fun edge.
It's a great time-capsule film, almost forgotten in cinema history, but well worth seeking out, particularly as it's been released on DVD for the first time in the UK by Odyssey Video.