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Dirty Mary Crazy Larry & Race with the Devil: Action-Packed Double Feature Blu-ray Review

Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry (1974) movie poster Dirty Mary Crazy Larry

Theatrical Release: May 17, 1974 / Running Time: 93 Minutes / Rating: PG

Director: John Hough / Writers: Leigh Chapman, Antonio Santean (screenplay); Richard Unekis (novel The Chase)

Cast: Peter Fonda (Larry Rayder), Susan George (Mary Coombs), Adam Roarke (Deke Sommers), Kenneth Tobey (Carl Donahue), Eugene Daniels (Hank), Lynn Borden (Evelyn Stanton), Janear Hines (Millie), Elizabeth James (Dispatcher), Adrianne Herman (Cindy Stanton), T.J. Castranovo (Steve), James Gavin (Helicopter Pilot), Al Rossi (Surl), Vic Morrow (Captain Everett Franklin), Roddy McDowall (George Stanton - uncredited)
Race with the Devil (1975) movie poster Race with the Devil

Theatrical Release: June 27, 1975 / Running Time: 88 Minutes / Rating: PG

Director: Jack Starrett / Writers: Lee Frost, West Bishop

Cast: Peter Fonda (Roger Marsh), Warren Oates (Frank Stewart), Loretta Swit (Alice Stewart), Lara Parker (Kelly Marsh), R.G. Armstrong (Sheriff Taylor), Clay Tanner (Jack Henderson/"Delbert"), Carol Blodgett (Ethel Henderson), Phil Hoover (Mechanic), Ricci Ware (Ricci Ware), Paul A. Partain (Cal Mathers), James N. Harrell (Gun Shop Owner), Karen Miller (Kay), Arkey Blue (Arkey Blue), Jack Starrett (Gas Station Attendant), Wes Bishop (Deputy Dave)

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What was it about driving movies that made them so popular in the 1970s? Obviously, drive-in theaters were still an attraction, which meant there was a market for mindless movies that teenagers could see on dates. But why did the mindlessness so often involve characters driving fast on dirt roads with the police on their tail?
It wasn't just the Roger Cormans of the world out to make a quick, easy, fun buck either. Major studios produced and distributed these kinds of movies on a regular basis. 20th Century Fox, for instance, released a film in that mold which forms half of this Shout! Factory-distributed Action Packed Double Feature.

First alphabetically and chronologically, 1974's Dirty Mary Crazy Larry is the slightly better-known of the two and counts Quentin Tarantino among its fans (the director chose it for the first of his semi-annual Austin, Texas film festivals).

Adapted from Richard Unekis' 1963 novel The Chase (a.k.a. Pursuit), Dirty Mary tells the story of a robbery and getaway. Larry Rayder (Peter Fonda) longs to be a race car driver, but he can't afford the needed speed. So, he and his humorless, graying mechanic Deke (Adam Roarke) decide to rob a supermarket. Larry walks calmly and unarmed into the office of grocery manager George Stanton (a brief, sideburned, and uncredited Roddy McDowall), who reluctantly hands his safe's sacks of cash over to the long-haired, denim-clad punk in big sunglasses, only after learning that Deke is in Stanton's house, threatening his wife and young daughter.

Deke (Adam Roarke), Mary (Susan George), and Larry (Peter Fonda) are on the run from the law in the 1974 driving flick "Dirty Mary Crazy Larry."

All that goes to plan, but when Larry goes to pick up Deke for their escape, he finds Mary Coombs (Susan George, whose British accent is never entirely hidden) in his car. The playful young blonde, angry to discover from the sound of screeching tires that she was simply a one-night stand for Larry, tags along. Though she professes no interest in the loot, Mary won't let herself be kicked to the curb and the guys worry she might squeal on them. So, the two-man operation now involves two men and a girl, but the group sticks to their plan to drive to their safety and freedom.

Authorities aren't about to let the crime go unpunished. Taking a strong personal interest in the matter is Everett Franklin (Vic Morrow), a police captain who plays by his own rules, refusing to wear a badge or carry a gun. Vetoing roadblocks in favor of a sweep search, Franklin calls the shots from the sky, going up in a helicopter and directing the more than a dozen officers and cars assigned to this case. Listening in on their two-way radio, Larry, Deke, and Mary stay one step ahead of the law, as they plan a vehicle change and react to unforeseen complications.

From the little of the subgenre that I've seen, Dirty Mary is representative of its brand of B-movie mobile action comedy, but better-made than most. While its aspirations are strictly limited to thrills, they are attached to a passable story and intriguing characterization. Sure, most of the movie is one chase after another, sirens blaring and clouds of dirt billowing. But the film remains enjoyable in a way and even slightly exciting some forty years after it was made.

As the determined Captain Everett Franklin, Vic Morrow spends much of the film flying around in a helicopter, the mode of transportation that would end his life eight years later in a tragic filming accident. A brief, sideburned, and uncredited Roddy McDowall plays George Stanton, the supermarket manager robbed in "Dirty Mary Crazy Larry."

Director John Hough, an Englishman with some British television (including "The Avengers") and horror film credits to his name,
made his American debut on this film and does so with some creative camerawork and good pacing. Oddly, he would go on to direct three of the better live-action Disney genre films from the studio's experimental phase in the late '70s and early '80s in Escape to Witch Mountain, its sequel Return from Witch Mountain and The Watcher in the Woods. It's tough to know how much Hough brought to this movie, but it does suggest a steady hand at the helm.

Dirty Mary seems to put a lot of thought and effort into what is meant to be casual dialogue, letting the three fugitives sling insults (of which, the nickname "Dingleberry" most sticks) and metaphors with evident (and often unwarranted) pride. The romance suggested by the title isn't exactly realized or attempted. Mary, who shows a lot of skin but seems relatively hygienic, and Larry, whose sanity is never truly in question, butt heads as if they're destined to come together. But that never happens, not with the abrupt, stupid, and perhaps inevitable end that arises. Eh, that's okay, because the fast 93 minutes spent mostly on the road feel sufficient and there was probably another movie to come at the drive-in (a reissue of Vanishing Point in at least some engagements).


The other movie on this Blu-ray offers a different kind of road picture. Race with the Devil came the following summer and also stars Peter Fonda. This time, he's Roger Marsh, a motorcycle racer who boards a stately, deluxe $36,000 RV with his best friend Frank (Warren Oates) and their wives ("M*A*S*H"'s Loretta Swit and "Dark Shadows"' Lara Parker). The couples are destined for Aspen, Colorado and they are taking this vacation in January to avoid the crowds. The weather's a bit chilly, but the group is driving in comfort and in the company of dear friends. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, while they're enjoying their late night dry martinis outside, Roger and Frank spot a fiery ritualistic ceremony in the woods near their camper. It looks like a strange orgy at first, but it turns deadly when a young woman is evidently sacrificially murdered. The seemingly Satanic cult spots the RV and takes chase with caped, shirtless men determinedly pursuing on foot, shattering the vehicle's rear window in the process. Roger and the gang do the responsible thing and report both the disturbing activity they witnessed and the attack on their mobile home.

In "Race with the Devil", two married couples (Lara Parker, Peter Fonda, Warren Oates, and Loretta Swit) hit the road in an RV destined for Aspen but get something other than the January vacation they were expecting.

The small town Sheriff Taylor (R.G. Armstrong) drives the men out to the scene of the crime at the break of dawn to collect evidence, believing their account to be the product of hippies and active imaginations. As the Sheriff fishes for alternative theories, it becomes clear both to us and our protagonists that the authorities seem to be in on this, a hint of evil lurking just beneath their friendly exteriors. Meanwhile, the wives discover a threatening runic note and hit the public library, where they steal reference books shedding light on the occult practices they seem to be dealing with.

Growing increasingly paranoid, our vacationers feel all eyes on them at the RV park they stop in. Their suspicions prove to be warranted when they return from dinner to find their dog murdered, their RV filled with live rattlesnakes, and old couples remaining creepily mum. No longer concerned with getting to ski, the gang's new plan becomes to contact the police in the next big city (Amarillo, Texas). They'll have to get there first, which is no easy task with the wide-reaching dangers they face.

Small-town Sheriff Taylor (R.G. Armstrong) is skeptical of the guys' sacrificial cult claims. The women (Loretta Swit and Lara Parker) take a look and find it's in a non-borrowable book at the public library.

Race with the Devil finds the horror in a somewhat believable scenario. It relies on a Deliverance-type portrayal of America's backwoods, but it works, terrifying us with a conceivable conspiracy doling out unrest to decent average married couples on vacation. Not utterly fixated with driving, although much of the film still unfolds in motion, Race is better than advertised and better than expected. Written by exploitation vets Lee Frost and Wes Bishop and directed by TV-bound Jack Starrett, this film offers a taut, scary, and atmospheric ride.

Two years after pairing these two '70s flicks on DVD, Shout! Factory brings them to Blu-ray on June 4th.

Dirty Mary Crazy Larry & Race with the Devil: Action-Packed Double Feature Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

1.85:1 Widescreen
2.0 Mono DTS-HD Master Audio (English)
Subtitles: None; Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: June 4, 2013 / Suggested Retail Price: $19.93
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50) / Blue Keepcase
Still available as Action-Packed Double Feature DVD ($14.93 SRP)
Dirty Mary Crazy Larry also available on Amazon Instant Video; Previously released by Anchor Bay as Supercharger Edition DVD (June 28, 2005)
Race with the Devil previously released on DVD by Anchor Bay (June 28, 2005)

VIDEO and AUDIO

Each film is presented in their 1.85:1 original widescreen theatrical aspect ratios and each film looks very good. While you can still easily identify Dirty Mary as a cheap 1970s film, its presentation is probably as good as low-budget '70s fare can get in 1080p, displaying nothing worse than occasional light grain and a few minor, infrequent specks. Based on the beat-up Fox logo it sports, you might fear what's in store for Race with the Devil, but after that opening logo, it is even more dazzling than its company, featuring excellent detail, a sharp element, and almost no imperfections.

Each film is treated to a mono 2.0 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack, which are unremarkable but adequate. Regrettably but characteristically, Shout! Factory fails to provide English subtitles over the films and extras, probably the disc's biggest misstep.

Thirty years after playing Dirty Mary, actress Susan George has aged just like you might have imagined she would. Shout! Factory gives you this visual of an old radio as you listen to old radio spots promoting these two films.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Each film is joined by the same bonus material of the 2011 DVD release of this pairing, only this time they're all encoded in high definition (but limited by source materials).
Realizing the ample value and easy accessibility of vintage marketing as well as the benefits of licensing pertinent material, Shout! comes up with a solid collection of extras.

Dirty Mary's content begins with "Ride the Wild Side" (30:29), which is less the featurette it's billed as and more a full-fledged, retrospective documentary. Produced and directed by Perry Martin for Anchor Bay's 2005 DVD release, this fine making-of includes then-new interviews with director John Hough, Peter Fonda, and Susan George. Hough and George recall coming to this Northern California production from England. Fonda recalls getting to do his own driving and Hough's willingness to let actors improvise bits. George recalls adjusting to no-rehearsal filmmaking and regrets her agent turning down percentage of profits in favor of upfront payment. Hough recalls the dangerous stunts he shot. It's a wonderful companion to the film that even includes some nifty behind-the-scenes photos.

For marketing, Dirty Mary has a theatrical trailer (2:37) which mutes profanity and features an unused title song. It's also joined by two TV spots (1:34) and three radio spots (1:54) that play over a photo of an old radio.

Peter Fonda gives us a warm look back at "Race with the Devil" in the 2005 retrospective "Hell on Wheels." The Blu-ray's top menu lets us choose between menus by using different poster designs than the cover art.

Race with the Devil's extras begin with its own featurette, which too is a mid-noughties retrospective. "Hell on Wheels" (17:53) interviews Fonda,

who reflects on reuniting with Warren Oates (their past collaborations are excerpted) and warmly recalls all the perks, thrills, and fun the film offered. It would have been nice to get some additional perspectives and get the audio commentators on-camera, but this is pretty sweet as is.

Marketing preserved for Race consists of a theatrical trailer (2:09), a single rough-looking 30-second TV spot, and three radio spots (1:59) set against that same old radio image.

Finally, buried under Audio Options, we find an audio commentary for each film. On Dirty Mary, director Hough is questioned by Martin and reflects fondly on the film, going into greater detail about the casting, the cast, and the specifics of filming. It's an enjoyable listen and one I'm glad has survived, unlike Hough's Watcher in the Woods commentary for Anchor Bay.

Race with the Devil's commentary features executive producer Paul Maslansky and actress Lara Parker, with disc producer Martin again serving as moderator. They recall the effects of the studio's decision to replace Lee Frost as director after a few days, filming around San Antonio, the film's blurred nudity, and working with a dog, snakes, and accomplished co-stars. It's another good track that fans of the film are sure to appreciate.

Each film gets its own scored menu which play clips alongside original poster art and listings, a variation of which also features as a pop-up menu. Though the disc does not support bookmarks, it does resume unfinished playback.

The translucency of the plain blue keepcase is exploited to feature different poster art and billing blocks for each of the two films on the cover art's reverse side.

A low-flying police helicopter challenges a beat-up 1969 Dodge Charger in the climax of "Dirty Mary Crazy Larry." After his misadventures in this double feature, Peter Fonda should probably stay off the road for a while.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

This Shout! Factory Double Feature Blu-ray would have been a respectable disc with half of its content. With all of it, including surprisingly great presentations and an impressive slate of substantial bonus features, it is a pretty terrific value. Making it all the better is that the two movies hold up well even without any personal nostalgia. The unfortunate lack of subtitles is really the only disappointment of this fine set and most viewers should be able to overlook that.

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Reviewed May 26, 2013.



Text copyright 2013 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1974-75 Twentieth Century Fox, 1974 Academy Pictures Corporation, and 2013 Shout! Factory.
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