The Movie Waffler DVD Review - <i>Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry</i> (1974) | The Movie Waffler

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DVD Review - Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry (1974)

Reissue of the high-octane 70s speedster flick from Odyssey DVD.

Directed by: John Hough
Starring: Peter Fonda, Susan George, Vic Morrow, Adam Roarke


There is a tendency among film buffs of a certain vintage to view the 70s as the golden age of independent American cinema. This may be true, but it also leads to the veneration of meat and potatoes by the numbers flicks like Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry. John Hough’s car chaser is essentially Smokey & the Bandit in counter culture fancy dress, borrowing one of Easy Rider's stars and a (in a literal sense) end of the road ennui.
Hough was one of those directors who could turn his hand to anything, be it TV, Disney, Hammer or Howling sequels, an efficient craftsman with no individual identity. There is nothing wrong with a bit of B-picture fun; it may lack the high mindedness of the script's intentions but it does hit all the road movie buttons you would expect.
Nascar racer Larry (Fonda) and mechanic Deke (Roarke) plan to rob a supermarket manager (Planet of the Apes' Roddy McDowall) in order to fund their dreams of building a super-car that can push them into the big leagues. Their seamless robbery goes awry, and they are joined by one night stand and irritant Mary (George). To add to their woes, they have also aroused the interest of tenacious Sheriff Franklin (Morrow), a man on a mission who is out to stick it to Larry, and his superiors who want to reign him in.
The initial robbery is handled well. A sense of menace runs throughout, as we know little of the criminals. Roarke plays it as though we may be in the midst of an incipient psychopath. It’s a nail biting opening that jars with the more freewheeling sensibilities of the middle act. Fonda does his usual stolid routine and Roarke is good value as a recovering alcoholic. Susan George struggles with her redneck wild child with an all over the shop accent. She also has something of a thankless role, being one part irritant and two parts saviour of the boys. In truth, she seems put there just to prove that Larry and Zeke are red blooded American men and not getting it on together in the back seat when it gets cold.
Deke and Mary are peripheral to the real duel however, as this is a two-hander between Larry and Franklin, both irascible hot heads, two sides of the same coin whose obsessiveness could be the downfall of them all.
It does feel like a Burt Reynolds film with the comedy removed, and has a big problem with the character of Larry, the putative hero of the piece. How do you root for a guy who berates his friend, using his recovery from alcohol addiction as a way of scoring cheap points off of him, and threatens to break every bone in the crotch of his girlfriend, which not only lacks a certain gentlemanly grace but also a rudimentary knowledge of the skeletal structure.  This is fine if you are creating a character study of a flawed human being ala Five Easy Pieces, but as a man of action living the dream of sticking it to the man, he just comes across as a jerk.
Everybody wins and everybody loses is about the level of subtext here in flatland America, and (with the exception of Morrow's dogged, brilliant performance) everyone acquits themselves well without ever being outstanding.
An essential purchase for road movie enthusiasts, but an amiable Sunday afternoon time waster for everyone else.
(No extras on disc.)
6/10
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