Shout! Factory // 1974 // 181 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Daniel Kelly (Retired) // May 5th, 2011
There's nothin' they won't try!
Those looking to explore some of the great Peter Fonda's early works would do well to check out this package, a set containing his 1974 effort Dirty Mary Crazy Larry and 1975's Race with the Devil. Both films are fairly schlocky and made for next to nothing, but that doesn't alter the fact they provide a respectable dose of cheesy fun. There's nothing to trouble Easy Rider as the highpoint of Fonda's career here, but with a couple of beers and a tub of popcorn, these lowbrow endeavors might make for a unique and amusing Saturday night.
Going into the plotlines of each film specifically is unnecessary; if you like shootouts, car chases, scantily clad women, and ridiculous dialogue then it's fair to say you'll probably enjoy these flicks. Both Dirty Mary and Race with the Devil waste little time in kicking off, throwing viewers promptly and aggressively into the middle of the rambunctious adventures. Neither of the movies is particularly memorable, but they both boast a certain genre appeal; indeed, the recent Nic Cage flop Drive Angry seems to be cribbing from these sorts of B-movies pretty relentlessly. As a result it's easy to deduce that they still have some sort of active legacy in the Hollywood system.
Of course both of the films were made on a tight budget, and some of the acting and character arcs feel a little outdated, but heck, the sheer energy with which both these movies hurtle forward is timeless. Fonda also provides a commanding screen presence, even if both roles fall squarely into his comfort zone. There's a classical movie star quality to Fonda that allows him to light up any production he's in (well, maybe not Ghost Rider), and that's in full evidence with both Dirty Mary and Race with The Devil. Throughout both of the films, I found few of the supporting figures inspired similar reactions, but Fonda has enough rough around the edges gravitas to compensate.
As I mentioned above, the storytelling in both pictures is a little weak, but the action beats and atmospherically grubby aesthetic make it worthwhile. Dirty Mary has a particularly raw Grindhouse appeal (Race with the Devil feels somewhat more traditionally polished), which in this era of super slick and soulless blockbusters makes for a pleasant change of pace. The direction throughout each film is surprisingly economical and engaging, inventive camera placement and breakneck pace keeping the productions afloat, despite the lack of studio budgeting. Ultimately it's hard to write too much about these capers, they're good fun, but don't offer much of substance to dissect. However, if you're craving something brash, bold, easygoing, and more than a little exciting then this double pack is a fine rental. It's definitely more satisfying than something like Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.
Both films have a commentary to their name, although I have to say both tracks are kind of sparse and dull. Each flick also has a retrospective featurette, and these are considerably more watchable. They take an obvious and understandable fascination with Fonda, as he recalls some of the stories and anecdotes that dominated the making of each project. He's a cool subject, and his love for these trashy pieces of fluff is infectious, the actor going to great lengths in explaining his participation. Overall this is a pretty neat DVD, although due to the rowdy yet shallow nature of the features included I think a rental is probably wise. Both the video and audio capabilities are very average, but that's not wholly surprising given this release's very reasonable price tag.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 181 Minutes
Release Year: 1974
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* IMDb: Dirty Mary Crazy Larry
* IMDb: Race with the Devil