Judge Patrick Bromley is both dirty and crazy.
There's nothing they won't try!
Boy, they don't make drive-in movies like this anymore. Probably because they don't make drive-ins anymore.
The car chase movie, a staple of low-budget exploitation films in the 1970s, is still around in contemporary Hollywood. Now, though, it's called Fast & Furious 6 and it costs upwards of $200 million. Leave it to Shout! Factory, one of the premiere labels for releasing cult movies, to bring back the good old days of racing movies with a double feature of two classics, both making their debut on Blu-ray.
First up is the excellently titled Dirty Mary Crazy Larry, which stars Peter Fonda as Larry, Susan George (Enter the Ninja) as Mary and Deke (Adam Roarke, Return From Witch Mountain), whose name is left out of the title, presumably because Dirty Mary Crazy Larry and Deke doesn't have the same ring to it. Larry and Deke are would-be pro racers who rob a grocery store; Mary is a girl that Larry slept with and ditched who now refuses to be ignored. She insists that she be allowed to tag along with Larry and Deke, who are now outrunning the sheriff (Vic Morrow, Twilight Zone: The Movie) and his entire police department, now giving chase.
Dirty Mary Crazy Larry is a textbook car racing movie from the '70s: cool cars, great practical driving stunts and looong stretches of largely inane dialogue. When people complain about the "boring" stretches in Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof, they don't realize that he was following a very specific model. Dirty Mary Crazy Larry is more tolerable because of the performances of Fonda and George, who give the movie an edge—they're funny, but there's a darkness to them that makes things feel unpredictable.
What makes the movie, though, are the car stunts, and they're pretty terrific—there's a reason the movie is name checked by Stuntman Mike in Death Proof. It's hard to care about the characters, and not just because they're antiheroes in the tradition of Bonnie & Clyde (which the movie pays tribute to in more ways than one). There's a nihilism to the movie that's hard to wrap one's head around, but when the cars are driving fast and smashing into one another, all of that melts away.
The second movie contained on Shout! Factory's excellent double feature is the 1975 chase movie Race With the Devil, which once again stars Peter Fonda. This time, he's partnered up with the great Warren Oates (Major Dundee) as friends who, along with their wives, load into an RV and begin driving from Texas to a ski trip in Colorado. Along the way, they become the target of a Satan worshipping cult, who chase them relentlessly. That's pretty much it, plot-wise.
Race With the Devil is an even better movie than Dirty Mary Crazy Larry, and not just because Warren Oates is in it. I'm a fan of "gear shift" movies, in which a film starts out as one thing and then becomes another entirely. Race With the Devil starts out as a chase movie and gradually morphs into a full-on horror film; while Satanic cult members make for boring villains (and date the movie in a 1970s fear of paganism—the backlash against the liberation of the late '60s), there is something about their faceless persistence that eventually makes them kind of scary. They might as well be zombies or the aliens in Aliens. Like Dirty Mary Crazy Larry, Race With the Devil is a nihilistic movie, but to a point—it isn't just being bleak for the sake of living fast, dying young and leaving a good looking corpse. Race With the Devil wants to shake us up and it does. While just a mostly-forgotten exploitation movie, its influence is still felt today in movies like House of the Devil and Kill List and, yes, Death Proof.
Both films look good making their debuts on Blu-ray. Shout! Factory gives both a full 1080p HD transfer, and though they look their age—these are 40-year-old movies that were made on the cheap to begin with—the studio has done a good job cleaning them up while maintaining that '70s "film" look. Are these the best HD transfers on the market? Far from it, but fans should be pleased to have the best possible-looking versions of these movies. The lossless stereo audio track that accompanies both films gets the job done, balancing the dialogue with the roar of the engines (in the case of Dirty Mary Crazy Larry, there is basically no score to contend with, either). With movies like this, you kind of want all the sound coming out of one or two channels to replicate the mid-'70s theatrical experience—or, even better, the drive-in.
The extras on the disc have been carried over from Shout! Factory's 2011 double feature DVD of the same two titles, which also repackaged the bonus features from the Anchor Bay releases of the movies, which are now out of print. Dirty Mary Crazy Larry comes with a commentary track from director John Hough and moderator Perry Martin in which they discuss the production and the context in which it was made. British Hough is a little drier than you might expect for someone who made a movie so raucous, but it's a very listenable conversation. Also included is a featurette, "Ride the Wild Side," which features retrospective interviews with Hough, Fonda and Susan George. A marketing gallery, which includes TV and radio spots as well as the film's original theatrical trailer, round out the bonus features for the first title.
Race with the Devil features a retrospective piece similar to the one on Dirty Mary Crazy Larry; this one's called "Hell on Wheels," and it's really just an 18 minute conversation with Peter Fonda about the making of the movie. This time, the commentary is recorded by producer Paul Mastansky and actress Lara Parker, once again moderated by Perry Martin. A similar collection of movie marketing—radio ads, a photo gallery and a collection of trailers—are also included.
Shout! Factory has packaged together a great double feature of cult racing movies, and they're different enough from one another that they can easily be watched and enjoyed back to back. If you already own the DVD double feature, it's not really worth the upgrade—the ceiling on the A/V quality is limited because of the source material, so there's not that much of an improvement over standard def—but if you don't and you're a fan of exploitation movies, check it out. If there's one thing I learned from these two movies, it's this: never get into a car with Peter Fonda.
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Scales of Justice, Dirty Mary Crazy Larry
Perp Profile, Dirty Mary Crazy Larry
Studio: Shout! Factory
Distinguishing Marks, Dirty Mary Crazy Larry
Scales of Justice, Race With The Devil
Perp Profile, Race With The Devil
Studio: Shout! Factory
Distinguishing Marks, Race With The Devil
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