Connect with us

Blog

Fonda Drive-In Flicks: Dirty Mary Crazy Larry and Race with the Devil

Dirty Mary Crazy Larry boasts its fair share of quotable dialogue ranging between wistful philosophizing, off-the-cuff calumny, and cornball caricature.

Published

on

Back in its heyday, the drive-in circuit had its own self-sustaining infrastructure fed by production and distribution companies that specialized in churning out exploitation fare tailor-made for the easily distracted attention spans of audiences otherwise occupied with their own backseat antics. But the proliferation of home-video technologies over the last 30 years has put the kibosh on the entire ecosystem, with the few remaining stragglers often reduced to peddling second-run mainstream pabulum. Nowadays audiences are more likely to binge on the modern-day equivalent of drive-in fodder at late-night, booze-fueled congregations around somebody’s home-theater setup. The drive-in, in other words, has been effectively domesticated.

But the movies remain as rough-and-tumble and unpredictable as ever. Witness Shout! Factory’s “action-packed” twofer Dirty Mary Crazy Larry and Race with the Devil, where “double your Fonda, double your fun” proves to be the organizing principle. Dirty Mary Crazy Larry is one of the quintessential ‘70s car-chase flicks, arguably on par with the more existentially rarefied likes of Vanishing Point and Two-Lane Blacktop, a raucous and anarchic rollick that’s filled with enough laid rubber, vehicular dust-ups, and last-second hairpin turns to satiate even the most ravenous fanboy.

Dirty Mary Crazy Larry’s story is simplicity itself: In a bid to fund their dreams of glory, aspiring NASCAR driver Larry (Peter Fonda) and his mechanic sidekick, Deke (Adam Roarke), rob a rural supermarket by holding hostage the family of its manager (an uncredited Roddy McDowall), then spend the rest of the film fleeing from law enforcement—personified by Vic Morrow as nonconformist Capt. Franklin, who refuses to wear a badge or carry a gun—in the company of stowaway slattern Mary (Susan George). Mary’s “dirty,” you see, because apparently she’s been around the block a time or two. (So much for a little thing we like to call the Sexual Revolution…) The characters may remain mere thumbnail sketches, fitfully fleshed out in the occasional lull between chases, but there’s the sense that this only helps reinforce their essentially archetypal nature.

Advertisement


Amid all the squealing tires and whizzing bullets, Dirty Mary Crazy Larry boasts its fair share of quotable dialogue ranging between wistful philosophizing (“Any town’s a ’nice little town’ when you nail a broad”), off-the-cuff calumny (“This ain’t no dirt track, roundy-rounder”), and cornball caricature (“I’m gonna eat your lunch, you long-haired faggot”). Complicating the film’s reputation as a repository for back-roads Americana is the fact that it was the work of British director John Hough. Fresh from helming a dyad of horror classics, Hammer’s Twins of Evil and the Richard Matheson-scripted Legend of Hell House, Hough switches gears entirely here (in more than one sense). Drawing on his background as second-unit supervisor on action series like The Avengers, Hough lends an aura of jagged authenticity to the film’s numerous collisions and car crashes. Hough may not be thematically consistent enough to warrant the auteurist epithet (not to mention, he was quickly scooped up by Disney and put out to pasture on their Witch Mountain films), but he brings his vibrant visual sensibility to bear on Dirty Mary Crazy Larry, and it’s a far more enjoyable prospect for it.

But our loveable (anti)heroes aren’t out of the woods yet. Dirty Mary Crazy Larry’s incendiary conclusion lacks the grinning nihilism of Vanishing Point, let alone the unspooling meta-inscrutability of Two-Lane Blacktop. Instead, the film’s overly abrupt ending comes across as a rather transparent bid to drop another downer on audiences akin to the finale from an earlier Fonda vehicle you might remember: a little number called Easy Rider. Ironic, too, that just when the recently dismantled Production Code no longer required the invariable (and unyielding) punishment of criminals for their misdeeds, Hough and his screenwriters felt the need to impose one of an especially condign variety upon their protagonists. Where Easy Rider’s double-barreled finale places the period after Fonda’s anthemic declaration “We blew it,” Dirty Mary Crazy Larry’s rendezvous with mortality carries no other internal impetus than the need to end the film—somehow or other.

Compared with Dirty Mary Crazy Larry, Race with the Devil is indisputably the slighter film. Still, I like to think of it (and not entirely in an ironic manner) as “the Citizen Kane of redneck Satanist movies.” On one level, Race with the Devil is little more than an excuse for leads Fonda and Warren Oates to get together again after starring in Fonda’s follow-up to Easy Rider, a doper western (not to be confused with its lysergic cousin, the acid western) called The Hired Hand. But that’s not to say that this is merely paint-by-numbers filmmaking from actor turned director Jack Starrett, who turns up here as a gas station attendant, and the screenwriters behind the maligned mutant horror offering The Thing with Two Heads.

Advertisement


To its credit, Race with the Devil takes the time to establish the relationships between its central characters: Laidback dirt bike enthusiast Roger (Fonda) and his wife, Kelly (Lara Parker), are accompanied on their excursion from central Texas to Colorado by Roger’s business partner, Frank (Oates), and wife, Alice (Loretta Swit). Granted, these delineations aren’t exactly Shakespearean in scope: Mostly they comprise scenes where Roger and Frank compete over a dirt bike race, or when Frank enthuses about the deluxe advantages of their late-model RV (“We are self-contained, baby!”), but they do serve to add shades and contours to the characters that almost approximate three-dimensionality. So when the foursome eventually runs afoul of masked Satanists performing a human sacrifice out in the middle of nowhere, there’s at least the potential for audience investment in these folks and their fate.

Race with the Devil benefits from several effective set pieces (apart from the eerie fireside sacrifice, there’s a memorable sequence in a public pool), as well as a pervasive atmosphere of uncertainty, paranoia, and dread. Race with the Devil also contains elements of the home invasion thriller, along the lines of Straw Dogs, although the home under siege here happens to be mobile. These scenes are handled with a lightness of touch, a tinge of absurdist humor that just about constitutes comic relief. How else can you explain the sight of Fonda whacking a stunned rattlesnake repeatedly against the furniture? Fonda and Oates blast away at cultists trying to climb aboard their mobile home, and Fonda even gets into some hand-to-hand combat topside. All told, Race with the Devil definitely saves the best for last: The twist ending pays off as a perfectly perverted punchline.

Race with the Devil

Dirty Mary Crazy Larry and Race with the Devil are now available on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory. To purchase the double feature, click here.

Advertisement


Advertisement
Comments

Blog

Watch: The Long-Awaited Deadwood Movie Gets Teaser Trailer and Premiere Date

Welcome to fucking Deadwood!

Published

on

Deadwood
Photo: HBO

At long last, we’re finally going to see more of Deadwood. Very soon after the HBO series’s cancellation in 2006, creator David Milch announced that he agreed to produce a pair of two-hour films to tie up the loose ends left after the third season. It’s been a long road since, and after many false starts over the years, production on one standalone film started in fall 2018. And today we have a glorious teaser for the film, which releases on HBO on May 31. Below is the official description of the film:

The Deadwood film follows the indelible characters of the series, who are reunited after ten years to celebrate South Dakota’s statehood. Former rivalries are reignited, alliances are tested and old wounds are reopened, as all are left to navigate the inevitable changes that modernity and time have wrought.

And below is the teaser trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAcftIUE6MQ

Deadwood: The Movie airs on HBO on May 31.

Advertisement


Continue Reading

Blog

Watch: Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Gets Teaser Trailer

When it rains, it pours.

Published

on

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Photo: Columbia Pictures

When it rains, it pours. Four days after Quentin Tarantino once more laid into John Ford in a piece written for his Beverly Cinema website that saw the filmmaker referring to Ford’s She Wore a Yellow Ribbon as Tie a Yellow Ribbon, and two days after Columbia Pictures released poster art for QT’s ninth feature that wasn’t exactly of the highest order, the studio has released a teaser for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The film was announced early last year, with Tarantino describing it as “a story that takes place in Los Angeles in 1969, at the height of hippy Hollywood.”

Set on the eve of the Manson family murders, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood tells the story of TV actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), as they try to get involved in the film industry. The film also stars Margot Robbie (as Sharon Tate), Al Pacino, the late Luke Perry, Damian Lewis, Dakota Fanning, Emile Hirsch, Timothy Olyphant, Kurt Russell, and Bruce Dern in a part originally intended for the late Burt Reynolds.

See the teaser below:

Advertisement


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Scf8nIJCvs4

Columbia Pictures will release Once Upon a Time in Hollywood on July 26.

Continue Reading

Blog

Watch the Stranger Things 3 Trailer, and to the Tune of Mötley Crüe and the Who

A wise woman once said that there’s no such thing as a coincidence.

Published

on

Stranger Things 3
Photo: Netflix

A wise woman once said that there’s no such thing as a coincidence. On Friday, Jeff Tremaine’s The Dirt, a biopic about Mötley Crüe’s rise to fame, drops on Netflix. Today, the streaming service has released the trailer for the third season of Stranger Things. The clip opens with the strains of Mötley Crüe’s “Home Sweet Home,” all the better to underline that the peace and quiet that returned to the fictional rural town of Hawkins, Indiana at the end of the show’s second season is just waiting to be upset again.

Little is known about the plot of the new season, and the trailer keeps things pretty vague, though the Duffer Brothers have suggested that the storyline will take place a year after the events of the last season—duh, we know when “Home Sweet Home” came out—and focus on the main characters’ puberty pangs. That said, according to Reddit sleuths who’ve obsessed over such details as the nuances of the new season’s poster art, it looks like Max and company are going to have to contend with demon rats no doubt released from the Upside Down.

See below for the new season’s trailer:

Advertisement


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YEG3bmU_WaI

Stranger Things 3 premieres globally on July 4.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Donate

Slant is reaching more readers than ever, but as online advertising continues to evolve, independently operated publications like ours have struggled to adapt. We're committed to keeping our content free and accessible—meaning no paywalls or subscription fees—so if you like what we do, please consider becoming a Slant patron:

Patreon

You can also make a donation via PayPal.

Giveaways

Advertisement

Newsletter

Advertisement

Preview

Trending