Saturday, April 6, 2019

Short Attention Span Review - Dirty Mary Crazy Larry (1974)

Short Attention Span Review - Dirty Mary Crazy Larry (1974)

I may have mentioned before that I'm a big fan of the film sub-genre I refer to as "Movies on Wheels," and if so, I surely mentioned that while I still like pictures in this vein, older flicks like Vanishing PointWhite Line Fever, and this 1974 surprise hit rule the roost.  Why?  Well, because back in the good old days, there was no CGI to thank for such white-knuckle escapades.  Nope, there were real stunt drivers crashing real cars, and the cheap thrills born of that authenticity is impossible to duplicate with even the best modern effects that Hollywood has to offer.  However, there's much more to Dirty Mary Crazy Larry than the vehicular exploits, to include a great cast, a flamboyant but gritty script, and masterful direction from John Hough.  There's also a darkness at the heart of this rip-roaring jaunt down the asphalt that gives it some serious punch.  Yes, it's an entertaining film, and Peter Fonda simply oozes cool as the hotshot driver at the center of the piece, but he's also a real dick.  The movie succeeds because of Fonda's charisma and the character's nerve and skill behind the wheel.  Ultimately, however, all of the players suffer because this captivating figure is more than a little unhinged, and he steers everyone around him down a dangerous path.  The wicked ending that still gives viewers jolts doesn't come off as a cheap trick because it is totally warranted even if it does come out of nowhere.  Crazy Larry himself was practically begging for such a conclusion from the second he put his foot on the gas.  Fonda is joined by Adam Roarke, Susan George, and Vic Morrow, with an uncredited Roddy McDowall aiding the proceedings as well.  All save McDowall play intriguing but flawed parts, and while their story is entertaining as hell, the film's true impact stems from the fact that these are lost souls on destructive paths, and not the nobler and ultimately courageous types that most films concern themselves with.  No, these are bad people racing down tricky roads; some are addicted to adrenaline, some are just desperate for a score, and some wield a badge but truly serve their own need for authority.  Even those who are simply along for the ride can't claim innocence, and Dirty Mary Crazy Larry keeps us on the edge of our seats for 90 minutes and then gives all of the characters just what they deserve.  The stunt work is among the best you'll ever see, the lines* are zingers, and Hough did something daring and ultimately quite remarkable with this unlikely thriller that defies expectations at every turn.

*Exhibit A:

Larry:  Yeah, yeah.  So we got off to a bad start.  Well, ya know what it means when somebody like me gets off to a bad start?  Not a goddamn thing.

Exhibit B:

Larry:  You know what a man would do right now if he were smart?

Deke: What?

Larry:  I don't know.

The car stuff is among the best you'll ever see, but it's the grim vibe and the director's prowess that make Dirty Mary Crazy Larry so memorable.

Final Grade: A

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