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There's nothin' they won't try!


Opening Statement
Although it's considered a "cult" movie today, Dirty Mary Crazy Larry outgrossed Easy Rider
and The Poseidon Adventure at the time of its release, and is a prime example of the 1970s
"car chase" movie. Now, Mary and Larry are speeding recklessly onto a long-awaited DVD,
with Anchor Bay Entertainment providing the juice under the hood.


Facts of the Case
Larry (Peter Fonda, The Trip), a washed-up race car driver, and his mechanic Deke (Adam
Rourke, Frogs) have a plan to rob a grocery store and outrun the cops to freedom. They also
have to deal with Mary (Susan George, Straw Dogs), who spent the previous night with Larry,
and now insists on tagging along for the ride. As our troublesome threesome grabs the cash
and tears up the road in their muscle car, they're pursued by a rebellious cop (Vic Morrow,
The Take) who's willing to break every rule in the book to take them down. It all leads to a
fast-driving, high-flying chase through the back roads of California, with no end in sight. Or
is there?


The Evidence
The "car chase" movies of the 1970s would appear to be a limited genre. After all, how many
different plots can be built around cool cars smashing into each other? Many of these films,
though, carry underneath them themes of freedom and rebellion. The hero of any given car
chase movie is usually a rebel—not necessarily a bad guy, but someone nonetheless on the
run from the cops. Being on the run also means the open road, and with that comes a sense
of exploration and open-endedness. There's no way of knowing what's around the next corner,
and there's no office or job to get back to. With nothing tying them down, our heroes are free to
hit the highways and see where life takes them. All this is true for our protagonists in Dirty Mary
Crazy Larry, but only to a point.

The film is a generally light-hearted action romp, but it begins with deadly seriousness, as Larry
and Deke force a store manager (Roddy McDowall, Planet of the Apes) to hand over his money
by holding his wife and small daughter hostage. Adam Rourke is a frightening menace in these
scenes, lording over the woman and the young girl. It isn't until everyone hits the road that the tone
shifts to a much lighter one. At one point, Larry comments that a race car driver never looks back
at an accident that happens on the track behind him, and instead concentrates only on the finish
line. This devil-may-care attitude exists throughout the film. The store manager and his terrified
family are quickly forgotten. Even the money, it seems, is forgotten, as escape for escape's sake
seems to be the Larry's only goal by the end. He continually refers to the entire theft and pursuit as
a "race," and does so with a cocky grin throughout. Our anti-establishment heroes never stop to
think about the consequences of their actions. Instead, it's all about thrills, and living for the moment.
As Larry, Peter Fonda gives one of his most Peter Fonda-ish performances. He's all about the
swagger and the attitude. Larry doesn't care about anyone but himself, it seems, until Deke reveals
a bit about his past, and how Larry has always been there for him.

Mary is a little more complicated. At first, feminists will cringe at Susan George's "blonde bimbo on
a rampage" theatrics, but there is more going on with the character than we initially see. Mary is
really a survivor, and she's willing to do anything it takes to keep moving. If that means stowing away
on a crime spree with two fast-driving daredevils, then that's what she'll do. Just as Larry and Deke
are always one step ahead of the law, Mary keeps a step ahead of the boys, ensuring her a seat in
their car. The sour-faced Deke appears to be the realist of the bunch, who keeps his eyes on the goal,
and keeps Mary and Larry from getting too crazy for their own good. But, in time, his tough guy routine
starts to fade, to the point where he even opens up to Mary near the end of the film. On the other side
of the law, Vic Morrow chews all the scenery he can as the relentless cop after our young thieves. But
it turns out that he is every bit the rebel they are. He refuses to wear his badge, or a uniform  and he
doesn't carry a gun. He says that as long as gets the job done, what does it matter? This makes him
the perfect foil for Larry, since they have so much in common.

But enough talk about themes and character. You came here hoping to read about car chases. How
are they? They are excellent. This is very much an "old-school" chase movie, with no special effects
and no second takes. Taking a cue from the H.B. Halicki school of filmmaking, Peter Fonda and the
other actors all did their own driving. When the car screeches around a corner at 100 miles per hour
or flies 60 feet into the air during a jump, you can be sure that's Fonda at the wheel. Several car
crashes and stunts were filmed on the fly, with real cars and little (or no) safety equipment. Not the
smartest way to make a movie, but it makes every action scene feel like it's really happening, as
opposed to the fantastical approach taken by modern effects-driven blockbusters. Maybe it's not as
over the top as today's action flicks, but knowing that it's all real cars on real roads makes the
excitement jaw-drop worthy. And then there's the ending. I'm not going to spoil it here; it's just too
good. It's also highly ambiguous. Over the years, fans of the film have debated just what it means,
with some loving how it ends and some hating it. I can't in good conscience say any more, except
that the ending truly vaults this film above just another action movie into something truly original. It's the
type of ending that you talk about all the way home when you first see it at the theater with your friends.
Click here to watch scenes from the movie! Pictures Various Movie Pics Charger Pics Peter Fonda interview Japanese Movie Poster External Links Movie Mistakes Start Your Engines: Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry Car Chase Scene Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry Review The Other 69 Charger: Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry! Pics of shooting location of Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry Movie Trailer Charger Commercial