January 4th, 2008

DIRTY MARY CRAZY LARRY (1974) ***

A washed up stock car racer named Larry (Peter Fonda) and his loyal mechanic (Adam Roarke) get kicked out of Nascar and resort to robbing a grocery store to ensure their retirement.  Their clean getaway is hampered by the appearance of Mary (Susan George), Larry’s one night stand, who stows away in their getaway car and tags along for the impending statewide police pursuit led by the grizzled Detective Franklin (Vic Morrow). 

 

Directed by John (The Howling 4:  The Original Nightmare) Hough, this slick and entertaining good ol’ boy car chase flick is worth a look for the excellent performance by Fonda and of course the spectacular car stunts.  Fonda drives his Dodge Charger over a bridge, in between two Semis and in the end, headlong into a speeding train, but the best stunt is when the Charger and a police helicopter play cat and mouse with each other. 

 

Even though Fonda and company make one too many pit stops along the way, whenever Fonda is putting the pedal to the metal, Dirty Mary Crazy Larry is still a lot of fun.  Fonda is always a treat to watch when playing an establishment hating outlaw and Morrow gives a terrific performance as his wily pursuer.  The colorful supporting cast which includes Kenneth (The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms) Tobey and an uncredited Roddy (Planet of the Apes) McDowall also adds to the fun.    

 

Fonda gets all the movie’s best lines like “If you try another stunt like that I’m going to braid your tits!” and “Every bone in her crotch, that’s what I’m going to break!”

RACE WITH THE DEVIL (1975) ***

The stars of two of the best car chase movies of the 70’s, Peter (Dirty Mary Crazy Larry) Fonda and Warren (Two Lane Blacktop) Oates unite for this uneven but entertaining road trip thriller. 

 

Fonda and Oates play vacationers who along with their wives (Loretta Swit and Lara Parker) take an RV out into the middle of the Texas wilderness.  While boozing it up, they inadvertently witness a satanic ritual that culminates in a human sacrifice.  The local law (R.G. Armstrong) is slow to believe their story and suggests they head out of town.  But it seems no matter where they go; they are hunted by the bloodthirsty Satanists.  The devil worshippers put a rune on their motor vehicle, kill their dog, and hide poisonous snakes in their RV.  In the end, the Satanists try to run them off the road while Fonda fights them off with a shotgun. 

 

Director Jack (Slaughter) Starrett does a solid (if unspectacular) job behind the camera.  The film’s set-up when Fonda and Oates discover the Satanists is creepy and atmospheric but Starrett’s real forte is the action.  The scenes where the Satanists jump off moving cars onto the RV and try to break in are impressive (the final section of the film somewhat resembles Night of the Living Dead in a moving mobile home with Satanists instead of zombies), and some of the stunt work is pretty incredible.  Unfortunately, Starrett lets the pacing slacken up considerably during the film’s saggy middle section.  Had the film not made a lethargic detour and kept it’s eyes on the road, it could’ve been a classic. 

 

Despite a couple potholes, it’s Fonda and Oates’ considerable chemistry that holds the movie together.  This was their third movie with one another (The Hired Hand and 92 in the Shade being the others) and by this time their camaraderie off screen transferred easily on film. 

 

Like most movies, this one is set to be remade.