Monday, November 16, 2009

They Don't Make 'Em Like That Anymore: Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry

“Back in the all or nothing days, the Vanishing Point days, the Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry days, the White Line Fever days, they had real cars crashing into real cars and real dumb people driving ‘em.” - Stuntman Mike in Grindhouse

I first heard of Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry (1974) through Quentin Tarantino’s half of the Grindhouse double-feature, Deathproof. Tarantino name-checks the film for good reason, as it’s exactly the type of film he was attempting to emulate. Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry acts as a gritty, campy, down-and-dirty, romp of a story which exemplifies the type of genre filmmaking that simply doesn’t get made much these days – at least not in this form. And that form is the road movie, more specifically the chase film filled with fast cars wildly driving to avoid the authorities. Now, I’m no gear-head, but I appreciate a good car chase, and Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry features some fine footage along those lines. The fact that all the driving stunts had to be accomplished without the aid of CGI or any other modern-day trickery allows viewers to truly become involved in what they’re watching – if not from a story point-of-view, then at least from a filmmaking point-of-view.

Although simplistic, the story serves as an adequate launching point. As it begins, two thieves, Larry and Deke, plan to rob a grocery store and then “head south” (presumably to Mexico). Their plans become complicated, however, when a girl named Mary, who Larry had slept with the night before, almost casually decides to join them as they make their getaway. The rest of the film follows our protagonists as they attempt to avoid the authorities, making for some solid action and car crashes.

While nothing outstanding, the actors involved work to elevate the material into something entertaining. A long-haired Peter Fonda stars as the rebellious Larry, while the other titular character Mary is played by Susan George. These two enjoy a love-hate relationship throughout the film, bickering one minute and making up the next. This dynamic may be formulaic, but it serves the movie well. Adding to that dynamic is Adam Roarke as Deke, the more professional of the two crooks. He’s annoyed that Mary has wound up on the run, but begrudgingly puts up with it. Vic Marrow kind of steals the show as the aging policeman in charge of apprehending the delinquents. His renegade policeman stops at nothing to complete his assignment, essentially attempting to prove his worth.

The real highlights of the film come partially from the dialog. Some of the one-liners thrown out are both cheesy and awesome at the same time. The level of swagger from Larry alone brought a smile to my face. The ending also counts as a highlight. Without spoiling anything, it’s one of the most abrupt endings I’ve ever seen and one that I won’t soon forget. After the credits began rolling, I simply sat there, mouth wide open, at what I had just witnessed.

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