When you hear about 70's car chase films; it's usually about Bullitt, The Vanishing Point, or the car chase from The French Connection. You don't often hear about Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry, which is surprising, because after seeing it for the first time; I think it's easily one of the best of the bunch. It has charismatic performances, an intriguing reason for the chase, and most importantly the car chases are top notch.
Five years after Easy Rider made Peter Fonda an icon of the 60's, and one of cinema's most beloved anti-heroes; he's back on the road as Larry, a dirt-track race car driver with Nascar dreams. He and his partner/mechanic Deke, need a lot of money to buy a car and an opportunity to race with the best. At the very beginning of the film, they pull off a fairly ingenious robbery of a grocery store's safe, without guns and no one getting hurt. They think they've pulled off the perfect crime, with plenty of time to get away. Their plans are thrown for a bit of a loop when Mary, who Larry had a one-night-stand with the night before the robbery, insists on coming along.
What follows is almost an hour straight of car racing, they're often being chased, but even when they're not, Crazy Larry, lives up to his name, by making many unnecessarily dangerous maneuvers. From the moment she gets in the car, Larry and Mary are bickering like an old married couple, with poor Deke, sitting in the back, having to listen to it all, while also trying to be the voice of reason. They make a couple of quick stops; to fix the car, to lay low for a few minutes and change cars, but they're always quickly back on the road. Once they've changed cars, a sweet lime green Dodge Charger, it's non-stop chasing. Whether they're going up against twenty cops or just one who fancies himself a racer, in a souped-up cop-car, and even a helicopter (see below), Larry proves himself the best driver on the road. Only at the very end does he make a very surprising mistake; which goes along with the nihilistic endings of many 70's films.
The film is full of very real and exciting car chases, plenty of jumps, close-calls and pile-ups. In the beginning of the film, the characters are not easy to root for, they do some despicable things, but through the course of the film, you're brought into their dream and want them to escape; Mary has her own reasons for wanting to get away. Peter Fonda and Susan George have a great and easy chemistry together as Larry and Mary. Vic Morrow is entertaining as the rogue cop chasing them, willing to do anything to make the capture. They really don't make films like Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry anymore. - Grade: B