Movies From the Black Lagoon: Dirty Mary Crazy Larry

Movies From the Black Lagoon
Dirty Mary Crazy Larry - 1974, Rated PG
By Tom Doty

In April of 1974 audiences were thrilling to "The Poseidon Adventure." It was a box office juggernaut that started the "disaster" film craze and featured an all star cast that was decimated over the course of the film's running time as they strived to escape a capsized luxury liner. The film was box office dynamite but was eventually ousted by "Mary and Larry."
The plot is pretty simple. Two guys rob a grocery store (using a technique cribbed from "The Friends of Eddie Coyle") and try to escape. That's it but it suffices for ninety minutes thanks to quirky characters, a bold director (who cut his teeth directing the action sequences for a TV show called "The Avengers"), and the best stunt driving ever committed to film.
The move begins the same morning as the robbery. Larry (a NASCAR hopeful with more attitude than smarts) has just celebrated a one-night stand but sneaks out, without saying goodbye, to join his buddy Dike (who was Larry's racing mechanic) so they can rob the grocery store. Deke's job will be to hold the wife and daughter of the store's manager hostage in their home while Larry strolls into the grocery and collects the money. It's a well thought out plan and they've planned for every contingency except the last minute tryst. Turns out her name was Mary and she's smart enough to have figured out what they're up to and she means to get a share of the kicks.
By the time you reach the twenty-minute mark they've gotten the money but you'd better buckle up now because getting away with it will not be as easy they thought. Especially when a resourceful, and wily, law officer takes the case personally. What follows is 70 minutes of beautifully choreographed car chases while the characters begin to open up about themselves while dealing with the stress of a high-speed pursuit.
The finale is the best sequence and includes a showdown with a deputy driving a pimped out cruiser and an in-camera battle between Dodge Charger and a helicopter. Great stuff that is even better if you take a few minutes to watch the extras which include observations from the cast and director that shed some light on how dangerous it was to work on this film and how seriously everyone took their responsibilities.
This film may belong to the stuntmen but the actor deserves a little credit. They include a star turn by Peter Fonda who is quite credible as Larry. Fonda is the anti-Fonda as he avoids drama and underplays his roles to perfection. He is well matched by Susan George (hot off her career making role in Sam Pekinpah's "Straw Dogs") as Mary. George manages a decent American accent but she's at her best during the quiet moments when she's just taking in all of the insanity around her. Vic Morrow makes for a fine foil as Franklin. He comes across as shrewd and just proud enough that he will take this chase to the limit. There is also a blink and you'll miss it cameo from Roddy McDowall as the super market manager. He appears unbilled as a favor to the director and was also a featured player in the film they knocked off of the number one spot making April of 1974 McDowall's best month (not too bad considering his life long career included 'My Friend Flicka" and "Planet of the Apes."
This one hasn't aged a bit (scenes from Quentin Tarantino's "Death Proof" will look familiar after seeing this) and it still contains the best ending in an action movie -ever. It's an ending that's as shocking as it is sudden and it was the reason that John Hough agreed to direct the film. Stick around for it, it should be required viewing for every teen on the cusp of getting their license.
Best Line: "Will you stop calling me dingle berry?"

Tom Doty occasionally emerges from the Lagoon to check his e-mail and to read to children every Wednesday at 10:30am at Borders in Hagerstown. If you'd like to get a message to him, write to: dotyfox@myactv.net.