Over the past few years, the world of the big screen genre film has seen a massive up swing.
Thanks to films like Hobo With A Shotgun, the Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez Grindhouse double feature, and with regards to this new ‘Action-Packed Double Feature’ collection from Shout! Factory, something like Drive Angry 3D, the B-movie has become big time business for A-grade studios.
However, it’s also become something of a renaissance on the home video front as well, primarily thanks to Shout! Factory and their collection of Roger Corman DVD sets. While not graced with the title of a ‘Roger Corman Cult Classic’ like Death Race 2000 or Rock & Roll High School, Shout! has released two of the most iconic car chase cult pictures that the sub-genre has to offer, in a rather brilliant 2 disc DVD set.
First up, you have the iconic Dirty Mary Crazy Larry. Overtly referenced in Tarantino’s portion of the aforementioned Grindhouse duo, Death Proof, the Peter Fonda-starring Dirty Mary follows the titular characters, in what has become one of the more legendary members of the ‘˜70s B-movie chase film genre.
Larry and Mary, two lovers, team up with the former’s mechanic, to rob a grocery store, only to be chased by cops who will literally stop at nothing to bring these criminals down, be it by car or even by helicopter. Simple premise be damned, this film is still to this day, an absolute wonder.
Overall, Dirty Mary does in fact feature both a ludicrously simple plot, with characters about as drawn out as a piece of blank construction paper. Given entertaining performances by both Fonda and his co-star Susan George, the film itself may lack a compelling narrative, but more than makes up for it in both its performances, as well as its action.
The action here, and particularly its choreography and stunt work, is truly to behold. From chase to chase, the film really holds up well here, and given today’s landscape of CGI and little to no stunt work, is a time capsule from a much more interesting and action packed time. The ending is absolutely fantastic, and while it may lack the existential nature of something like Two-Lane Blacktop or, to keep it in the Death Proof discussion, Vanishing Point, the film more than makes up for it on the action and performance side of things. Fonda is a hoot here, giving a lot of emotional connection to an otherwise weak narrative and character set.
However, to me, the true star of this release has to be Dirty Mary’s partner in crime, Race With The Devil.
Also starring Peter Fonda, the film sees the icon teamed up with Two-Lane Blacktop star Warren Oates, as the male halves of two couples who find themselves on a vacation together, inside an R.V., from Texas to Colorado. However, they also find themselves embroiled in the middle of something wholly different; something wholly darker; something wholly satanic; after witnessing a murder one night.
Playing like the long lost father of this year’s Drive Angry 3D, Race is an absolute masterpiece, if such a word can be tossed around for a devil worshipping chase picture.
The film itself does have a few issues. It takes a minute to really get going narratively, and there are also a few set pieces here that are paced a tad awkwardly. However, from the first frame to the last, I cannot think of a Shout! Factory release that has had me wholly gripped quite as much as Race With The Devil had.
Performance wise, this film is top notch. Both Fonda and Oates really add a lot to this film’s cast, as do both Swift and fellow female lead, Lara Parker, who herself may be the biggest star of this cast. All hold their own weight here, giving a lot of depth to characters that for all intents and purposes, could have become caricatures. Each taking on specific traits, you are privy to four different characters, four different voices, and four wholly fleshed out beings.
That all said, the atmosphere is what I’ll take away from this film. Genuinely a frighteningly creepy feature, director Jack Starrett not only had an assured hand when it comes to his action direction (featuring a collection of really fantastic set pieces), but also with the satanic aura that the film finds itself in throughout its runtime. It’s the epitome of a slow-burn style thriller, but it’s also one that ultimately pays off for the viewer in what is one of the most interesting and haunting endings you’ll see from this era.
As a two-disc set, this is really a wonderful little collection. As far as mishaps go, the set that I reviewed for this post did have the two discs misprinted, with the Dirty Mary art on the Devil disc, and the other way around, but with regards to quality, you really can’t go wrong.
Overall, the sound and video for the films were top notch, as far as DVD releases go. Perfectly mixed sound and some really vivid video quality, makes these releases likely the best bets you’ll find for these otherwise rare little features. Supplements were featured as well here, including a commentary for each film, with Dirty Mary featuring one with director John Hough and Devil getting one with producer Paul Maslansky and actress Laura Parker. Both are really fantastic little audio tracks, particularly for those who do truly enjoy these films, and the craft that goes behind them. Devil’s is my favorite, as I feel it is both the most insightful, and also the most entertaining, so definitely toss that one on after checking out the film. Both collectively come with trailers, TV spots, radio spots, and still photos, with Dirty Mary receiving a 30 minute featurette, chock full of interviews, and Devil, which came with an interview with Fonda.
Personally, you would be hard pressed to find a better way to spend some extra money you may or may not have. It’s a wonderful release featuring top notch features, and two of the most influential B-movies from the mid ‘˜70s. An absolute must-own.