Director: John Hough
Anchor Bay/20th Century Fox

With the exciting news that Anchor Bay would be working with 20th Century Fox to release some of their catalog titles, film fans were overjoyed! It's easy to forget that among the films of New World, Dimension, AIP and other independent companies of the 60s, 70s and 80s, 20th Century Fox distributed many favorite cult titles. Maybe the biggest (besides the VALLEY OF THE DOLLS films and MYRA BRECKINRIDGE) is DIRTY MARY, CRAZY LARRY. This little-film-that-could became a huge cult item during its original theatrical release and a brief home video release in the 80s has resulted in top dollar for original copies and even gray market copies among collectors. Tarantino even borrowed a clip for JACKIE BROWN in 1997. Finally, the ultimate 70s car chase film has hit DVD in a big way and is one of the highest recommended discs of the year.

The film's sparse plot follows Larry and Deke, two rednecks in search of quick cash who meticulously plan a robbery of the local super market. However, as they make their getaway, they find themselves with an unwanted accomplice: Mary, Larry's one-night stand who tags along with the pair because she has nothing better to do. The trio are pursued throughout the state by Sheriff Everett Franklin and his bumbling police squad, and iron out their differences to become a speed-loving, thrill-seeking team.

For a film with no real storyline, DIRTY MARY CRAZY LARRY is hard not to fall in love with. Even with the incredible stunt work and action sequences, the film would be an utter bore except for the fact that the audience's attention is kept by the wonderful cast of characters and a tight script brimming with smart dialogue. All three of the leads have a great time playing these outlaws, but the top billing is well deserved for Peter Fonda and Susan George. The chemistry between the mismatched lovers is incredible, and so is their dialogue! Fonda delivers the film's best zingers, calling Susan George "Supercrotch" and threatening to "braid her tits," among other classics. Fonda had made a career of playing society rebels, from THE TRIP to EASY RIDER, FIGHTING MAD to THE WILD ANGELS, but this is probably his most engaging role. Even though Larry is introduced as a sloppy unlikable redneck, his interaction with Deke and Mary endears him to the audience and though he's being pursued by the police, the audience never once wishes for him to get caught. His cheeky grin and wise-ass sense of humor makes him an easy anti-hero to cheer for. George, after playing the victim in STRAW DOGS, EYEWITNESS and DIE SCREAMING MARIANNE, was finally given a meaty role here which should have kept her on the road to stardom. Instead, she wound up appearing in more cheesy horror films and low-budget flicks. She digs her teeth deep into the character of Mary, a sexually active vixen who tags along for the ride and craves every moment of excitement. Her sparring with Larry show all the trademarks of a ballsy Southern chick, and this is a Susan George I wish we saw more of during her career. Some of Mary's best moments are when she reveals she isn't the tough sexy broad she aims to be; her chat with Deke during a break to fix a tire is very moving and George pulls it off beautifully, straddling the character's dual personality with ease. Adam Roarke is given what seems like the least interesting character, and one wonders if the film would still work without him. But his rivalry with George, which develops into a quiet respect for one another, is a key plot element. His character, Deke, suffers from the same introduction as Larry, holding the grocery store manager's family hostage, but in subtle character touches such as his affection for the little girl hostage, we're tipped off to the fact that he's as gentle as a kitten. In the speeding car that Larry thinks is in a Nascar race, Deke is the mechanic in the pit stop...and also the voice of reason. Just as memorable is Vic Morrow as the Sheriff, desperate to catch the group in what is probably the most important crime of his law enforcement career. He is determined to bring in these criminals, and does everything in his power to do so, even attempting to run them off the road with a helicopter! Roddy McDowall appears in an unbilled cameo as the super market manager whose family is held hostage to pull off the robbery, Kenneth Tobey (THE THING) has a brief role as Franklin's superior, and look out for Bob Minor as a black cop who drives through a billboard which says "STUPID"!

And then there are the action sequences! Boy does this movie stand up to the test of time! As it is revealed in the disc's documentary, the majority of these car crash scenes were too close for comfort, with stunt men risking life and limb multiple times just for the hell of it. Peter Fonda performed all his own high speed driving, with Susan George really sitting next to him during it all! Keep in mind during the incredible sights of rolling and flying cars, side-swipes, explosions, collisions, screeching tires and helicopter chases that Hough would direct ESCAPE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN for Disney the following year. Talk about going from a rollercoaster to a merry-go-round! The most important message taken away from DIRTY MARY, CRAZY LARRY is its anti-establishment ethics. The audience eventually forgets that Larry, Deke and Mary are criminals on the run: it's the young generation against "The Man," which would explain why viewers cheer for them to cross the state line and escape from the never-ending cop cars. The shock ending is well known today, but it still packs a wallop, even for those who know it's coming. Yet another big shock while watching the film: it's rated PG!

The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is simply stunning, there's no other word to use. Where there is some grain during the opening credits and a handful of sequences, the image is clear and bright, colors quite lovely and vibrant and blacks are sharp. There are three audio options: Dolby Surround 5.1, Dolby Surround 2.0 and a standard mono track. The 5.1 track is the preferable choice, it really thrusts the sound effects.

A treasure trove of extras do a fine job commemorating the film, and this is definitely a film deserving of such lavish treatment! Director John Hough and stars Susan George and Peter Fonda appear in "Ride the Wild Side," a lengthy documentary which features many incredible stories about the behind-the-scenes adventures shooting the film. Hough discusses his origins with "The Avengers" and LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE before launching into a series of incredible tales about making this film. He talks about the influences on the film, the work ethics of the actors, the many close calls by the stuntmen, and its success ($30 million, outgrossing THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE from the same studio!). Fonda, as in his other DVD interviews, comes across as a little egotistical, but this may be where his cocksure performances stem from, so I can't complain. He spends a little too much time just telling the narrative of the film, but also shares great memories of Adam Roarke and toying with Susan George on-set. George, who had looked pretty haggard by the early 80s (watch her in VENOM and see what I mean), has aged quite well, especially considering the real-life turmoil she went through a couple of years ago (read her talent bio and be amazed that she has survived to tell her stories!). She discusses some of the surprises Fonda threw her way during shooting and her affection for the characters, how she got the role through working with Hough on EYEWITNESS, and re-enacts her famous opening line! Accompanying the documentary is a feature-length audio commentary by director Hough moderated by Perry Martin. Hough elaborates on his comments from the documentary, with some great stories about Susan George designing her own clothing, Roddy McDowall's uncredited cameo, the surprise ending irritating Fox and their plans for a sequel, his working relationships with the leads, and describes all of the stunts and how they were accomplished. It's a thoroughly engrossing listen, and fans of the film will probably love listening to this more than once. Two trailers (both with a cheesy country rock song which isn't in the film), two TV spots; three radio spots; a TV commercial for a 1969 Dodge Charger (the car the trio steal after ditching their blue Chevy); a big and beautiful stills gallery with tons of posters, stills, lobby cards, candid behind-the-scenes shots, pressbook photos, and Super 8 film covers; and talent bios of Hough, Fonda and George polish off the incredible Supercharger Edition! Adam Rockoff also contributes an intelligent essay about the film in booklet form. (Casey Scott)