Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Shout Factorized: DIRTY MARY CRAZY LARRY/RACE WITH THE DEVIL Blu-ray ""

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


This film has one of the all-time great titles. Not sure why I like it so much, but it's just memorable. My history with this film goes back to Christmas of 1997. I saw(and loved) Tarantino's JACKIE BROWN then. I was still riding a post-PULP FICTION Tarantino high and like I'd done with his other movies, I was happy to dive in and look at all the little details in this one. What soundtracks was he drawing from for the music in the film? What books were people reading in the movie? And most importantly, what films were they watching. I remember seeing a brief clip of DMCL in JACKIE BROWN. Bridget Fonda's character is watching it on TV. At the time, I didn't know what film it was, but I recognized Peter Fonda and the lovely Susan George so that was enough to get me started trying to unravel the mystery. At that time, the film was quite difficult to see. It had only seen a brief vhs release in the early days of video via the somewhat legendary(to me because of the rarity factor) Magnetic Video.
That being said, it was not easy to track down, so I wouldn't be able to see the film for some time. I would later read online about the film lineup at Tarantino's infamous QT Fests in Austin Texas and how he had programmed this movie as part of a "Good Ol Boy Car Chase" Night with WHITE LIGHTNING and JACKSON COUNTY JAIL. So, for me, DIRTY MARY CRAZY LARRY started to take on a certain mythical status.When I did finally get to see it, it had a lot to live up to for sure. And it did. First off, the cast is out-of-the-gate excellent. The aforementioned Peter Fonda and Susan George are a great foundation, but on top of that you've got Vic Morrow, Roddy McDowall(in a small role) and the excellent, underappreciated Adam Roarke(who is very reminiscent of a young Alec Baldwin here). Let's talk about Adam Roarke for a second. For those unfamiliar, Roarke has quite a cult filmography. He gained some notoriety for several biker films including THE SAVAGE SEVEN, HELLS ANGELS ON WHEELS, THE LOSERS & HELL'S BELLES. He's also great in Frank Perry's outstanding(but as-yet-not-on-dvd) PLAY IT AS IT LAYS. He and Peter Fonda are certainly a good pairing as they both have biker movie entries on their resumes. They're not bikers here, but rather a minor league race-drivin' duo who set up a scheme to rob a supermarket in order to bankroll a vehicle upgrade(and their ticket to the big time). They pull it off, but their getaway is impeded by Fonda's one-night-stand from the previous evening(Susan George) who tags along. Enter the local sheriff, Vic Morrow who is in hot pursuit and attempting to close a dragnet on them in a very expedited fashion. Talk about 'good 'ol boy car chases'. This films got em in spades. It's easy to see why it has a cult following. Between this cast, the car action and the dialogue(which is a lot of fun), it's really a home run. 
Director John Hough is an interesting one. This film an interesting anomaly in his filmography, wedged in between his earlier horror films(THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE, TWINS OF EVIL) and some Disney fare like the WITCH MOUNTAIN films and WATCHER IN THE WOODS(the 1st film of his I ever saw). He's featured on this disc's commentary track, one of a few special features ported over from a previous release. Also included is "Ride the Wilde Side" A documentary featuring interviews with Hough as well as Peter Fonda and Susan George. Blu-ray transfer looks lovely.

RACE WITH THE DEVIL(1975; Jack Starrett)
The story is pretty simple. Two vacationing fellas(Peter Fonda & Warren Oates) and their wives(Loretta Swit & Lara Parker) encounter some trouble when they witness a satanic ritual murder in the middle of nowhere. When they attempt to report it they are met with a less than enthusiastic response from the local authorities. As they attempt to high-tail it outta town, things start to get a bit creepy and it never really lets up from there.
This is a very solid horror action-er for my money and without a doubt one of the wildest PG-rated movies ever made. It takes the Hitchcock extrapolations from BLOW-UP and THE CONVERSATION into a gritty grimy, truly terrifying realm. This film is the direct line between Hitchcock and THE HITCHER. It's part of a wonderful lineage. If De Palma had been cranking out drive-in genre fair for Roger Corman in the late 70s, he might have made something like RACE WITH THE DEVIL. Director Jack Starrett(also a Tarantino favorite) could have just hung it up between this and THE DION BROTHERS(which is criminally still MIA on DVD) but he did plenty of other notable stuff like SLAUGHTER, CLEOPATRA JONES, THE LOSERS and HOLLYWOOD MAN. He was a somewhat unsung workman who is truly in fine form here. He delivers genre thrills, action and a delightfully menacing atmosphere.  RACE WITH THE DEVIL exists in very much the same paranoid universe as DELIVERANCE and it carries with it a sense of dread that can't really be equaled today. I'm a sucker for the pure fear of being trapped in the middle of nowhere in very bad company. Not to rag on cell phones too much, but they really have wrecked the movies a bit in an irreparable way. No longer can I feel the true isolation and terror of a scenario like this the way I used to. This film really holds up though in my opinion. I might even prefer it to DELIVERANCE. I'm not a huge fan of Satan worshipper movies either. I typically find the portrayals of said worshippers to be pretty ineffectual and less than threatening(I always think of ROSEMARY'S BABY for example). That is not the case here. The cast is just peppered with a lot of eerie looking people and that helps a lot(as does having R.G. Armstrong as an unsettling sheriff character). These folks are pretty darned scary(and quite tenacious).
This Blu-ray transfer looks quite nice and the extras are solid(if all ported over from previous editions). The commentary track included features Executive Producer Paul Maslansky and Actress Laura Parker. There's also a featurette called "Hell On Wheels" with Peter Fonda himself.

 This Blu-ray set is available from Shout Factory: HERE 


SteveQ said...

I saw DMCL in the theater when it was released (along with White Line Fever, Vanishing Point and a few others of the type as well) and I too always thought it was a great title. Around that same time was Mother, Jugs and Speed which was a bit disappointing, but another great title.

dfordoom said...

RACE WITH THE DEVIL is a lot of fun!