After toiling on low-budget, B-grade features for a few years, Peter Fonda arrived as a talented and promising young actor and filmmaker with the release of Easy Rider in 1969; he almost immediately sank back into toiling away on low-budget, B-grade features. Among the most oddball of these — and that’s saying a lot about a filmography that includes Open Season, Race with the Devil, and Futureworld — is Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry.
Wannabe NASCAR driver Larry Rayder (Fonda) and his mechanic Deke Sommers (Adam Roarke) knock over a supermarket in rural California in order to finance their way into big-time auto racing. Inserting herself into the situation is Larry’s one-night stand, Mary (Susan George, Straw Dogs). The trio play a cat-and-mouse game with the local authorities, led by an obsessed sheriff (Vic Morrow), easily outrunning his squad cars first in a 1966 Chevy Impala, then a a race-prepared 1969 Dodge Charger R/T 440.
Fonda’s charisma and sneering bravado elevate Dirty Larry, Crazy Mary above mere schlock — though the impressive car chases don’t hurt, either. Add the sexy Susan George and even sexier Dodge Charger (in one of the finest uses of a muscle car on the big screen) into the mix, and the result is exploitation film brilliance. Come for the vroom, stay for the surreal twist ending delivered in the movie’s final seconds.