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Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry

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Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn Hough
Screenplay by
Based onThe Chase
1962 novel
by Richard Unekis
Produced byNorman T. Herman
CinematographyMichael D. Margulies
Edited byChristopher Holmes
Music byJimmie Haskell (Main theme)
Academy Pictures Corporation
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • May 1974 (1974-05)
Running time
93 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$1.14 million[2]
Box office$28.4 million[3]

Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry is a 1974 American road crime drama film based on the 1963 Richard Unekis novel titled The Chase (later retitled Pursuit). Directed by John Hough, the film stars Peter Fonda, Susan George, Adam Roarke, and Vic Morrow. Although Jimmie Haskell is credited with writing the music score, the soundtrack contains no incidental music apart from the theme song "Time (Is Such a Funny Thing)", sung by Marjorie McCoy, over the opening and closing titles, and a small amount of music heard over the radio.[citation needed]


Two NASCAR hopefuls, driver Larry Rayder and his mechanic Deke Sommers, successfully execute a supermarket heist to finance their jump into big-time auto racing. They extort $150,000 in cash from a supermarket manager by holding his wife and daughter hostage.

In making their escape, they are confronted by Larry's one-night stand, Mary Coombs. She coerces them to take her along for the ride in their souped-up 1966 Chevrolet Impala. The unorthodox sheriff, Captain Everett Franklin, obsessively pursues the trio in a dragnet, only to find his outmoded patrol cars unable to catch Larry, Mary, and Deke after they ditch the Impala for a 1969 Dodge Charger R/T 440 at a flea market.

As part of the escape plan, Larry's vehicle enters an expansive grid of walnut groves, where the trees provide significant cover from aerial tracking, and the many intersecting roads ("with sixty distinct and separate exits") make road blocks ineffective. The trio evades several Dodge Polara patrol cars, one of them a specially prepared high-performance police interceptor that effectively keeps up with the Charger, and even Captain Franklin himself in a Bell JetRanger helicopter. Believing they've finally beaten the police, Larry and company meet their doom when they collide with a freight train pulled by an Alco S-1 locomotive, which unexpectedly emerges from a walnut grove.


Original novel[edit]

Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry is based on the novel originally titled The Chase (later renamed Pursuit) by Richard Unekis, published in 1963. It was Unekis' debut novel. The New York Times called it "a brilliantly detailed and breathless tale of pursuit".[4]

The story incorporated a phenomenon that was relatively new in 1963: major auto manufacturers were putting powerful V-8 engines into mid-sized cars (the dawn of the "muscle car" era) and young thieves behind the wheel of these cars were now able to outrun the economy 6-cylinder sedans driven by police in many jurisdictions. The protagonists of The Chase used such a vehicle, a Chevrolet, and made use of the checkerboard of roads in the farm country of Illinois to outrun the police, as well as the cover of an approaching thunderstorm. The end of the novel closely matches the film, only with a tanker truck involved.



The film was shot in late 1973 in and around Stockton, California, mostly in the walnut groves near the small town of Linden, California.[5] The railroad track in the final scene of the film served the Diamond Food processing plant in Linden and was abandoned in the 1980s when the plant switched to trucks for their transportation. The track still exists, in an abandoned state, and is owned by Omnitrax Corp.

The supermarket scenes were filmed in both Sutter Hill and Sonora, California, the drawbridge jump was filmed in Tracy, California, the swap meet scene in Clements, California, and the climactic train crash was filmed on the Stockton Terminal and Eastern Railroad in Linden, near the intersection of Ketcham Lane and Archerdale Road. The Bell JetRanger helicopter used in the climactic chase was flown by veteran film pilot James W. Gavin (who played the character of the pilot as well) and was actually flown between rows of trees and under powerlines as seen in the film.[citation needed]

In the commentary of the 2005 DVD and later Blu-ray releases, Hough says two blue 1966 Chevrolet Impalas, as well as two 1969 (and one 1968) Citron Yella Dodge Chargers were used in the filming. As the film was a low-budget project,[citation needed] and no more than three Chargers could be purchased,[citation needed] a team of mechanics would work on the cars overnight to repair damage, while the film crew would cycle through the available cars throughout the shooting day. Car haulers would follow the filming team with the additional cars as they were available.

In the same interview, Hough revealed that the ending in which the Charger crashes into the train was not in the original script. The novel upon which the film was based ended with the robbers colliding with a tanker truck, but since the Linden filming location offered a maze of railroad crossings, the ending was changed to incorporate the collision with the locomotive.[citation needed]

Hough said the lead characters did not die in the script: "I did that myself without asking or telling anybody. Consequently, we would not be able to make a sequel because the leading characters were all killed. But a statement I really wanted to make, was: speed kills. If you're gonna drive a hundred miles an hour, you’ll get yourself killed, so you'd better not speed."[6]

Fonda said the film was shot "pretty much in sequence. We had about 20 exciting stunts and about five minutes worth of acting. We had to make our scenes count. Adam Roarke, Susan George, and myself were sort of like The Three Stooges I guess you could say...I had a fine time making the film. It was a lot of fun.” [7]


The film developers thought that the Dodge Charger was actually bright yellow so they "corrected" the film negatives to eliminate the greenish tint of the car. Therefore, the entire movie in theaters, on TV, and on VHS was originally very warm toned. The color was more correct in the 2005 DVD release (and later Blu-ray releases) and the Dodge Charger became the correct lime green color.


Box office[edit]

Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry was released by Fox in the spring of 1974 and was a surprise hit.[8] It grossed $650,709 in its opening week in Texas and Oklahoma.[9] It earned rentals of $12.1 million in the United States and Canada, making it Fox's most successful film of the year.[10] By 1977, it had earned an estimated $14.7 million in theatrical rentals.[11]

Fonda said the film "made a shit pile of money. More money than any film Dennis [Hopper] ever made."[12] He added, "I couldn't believe that so many moviegoers had seen the film four or five times. I could understand them seeing Easy Rider four or five times or maybe even The Hired Hand, but why Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry? Heck, I was even embarrassed by the title."[7]

Nonetheless the film established Fonda as a draw on the exploitation circuit and most of his films over the next few years were action movies.[13]

On February 18, 1977, the film came to broadcast television (with several scenes cut before the theatrical release reinserted to extend the film's length to the minimum required to fill a standard two-hour time slot). [14] These added-for-TV scenes have never been released to home video.[15]

Critical reception[edit]

The film received mixed reviews from critics. On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 47% of 19 critics' reviews are positive, with an average rating of 5/10.[16] Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 52 out of 100, based on 8 critics, indicating "mixed or average" reviews.[17]

Edgar Wright said the film influenced Baby Driver. He said he "always felt sorry for the actor Adam Roarke in it who plays Deke. He's in the movie for the entire thing. You assume in the movie that Adam Roarke is going to die at some point, but he's there right to the end, so it really should be called Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry and Deke. Why does this guy get left off the title? He's been there the whole time."[18]

Home media[edit]

The film was released on VHS and Beta in October 1979 on Magnetic Video.[19]

On June 28, 2005, the film was released on DVD through Anchor Bay Entertainment as a "Supercharger Edition". It included a color-corrected and fully restored theatrical version of the film as well as many bonus features.

On April 12, 2011, the restored film was released again on DVD, this time through Shout! Factory, packaged as a double feature with another Peter Fonda film Race with the Devil. This release contained fewer bonus features than the Anchor Bay release.

This same release debuted on Blu-ray for the first time on June 4, 2013.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "DIRTY MARY, CRAZY LARRY (X)". British Board of Film Classification. May 30, 1974. Archived from the original on February 2, 2016. Retrieved January 27, 2016.
  2. ^ Solomon, Aubrey. Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History (The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series). Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1. p257
  3. ^ Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry, Box Office Information. Archived April 13, 2012, at the Wayback Machine The Numbers. Retrieved May 22, 2012.
  4. ^ Criminals At Large By ANTHONY BOUCHER. New York Times 7 Apr 1963: BR50.
  5. ^ Movies Divorce, Disillusion......hard times hit the easy rider. Shevey, Sandra. Chicago Tribune 17 Feb 1974: e14.
  6. ^ "John Hough: "I am happy to say that 'Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry' is one of Quentin Tarantino's favorite films"". Film Talk. August 30, 2017. Archived from the original on August 5, 2020. Retrieved September 14, 2019.
  7. ^ a b Goldman, Lowell (Fall 1990). "Peter Fonda: I Know What It's Like to Be Dead". Psychotronic Video. No. 7. p. 35.
  8. ^ Frederick, Robert B. (January 8, 1975). "'Sting', 'Exorcist' In Special Class At B.O. in 1974". Variety. p. 24.
  9. ^ "Dirty Mary Crazy Larry (advertisement)". Variety. May 8, 1974. p. 8.
  10. ^ Solomon p 232
  11. ^ FILM VIEW: Why 'Smokey and the Bandit' Is Making a Killing FILM VIEW 'Smokey and the Bandit' Canby, Vincent. The New York Times 18 Dec 1977: 109.
  12. ^ Aftab, Kaleem (July 15, 2014). "Dennis Hopper: Peter Fonda on his 'Easy Rider' co-star". The Independent. Archived from the original on September 13, 2019. Retrieved September 14, 2019.
  13. ^ Vagg, Stephen (October 26, 2019). "Peter Fonda – 10 Phases of Acting". Filmink. Archived from the original on October 29, 2019. Retrieved January 9, 2020.
  14. ^ "Original TV Guide ad". Flashbak. June 26, 2017. Archived from the original on June 27, 2017. Retrieved June 28, 2017.
  15. ^ "Television Version Added Scenes". YouTube. Retrieved October 16, 2022.
  16. ^ "Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved January 11, 2023. Edit this at Wikidata
  17. ^ "Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry". Metacritic. Fandom, Inc. Retrieved January 11, 2023.
  18. ^ Anderton, Ethan (June 29, 2017). "Edgar Wright Gushes About 10 Movies That Influenced 'Baby Driver' (Part 1)". Slash Film. Archived from the original on June 11, 2019. Retrieved September 14, 2019.
  19. ^ "Magnetic Video (Creator)". TV Tropes. Archived from the original on August 11, 2019. Retrieved August 17, 2019.
  20. ^ "Dirty Mary Crazy Larry / Race With The Devil [Double Feature] - Blu-ray | Shout! Factory". www.shoutfactory.com. Archived from the original on July 24, 2018. Retrieved July 24, 2018.


  • Weaver, Tom (February 19, 2003). Double Feature Creature Attack: A Monster Merger of Two More Volumes of Classic Interviews. McFarland.

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