As a follow-up to last week's post, here's one more example of the loose, no-rules cinema that dominated a decade of anti-establishment filmmaking.
The genre came into its own in 1971, its stripped-down, no nonsense sensibility showcased in the classic threesome of Vanishing Point, Two-Lane Blacktop, and Steven Spielberg's Duel (made for American TV but released theatrically everywhere else). Not content to simply feature an epic car chase as centerpiece (à la Bullitt or The French Connection), these movies for the most part were the car chase. And unlike the physics-defying stunts in recent action pics (no matter how fast or furious), the chases and crashes in these films had a visceral buzz often missing from today's computer-generated pileups.
Further refinement—and more elaborate stunts—emerged in 1974, a banner year that featured Spielberg's The Sugarland Express, the ultra low-budget Gone in 60 Seconds, and the gonzo Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry. Most of these flicks sported a nihilistic, authority-flouting temperament as defiant as any racing stripe, none moreso than Dirty/Crazy.
Along with their legacy of good-ol' boy comedies and slick, car-fetish franchises, Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry and its hard-driving ilk provided inspiration for filmmakers as sophisticated as Steven Soderbergh, who cast Peter Fonda and Vanishing Point's Barry Newman in The Limey, and Quentin Tarantino, whose Death-Proof borrowed a number of Dirty/Crazy's moves for its proudly non-CG stunts—and whose Dodge Charger was an obvious nod to Vanishing Point.
Thanks to DVDs and now streaming, Mary and Larry live recklessly on—burning rubber, eating dust, and leaving wanton vehicular destruction in their wake. As the poster says: There's nothin' they won't try! That's as true of the characters as it was the filmmakers, who pulled out all the stops to make this quick-and-dirty little programmer as relentless, entertaining, and unsentimental as possible. If you want to see how these things used to be done—without any gloss or expectation of sequels—then snap on your safety belt, pop open a Bud, and steer this little hot rod to the top of your queue.