In 2007, schlock aficionados Quentin Tarrentino and Robert Rodriguez were given way too much money to indulge in one of the most inessential vanity projects / wank fests in the history of cinema, Grindhouse. Planet Terror, the Rodriguez contribution, was harmless, silly, tongue in cheek horror / action. It was also the beginning of a steady decline in the quality and originality of his work as he sank deeper and deeper into this world of genre pastiche and homage.
Tarrentino’s half of Grindhouse may be the biggest waste of time I have ever spent watching a movie. There are worse movies that Death Proof, I just don’t know if there are less necessary movies than Death Proof. Now I know who to blame for Death Proof. It’s not Tarrentino for being unable to resist his most childish urges. It’s not the Harvey Weinstein for giving Tarrentino the money to make it. It’s not the sycophantic Tarrentino fans who have fuelled his ego to the degree that he thought he could get away with slapping this turd on the screen. No, the blame for Death Proof lies completely with Dirty Mary Crazy Larry.
Larry (Peter Fonda) wakes up from a one night stand with Mary (Susan George). But there’s no time for morning rumpy-pumpy, because Larry has a big day ahead of him. Along Deke (Adam Roarke), Larry has a super market to rob by taking the manager’s wife and daughter hostage. Soon, they’re off on a high pursuit chase with police hot on their tail across the back roads of California, where the majority of the movie will take place.
The majority of this movie gets away with being one long car chase because of the kind of expositional short hand that I love in a B grade movie. You see, Larry is an amateur race car driver, and Deke is his mechanic. The robbery was intended to finance their dream of starting their own racing team. And Mary’s there because… Well, I guess Mary’s there because Dirty Mary Crazy Larry is a pretty kick ass name for a movie, so they needed a ‘Mary’ in there somewhere.
Watching Dirty Mary Crazy Larry, I can almost understand Tarrentino’s obsession with this kind of thing and why he felt compelled to crap out Death Proof onto the chest of the movie watching world. Dirty Mary Crazy Larry is cheap, nasty, dirty film making, and that what fuels everything great about it.
The car chases are heart pounding in their reality. The lack of budget for special effects means you can see these real cars performing real stunts on real roads. And that ramps up the action to a realistic degree you just don’t see anymore. Newer movies might create more vehicular carnage, but it’s fantasy level stuff. Dirty Mary Crazy Larry looks and feels like it could be happening on the back roads an hour out of any major city right now.
If I had seen this as a kid, I’m sure I would have thought it was one of the coolest things ever. And if I ever grew up to be a an A list director who Harvey Weinstein is scared to say ‘no’ too, I’d probably exploit that relationship to make a tribute to it as well.