One of two cult classics starring Peter Fonda to be released on DVD this week, director John Hough's epic chase film has earned its place in film history for, among other things, its legendary ending. A huge hit in the drive-in and grindhouse circuit, and then a perennial favorite on the ABC Sunday Night Movie,
was one of those films that became playground legend to children of the 1970s. Even if you-like me-had never seen the film at the time, you knew how it ended (and that made you want to see it all the more). Fonda stars as Larry, a washed-up professional racer who teams up with his equally washed-up pit mechanic Deke (Adam Roarke) to rob a grocery store. The ill-conceived plan is to use the stolen loot to buy a new racecar that will get them back into the game. But things go wrong when they run afoul of Mary (Susan George), a one-night-stand Larry threw a hump into but can't seem to ditch. Much of the movie is literally the three antiheroes racing through the back highways of Northern California as with the fuzz in hot pursuit. We're talking minimal character development and dialogue, but maximum car crashes and burning rubber.
Larry is not great cinema, but it is a great example of the disillusioned, nihilistic filmmaking of the late 1960s and early 1970s that gave the finger to the establishment.
Race with the Devil (1975) Not as well-known as some of Peter Fonda's other B-movie classics, this tight thriller is prime for rediscovering. In what amounts to a bizarre hybrid of Steven Spielberg's Duel and Rosemary's Baby, Fonda and Warren Oates star as best friends on a camping trip with their wives (Lara Parker and Loretta Swit). Fonda and Oates witness a ritualistic murder committed by a satanic cult, and the chase is on. The rest of the movie is the two couples on the run from the deadly cult, who are seemingly everywhere they turn. Not exactly the finest moment from any of the actors involved, Race with the Devil still manages to be mindless fun, with a few tense moments that make it perfect for late-night viewing when you don't feel like using that much brain power.