Friday, January 26, 2024

DIRTY MARY, CRAZY LARRY (1974) Movie Review

My wife is a tomboy. She loves hot rods and car chase movies. As a movie buff, I have introduced her to a number of films she never knew existed. As a car buff, she introduced me to a number of films I have never seen. But neither of us had seen Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry (1974) until recently, after spending a few days with actress Susan George, who co-stars with Peter Fonda. More interesting is the fact that the movie is clearly among the car chase genre but the film was adapted from novel classified as a crime caper. Richard Unekis wrote the novel in 1962, originally published in 1963 as The Chase, later reprinted under the title Pursuit. The New York Times reviewed the book as "a brilliantly detailed and breathless tale of pursuit."

Ten years later, a motion-picture with a more clever title and a ton of car chase sequences and verbal foreplay exchanged between the two leads. Two NASCAR hopefuls, driver Larry Rayder and his mechanic, DekE Sommers, successfully executes a supermarket heist to finance their entry into big-time auto racing. They extort $150,000 in cash from the supermarket manager by holding his wife and daughter hostage. In making their escape, however, they are confronted by Larry's one-night stand, Mary Coombs. She coerces them to take her along in their souped-up Chevrolet Impala. An unorthodox sheriff, Captain Franklin (played by Vic Morrow), obsessively pursues the trio in a dragnet, hoping to relive his youth. 

Almost immediately Larry demonstrates he is a true race car daredevil -- willing to risk his life for everything in stunts that are truly death-defying. Peter Fonda later recalled how there were only a few cars available for production, causing the mechanics to fix up the vehicles every night. "The film was shot pretty much in sequence," he remarked. "We had about 20 exciting stunts and about five minutes worth of acting."

The film was a surprise hit, incidentally, when released in the spring of 1974, becoming the most profitable film of the year. 

The movie is worth seeking out to view. Like Electra Glide in Blue (1973), which I saw for the first time last year, this is highly recommended for sheer entertainment.

Susan George and Peter Fonda

Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry has a gruesome bit of trivia worth pointing out, incidentally. Vic Morrow, playing the sheriff, insisted on a $1 million life insurance policy before he would film any scenes involving the helicopter. The producer hesitated for a spell but eventually relented. Afterwards, Morrow said he would ride in the helicopter, not fly one. When asked why he strongly insisted on the policy, Morrow replied, :I have always had a premonition that I'll be killed in a helicopter crash!" Years later, Morrow was indeed killed when a helicopter was brought down by special effects explosions, during production of Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983).

Friday, January 19, 2024

Radio's LIGHTS OUT: "Bark of a Dead Dog" (1939)

In the summer of 1942, Sterling Products bought Lights Out to replace its current series, Board of Missing Heirs, for Ironized Yeast. CBS at that time had always banned horror stories, being more stricter than NBC in that regard, but the network decided to relax their position because playwright Arch Oboler was involved. Having made a name for himself as one of the top ten playwrights on network television, his stock in trade as a "stream on consciousness" style often first person singular applied. Oboler was scripting for weekly patriotic programs and wanted to return to his favorite genre -- horror. And because Oboler was already providing scripts for Everyman's Theater over NBC for Procter & Gamble, and just signed with NBC Blue for To the President, CBS wanted to compete.


The Continuity Department (the official name for the censorship department) at CBS looked at a handful of the radio scripts proposed and stamped them “acceptable” before the premiere on the evening of October 6, 1942. The series was contracted with the sponsor and the network for a total of 52 weeks. Many of the radio broadcasts that exist in recorded form originate from this 1942-43 series, which is one of the reasons why the playwright has been unjustly labeled as the creator of Lights Out


Lights Out premiered over NBC Chicago in January of 1934, created and scripted by Wyllis Cooper. NBC, under a specific term in the contract, owned the program and when it was decided to take the late-night horror series coast-to-coast in 1936, Cooper lost control of his own program. A number of authors began submitting radio scripts, including Arch Oboler, who was at that time writing brief sketches for such prestigious programs as Rudy Vallee and Edgar Bergen. Cooper had no objections; he still owned the rights to his own scripts and he was being lured to Hollywood. But with Cooper leaving in 1936, new writers were necessary. Enter stage left: Arch Oboler. 


For Arch Oboler to broadcast a weekly primetime horror series of the same name, he had to secure permission from NBC. Executives at NBC had no objection, considering they did not want horror programs and they wanted to retain first option on Oboler for future patriotic programs. CBS was delighted to have their first weekly program written and directed by Arch Oboler, described in the trades as “experimental drama.” The price tag was a reported $1,325 a week. Arch Oboler was able to get by with that figure by not only writing and directing, but hosting as emcee and confining himself to small casts and covering the absence of any music by elaborate sound effects. For many of the episodes, the cast consisted of only two people. 


Oboler always felt his Lights Out series was never horror, but was instead a “psychological chiller.” Wyllis Cooper, who created the program, always described his stories as “fantasy” (with a slight touch of horror). 

Cooper’s 1934-1936 concepts, incidentally, would be expanded from the 15-minute format to 30 minutes and a number of them repeated for some of the 1936-39 national run, then recycled for use on the 1945, 1946 and 1947 summer revivals of Lights Out on NBC, then again under a new format, Quiet, Please, from 1947-1949.


As for Cooper's Hollywood career... that was short-lived. After arriving in Hollywood in 1937, he found work at 20th Century Fox and Universal Studios, contributing for such classics as Think Fast, Mr. Moto (1937), Thank You, Mr. Moto (1937), Mr. Moto Takes a Chance (1938), The Phantom Creeps (1939) and Son of Frankenstein (1939). His experience with brutal last-minute re-writes at Universal for Son of Frankenstein gave Cooper sour grapes – he promptly left Hollywood after production concluded and returned to script writing for radio. (He expressed his displeasure for Universal and production of that movie very specifically, including references to Boris Karloff, in the Quiet, Please episode, "Rain on New Year's Eve.")


Beginning in 1946, some of his Lights Out and Quiet, Please radio scripts were adapted for television for such programs as Quiet Please: Volume OneLights Out, and Escape.


Thankfully, the 1936-1939 radio scripts for the NBC national run of Lights Out was recently scanned into PDF. This allows us to enjoy such dramas as “The Blood of the Gorilla,” “Satan’s Orchid,” “Queen Cobra,” “The Legion of the Dead,” “Black Zombie” and “One Day it Rained Blood.”

Enclosed below is a link for you to download a copy of the February 1, 1939, broadcast titled “Bark of a Dead Dog.”

Thursday, January 11, 2024


Years ago I used a newspaper archive online to type "The Lone Ranger," "Tonto" and other variations to find articles, advertisements and news blurbs related to the radio and television program, The Lone Ranger. Over 40,000 hits and 27,000 photos later, I find myself now cropping the articles and photographs, cleaning them up and preparing them for inclusion of my second Lone Ranger volume, spanning the years of 1938 to 1942 (referenced in last week's post). 

Some of these are gems, others (like the last one) warrant questions for which we will never know the answers. Regardless, they are fascinating (especially for fans of The Lone Ranger) so I am including a number of them for your amusement. 


(Click to enlarge, use arrow keys to scroll through them.)

Thursday, January 4, 2024


Ever since our first volume was published a few years ago, The Lone Ranger: The Early Years, 1933-1937, not a week goes by that someone does not send me a text, e-mail or phone call asking when the second volume will be released. Well, I am pleased to announce good news for the start of this New Year. The second volume is almost done so we have something to look forward to in 2024.