May 24, 2011

Movie(s) Rating: 7/10 DVD Rating: 9/10

Ron Howard didn’t want to star in 1976’s low-budget Roger Corman production, Eat My Dust (Shout! Factory) – the young Happy Days star was a pretty established actor by that point. A deal was struck between Howard and Corman, who in turn allowed the actor to make his directorial debut the following year with Grand Theft Auto. Both films turned a huge profit and Howard quickly joined the growing list of Corman vets who would go on to become major Hollywood filmmakers.  

Directed by Wild Angels and Death Race 2000 scribe Charles B. Griffith, Eat My Dust is a vastly enjoyable chase flick starring Howard as a reckless teen who tries to win the affections of a foxy girl by stealing a race car and taking it on an action-packed joy ride. With his sheriff father in hot pursuit, Howard and his friends evade the authorities by destroying any car, or building, that stands in their way. 

As Corman had promised, Howard returned the next year as the director of 1977’s Grand Theft Auto – in addition to starring in the film and penning the script with his father, Rance Howard. As much of a hoot as Eat My Dust is, this follow-up is an even more satisfying blend of anarchy and humor. Howard once again plays a love-struck teen who hits the open road with his gal. This time it’s her family who’s on their tail, as well as her wealthy ex who offers $10,000 to anyone who can seize them. When the girl’s family doubles the reward, the entire town gets in on the chase, leading to an over-the-top demolition derby.

Thanks to their playful tone and high-concept carnage, these titles have held up surprisingly well after all these years. Thankfully, Shout! Factory’s two-disc double bill does a smashing job compiling a thorough set of old and new extras. Holdovers from Eat My Dust’s previous release include “How To Crash on a Dime” – a ten-minute making-of that features interviews with co-star Christopher Norris, editor Tina Hirsch and DP Eric Sarrien. Vintage extras for Grand Theft Auto include a terrific commentary from Corman and Howard. Both discs come with the standard Corman-Leonard Maltin chat.

New to Eat My Dust is an interview with Howard – where he fondly recollects his collaborations with Corman – as well as an enlightening conversation with Corman's poster artist John Solie. Also on tap for Grand Theft Auto is a commentary with actor/cowriter Rance Howard, second unit director Alan Arkush, editor Joe Dante and key grip Ben Haller. It’s an engaging track that features more than a few major talents whose insights rarely overlap with films' other bonus content. Rounding out this superb set of extras is an interview with Howard and Corman, and one with Rance Howard and his other son, Clint, where they share stories about working with Ron, in addition to their own careers and father-son dynamic – it’s endearing to watch Rance demonstrate his finger-flicking skills on Clint’s head.