Produced by Roger Corman and written/directed by Charles Griffith, Eat My Dust! stars a young Ron Howard as Hoover Niebold, a young man hung up on foxy Darlene Kurtz (former Ivory Snow baby, Christopher Norris). He's so into her that he'll do anything to get her to notice him, even if that means stealing a fast car and taking her for a joy ride in it - which is exactly what he does.
Once Hoover's swiped the ride and picked up the girl, the two are off and soon Hoover's dad, Sheriff Niebold (Warren Kemmerling who shows up as the General in the American cut of Godzilla), is in hot pursuit. A chase all around town ensues, with the cops after Hoover and Hoover going as fast as he can to stay a few steps ahead.
So how did Ron Howard wind up starring in a low budget Roger Corman movie? The story behind the film is an interesting one. Corman wanted Howard for the lead but Howard wasn't overly impressed with the project. He told Corman he'd take the part if, in return, Corman would let him direct a movie of his own. Corman agreed and the two finished Eat My Dust! and then Howard went on to direct his first feature film, Grand Theft Auto. As luck would have it, Grand Theft Auto would turn out to be a much better film and Howard would of course go on to an extremely successful directing career eventually winning a Best Director Oscar for A Beautiful Mind in 2001.
While there isn't much of a plot to Eat My Dust! it is a fun, if rather brainless, action-comedy. A few of the car chases and a couple of the crashes are fairly impressive for what was obviously a very low budget production and the pace is quick. Howard doesn't always look too happy to be there but he plows through the film with enough pretend enthusiasm to fit the part. Norris is cute as a button and she's perfectly cast here, and if their chemistry doesn't exactly set the screen on fire at least the pair make for a cute couple. A few other interesting people show up in the film aside from the two leads. The instantly recognizable Clint Howard has a small part as does Happy Days alum Kathy O'Dare. Dave Madden, best known as Ruben Kincaid on The Partridge Family pops up and Corbin Bernsen of all people is recognizable as a gas station attendant in one scene. Director Charles B. Griffith would go on to direct a few other seventies car chase films such as Smokey Bites The Dust but is best remembered for writing cult classics like Death Race 2000, The Undead, Little Shop Of Horrors and The Beast From Haunted Cave.
That said, you're not going to want to watch this for the dialogue (because much of it is quite horrible) or the acting (which is mediocre if inoffensive) - you're going to want to watch it for the driving. Plenty of fast driving, loud revving engines and squealing rubber-burning tires propel Howard and Norris along just as fast as fast can be. There are jumps, burn outs, crashes and collisions galore and it all amounts to a good bit of harmless, goofy entertainment.
Eat My Dust! receives a decent fullframe transfer that, judging by the dead air at the top of the frame, probably could have been matted a little bit. Either way, picture quality isn't bad. Colors look nice and fairly vibrant and despite some grain rearing up in spots, there isn't much print damage to complain about. Some edge enhancement is there if you want to look for it but it's minor and for the most part the movie looks pretty solid.
The English language Dolby Digital Mono audio comes with optional French and English subtitles and sounds quite good. The track is fairly basic as far as the dialogue is concerned but the car chases have got a bit of nice punch to them and there are no problems with hiss or distortion even if a few scenes are a little bit on the flat side.
The main supplement on this release is How To Crash On A Dime (9:31) that features interviews with the editor, director of photography and lead actress each of whom discuss their parts in the film. We learn how some of the car chases were shot, ideas about the script and what it was like working with Howard. Rounding out the extras are a brief introduction to the film from Corman and the film's original theatrical trailer.
While you can't really call Eat My Dust! a classic, it is at least a fun little time killer with an interesting cast and some impressive driving. Car chase enthusiasts will definitely enjoy the movie and seventies drive-in aficionados as well. More extras certainly would have been welcome but at least the quality of the transfer isn't half bad - recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.