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Ron Howard Action Pack, The

Vivendi Entertainment // PG // May 24, 2011
List Price: $19.93 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Ian Jane | posted May 3, 2011 | E-mail the Author
The Movies:

Don't have enough Ron Howard in your life? Shout! Factory has the cure for what ails you with this double feature of Howard/Corman collaborations!

Eat My Dust:

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.

Grand Theft Auto:

In 1977 Roger Corman produced the first directorial effort from future Oscar winning director, Ron Howard - Grand Theft Auto. Howard also wrote and starred in the film as well, and cast two of his brothers, Clint and Rance, in notable roles in the movie.

The story revolves around Sam and Paula, two crazy kids who steal Paula's wealthy father's Rolls Royce and high tail it off to Vegas. Shortly after, Paula's jealous (but rich) ex-boyfriend, Colin, makes an announcement on a radio station that Paula has been kidnapped and that there is a $10,000 reward for her swift and safe return. Paula's parents do everything to support Colin, as they'd much rather see her end up with him than with Sam.

This obviously complicates things for the young couple, but just when they think things can't get any worse for them, Colin's mother makers another announcement that she'll match Colin's sum and the reward is now $20,000 for Paula's return. Lured by a quick cash grab, dozens of people head out after the couple including all sorts of strange types from mafia henchmen to salespeople.

Grand Theft Auto is a lot of fun. It's a fast paced movie with a lot of great action and car chase scenes that really keep the movie kicking along at a good speed. While none of the performances are really noteworthy, none of them are awful either and the two lead characters are likable enough that you'll find yourself rooting for them along the way. Because of its great cast of characters and fast paced action, the film remains a better than average low budget 70s drive in classic and still holds up well under repeat viewings.

The DVD:
The Video:

Eat My Dust and Grand Theft Auto both look very good in these new 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen transfers. While the pictures for both films are generally clean and clear, there's a nice coat of film grain present throughout, ensuring that these low budget seventies cheapies retain their vintage feel throughout. That said, there aren't any problems with heavy print damage, just some specks here and there. Detail and color reproduction looks good, though some scenes are a bit on the soft side, and while there's a little bit of dirt here and there, it's nothing to get too worked up about.

The Audio:

Audio options are provided in English language Dolby Digital Mono and both films sound just fine. Range is obviously limited by the original source materials used for this release but dialogue is clear and the tracks are both well balanced and free of any hiss or distortion.

The Extras:

As far as the extras go? Carried over from the previous release of Eat My Dust 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.

New to this release is an interview with Ron Howard about how he got his start working with Roger Corman. Amiable and honest, Howard is appreciative of his time working with Corman on pictures like this and tells some good stories here. Also new to this release is The Illustrated Man: A Conversation With Corman Poster Artist John Solie. When you consider how important poster art was to the marketing of these film's you'll understand why he's put in the spotlight and he too has some interesting stories to share.

Rounding out the extras are the Leonard Maltin Interviews Roger Corman bit that was included on the first New Concorde DVD release of the film, the film's original theatrical trailer, animated menus and chapter stops.

The highlight of the supplements for Grand Theft Auto is a feature length commentary track with writer/director/star Ron Howard and producer Roger Corman. This is a great track and the two of them really do give you everything you've ever wanted to know about the movie and then some. This was carried over from the previous release so it'll be familiar to some, but for those who haven't heard it, it's absolutely worth taking the time to listen to. A second brand new commentary is also included here with actor Rance Howard, second unit director Allan Arkush, editor Joe Dante, and key grip Ben Haller which is quite good and which covers some fairly different ground from that covered in the first track. Input here covers editing, what it was like working in front of the camera as well as behind it, pick up shots, cinematography, stunt work and more.

Additionally, we get a few featurettes, the first of which is A Family Affair which is a nine minute interview with Clint and Rance Howard about their involvement in this film and their brother's directorial career as well as their own work as actors. Also found here is a thirteen minute interview with Corman and Ron Howard running and an interview with Corman and Leonard Maltin running about 5 minutes. These are interesting but tread a lot of the same ground already covered in the commentary track. There are also a couple of trailers here for the feature, animated menus and chapter stops.

Final Thoughts:

Loads of extras and a solid presentation of these two Corman classics makes this one easy to highly recommend. Eat My Dust! and Grand Theft Auto both stand the test of time well enough and hold up as a pair of fun seventies drive-in movies that pretty much anyone can enjoy. Shout! Factory has done a bang up job on this release, fans should be very pleased.

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.

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Highly Recommended

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