Ron Howard was trapped in the ‘50s even though the calendar read 1976. He wasn’t hurting for success with a resume that included The Andy Griffith Show, Happy Days and American Graffiti as he was the clean cut, All-American boy of bygone days ready for any nostalgia project.
But he wanted more than that: Howard wanted to be contemporary and also craved to be more than just an actor.
Like many other actors in his position, he sought out Roger Corman as a way to transform his public image and creative possibilities. Unlike many of those actors, Howard didn’t have to appear nude on the screen. Roger Corman’s Cult Classics Double Feature: The Ron Howard Action Pack contains Eat My Dust and Grand Theft Auto. These two films allowed Howard to put his career into overdrive for Oscar glory.
Eat My Dust (1976 – 89 minutes) makes Ron go outlaw. He’s Hoover Niebold, a teen working for his dad’s toilet business. During a delivery of paper towels to the race track, he catches the eye of local hot gal (Christopher Norris). She likes bad boys and speed. Hoover goes all out when he steals a stock car, tempts Norris into the passenger seat and hits the road at full RPM excitement. Hoover doesn’t think he’ll get into too much trouble for this stunt since his dad is the sheriff. He causes more wreckage than the usual boys being boy explanation. Stock car racer Big Bubba Jones (Dave Madden from The Partridge Family) doesn’t like his car being run ragged. The screen is filled with cross country car stunts. This isn’t CGI like The Green Hornet. Cars are really getting messed up royally as they slam into each other. Eat My Dust is pure escapist fun that allows Ron Howard to quit being the nice boy. He’s dangerous. Ron makes it a family affair by having his dad Rance and brother Clint in supporting roles.
Grand Theft Auto (1977 – 84 minutes) was Ron Howard’s prize for having a hit with Eat My Dust. He didn’t merely act, but was awarded the director’s chair by Roger Corman. Ron and his father Rance wrote a script that told the tale of a how Nancy Morgan was furious when her father insists she marries Paul Linke (CHiPs), a rich socialite. She wants to marry Ron Howard. She runs away from home with her daddy’s Rolls Royce. She and Ron are running off to Las Vegas to elope. Can they make the trip without the cops or Daddy’s goons putting a stop to the chase? Adding to the chase is Linke calling up a radio station to offer a reward for anyone stopping the wedding.
Everybody comes out of the woodwork to tail the Rolls Royce. They throw out all the stops including sticking DJ Don Steele (Death Race 2000 & Rock ‘n’ Roll High School) in a helicopter. He’s broadcasting their position to all the folks wanting the bounty. Amazingly enough Ron found a role for Clint as a bounty hunter. This would set a trend as Clint always gets work in Ron’s movies. Rance also gets an acting gig along with Ron’s TV mom Marion Ross (Happy Days). Ron does a fine job of balancing the comedy with the wrecking.
Roger Corman’s Cult Classics Double Feature – The Ron Howard Action Pack is a double feature more exciting than The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons. They’re funnier than The Dilemma. This is Ron Howard at his low budget finest. He’s a wild man behind the wheel and the camera. What happened to that guy?
The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic. The print for Eat My Dust isn’t that dusty. You get a good view of the motorized carnage. The audio is mono. The levels are fine for a bunch of scenes that take place inside cars and on the side of the road.
New Interview with Star Ron Howard (15:12) lets the Oscar winner praise Roger Corman. He admits he wasn’t thrilled with Eat My Dust, but hinted he wanted to direct. Roger offered a chance to let Ron write another film and a chance to direct the film. If all failed, Roger would hire Ron to direct second unit on another film. Rance Howard came up with the idea for Eat My Dust as a Burt Reynolds film.
“How to Crash on a Dime” – The Making of Eat My Dust! (9:32) lets Norris, Eric Saarinen (cinematographer) and Tina Hirsh (editor) discuss the low budget auto mayhem. The trio give a good accounting of the production.
Leonard Maltin Interviews Roger Corman (3:00) focuses on the success of Eat My Dust. Roger swears it was one of his top earners in the ‘70s. Didn’t hurt that Ron Howard was a star on Happy Days. Roger swears Ron didn’t ask to direct until after Eat My Dust had wrapped.
The Illustrated Man – A Conversation with Corman Poster Artist John Solie (13:03) gives time to the man who made New World films look classy. He has a great tale of almost visiting Norman Rockwell.
Theatrical Trailer (1:01) keeps it short with Ron and his gal swiping the race car. This promises the smash-athon.
Introduction by Roger Corman (0:36) sets up Grand Theft Auto as a family affair.
Audio Commentaries are featured on Eat My Dust. The first has Roger Corman and Ron Howard remembering the good old days. The second commentary might just be historic with the first time a Key Grip gets their say. Key Grip Ben Haller chats with Joe Dante, Allan Arkush and Rance Howard. There was a lot of talent supporting Ron Howard. No wonder he wasn’t freaking out.
A Family Affair – An Interview with Rance and Clint Howard (8:40) lets father and brother talk about Ron. Rance wrote the script for his. He’s kinda like the dad that helps with the science project. Clint appears to enjoy the ride.
Interview with Ron Howard and Roger Corman (13:40) has them talking on a sofa. It’s extra grainy. It’s nice to see how the two Oscar legends react while listening to each other.
Leonard Maltin Interviews Roger Corman (5:31) focuses on launching Ron Howard’s directorial career.
Trailers and TV spots (2:19) for Grand Theft Auto has Ron Howard talking directly to the audience. They break down the number of cars wrecked.
Roger Corman’s Cult Classics Double Feature – The Ron Howard Action Pack is a peddle to the metal thrill ride. The guy who played Opie and Richie Cunningham is a menace on and off the road. Eat My Dust is a glorious joy ride in a stock car. Grand Theft Auto speeds off the map in a Rolls Royce. Both films are finely tuned star vehicles. The bonus features show that Ron is still thankful to Roger for letting him take the wheel.
Shout! Factory presents Roger Corman’s Cult Classics Double Feature – The Ron Howard Action Pack. Directed by Ron Howard & Charles Griffith. Starring: Ron Howard, Rance Howard and Clint Howard. Boxset Contents: 2 movies on 2 DVDs. Released on DVD: May 24, 2011.
Tags: Clint Howard, Grand Theft Auto, Happy Days, Oscar, Ron Howard