Film scholars say the seventies was a golden age for filmmaking, and I agree wholeheartedly. Hardly a week went by without a new car chase movie - Gone in 60 Seconds, Smokey and the Bandit, Vanishing Point - being released during that glorious era.
That is the golden age these filmmakers are talking about, right?
Legendary B-movie producer Roger Corman was responsible for many of these smash-'em-up films, and 1976's Eat My Dust, starring Ron Howard, was probably the most successful. Unfortunately, the film - now released on DVD (in a "Supercharged Edition," featuring a short featurette, a hilarious trailer, and not much else) as part of Disney's Roger Corman Series - somehow manages to make an 89-minute string of chases and wrecks boring.
Howard plays the unfortunately named Hoover Niebold, a teen obsessed with muscle cars and auto racing - much to the chagrin of his father, the crusty town sheriff. A comely former girlfriend (played by Christopher Norris, whose parents must have really wanted a son) insists he take her for a ride in a late-'60s Camaro stock car, so Hoover steals it.
I'm not leaving out many plot details here. I doubt anyone came to a movie like this expecting a complicated story (indeed, one of the best car-related films of the era, Steve McQueen's Le Mans, was practically a documentary), but Eat My Dust desperately needed the characters to haul a load of beer from Texarkana to Atlanta, or something.
Corman was legendary for making his movies on a tight budget, and that's part of the problem with Eat My Dust, in which cars chase each other down the same roads over and over again. The chase scenes aren't particularly well filmed, either, with lots of obviously (and, sometimes, "humorously") sped-up footage. In the spirit of these movies, the police officers can barely drive out of their own way, while the young hero could have competed in the World Rally Championship.
Why did Ron Howard, who was starring in Happy Days at the time, agree to star in this piece of junk? Because he wanted to direct, of course, and Corman agreed to produce his directorial debut (Grand Theft Auto, released one year later) if he appeared in Eat My Dust. Like James Cameron, Joe Dante, and even Martin Scorsese, Howard got his start working for Roger Corman, and the B-movie king deserves credit and congratulations for uncovering so much talent.
That doesn't make the movie any better, though.