Grand Theft Auto (1977) – By Duane L. Martin

Paula (Nancy morgan) and Sam (Ron Howard) just want to get married and be happy together. For any normal couple, this wouldn’t be an issue, but for Paula and Sam, things aren’t so easy. See, Paula comes from a well off family, and her father (Barry Cahill) has aspirations of becoming the Governor of the state. He and her mother (Elizabeth Rogers) have her life all planned out for her, including who she’s going to marry. They want her to marry Collins Hedgeworth (Paul Linke), who’s about the biggest…well, let’s put it this way. If you’ve ever seen Monty Python’s Upper Class Twit of the Year sketch, this guy would have come in first place. Not only is he a wussy twit, but he apparently has the emotional level of a child, because he’s convinced that Paula and he belong together and are engaged to be married. So when Paula has a fight with her parents after her father forbids her to marry Sam, she leaves, steals their Rolls Royce, picks up Sam, and the two head for Las Vegas, where they plan to be married. When Collins finds out what’s going on however, the chase is on. When Collins’ mother Vivian Hedgeworth (Marion Ross) finds out what’s going on, the chase is really on, because not only does she go after them herself, but she calls into a radio show and offers a huge reward on the air to anyone who can stop them. At this point, not only do the couple have Collins and his mom chasing them, but a street minister, a couple of guys who want the money to put into their hot rod, and any number of others. Will they make it to Vegas so they can get married? You’ll have to watch the film to find out.

This film was produced by Roger Corman and written by Ron Howard and his father Rance Howard, with Ron also directing and starring in it. This film is far superior to the other feature in this double feature release from Shout Factory in almost every way. The story is more involved and better written, the acting is far better, the cast includes lots of familiar faces, including Marion Ross, Clint Howard, Hoke Howell, Don Steele, Garry Marshall and others. Marion Ross is particularly funny, as her role is pretty much completely the opposite of her role as Marion Cunningham on Happy Days. She swears, flips people off and is generally caustic and rude. I think of all the performances in this film, hers was by far the most entertaining.

The film, on a production level was far superior as well. While there were a lot of car chase scenes, as there were in Eat My Dust!, this film had a compelling story to go with it, and you were actually pulling for the young couple to make it to Vegas, and you could feel the tension as various people tried to stop them. So the car chases weren’t the be all and end all of the film, though they were a large part of it.

The film was edited well and kept the story moving along at a good pace. The visual quality of the transfer is excellent and the sound is good throughout the film. I really don’t have anything bad to say about it from a production or story standpoint except that films with lots of car chase scenes tend to drag if they’re overused to make up for a lack of story. Fortunately, the story in this film was pretty good, and the chases were usually a lot more involved than one car following another, so it didn’t become a major issue.

All in all, this was a really enjoyable film. Of the two, this is the one that will make you want to add this release to your collection, but personally, Marion Ross’ performance would be enough to do it for me. She was great!

If you’d like to find out more about this release or pick yourself up a copy, you can check out all of Shout Factory’s great Roger Corman Collection releases here.