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Eat My Dust: Supercharged Edition DVD Review

Eat My Dust movie poster Eat My Dust

Theatrical Release: May 28, 1976 / Running Time: 88 Minutes / Rating: PG

Writer/Director: Charles B. Griffith

Cast: Ron Howard (Hoover Niebold), Christopher Norris (Darlene Kurtz), Warren Kemmerling (Sheriff Niebold), Dave Madden (Big Bubba Jones), Jessica Potter (Lallie Chandler), Brad David (Billy B. Westerby), Kathy O'Dare (Miranda Smith), Clint Howard (George Poole Jr.), Pete Isacksen (Junior Hale), Charles Howerton (Dep. Jay Beah), Kedric Wolfe (Dep. Brookside), John Kramer (Dep. Sebastiani), W.L. Luckey (Dep. Gallo), Rance Howard (Clark), Robert Broyles (Bud), John Thompson (Oly), John J. Fox (Willie Kurtz), Margaret Fairchild (Dorrit Kurtz), Evelyn Russel (Dolores Westerby), Don Brodie (Old Man Lewis), Jerry Fujikawa (Chou Lick), Corbin Bernsen (Roy Puire)

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As you probably already know, Ron Howard's career has been made up of phases. First, there was the cute child actor who accrued 30 credits in 10 years, none as famous as Andy Taylor's son Opie on TV's "The Andy Griffith Show." Today, Howard is a balding director of typically average films,
which have included big blockbusters and Oscar winners (like 2001's Best Picture, A Beautiful Mind). In between those stages, of course, was Howard's long run as All-American young man Richie Cunningham in "Happy Days."

During the ten years that popular sitcom was on the air, Howard developed into a filmmaker. He got his first directing job on Roger Corman's 1977 car comedy Grand Theft Auto. To secure that gig, he first had to star in another car comedy for the steadily-working low-budget producer. That 1976 film, titled Eat My Dust, became one of Corman's biggest hits of the decade, with returns handily surpassing its estimated $300,000 budget.

Eat My Dust opens with sped-up first-person footage of reckless driving on a winding country road. Those two minutes represent the extent of the film's creativity. Trying to find characters, plot, purpose, or substance here is a lost cause.

Darlene Kurtz (Christopher Norris) and Hoover Niebold (Ron Howard) are on the run in a stolen red race car in "Eat My Dust." Hoover's disapproving father Sheriff Niebold (Warren Kemmerling) is upset by another disconcerting deputy report, while the car's owner/racer Big Bubba Jones (Dave Madden) and Clark (Rance Howard, father of Ron) pay little attention.

Sheriff's son Hoover Niebold (Ron Howard) steals a souped-up red car from a local racing event and drives off with short-shorted, speed-loving blonde Darlene (Christopher Norris) and some tagalong friends (who include Ron's brother Clint Howard). This act sets the spectators abuzz and puts the law, especially Hoover's father (Warren Kemmerling), on edge.

The young people's Halloween joy ride proceeds without too much rhyme or reason,
seeming to be scripted and shot on the go by writer/director Charles B. Griffith (who also penned Corman's best-known and famously-remade Little Shop of Horrors and Death Race 2000). Actually, the notion that anything was committed to paper for this feels like a stretch. The movie unfolds with cop cars getting dirty and shown up, bystanders being embarrassed, and more first-person road footage while the passengers sing various royalty-free ditties.

Eventually, the crowd is dropped, a radio is gained, and it's strictly Boy and Girl On the Run, with some behind-the-wheel kisses being the only twist to the chase formula. A horse and surrey briefly features in a story detour, but eventually it's back to bumpy pursuit with stunts and jokes. Needless to say, the action climax far wears out its welcome even though the film checks out under 90 minutes.

Making one of his first film appearances, "L.A. Law" actor Corbin Bernsen unrecognizably plays a dim-witted gas station attendant, qualifying him as the second most famous person seen here. Making more of an impression, this now out-of-print Supercharged Edition's DVD boasts the clunkiest layer change I've ever encountered. It's especially odd because the disc doesn't use enough data to require two layers.

Buy Eat My Dust: Supercharged Edition DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details
1.33:1 Fullscreen, Dolby Mono 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish
Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: September 25, 2007
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $19.99
Black Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover

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VIDEO and AUDIO

Like most Corman films, Eat My Dust is presented in 1.33:1 fullscreen and two-channel Dolby Mono on DVD. (The case incorrectly states the latter is Dolby Digital 5.1.) Seeing as how cinema was twenty years into the widescreen age when the movie was released, it probably was exhibited in 1.85:1 and should be seen that way. Instead, we get the full frame, with nonessential coverage at the top and bottom of the screen.

The video is watchable and clean, but the shortcomings of the budget production are evident. The visuals are soft, faded, often dark, and always unappealing.

The sound is awful most of the time. Even the subtitle track leaves gaps, unable to decipher shrill racetrack announcer commentary. To catch every line, you'll need the subtitles on, but missing the occasional remark hardly hurts the experience. A secondary audio stream purports to be French, but it's actually just the original English duplicated.

Roger Corman looks quite pleased with the Ron Howard career funny he just made in the DVD's short video introduction. Despite the name, Christopher Norris is still a woman today. She recalls "How to Stop on a Dime", something she learned making "Eat My Dust." Some of the titular dust is raised on the main menu's montage rotation.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

The first of three extras isn't available from the bonus features menu, but the main menu. It is an introduction by Roger Corman, which acts as if you have no idea what the movie you're about to watch is. The upbeat producer manages to fit both the title's origin and a Ron Howard pun into these 45 seconds.

Next and most substantial comes "How to Stop on a Dime: The Making of Eat My Dust" (9:30). It actually crafts a decent retrospective out of interviews with just three people:
leading lady Christopher Norris, editor Tina Hirsch, and director of photography Eric Saarinen. Rather than celebrate the film like it's something wonderful, the participants gladly recognize its limitations. That helps make their comments (spruced up by clips, music, and behind-the-scenes photos) -- about the title, stunts that didn't go as planned, and the nature of a Roger Corman production -- easy to take and appreciate.

We also get the original Eat My Dust trailer that runs one minute. It's easier to appreciate at Trailers from Hell with insider reflection.

New Horizon's original 1999 DVD also included an interview by Leonard Maltin of Roger Corman and an 8-page booklet on Corman's career. Neither is carried over here.

The main menu offers some clean graphics, soothing score, and a rotation of circular montages. Before it loads, the disc plays the hip anti-piracy promo that's been phased out.

Duplicated in a cardboard slipcover, the keepcase cover matches Grand Theft Auto's design with an inexplicable curvy lady silhouette and some striking automotive artwork making the movie look far cooler and more vibrant than it really is. A chapter insert doubles as an ad for other nearly-reputable Corman DVDs now no longer available from Buena Vista.

In one of their few scenes outside a moving vehicle, Hoover (Ron Howard) and the leggy, hot-panted Darlene (Christopher Norris) smile at the site of a horse and surrey in this stable. One car in pursuit of another forms the bulk of dumb drive-in comedies like "Eat My Dust."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

It's evident that Eat My Dust was a cheap movie made to turn a quick, sure profit, not to be seriously critiqued decades later. Dumb drive-in fare like this hasn't been around in a long time and watching this explains why you haven't heard clamor to revive the format. It survives today purely to reconnect nostalgic 40-50-year-olds with a carefree chapter from their youths. There just can't be many people for whom this genre and this particular film trigger happy memories.

If you're among them, you probably already own the movie. If not, you've got two choices, neither of which is in print or in stores today. You might as well wait for the next incarnation and the next format. Imagine how bad this could look and sound on Blu-ray!

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com

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Related Reviews:
Produced by Roger Corman: Grand Theft Auto (Tricked Out Edition) The Intruder The Cry Baby Killer & The Little Shop of Horrors
Starring Ron Howard: Happy Days: The Fourth Season Happy Days: The Third Season Holiday Treats: T.V. Sets ("The Andy Griffith Show")
Cars Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo Herbie Goes Bananas The Love Bug Herbie Rides Again Herbie: Fully Loaded Speed Racer
Mystery Science Theater 3000: 20th Anniversary Edition You're a Good Sport, Charlie Brown Escape to Witch Mountain
New to DVD: Peanuts 1960's Collection Knowing Push Reno 911!: The Complete Sixth Season Uncensored

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Reviewed July 12, 2009.



Text copyright 2009 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1976 Roger Corman/New World Pictures/Productions and 2007 Buena Vista Home Entertainment.
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