The Good

Ron Howard showed early on that he had the stuff.

The Bad

The audio on the commentary track being stereo and not mono. Not enough extras.

Grand Theft Auto is Ron Howard's directorial debut and right from the opening frame it was apparent that this guy had the stuff. The premise of the story is simple, Paula (Nancy Morgan) is the daughter of a wealthy man who is running for office. She wants Paula to marry someone else to help his chances of being elected. Paula refuses and heads to Vegas with her boyfriend Sam (Ron Howard). Going to extreme measures to stop this union, Paula's Dad offers up $25,000 to anybody who can bring Paula home. Well, this turns into a chase of epic proportions, and recalls why we love movies like this from the 1970s so much.

Filled with jokes, car chases, and a lot of mayhem, in a weird way I thought there were shades of Ron Howard's Night Shift which came a few years later.

Features

A Family Affair

Clint Howard sits back with his father Rance and they discuss making the film together and what Ron Howard is like as a director. Rance describes how Corman was only expecting to get a script, but then Ron told him he would direct for free. Then Rance and Clint explain the low budget nature of the shoot. This was enjoyable, I just wish that Ron could have been a part of it but he was probably busy making The Da Vinci Code.

Introduction by Roger Corman

A too short introduction from the master as he describes Ron Howard as the "coolest" director he had ever seen. Apparently, by this point in his life, Howard had been on enough sets that he wasn't going to let the daunting task of making a chase film bother him. Other than this, Corman also remarks that the whole Howard family was involved, and it really seems like he functioned at a distance and then worked at distributing the finished film once Howard and Co. were done.

Audio Commentary with Ron Howard and Roger Corman

I was jolted by this because I was so looking forward to hearing these guys do this commentary track. Well, I tried watching it on my one speaker TV and Howard sounded fine but Corman sounded terrible. So, I went to another TV (which had two speakers) and while Corman was still somewhat lower than Howard, the sound was 100% better. Aside from this technical snafu, I thought these two offered interesting insights. Ron Howard explains what he was trying to do with the movie, how film is communication, and how he's referenced Grand Theft Auto in his other films. Corman offers up some interesting thoughts on the production, but really seems more mindful of letting Howard have this moment to discuss his movie.

Video

Full Screen - 1.33:1. From top to bottom, I think this film looks really good. I was a bit surprised to find that it was in full screen, but I don't know that Grand Theft Auto is the kind of movie that needs some major remastering overhaul. It plays as a fun film with plenty of action. I was impressed with Howard's choice of shots, angles, and where he put the camera.

Audio

Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. French subtitles. This movie played fine on this track. For his first film Howard wasn't really trying to get too much inside the character's heads. I think his biggest goal was making an entertaining story that would come in on or under budget and please Roger Corman. I think people were certainly impressed with his work as his current career is flourishing.

Package

Calling this film the "Tricked Out Edition" on this front cover and utilizing video game type imagery, I think it's apparent that Disney is trying to make this film seem new and hip for a younger generation. I can't say I blame them but I wonder if utilizing the original one sheet would have been a better idea? The back contains a remembrance from Roger Corman, a description of what this film is about, a Special Features listing, system specs, a poorly rendered shot from the movie, and a cast list. They have made this DVD stand out which I guess is ultimately the idea.

Final Word

Being a huge fan of both Ron Howard and Roger Corman, I was so excited to get to review Grand Theft Auto. While I feel a little bit let down with the quality of the audio commentary (it played fine on a two speaker TV but mine is just a one speaker), I am still very happy to own this movie and at the very least I can hear Howard on my crummy TV set. I think that for a first movie, this tale was was highly ambitious but Howard pulled it off deftly. I guess I get nostalgic watching movies like this from the late 70s because I was 5 years old, and while I don't remember too much, I know what was going on in the lives of these people I admire. Corman was producing many seminal films throughout this decade, and Ron Howard was still riding high from both The Andy Griffith Show and Happy Days.

I think it's very encouraging that Howard didn't rest on his laurels and really parlayed his success into Grand Theft Auto and one of the most successful directing careers ever.

Grand Theft Auto was released June 16, 1977.