“Ron Howard‘s funnier and faster, He’s a high-speed disaster!” Little Ronnie Howard showed he was more than just Richie Cunningham on Happy Days as he made his feature directorial debut with this low-budget quickie from DIY mega-producer Roger Corman. Grand Theft Auto is really just a series of outrageous car crashes built around the thinnest of plots (Howard kind of admits to this himself in the film’s terrific trailer) as Paula Powers (Nancy Morgan), a poor little rich girl and daughter of a political candidate, steals dear old dad’s Rolls-Royce and hits the road to Vegas with her beau, Sam Freeman (Howard); their journey to a quickie wedding and happily ever after ends up being chock full of with detours and roadblocks as Paula’s would-be suitor (Paul Linke) follows behind in hot pursuit, along with a bunch of bounty hunters looking to cash in on the $25,000 reward for Paula’s return. The two leads are sweet and likable, with Howard obviously relishing getting to play an “edgier” kind of role (relatively, anyway); Howard also made this something of a family affair, as his Happy Days mom, Marion Ross, has a featured supporting role, as do his real-life father and brother, Rance and Clint. However, the real reasons to watch are the cars — and the car crashes, which are performed with the same kind of reckless abandon (if not the technical skill) that would be showcased a few years later in The Road Warrior; it’s hard to resist a movie whose tagline is “See the greatest cars in the world destroyed!”
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