A year before Smokey And The Bandit and a good three years before The Dukes Of Hazzard, Ron Howard led a cross county chase in this Roger Corman produced action/comedy. The story is simple…teen Hoover Niebold (Ron Howard) wants to impress beautiful blonde Darlene Kurtz (Christopher Norris) who has a love for fast cars. Hoover steals the fastest stock car on the track, belonging to local legend Big Bubba Jones (Dave “Mr. Kincaid” Madden) to take her for a ride. This joy ride turns into a hot pursuit as his sheriff father (Warren Kemmerling) leads the chase, followed by a posse of drunken stock car racers and inept deputies!
Car chase flick is written and directed by Charles B. Griffith who wrote a lot of scripts for Corman during the 60s, 70s and 80s, including many of his classics. It is a light, fun and fast paced effort that made a lot of money for Corman and New World Pictures. The film was part of a deal with Ron Howard, who had star power from Happy Days and was looking to direct. If he starred in this, he could make another film for Corman from the director’s chair, which would become Grand Theft Auto. The result is a good time with a lot of slapstick comedy and an almost non-stop chase with young Hoover outwitting his dad’s deputies and Big Bubba’s drunken buddies. As with most Corman films, there is a lot accomplished with a little and Griffith brings a light, breezy fun to the proceedings and keeps things moving quickly. It’s silly and goofy, but energetic and there is plenty of stunts and crashes for car chase enthusiasts to enjoy.
Howard plays Hoover much like a grown up version of his Opie Taylor from The Andy Griffith Show. He’s a bit of a country bumpkin, but is clever enough to outwit his pursuers. Howard has charm and is very likable as the rebellious teen willing to do anything for love. Christopher Norris is pretty and spunky as the object of Hoover’s affection, Darlene. The two make an endearing pair as they outwit the nitwits in their county. The supporting cast all have a good time playing their roles with over-the-top, slapstick efficiency, too and it’s fun to watch them. The film also stars Howard’s brother Clint, a known cult favorite character actor himself.
This film is now considered a cult classic and in an indirect way got Ron Howard started on a career as a prolific and highly regarded director. It’s silly, funny and loaded with plenty of chases and crashes. It was a successful film for Corman’s New World Pictures and predated the “redneck” car chase craze started by Smokey And The Bandit by a year. A fun little movie and another example of Roger Corman’s craft as a producer. 7/10