Ron Howard is eas­i­ly one of the most suc­cess­ful grad­u­ates of “Roger Corman University,”  which is how direc­tors who got their start at New World Pictures often refer to their hum­ble begin­nings.  He start­ed as an actor with Eat My Dust, clev­er­ly cap­i­tal­iz­ing on his Happy Days fame to open the door for a direct­ing gig that came a year lat­er in the form of Grand Theft Auto.  Both films are pre­sent­ed in The Ron Howard Action Pack and they ben­e­fit from the hand­some pre­sen­ta­tion they get there, which mix­es nice new trans­fers with a gen­er­ous com­ple­ment of extras.

Both of the­se titles have been exten­sive­ly issued on video, in both VHS and DVD for­mats (twice on DVD for each, in fact: each film was issued by New Concorde and lat­er Buena Vista).  Unfortunately, all pre­vi­ous ver­sions relied on the same, long-in-the-tooth full-frame video mas­ters for each title.  In The Ron Howard Action Pack, each is treat­ed to a new anamor­phic trans­fer that shows the­se films off to their best effect.  These trans­fers make it eas­ier to appre­ci­ate how well-shot New World films were, each offer­ing a sharp and col­or­ful image with min­i­mal amounts of age-relat­ed debris.  The mono mix­es are retained for each film and both are clear, skill­ful­ly-craft­ed sound­tracks.

Each film gets its own disc in this set and both include a vari­ety of extras that mix mate­ri­al from pri­or edi­tions with a few new items.  On the Eat My Dust disc, the old­er items are a fea­turet­te on the mak­ing of the film from the Buena Vista ver­sion and a Roger Corman inter­view by Leonard Maltin.  The lat­ter is an enter­tain­ing but typ­i­cal­ly short, under-five-min­utes piece.  However, the for­mer is a con­cise, engag­ing ten-min­ute fea­turet­te tak­en from inter­views with edi­tor Tina Hirsch, cin­e­matog­ra­pher Eric Saarinen and star Christopher Norris.  Their com­ments are con­sis­tent­ly inter­est­ing, par­tic­u­lar­ly Hirsch’s break­down of how she assem­bled the stunt sce­nes.

Elsewhere on the Eat My Dust disc, the view­er is treat­ed to a few new extras.  The first is a new inter­view with Ron Howard in which he dis­cuss­es both films and what it was like to grad­u­ate from “Roger Corman University.”  He cov­ers some of the same mate­ri­al from his com­men­tary track on Grand Theft Auto but he always finds inter­est­ing ways to flesh them out with new details — and the anec­dote about how the wrap par­ty for Grand Theft Auto was one of the best moments of his career is unex­pect­ed­ly touch­ing.  There is also an inter­view with John Solie, the artist who cre­at­ed the dis­tinc­tive poster art for Grand Theft Auto and many oth­er Corman films.  Fans of vin­tage poster art will enjoy get­ting a glimpse into how it was put togeth­er and the method Solie used.

On the Grand Theft Auto disc, old­er extras mate­ri­al includes a short intro by Roger Corman and anoth­er short Roger Corman inter­view by Leonard Maltin.  From the pri­or New Concorde edi­tion, there is a con­vivial if occa­sion­al­ly unfo­cused fea­turet­te in which Corman and Ron Howard dis­cuss their mem­o­ries of the film.

The Grand Theft Auto disc also boasts a pair of com­men­tary tracks, one old and one new.  The old one comes from the New Concorde disc and pairs Corman with Howard for an engag­ing two-han­der of a track.  The two share a nice rap­port and offer up plen­ty of fun details, with Howard focus­ing on the chal­lenges of direct­ing and act­ing while Corman shares some of the pen­ny-pinch­ing secrets used in the New World style of film­mak­ing.

The oth­er track fea­tures co-writer/bit play­er Rance Howard, edi­tor Joe Dante, sec­ond unit direc­tor Allan Arkush and key grip Ben Haller.  This is a much more “nuts and bolts” -style track, with a focus on the logis­tics of doing such a com­plex pro­duc­tion on a tiny bud­get.  Dante and Arkush offer the best quips, doc­u­ment­ing the chal­lenges of nav­i­gat­ing Corman’s cost-cut­ting ways to turn out the best pos­si­ble film (even if it meant doing 85 or 90 setups in one day).  There’s also a fun­ny sto­ry about a booze-lov­ing pro­duc­tion super­vi­sor who stayed at the bar and let the film­mak­ers do their thing.

Each disc is round­ed out by trail­ers for their main attrac­tions: The Eat My Dust trail­er is a fun 60-sec­ond quick­ie nar­rat­ed in zesty style by Don Steele while the Grand Theft Auto disc fea­tures a the­atri­cal trail­er and two t.v. spots.  They’re all worth watch­ing and it’s inter­est­ing to note that the Grand Theft Auto the­atri­cal spot fea­tures mate­ri­al shot espe­cial­ly for the trail­er itself.

All in all, this is a gen­er­ous, well-assem­bled set that offers both dra­mat­i­cal­ly improved trans­fers and a wealth of extras that are edu­ca­tion­al for the b-movie buff.  If you’re a Corman/New World fan, you can buy it with con­fi­dence.

The Ron Howard Action Pack

The Ron Howard Action Pack

var addthis_­con­fig = {“data_track_clickback”:true};Eat My Dust: Put the ped­al to the met­al and burn rub­ber with the clutch-pop­ping excite­ment of this new spe­cial edi­tion of Eat My Dust! Young Hoover Niebold is dying to impress Darlene. She’s into going fast, he’s into Darlene — but when they both get into a red-hot race car, the reck­less fun accel­er­ates into a wild ride. They’re off on the open road for a tire-squeal­ing, fend­er-bend­ing adven­ture to who-knows-where — and all Smokey can do is EAT THEIR DUST! Starring Ron Howard, Christopher Norris (Airport 1975), Dave Madden (The Partridge Family) and Ron’s broth­er and father — Clint Howard and Rance Howard.Grand Theft Auto: Cross Romeo & Juliet with a demo­li­tion der­by and you have Grand Theft Auto, Ron Howard’s direc­to­ri­al debut. Can Sam and Paula — a young run­away cou­ple trav­el­ing in her father’s stolen Rolls-Royce — get hitched in Vegas before their par­ents, a jeal­ous boyfriend, a pri­vate detec­tive and a mob of boun­ty hunters catch them? The race is on! Starring Ron Howard, Nancy Morgan (The Nest), Marion Ross (Happy Days) and Ron’s broth­er and father — Clint Howard and Rance Howard.