Mindless action, thrills with no gore, and a happy ending. That's what I wanted, that's what I got: Ron Howard's directorial debut for Roger Corman, 1977's Grand Theft Auto.
Little Opie plays a college student from the wrong side of the tracks in love with Nancy Morgan, the daughter of a Beverly Hills fat cat who is running for congress. When her parents refuse to consent to their marriage, these two crazy kids steal the family Rolls and head for Vegas. Her mother steals the gardener's VW and gives chase. Nancy's suitor, a polo-playing rich kid joins the chase. They call the LA's KTNQ radio and offer a reward for the return of the eloping bride, and this gets everyone into the game.
So - chases and crashes. There is a low-budget, go-for-broke feeling like the first Gone in 60 Seconds. But there was also a touch of Vanishing Point with the radio DJ following all the action. Come to think of it, that was part of Gone in 60 Seconds and Convoy as well. I guess that in the 70s, no car chase was complete w/o a DJ to narrate. Kind of like the TV news copter of today.
The long scenes of Rolls and pursuers barreling through the desert kicking up huge clouds of dust were also very Convoy, but I don't know if this is homage, or just unavoidable - a long distance car chase from LA will always wind up in the desert.
It all ends in a demolition derby, which only makes sense.
You'll see a lot of familiar Corman faces, notably Paul Bartels as an eager bridegroom.
Oh, did I mention car crashes?
I don't think we see a lot of genius from Howard, but this is a perfectly serviceable crash-em-up. It's light-hearted fun and just what we were looking for.
In conclusion, no connection at all to the video game and movie spinoffs that came later.