The Warner Archive DVD release of the early Mark Hamill film "Corvette Summer" makes a PERFECT '70s film available to 21st century audiences. At the outset, this movie that is billed as a comedy is amusing but has the gritty look and dramatic overtone of similarly billed fare of the era. A good example of this is the (soon-to-be-reviewed) Archive release of the Peter Falk "comedy" "...All the Marbles."
Seeing Hamill play moderately sullen L.A. white-trash recent high-school graduate Kenneth W. Dantley, Jr. is amusing regarding his phenomenal fame as Luke Skywalker. Seeing that he has 321 roles on his IMDb profile compared to Michael Caine having 169 parts listed is amazing.
The opening scenes of "Corvette" evoke strong memories of the Sid and Marty Krofft live-action Saturday morning series "Wonderbug" for children of the '70s. Newly minted high-school senior Ken and his fellow auto-shop students (including a boy whom a slimmed-down Danny Bonaduce of "Partridge Family" fame portrays) are at a car graveyard looking for a car to spend the year rebuilding. A variation of divine intervention calls the attention of Ken to the titular Stingray, which is minutes away from being flattened. Of course, Ken rescues this piece of junk in the nick of time.
The '80s vibe of these scenes and of the subsequent montage and other action over the next 12 months of reel-time is of "The Greatest American Hero." That one also starts with a father-figure teacher to a group of under-achieving losers taking his kids on a life-changing field trip.
"Smokey and the Bandit" and "Breaking Away" moments come later in "Corvette."
Ken experiences the absolute worst nightmare of any new car owner when his wheels are stolen the first time that Teach takes the kids on a field trip to take turns driving the 'Vette on the strip, Ken much later learning more about the circumstances of the theft provides the best twist in the film.
The diligent efforts of Ken to find his baby leads to a tip that put him on the road to Las Vegas; the subsequent multiple ways in which he loses his innocence illustrates the meaning of the term "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas." One disappointing aspect of the film for fans with less-than-pure hearts is that this coning-of-age does not include a "Midnight Jedi" experience for Ken. The audience similarly learns that yelling at Ken to use the Jedi mind trick is futile.
The Sin City adventure begins in earnest when aspiring lady of the evening (and afternoon and morning) Vanessa (Annie Potts) picks up a hitchhiking Ken on the road to Vegas. The best moments regarding Vanessa involve separate occasions on which Ken effectively pays two-bits for services rendered and she literally takes a whore's bath.
The arrival in Vegas finds Ken on his own and looking for his car; the good news is that he has reason to hope for a a reunion; the bad news is that his rite-of-passage includes living rough. His subsequent reunion with Vanessa further makes his life a little better.
This leads to Ken being persuaded to go over to the dark side; his Yoda not being a righteous dude increases the odds that our boy will not see the light.
This being a '70s film (rather that a light '80s teencom) makes it likely (but uncertain) that the final scenes will be of Ken and Vanessa running out of a Vegas wedding chapel and driving away in the Stingray with a "Just Married" sign on the back of the car and tin cans tied to the rear bumper. The sad truth is that real-life D students with deprived childhoods almost never get Hollywood endings.
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