I saw a film!
Corvette Summer (’78)
Starring Mark Hammill (fresh off Star Wars success) and an unimaginably adorable Annie Potts.
Hammill is a kid into cars. So into cars he even shuns love to maximize his obsession. As a student in a really neat California high school, which includes classmate Danny Bonaduce (still looking very partridge-like), a vocational technical teacher runs an autobody class in which our young hero builds his dream Corvette. It’s ugly, but that’s taste. His teacher played by the TV and movie regular Eugene Roche (Seventh Heaven, Voyager, Soap) tries to impart some market wisdom, don’t fall in love with cars, buy em, sell em, trade em, but don’t fall in love.
Almost immediately the car is stolen and Hammill, wholly in love with his creation, follows leads down the highways to Vegas where he soon encounters cute-as-a-button Annie Potts in her shag-van, calling herself VANessa and trying to train herself to be a prostitute. And trying and failing to get Hammill to join her in the back! I know, right? Unfortunately for her, Hammill is a car monk who wants nothing to do with her sweet come-ons. It’s a pretty good joke that could only be played in this direction outside of a John Waters film. One can only wonder about the life of VANessa before deciding she would sell herself (and cheaply) in a van in Vegas, but that’s obviously been chosen simply to flip the usual male/female narrative of how men and women use and abuse sex and love. What’s the old line? Men use Love to get Sex, and women use Sex to achieve Love (lots of fun to be played here), and never the twain shall meet. I’m also reminded that when Craig’s List featured a personal services section that there were hundreds of local ladies offering themselves as prostitutes. I always wondered if many of them actually went through with the offers, or if it was more just a bit of an exciting “what if?”, and “could I?” scenario. There must be something of a thrill to know men would pay to be with you.
It isn’t long before the car-chopping villains are located and the main one is played by Richard Kim Milford, who, for me, is most famous for having played the lead in Laserblast that very same year (Laserblast was wonderfully sent up by MST3K some 25 years ago, the best way to see the film). Milford was a songwriter and singer and did a lot of stage acting before his untimely death in 1988 (of some kind of heart trouble) having not even gotten to 40 years old. Milford’s team of chop shop guys are pretty aggressive with our hero. Hammill is so young, his acting, so plaintive, and much of the movie is just chase sequences with him spotting the car going places, that it quickly grows tiresome when Annie isn’t involved. It’s hard to believe this guy just played Luke Skywalker and was central to blowing all our young minds (I was 13)!
VANessa, whose real name it turns out is Eleanor (a favorite of mine), fails to make much prostitute headway (really?), and is soon hiring herself out to risque photography buffs, who, when Hammill decides to “rescue” her (a rescue that she didn’t really seem to need and definitely didn’t want) they were shooting her in a bathtub wearing a kind of wetsuit and flippers. Maybe it was a metaphorical thing I missed.
VANessa is fun in her strange, naive and fearless way, but you can’t help thinking, especially from a perspective of constant crime saturation that we’re subjected to today, that she’s just gonna get chewed up and spat out, and in fact, we do see her in a moment of vulnerable disappointment fairly early on in the adventure, but she bounces right back undaunted, because, well, she’s a movie fantasy. And she’s a trope. In sixties movies like The Girl in the Gold Boots and Walk the Angry Beach the ladies were trying to be dancers (and were ruined by being asked to be strippers and getting caught up in other criminal activities). Vanessa on the other hand is going straight to the sex work, skipping all the usual outrage of having dreams dashed! The seventies were so progressive! But of course in a wholly goofball and immature manner. OK OK they’re supposed to be kids so the naivete is appropriate. At one point while being pursued in the Vette and fired on by the villain she hangs herself out of the car and challenges the shooter, “Oh Bang Bang yourself” she says with a cute wry smile that makes zero sense, but places the fantasy in the Saturday matinee kid zone. We know the gun is a prop, and we know Annie isn’t gonna take a bullet in the face in this silly story.
Will the kids recover the car? Will they have a Corvette summer? Will Vanessa and Mark (I can’t remember nor care to look up the character’s name) have a relationship? Is it a romance?
A friend recommended me this film having remembered my old obsession with vans back in the day. They did not know I also have obsessed about Annie forever too. So this film had a double affection from me. Good for a laugh, but I still enjoyed it better than nearly anything by Terantino (no kidding!).
On Prime for two bucks, cheap you skinny rats.