Aug 15, 2019
On Blu-ray: Mark Hamill and Annie Potts in Corvette Summer (1978)
A year after Star Wars (1977) brought Mark Hamill lasting fame he starred in the exponentially more modest Corvette Summer (1978). Despite the dramatic difference in setting, he plays a similarly naïve, but principled young man on a quest. It’s as if Luke Skywalker dropped into a high school auto shop after a journey from a galaxy far away. I recently revisited the film on a new Blu-ray from Warner Archive.
Hamill is Kenny, an earnest shop student on the verge of high school graduation. The big class project is a souped-up, cherry-colored Corvette Stingray, which the kids (among them an adorable Danny Bonaduce) are eager to take for a test run. They are devastated when the car is stolen mid-drive and no one more so than Kenny, who decides he must find it at all costs.
He gets a tip that the Corvette is on display in a Las Vegas casino, so he hitches his way across the desert. Instead of finding the car, he meets scrappy aspiring call girl Vanessa (Annie Potts). Though she has a slick trick van, she’s not much older than Kenny and clearly isn’t prepared for the dangerous world of hooking on the strip. When she can’t convince him to become a client, she helps him instead, as hookers with a heart of gold do in the movies.
While much of the action is played lightly, Kenny falls into disturbing territory. He becomes acquainted with violence and corruption beyond his ability to process and his confusion clouds his judgment. You might think that would be the juicy part of the proceedings, but it’s actually when the film begins to lose steam.
Hamill leaps through his early scenes with the earnestness of a half-trained puppy. He’s full of enthusiasm and only somewhat prepared for adult life. While his single mother has given him a taste of the rot in the world, he’s still endearingly eager and the energy he exudes keeps the first part of the film lively, especially when he meets Potts, who nearly steals it all away from him.
The plot begins to drag on the pair though, who really only need each other to engage an audience. Instead, they are required to march through a series of events that fail to be novel or intriguing. They’d have been ideal together in a story with less crime, more screwball action.
As it is, Hamill and Potts are worth the watch and overall the film has the warm feeling of a flick you'll always love because you saw it for the first time when you were twelve.
Bonus: Beloved character actor Dick Miller makes one of his most endearing cameos as a lucky man who is happy to spread the wealth.
The sole special feature on the disc is a trailer for the film.
Many thanks to Warner Archive for providing a copy of the film for review. To order, visit The Warner Archive Collection.