Where George Lucas’ American Grafitti showed the last few days before college for a group on American teenagers, the sequel — written and directed by Bill L. Norton, who was an actor in Messiah of Evil and also directed Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend — is about what happens next to the characters played by Candy Clark, Ron Howard, Paul Le Mat, Cindy Williams, Mackenzie Phillips, Charles Martin Smith, Bo Hopkins and Harrison Ford. Of them all, only Richard Dreyfuss didn’t show up. And this is Howard’s last role as a credited and named character in a movie.
As for George Lucas, who created the first film, well, he was a little busy, what with starting Lucasfilm, developing Radioland Murders with Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz, planning Raiders of the Lost Ark and writing The Empire Strikes Back. Of the film, Lucas would say that it failed miserably and critics disliked how much fun it made the end of the 60s — not to mention all the cutting between film genres — seem.
Despite that negative critical reception, this film wasn’t the commercial failure Lucas claims that it was. Some filmmakers would be happy with making $15 million on a budget of $3 million.
Set during several New Years’ Eve celebrations, during which the times of that year are remembered, this follows the cast from the original. Each year is a different style of film, with 1965 being a grainy war newsreel of the Vietnam War and 1966 looking a lot like the movie Woodstock. Norton thought that cutting between four different time frames would be too jolting for the audience. Years later, Lucas would agree.
But hey — the drag race scenes, shot in a low aspect ratio like an exploitation movie? Those are pretty great. There’s a huge crowd of extras, who were all given Star Wars toys to show up.
Image courtesy of Vectezzy.