“From Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Illinois, all the little ladies love my pride and joy”
Clint (Mark Schneider) loves vans. He loves them so much, that he decides to leave the family’s car repair business and heads off in his four-wheeled pride and joy for a ‘van happening’, some kind of a contest called “Freak Out”. He might even win $5,000 with it. His dad, however, doesn’t approve.
Well, you can forget about the dad for the rest of the movie. In the first few minutes of ‘Supervan’, he nags a bit to his son, but Clint is determined to go “do something” (with his life, I presume, just like every teenager or twenty-something thinks of doing at some point). So, he drives off and the dad is never seen or heard of again. Thank God, this film is not a family drama.
Clint is clearly full of youthful enthousiasm, hopes and dreams. So you might think that we’re dealing with a clever youngster here, but what’s the first thing he manages to pull off? Get his van completely wrecked. How? While driving along, he spots two lowlife biker nitwits trying to rape a girl in a junkyard. He drives in there, saves the girl, grabs her and throws her into his van. But while trying to escape the frustrated bikers, he manages to drive straight into a metal press (the kind of machine that squeezes cars into cubes). And just wait what one of the moron biker guys does next. So, it’s bye-bye for Clint’s little pride and joy. Now if you think this film can’t get any more stupid (you may as well read: entertaining), think again.
The girl’s name is Karen (Katie Saylor). Apparently she doesn’t have a life of her own to go back to, because she just decides to tag along with Clint. Never mind she just nearly got violated and Clint got his van crushed. Those things happen every day, don’t they? Oh wait, no, she’s on the run from her dad too? Because she doesn’t like the schools he’s putting her through. Oh my, two rebellious teens who find each other. Thank God, this is not a romantic drama.
Her dad is T.B. Trenton (Morgan Woodward), a corrupt, evil, coroporate head of an oil company. So here we have our villain of the film. Just an old booger with a lot of money, really. Meanwhile, Clint’s got this buddy called Boseley (Tom Kindle), who’s working on a secretly funded science project. Turns out the project is called Vandora, aka Supervan. So there you go, Clint has found a new van, and he’ll take his shot at those $5,000 with it. What all ensues, results in one of the most senile carsploitation flicks you’ll ever see.
The Supervan is an amazingly ridiculous, retro-seventies futuristic creation. It’s fast, it talks, it’s solar powered and laser blasting (much sillier than it sounds). It glows and makes a relaxing high-pitched “zooooooooom” sound when it drives. It doesn’t fly, though, and it’s no KITT either. But then again, Clint on his terms is no Marty McFly or Michael Knight. He’s just Clint, picked up a fine blonde lady and is out to win $5,000. Fair enough. Go for it, Clint.
It’s obviously evident that the people who made this film were very much into the whole seventies American van culture and simply decided to make a film about it, often resulting in something that feels like it was made by a bunch of ‘van fans’ instead of real film makers. On the upside, you get the feeling that you’re watching a genuine slice of vintage ’70s drive-in exploitation cinema. ‘Supervan’ (made in ’76) has been singled out as the forerunner of commercially more succesful efforts like ‘Smokey And The Bandit’ (1977) and ‘The Cannonball Run’ (1981). Maybe it was, but it’s very questionable if ‘Supervan’ has influenced either of those films. If the team behind them ever even saw ‘Supervan’, I’m sure they went like: “Right, let’s totally forget about what all these guys did and make an actual movie. One with characters and a plot. And no vans.”
Sure, it’s a very bad flick, but it’s also a barrel of laughs. For some reason, famous writer and professional alcoholic Charles Bukowski ended up making an appearance in ‘Supervan’. His screentime is even less than a minute, but he’s a hoot to behold. The “Freak Out” event, of course, had to have a Wet T-Shirt Contest, during which you can see Bukowski with a beer can in his hands fondling one of the girls and spraying water with a garden hose on all the other female participants. Clearly drunk, he seems to be having a great time, but I highly doubt he was even aware they were shooting a movie (the shots he’s in, are utterly random with no dialogues). And there’s more junevile smutty fun going on in ‘Supervan’. One scene involves T.B. in the back of his limousine, the topless nympho wife of a minister and a spraycan full of whipped cream. Wait for the moment where T.B. goes “Oooh, what a beauty…” Enough said.
The acting? The, uhm, special effects? The (poorly staged) car chases? All great sources of laughter. There’s a pointless montage showing off the numerous custom-built vans, a less-than-impressive jail bust-out, a wondrously underwhelming climactic event involving vans and a muddy hill (The Mud Slide Event!), and not to mention David Munyon‘s terribly cheesy theme song ‘Ridin’ High’ (that you’ll never get out of your head again once you’ve heard it). One unequaled highlight also involves the overly drawn-out exciting scene about… setting up a tent (the whole sequence even has its own chapter on the DVD-menu of the 2010 Cheezy Flicks release, simply titled ‘Pitching A Tent’).
After watching ‘Supervan’, I was very much convinced that director Lamar Card couldn’t have made many more films, let alone stay active in the movie business. To my utmost surprise, I discovered he did. He even landed a second unit director’s position on the Jamie Lee Curtis slasher ‘Terror Train’ (1980) and one of Charles Band‘s best (often overlooked) productions, the horror-western ‘Ghost Town’ (1988). In the ’90s Lamar Card even popped up again as an executive producer of everybody’s favorite metal werewolf movie ‘Project: Metalbeast’ (1995), the only motion picture ever to feature a mutant werewolf synthetically enhanced with metal skin, extendible/retractable steel claws and red-glowing eyes. Given this little fact and what ‘Supervan’ is all about, Lamar Card definitely had a good nose for highly original never-before-seen-on-screen concepts throughout his dubious career as a film maker. One can only respect such a talent.
So, yes, ‘Supervan’. Half a star for the exceptionally accomplished piece of film making it was (and still is). And one solid star for all the hilarity that comes with it. Strongly advised to watch this film with like-minded friends to have a good laugh riot throughout the viewing process. When watched alone, there’s always the risk of finding yourself derangedly munching on the remote control by the time the film’s done, as a direct cause of the state of sheer dementia it might put you in.
Watch the most rudimentary chopped together trailer ever on YouTube.