Friday, January 19, 2018


Lamar Card

Watch your donkey… smokey’s gonna getcha.

In the 1970s the tricked out custom van promised a way to escape, to show off, and create a little rolling den of pleasure where you could indulge in all the sex, drugs, and easy listening soft rock that you could bear.  Splash some art on the side with a wizard riding a tiger and you have all the makings of a fad turned minor subculture that is ripe for exploitation through some quickly thrown together movies. Supervan tosses in an extremely mild science-fiction element in the form the actual Supervan itself, but really this is just a surface element in a film that is almost entirely surface.

"So what do we do here at the van-in?"
"You're looking at it."
Clint (Mark Schneider) is a young man who really wants to “do something” with his life. He falls under the impression that driving around in a fancy van is just that thing. He decides to take his van 'The Sea Witch' to The Invitational Freak-Out Van-In. Along the way, Clint rescues a young woman, Karen (Katie Saylor), from would-be rapist bikers. This noble acts gets The Sea Witch smashed up in a car crusher, but have no fear, a nearby radical van designer has just the solution, Supervan! Supervan is a solar-powered vehicle complete with lasers and way too many windows. Clint immediately squanders this gift by calling it Vandora.

If you want a plot, I’d look elsewhere. Actually, I would avoid the vansploitation genre entirely (see Mag Wheels (1978) for another example).  If you are here to see some vans and a little slice of 1970s ephemera then dive right in.  Once Supervan assembles its characters and they arrive at the Van-In, the film is mostly vignettes of various counter-culture types hanging out. There is even an odd cameo by author Charles Bukowski during a wet t-shirt contest. I can only assume Bukowski was in the neighborhood at the time and decided to show up. It is pretty fascinating to see a lot of homemade van paint jobs, there is a kind of simplicity and earnestness to it all especially in the face of a modern age where everyone strives to be as slick and professional as possible.

It's as ugly as it is impractical.
Supervan is filled with broad comedy populated with bungling authority figures and savvy kids out to just have a good time.  I imagine the ideal audience was supposed to be too stoned or busy making out to notice that nothing is very funny here. Mentions of rape and homophobia during the film have aged even worse than the van culture. Viewing Supervan as a time capsule of the  1970s means taking the amusing and the terrible, but both of these elements seem a little mean-spirited for such an easy going film.

Make no mistake, Supervan is hot garbage. The acting is bad, the plot is non-existent, and it looks terrible. The vans are kind of neat though. For all its flaws Supervan offers no commentary just a snapshot of a moment that could have been lost over time, but was it a time worth remembering?

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