Supervan (1977)

Director: Lamar Card

Tagline: “Watch your donkey… Smokey’s gonna getcha.”

Plot: Mark Schneider plays a restless young man who quits his job at his dad’s garage because he’s “got a chance to do something.” Specifically, he’s got a chance to drive his van “The Sea Witch”—emblazoned with his CB handle, Morgan The Pirate—to The Invitational Freak-Out, a “van-in” held in Kansas City, where custom van owners gather to smoke weed, screw in the woods, and show off their machines for cash and prizes.

Along the way, though, Schneider meets Katie Saylor, a rich runaway who’s been detained at a junkyard by “a couple of friendly bikers on their way to a rape.” Schneider saves Saylor, but in the process, The Sea Witch gets crushed by a compactor. So Schneider goes to see a friend who’s a rebel auto designer, and the friend offers Schneider and Saylor Vandora, a solar-powered van that was rejected by the fat cats at Mid-American Motors.

In addition to being environmentally friendly and technologically advanced, Vandora emits a high-pitched whine that messes with the radios in police cars…

…thereby frustrating Jerry Seinfeld’s Uncle Leo, in his earlier life as a Missouri state trooper.

Equally frustrated? Saylor’s father, the head MAM fatcat (Morgan Woodward), who sits behind his big desk making plans to sell his muscled-up gas-guzzlers to the youth of today—that is, when he isn’t chasing young skirt. Woodward intended to wow the Freak-Out with his latest creation, driven by Saylor’s ex-boyfriend (a cocky dude who takes one look at Woodward and says, “You look like you’re running for the president of the child-molesters society, know what I mean?”), but when he finds out that Schneider has hijacked his delivery truck and replaced the gas-guzzler with Vandora, he hollers, “Roll over to the Lollipop Massage Parlor and get Judge Carlin out of there, we’ve got a problem!”

As directed by drive-in-movie vet Lamar Card, Supervan is a model of low-budget efficiency, consisting mainly of vérité footage of decadent counterculture types at play, intercut with long scenes of vans motoring through Kansas and Missouri, while CB chatter added in post-production explains the plot via colorful lingo like “good numbers to you” and “you’ve got a bear on your donkey.” The story all comes down to whether Schneider can embarrass Woodward by winning three out of the Freak-Out’s five competitive events (such as Best Airbrushed Painting and Ability To Drive Furthest Up A Muddy Hill) with Vandora. Do you think he can’t? Then in the words of the KVAN DJ serving as the Freak-Out MC, “Get those dollar bills out of your noses,” and place your bets.

Key scenes: On their way to the Freak-Out, a van of full of painfully stereotypical gay guys get bitchy:

Later, at the Freak-Out, Schneider and Saylor have a soft-focus, PG-rated romantic interlude, set to a song about how “I’ll always remember you as a milestone in my life.”

While they’re getting better acquainted, the rest of the van set—including, no joke, cult writer Charles Bukowski—are enjoying a wet-T-shirt contest.

Mostly, though, a typical scene in Supervan consists of one goddamn van after another, lovingly photographed and scored to soft rock.

Can easily be distinguished by: Vans, man.

Sign that it was made in 1977: CB radios, tight pants, feathered hair, and hey, man, did you check out those vans?

Timeless message: Supervan or not, “I’d rather be riding high” pretty much sums it up.

Memorable quotes: Woodward, on the phone with his PR man, gives orders that also incidentally explain how the writers came up with the dialogue for this movie: “Yes, Henry, yes, of course, more hip gibberish, more van-jive, more youth-identification… more of that crap.”

Available on DVD from Cheezy Flicks.

Filed Under: DVD

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