Supervan (1977)

This is a vansploitation movie. Yes, that’s really a genre and there are several films in it, of which I can name Blue SummerThe Van (obviously), C.B. Hustlers (which has Uschi Digard in it), Mag WheelsVan Nuys Blvd. and I guess you could almost count On the Air Live with Captain Midnight. There’s a great article on it by Jason Coffman that goes deep into the genre that I totally recommend.

The beauty of this movie is that it posits a world where solar energy is already happening, van culture is the driving force in society and there is no AIDS to worry about, so all of the vans are a rocking and absolutely no one is knocking. It is surely paradise, if paradise only gets 11 miles to the gallon, fuel crisis be damned.

Our hero Clint Morgan has traveled to The Invitational Freak-Out, a major event for custom van enthusiasts, which means that any time we’re near it, we get to see plenty of b-roll footage of painted vans and all of the accoutrements — this is not a word you want to use when selling Winnebagos — that they have inside.

Clint saves Karen (Katie Saylor, Invasion of the Bee Girls) from some bikers from another exploitation genre and they destroy his van The Sea Witch. That’s when he goes to the super genius van designer Bosley and together, they all make Supervan, which uses solar power and lasers. It was really made by George Barris — who designed so many other Hollywood cars — and was based on a stock Dodge Sportsman van. This thing was so big that it had a phone intercom system inside it.

Oh yeah. It turns out that Karen’s dad owns a car company that is out to make a van that uses more gas than ever before — what does it get 3 miles to the gallon? — and they have to take Supervan to the show to prevent him from making it happen, but he puts the cops on their tail.

We’ve seen Clint before on our site, as Mark Schneider is also in the Crown International Pictures movie Burnout, which is one of the few dragsterpolitation movies I can think of, so perhaps he is the perfect star for all things vehicular in nature.

Director Lamar Card is also there, in the nooks and crannies of strange movies that I find myself obsessed with, like producing the scumtastic Nashville Girl and directing the only Fabian-starring, Casey Kasem-coke sniffing disco freakout Disco Fever.

Beyond the near gynecological explorations of all of these vans at the absolute expense of story,  this movie has a cameo by Charles Bukowski — the firebrand of a man who wrote “what matters most is how well you walk through the fire” — judging a wet t-shirt contest. I am in no way making that up.

There’s never really been a movie like Supervan. To be fair, I don’t think the world could have handled two. To quote the love ballad from the film, when I think of Supervan, “I’ll always remember you as a milestone in my life.”

You can watch this on Amazon Prime.

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