Supervan (1977)
By: Captain Red Eye on July 12, 2010  | 
DVD
Cheezy Flicks | All Regions, NTSC | 4:3 | English DD 2.0 | 90 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: Lamar Card
Starring: Mark Schneider, Katie Saylor, Morgan Woodward, T.B. Trenton
Screenplay: Robert Easter, Neva Friedenn
Country: USA
External Links
IMDB Purchase YouTube
I've never really understood the appeal of vans. They're ungainly, noisy, uncomfortable, and usually filled with boring things like ladders and carpet samples and old clipboards and empty packets of Winnie Blues. If you need it for work, fine, but as far as getting around on weekends wouldn't a Holden Astra be the more sensible choice? One of my friends owns a decrepit old van and he talks about it like it's a vintage Cadillac. 'Yep, gonna fix this baby up right,' he'll say as he drags thoughtfully on a cigarette. 'Gonna get her some mags and a new paint job and she'll look a million dollars.'

'But Pete, your van is a piece of shit,' I'll point out. 'If I were you I'd simply drive it into the nearest lake and leave it there.'

'You're right,' he'll reply with a faraway look in his eye, 'it would look good with cobalt blue racing stripes.'

Such a mentality pervades the forgotten 1978 bomb Supervan, a film I mainly desired to see because I'd read it contains a drunken cameo by Charles Bukowski judging a wet T-shirt contest.

The story, such as it is, revolves around the intense if short-lived mid-70s fad for all things van-related as a group of youngish van enthusiasts descend on 'Freakout 76,' a drunken hippie picnic for owners of what appear to be the world's gaudiest and most ungainly automobiles. Lots of shonky stunt driving and hamfisted acting ensue, with a succession of bumbling cops and a trio of stereotypically depicted homosexuals, credited as 'gay vanners,' providing what passes for comic relief.

I don't know if Supervan is an essential entry in the filmic canon. The editing is choppy, acting poor and the storyline doesn't make any sense. One of the vehicles in question, 'Vandora,' has laser beams and some sort of high-pitched sonar weapon that when activated causes anyone within the vicinity to fall to the ground in a mincing, overly-dramatic fashion, which seems an obscure and gratuitous customisation.

As for Bukowski's minute-long 'wasted cameo' it can be more easily and cheaply viewed on YouTube, and for the record there's no indication of inebriation. Given the poet's lifelong affinity for drink I'd assume he had at least a couple under his belt, but it isn't like he's staggering around spouting sloshed vitriol. Actually he isn't saying anything at all since the sequence contains no audio, and at any rate is mostly shot from behind or with the camera witlessly pointing directly into the sun, Bukowski identifiable only by his silhouette. He isn't even judging a wet t-shirt competition for the most part, just spraying some young women with a hose in a lecherous fashion while getting most of the water on the camera lens, doing little for the already poor visibility.
Video
Picture quality is appalling, possibly the worst I've ever seen. Nothing has been done in the way of restoration and the print is positively riddled with dirt, scratches, lines and other artefacts. It's also jumpy at times and the image is soft throughout. I'm pretty sure it's been transferred from a bad video dub that's been sitting in someone's attic for the past several decades.

I know the mentality of distributor Cheezy Flicks is to pump out as much shite as humanly possible with little regard for the finished product, but this is ridiculous. They don't even seem to like the films they release (case in point: Orlok the Vampire), and certainly haven't taken any care here to present this already minor feature in the best possible light.
Audio
The 2-channel audio track is rudimentary, but the dubbed voices are perfectly legible and there's no real hiss or glaring defects to speak of. As is to be expected the soundtrack largely consists of songs about vans, for instance the rousing and self-explanatory 'Customised Maxi-Van.' Not sure if this is a selling point, however.
Extra Features
Comprising a short but enjoyable addendum are five minutes worth of vintage cartoons and drive-in ads for long-vanished products like Orange Shasta soda and the Burnz-o-Matic in-car heater. There are also trailers for a diverse array of other 70s flicks: Convoy, Zombies of the Stratosphere, Savannah Smiles, Jive Turkey, Horror Hotel, Legend of Boggy Creek and Andy Warhol's Bad.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
It's pretty dire, even by the schlocky low-budget standards of the day, but it certainly deserves better treatment than it's been given here. Looks like the Cheezy edition is the only one doing the rounds however, which is a shame because they appear to have fucked up every release they've been responsible for. A cursory glance at the reviews for some of their titles, for instance Convoy, provides a litany of despair and disbelief from fans who naively assumed they were forking over their hard-earned in exchange for a film that was sourced from a decent print, presented in its correct aspect ratio and with semi-respectable audio and picture quality. If none of these things matter then Supervan might just be the film for you. All others should probably steer clear.

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