Supervan – 1977 – George Barris, Morgan Woodward, Len Lesser

Supervan (1977)
Directed by: Lamar Card
Starring: Mark Schneider, Katie Saylor, Morgan Woodward, Len Lesser, Skip Riley, Bruce Kimball, Tom Kindle, George Barris, John Chambers, Cheryl Hepler

Supervan - Groovy  Titles - 1977
Super Vans of the 70s

Ah, the 70s. Pot, sex, hippies, CB radios, bad music, stagflation, and… totally super custom vans! Water beds, painted unicorns, shag carpets! That’s what SuperVan is all about, man! It’s 1976 (Bicentennial! Wooh!) and wouldn’t you rather be ridin’ high in your Super Van? Of course you would.

As Bob Stone (who?) famously sings: I don’t care if i’m not a wealthy man, cuz I’d rather be ridin high in my supervan!

This is sunshine at the front door, we have a bear report.
Smokey is eastbound I-70 and Oakland
Let’s close ’em up and take em on down to double nickels!
Sunshine to Convoy: Our ETA to Freak Out way is 4 hours and 20 minutes.
We’re west bound with the pedal down and we’re doin it to it!

Clint (Mark Schneider) leaves in his van headed for the Van Happening “Freak Out” competition where he can possibly win $5,000. His dad is pissed because his kid isn’t interested in working the family business. Instead Clint wants to “do something.”

Supervan 1977 - Clint
Clint, nice and mellow

Also going to the Freak Out is the Preacher-Van, run by Reverend Martin, whose nympho wife Aimee tends to fall in with the Devil every year. Yes, even ministers had their own custom vans! Hell, your grandmother probably had one.

While on the CB, Clint overhears a bunch of bikers raping a girl (yeah, great idea to broadcast your crimes on CB radio) and rescues her, but in the process his van is crushed in a junkyard. Also, for some reason, those car crushers sound like elephants when they are working. Go figure. The girl’s name is Karen (Katie Saylor) and she seems to shrug off getting attacked by bikers, as if that kind of thing happens to her every day. Karen accompanies Clint to his friend Bosley’s workplace, where Boz is working on the super secret SuperVan!

Supervan all lit up!
No, this is not the ending to Repo Man

Turns out that, unbeknownest to Clint, Karen is the daugher of evil corporate oil man, T.B. Trenton (Morgan Woodward) of Trenton Oil and Mid American Motors (MAM).(“Yes, Henry, more hip gibberish, more van jive, more youth identification! All that crap you people come up with!”). Think of T.B. as the prototype for Caddyshack‘s Judge Smails. Oh, T.B. has a thing for pretty ladies and likes to get kinky with whipped cream. That will pay off later.

Supervan - Joe Don Baker and Ted Knight
Joe Don Baker and Ted Knight

Anyway, Boz (Tom Kindle) gives Clint the SuperVan that he affectionally nicknamed Vandora (actually designed by super custom car designer George Barris – I wonder if he still wants to take credit). Vandora runs on solar power (take that, corporations!) And it has lasers (Supervan was a huge inspiration for Star Wars) Oh, it also makes a loud, high-pitched whine. Basically dogs will hear it coming miles away. I am sure that won’t get old at all! Oh yeah, it talks sometimes in that Star Trek computer voice and there are all these bleepy computerized things going on – it’s like, all futuristic, man! Far out!

A look at the grill of Supervan
What’s that coming towards us? Oh, it’s The Future!

At the Freak Out competition, there are your usual stoners, hippies, and freaks. Naturally, there’s a wet T-shirt contest because… well, just because. Oh, and Charles Bukowski makes an appearance for a minute. I have no idea why he is in this film, but he is.

Charles Bukowski in Supervan (1977)
Bukowski plays against type

T.B. hires a sleazy, moustached dude named Vince (Skip Riley), for, uh, something. Not sure what, but he gets paid $100 a day! He also finds out that the Supervan is loose and tries to take it down. He fails, because Supervan cannot be stopped. In the meantime, 3 gay guys in a van (yes, gays had custom vans too) pick up 2 farm girls who are all over them. Naturally, the dudes are repulsed (LOL, cuz they are gay, get it?) A cop tries to take Supervan down, but the special “linear amplifier” overrides the police radio and the cop runs off the road. At this point, it is obvious that Supervan doesn’t really care about focusing on any particular aspects of plot, it just does whatever suits it. Hey man, that’s nice and laid back. Mellow.

Supervan - It's a gay, gay world!
It certainly is, sister!

After another Smokey and the Bandit type chase (ending with an exposed police officer guy in an outhouse), our couple arrive at the Freak Out event, and there’s a heartwarming scene where they make out and skinny dip and stuff (you don’t really need to know somebody to do that stuff in the 70s). Then the DJ (“Boogie Blue”) advertises over the PA “Peanut oil is out, safflower oil is out! There’s a new love oil – Trenton Oil – the lubricant that loves to spread itself around your hot, purring engine! Trenton Oil – the oil that loves you!

One of the cool custom vans in Supervan
Exterior based on Frank Frazetta or totally Ed Big Daddy Roth and the inside has shag carpeting, 8 track, and a waterbed! Woooooh!

We get to check out some of the custom vans along with our cast of characters. Then there’s a course run that Vandora wins. At night, a Halloween Bash sees a lot of people in masks, smoking the reefer. Vince has some girls ambush Clint and the little misunderstanding gets him in trouble with Karen. Then T.B. has him arrested for stealing Vandora.

I love it when a van comes together!
I love it when a van comes together!

Boz is summoned to salvage the situation. He and Karen break Clint out of jail using Vandora’s lasers.

Supervan actually shoots lasers
And now, the music of Pink Floyd…

Then Vandora wins another competition involving going up a muddy hill (action!) After Vandora is declared the winner, there’s more wackiness involving whipped cream, and a pie-in-the-face, and a pumpkin. Then the reverend’s wife Aimee has some whipped cream fun with T.B. in his limo, but the whole thing is recorded and goes over live on the PA system. Not only is he shamed (well, how can that be, have you seen that raincoat?) but he finds out that Bosley owns the prototype for Vandora and not MAM (huh? how did he manage that?). Clint wins the 5 grand and all is well.

Supervan - whipped cream
Hey, I was gonna do Whippits with that.

Supervan ends with a 5 minute montage of everyone’s custom van while Bobby Stone starts singing an encore. Yes, I watched another 70s movie about vans, and that’s alright with me.

– Bill Gordon

Buy Supervan on DVD

Totally weird Supervan cult
Odd Cults of the 70s

From Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Illinois
All the little ladies love my pride and joy
Try to please me any way they can
Rollin around with me in my super van!
Ridin high! Ridin high!
I’d rather be ridin high in my super van!

Bert and Ernie on Supervan
The 70s: Gettin High and watchin Sesame St
Supervan 1977 - Keep On Truckin
You bet we will!