Every day Robert Saucedo shines a spotlight on a movie either so bad it’s good or just downright terrible. Today: It’s a Pinto. It’s a Focus. It’s Supervan!
I can respect bad movies that manage to be so bad they travel full-circle and become good again. Supervan is one of those movies.
Mark Schneider plays Clint Morgan, a tough-talking van enthusiast who enters Vandora, a solar-powered van, into a van competition called Freak Out. Along the way, he must escape rich Texan oil tycoons, rough and tumble motorcycle gangs and the sexual advances of van groupies armed only with his daring-do and laser-shooting van. That’s right, the solar-powered van shoots lasers.
Steeped firmly in the culture of van enthusiasts, Supervan is the perfect movie for anybody who has ever owned a van with shag carpet installed, a wizard painted on the side door or bestowed with some ridiculous moniker such as “Vandora.”
Freakout, the competition Clint enters his solar-powered van in, is a perfect storm of hippies, druggies, greasers and corporate sponsorship. There are wet t-shirt contests, vans sliding in mud, more mustaches then a Village People impersonator’s convention and a very special appearance by Charles Bukowski.
In other word, this is a perfect ‘70s movie.
When T.B. Trenton, rich oil tycoon, discovers that his company has indivertibly funded the development of an industry-crushing solar-powered van, he will stop at nothing to destroy the vehicle that looks like the love child of RoboCop and the wiener mobile.
Watching the film, I was most impressed by the van culture displayed at Freak Out. These were people who crossed geographical and cultural boundaries and gathered for one simple reason — they loved their vans … and maybe the wet t-shirt contests.
It didn’t matter where they came from or where they were going, they could get together and share a joint because they all had one thing in common — they liked to air brush incredibly cheesy art on the sides of their van.
I watched all of this and I realized, slowly but surely, that I wanted in. I wanted to be part of that van culture — if it even still exists today.
I wanted to drive a giant vehicle that looked like something Mechagodzilla pooped out. I wanted to be behind the wheels of something that was one part RV, one part bachelor pad. I wanted my very own Shaggin’ Wagon.
In the end, though, I came to the realization that I must remain an outsider to this culture — always looking in. I’ve never been a car enthusiast and I doubt that will ever change. As a kid, I would stare at the magazine rack and wonder who would ever buy those rags I considered “vehicle porn” — you know, the magazines that consisted of nothing but glory shots of vehicles (and, if you lived in South Texas, women dressed up as sexy gangster clowns).
Even today, I abuse my car — treating it as nothing but a tool. I rarely clean it, often forget to change the oil and choose to ignore any mysterious sounds that may start imitating from the engine instead of investigating their source. I’m a terrible car owner and just because I bought a van, nothing would change.
I will never be a part of the van culture but I will forever be grateful to Supervan for giving me the chance to spend an hour and a half cruising in Vandora — vicariously living that big van dream in the sky.
The closest Robert Saucedo ever came to owning Supervan was driving his parents’ mini-van during high school. Follow him on Twitter @robsaucedo2500.
Robert Saucedo is an avid movie watcher with seriously poor sleeping habits. The Mikey from Life cereal of film fans, Robert will watch just about anything — good, bad or ugly. He has written about film for newspapers, radio and online for the last 10 years. This has taken a toll on his sanity — of that you can be sure. Follow him on Twitter at @robsaucedo2500.