SUPERVAN begins with an awful country-tinged song proclaiming "I'd rather be riding high in my super van".

Then we meet hirsute Clint (Mark Schneider), who storms out of his Dad's petrol station after deciding he wants more from life than working there. He decides, much against his old man's wishes, that he's going to head across state to enter his van in a competition called "Freak Out".

The top prize, we learn over Clint's CB radio, is a whopping - for its time - $5,000.00.

Before long Clint runs into a gang of wild bikers led by Grinder (Richard Sobek), who are terrorising pretty young brunette Karen (Katie Saylor) in a junkyard. Clint manages to rescue Karen but not before his van takes a severe crushing.

He manages to get to his scientist friend Boseley's (Tom Kindle) laboratory, where he explains how he needs a replacement van - a super van, in fact - in order to win the "Freak Out" contest and claim the $5,000.00 booty. As luck would have it, Boseley has just finished creating a state-of-the-art solar-powered van, one that even shoots laser beams. He's even given it a name: Vandora!

Boseley offers the van to Clint, telling him he can keep the prize money if he enters Vandora in "Freak Out" and wins. And so, Clint resumes his journey towards the competition - with pretty Karen now in tow.

Meanwhile, Karen's cigar-chomping tycoon father TB (Morgan Woodward) has two concerns: finding his estranged daughter and, chiefly, entering one of his many vans in "Freak Out" ...

When Clint and Karen eventually reach the contest, they find it to be filled with similar-minded 'vanners'. Along with the scheming TB (who soon sets his sights on acquiring Vandora through any means necessary), wet T-shirt competitions and a rather embarrassing cameo from a slobbish Charles Bukowski.

Fucking hell, this is a bad film. Outside of people with a fetish for custom vans, I'm not sure who it's likely to appeal to. The cast, aside from Woodward are uniformly devoid of charisma. The script is obvious, dumb and - worst of all - not remotely amusing.

Camerawork is ugly and even the occasional bout of handheld documentary-style competition footage manages to be flat and unengaging.

From the terrible music through to the ugly framing and horrendous late-70s fashions, this is one lousy film. It doesn't even fall into the "so bad it's good" category. Had it been 20 minutes long, it may have at least been laughable - but at 91 minutes in length it felt like torture.

The film is presented in a grainy and somewhat dull-looking 1.33:1 full-frame transfer. Dirt and colour bleeding are rife as well as a constant faded look to the film that makes it recall a dodgy old porno copied onto VHS.

In fact, there are occasional horizontal lines evident on the screen in early scenes that indicate this is ripped from a video source. Watching the soft, blurry images made me temporarily nostalgic for the days of video - before swiftly remembering how lucky we are to have DVD. Just not in this instance.

The English mono audio fares slightly better, being in the least even and relatively clean for the most part. However, background noise becomes more apparent later into proceedings.

I always comment on the menus on a disc while reviewing it, and often feel that people either ignore or ridicule my decision to do so. But for me it serves as an appreciation of the effort put into producing a disc (a nice animated menu, especially one that's been anamorphically enhanced, should not go unmentioned - a philosophy Tim Lucas also subscribes to in the April 2010 issue of Sight & Sound), proves I've actually watched the disc and, as is the case here, gives an immediate indication of when you've fallen prone to a duffer.

Cheezy Flicks' region 0 disc opens directly into a boring, unimaginative static main menu page that boasts precious little in the way of extras or frills. From there, the static two-page scene-selection menu - allowing access to SUPERVAN via 10 chapters - shows a similar lack of effort.

Of course, the concession here is that Cheezy Flicks are a small, independent company - but I find the quality of their discs, packaging (the covers appear to be cheap colour photocopies) and transfers tend to suggest that, although their catalogue cannot strictly be labelled as "bootlegs" because they're (as far as I know) public domain titles in America, the quality contained within is far from being of a legitimate standard.

Anyhow ... the extras on the disc begin with an 8-minute promo reel for other Cheezy Flicks titles which includes original trailers for CONVOY, ZOMBIES OF THE STRATOSPHERE, SAVANNAH SMILES, JIVE TURKEY, HORROR HOTEL (better known nowadays as CITY OF THE DEAD), THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK and ANDY WARHOL'S BAD. All look worn and faded, and have the Cheezy Flicks logo emblazoned upon the bottom right-hand corner of the screen.

Following on from those, we get a one-page text notification "about Cheezy Flicks" which sets out their stall if not exactly being forthcoming about who they are and where they source their films from.

"Intermission Time" is a 5-minute run of corny old cinema advertisements, including a great MPAA awareness notice fronted by closet foul-mouth Julie Andrews.

Cheesy? Yes, I suppose SUPERVAN is cheesy. But it can't even manage to be cheesy in an amusing way. Which is really saying something, considering the plot, the occasional close-ups of tight T-shirts on buxom babes, some daft "Dukes of Hazard" type cops and some choice hippy dancing.

Overlong, boring and almost plotless enough so as to be written off as a stream of consciousness, SUPERVAN is crap. And so is the disc.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Cheezy Flicks
Region all - NTSC
Not Rated
Extras :
see main review