Wednesday, August 25, 2010

If the Van's A-Rockin,' Don't Come Knockin'

I hate driving. Actually, that's not exactly true. Long drives are awesome. Driving alone through the sunset or late at night all caffeined up, eating boiled peanuts and listening to the Minutemen, or Thin Lizzy, or Naked Raygun, or Ted Leo, or any number of CDs I have to have on a long drive, or just half-paying attention to NPR? Man, that's some fun tymes.

But daily driving to go to work or the store or whatever? That shit's for the birds. This could be because I'm a terrible driver. I get lost easily, even in areas I've driven through thousands of times. I'm prone to road rage. I inspire road rage in others. There's a reason I ride my bike to work.

But if I had a van I'd be a much better driver, as well as a whole lot cooler. I had the chance to watch Supervan recently, a van/car chase/CB exploitation flick. While it didn't have the same effect on me as King Frat or The Greatest Movie Never Made, it was definitely worth watching.

There's this guy on his way to compete in this big van contest, see? His original van gets smashed up, so he gets Vandora, an experimental solar powered van this big company is trying to keep under wraps so they can keep selling gas guzzlers. He picks up a young woman along the way and they eventually fall in love. The CEO of the company is trying to stop him from entering Vandora. You can tell the CEO is bad because he looks like Ted Knight and doesn't like rock and roll. They all make it to the big van contest and see noted American author Charles Bukowski hosing down girls at a wet T-shirt contest. That's right, Charles Bukowski is in a '70s van movie hosing down girls in a wet T-shirt contest. You don't see Thomas Pynchon doing stuff like that.

All that plot stuff is OK, but what really makes Supervan worth watching is the footage of vans on display. While a lot of them just look like regular family trucksters or windowless molestermobiles, the few that don't are shining monuments to '70s awesomeness. Shag carpeting, fantasy airbrushing, chandeliers, pretty much everything you'd ever want in or on a van. The only thing bringing down the visuals is the lame country rock being played over it. Just imagine how awesome a bitchin' Fu Manchu track would be over all this. Here, you don't have to think too hard.

I love how exploitation movies act as time capsules for their eras. Churning movies out on the cheap, most used real people and sets, giving the movies a life and spark not seen in generic, sterile modern blockbusters. Watching the stuff filmed at the van contest brought me back to hundreds of flea markets, auctions and fairs my parents took me to at the time. I also learned that women were not allowed to wear bras in the '70s, which I guess I didn't pick up on as a kid.

Riding to work this morning I was thinking about vans, and their distant, snootier cousins, the Hummer and the SUV. A van is always inviting (except for those windowless ones). It says, "Hey, man, come on in. Ladies, check out the shag carpeting and waterbed. I don't know exactly where we're going, but dig this picture of Dr. Strange on the side. Let's get some beer and hang. You like Cheap Trick?"

SUVs and Hummers say, "I got mine. Fuck you. Out of my way, I'm on my way to a neighborhood association meeting."

I know which one I feel more comfortable with. As soon as the Honda dies (which probably won't be long, I'm close to 300,000 miles), I'm getting a van. Screw the fuel economy. I don't drive that much anyway. I just have to find someone who can airbrush a Conan the Barbarian mural on the side.


Joshtank said...

Airbrush by Host. It's right by the Lowes at Cassat. Now you have no excuses.

Keith said...

Best van moment in cinema -- when that jock guy who loves Riff Randle in Rock 'n' Roll High School says, "I was just lying on the waterbed in the back of my van, listening to the latest album by the Ramones" or some such thing.

Of course, that movie also has the quote "Tom Roberts is so boring his brother is an only child," which is another personal fave, despite not being van related.

You might also want to watch "Twister's Revenge," in which a wacky family of hillbillies tries to steal a guy's monster truck. Also, the monster truck has a super advanced artificial intelligence system.

scott said...

Holy crap! I must see Twister's Revenge! Why hast thou forsaken me, Netflix?

One of my fave Rock n Roll High School lines - "You can put it where the monkey puts the nuts."

Keith said...

It's part of that drive in classics 50 movie box set. It makes a good double feature with Memorial Valley Massacre, where a caveman kills drunken rednecks and punks at a campground