One of the coolest ongoing events in the revival house scene is The Grindhouse Film Festival presented by Brian Quinn and Eric Caidin at the New Beverly Cinema. Twice a month, Brian and Eric present a double feature of two rare exploitation films (shown in 35mm) from the “golden era” of the grindhouses that once dotted Times Square’s 42nd Street in New York. I’ve seen so many great and not so great films, that I never would have even known about, thanks to them. Films like RAW FORCE, IMPULSE, CROCODILE, STANLEY, THE HEADLESS EYES, THE REDEEMER, ISLA: SHE WOLF OF THE S.S., VAMPIRE HOOKERS, THE MUTHERS, PSYCHO FROM TEXAS, ENCOUNTER OF THE SPOOKY KIND II, CHAINED HEAT, THE DOLL SQUAD and many more. No matter if the movies are good, bad or just cheesy enough to be fun, the grindhouse always attracts a great crowd of savvy movie freaks who are just as entertaining as the films are. Last Tuesday the boys threw an “end of the summer” double bill with two classics from the free wheelin’ 70’s, SUPERVAN and THE VAN. It was really awesome.
The evening began with the usual raffle, that was followed by a reel of vintage trailers, which included AT THE EARTH’S CORE, an amazing looking blaxploitation flick called J.D.’S REVENGE (“I WILL HAVE MY REVENGE!” exclaims J.D. the badass pimp), and THE INCREDIBLE TWO HEADED TRANSPLANT with Bruce Dern. Then it was time for our “feature presentation”…
Brian Quinn said that he’d been sitting on the scratchy old print of SUPERVAN for over six months now and had no idea what to expect. It begins with a crude title card thrown on with the SUPERVAN logo and then we find ourselves smack dab in the middle of the 70’s van-culture at its peak. It’s a “regional” film that looks like it was shot somewhere in the mid-west on a 16mm camera. The opening begins with a massive van convoy complete with C.B. radios and a title song that croons, “I’m riding high in my Supervan”. We meet our hero Clint, who is driving his groovy van (called MORGAN THE PIRATE) to the 2nd annual VAN FREAKOUT. But when a vicious motorcycle gang has the audacity to announce their plans to rape a young lady over the C.B. airwaves, Clint rescues the girl and unintentionally gets his prize van crushed in a junkyard while hiding from the hoodlums. Luckily the girl he rescued is the daughter of the evil corporate oil tycoon, T.B. Trenton of Trenton Oil (The oil that loves you). He plans on winning the VAN FREAKOUT competition with an amazing solar-powered custom van called VANDORA, that’s equipped with a working laser turret! VANDORA was designed by the king of car customizers GEORGE BARRIS. He’s the man responsible for the original Batmobile from the Adam West/Burt Ward Batman T.V. show, the Monkeemobile from The Monkees, The Munsters car and many others.
Clint steals it and along with his buddy and the bosses daughter, takes it on an interstate chase that reminded me of a low budget SMOKEY AND THE BANDT (which included a young Uncle Leo from SEINFELD as a Sheriff). Once they arrive at the FREAKOUT, VANDORA sweeps the competition and the movie ends with an awesome closing credits van montage. By the way, all of the songs on the “soft” rock soundtrack are about vans.
There was a short intermission followed by trailers for CAR WASH, a sleazy 70’s sex comedy called THE POM POM GIRLS and an amazing sci-fi-ish kung fu flick called DEATH MACHINES (which I actually have on DVD and it’s awesome!).
Then came Crown International’s release of THE VAN (Brian mentioned the print was borrowed from Quentin Tarantino’s personal collection) which tells the coming of age story of our red headed “hero” Bobby and his attempts to get laid in his newly purchased customized van. Bobby works at a car wash (run by a young DANNY DeVITO in one of his first roles) where he is constantly harassed by his coworkers for not being cool. But that’s all over when he plunks down the money he’s saved up for a new, bright yellow van called THE STRAIGHT ARROW (wink, wink) equipped with a waterbed, mirrored ceiling, C.B. radio, fridge, T.V., 8 track stereo, and a toaster. Bobby cruises around pinball joints and pizza parlors, picks up a fat girl that breaks his waterbed, attempts to score with another girl (that borderlines on date rape) and drag races a bully named Dugan in his van (named THE VAN KILLER) after making it with his chick. He even tells someone to “Sit on it!”, which they do.
This double feature really transported me back to a magical 70’s world where any fad could be made into a movie! A world where gas was only 57 cents a gallon and all it took to get some lovin’ was a custom van. I loved that in both of these movies all the vans from that time period were an extension of the owners personality and had special names like VANS AM, VANTIQUATED, VANQUATIC, SPACE TRIPPER, THE FREEDOM MACHINE, HOT STUFF, STOWE AWAY, INSANITY, and HALF BREED. Also, they were all painted in bright colors, covered in thick shag carpeting and airbrushed with all kinds of stuff like unicorns, spaceships, barbarian babes, and even the flames of Hell. It was a great night and when it was over I felt almost as stoned as the people who made those movies and you know what? I was. Keep on truckin’!