The 70’s Movie That Had Danny DeVito, A Van, And Utter Madness
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“When you can’t make it, you can go fun truckin’ in the foxiest four-wheel moving violation on rubber!”
Long before Toyota Siennas became spirit animals for millennial soccer moms, the airbrushed vans of earlier times promised adventure, freedom, and, yes, all-out sex. Intrigued? Then let’s head to the drive-in to take in The Van, a sexploitation time capsule that somehow manages to mash together Danny DeVito, 70s van culture, and sexual entitlement that would lead to several arrests today.
A year before he became Louie DePalma, the sleazy boss on Taxi, DeVito played Andy, the sleazy boss of a SoCal car wash. An unknown when he filmed The Van, DeVito unexpectedly was a breakout face from 1975’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The Van’s producers seized on the opportunity, elevating their new “star” into the film’s meager VHS marketing efforts.
It’s a small part, but we get Full Scumbag DeVito, getting stuck in old ladies’ cars and scrambling to pay off gambling debts. The dude arrived in the mid-1970s in total Frank Reynolds mode.
Forget college -- our hero Bobby is investing his life savings in the Straight Arrow, a vehicle with a name so phallic it might as well be called the Turgid Lovestick. It’s a custom van with far-out mirrors on the ceiling, shag carpet on the walls, boss speakers, mag wheels, a CB radio, a full-sized waterbed in the back, and for some reason, a toaster. If the girls aren’t interested, you can always make Eggos?
Bobby doesn’t look like much of a lady’s man, but with his bitchin’ van, who needs looks? The movie’s plot revolves almost entirely around Bobby’s attempts to get girls into his van and it doesn’t prove difficult. All it takes is a “Hey, that’s my van. Want to get in back and smoke a joint?” and he’s off to the races.
And when he finally finds a fine lady to call his own? They drive Bobby’s van to the beach … to look at other people’s vans.
Because, you know, vans.
The movie also prominently features the song “Chevy Van,” a 1973 pop hit for Sammy Johns about picking up a girl for sex, then ditching her on a dirt road in the middle of Nowheresville, USA. “And that's all right with me,” apparently.
Perhaps due to The Van’s limited budget, the song is reprised at least five times throughout the movie. All the weirder because no one bothered to tell the film’s producers that Bobby’s van was a Dodge, not a Chevy.
Even more than the teen sex comedies of the 1980s, The Van is jam-packed with sexual weirdness. Questionable activities that happen in the back of the Straight Arrow:
* Bobby tries to force a girl to undress, then gropes her as she works to escape his clutches. The young lady clearly doesn't understand that she’s in a van and therefore required to get busy.
* Bobby unwittingly engages a prostitute, who he refuses to pay for services rendered
* Bobby scores with a large naked woman, primarily for the “laughs” of scoring with a large naked woman
* Bobby positions his van across from an apartment window, pulling out binoculars to watch his rival’s girlfriend take off her clothes in front of an open window (don't any of these young women have drapes?)
So Bobby is pretty much the worst. He didn’t so much invest in a mode of transportation as a “Get Sex Free” card. When his sexual wishes occasionally go ungranted, he shrugs his shoulders with a “Women--what can you do?” sigh.
Not improbably for a movie of this caliber, Bobby ends up with the girl who has been rejecting him all along for his womanizing, immature ways. According to The Van, it turns out even smart girls can’t resist The Van.
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Top image: Crown International Pictures