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The Van (1977)

by on 2011/09/12

“I know how you women get at night.”

* * *

If you like driving and you like smiling, The Van is your kind of movie. There’s driving, ever so much smiling and there’s a van with a water bed in the back.

Bobby (Stuart Goetz) is an average high school senior. He spends most of his timing driving around in his white convertible grinning like a simpleton. When he isn’t doing that, he’s working at a car wash run by Andy (Danny DeVito) and saving his teenage pennies for the down payment on his dream van.

Reading through the promo copy on this “fun-truckin'” comedy, I was keen to see Danny DeVito (Batman Returns) in his youth (yute). This man however doesn’t change. Yelly, raging, thinning hair standing on end, trapped under the dashboard of a car in his first scene, this guy is timeless, ageless. And in this film, he also classless.

So is everyone else.

I’ll explain. There’s a reason for Bobby’s dopey smirking. Bobby has vivid (creepy) waking dreams about all of the women he encounters. His class valedictorian delivers a graduation address in the nude, a bully’s girlfriend removes her 70s blouse. In his dreams.

All that is about to change however. Bobby gets his Chevy van. It is bright yellow, with a sign on the side, interlaced male symbols and a sign ‘Straight Arrow’ on the side. It has a fridge, CB, 8-track player, mirrors on the ceiling, the aforementioned water bed, and white fun fur as far as the eye can see.

Bobby’s finally going to get lucky. Because women love water beds. And vans. The combination is unstoppable.


Directed by Sam Grossman, this film has a whack in common with The Pom Pom Girls, another Crown International film shown mainly in drive-in theatres. There’s the nudity, the misdemeanor crimes and oozing 70s camp. There’s also sex in vehicles. (No wonder they were earmarked for drive-ins).

Puerile jokes abound. A Rubenesque take-out waitress takes Bobby to the back of his van for er, conversation and snuggles, and bursts the water bed. A frigid, straight-A student  won’t put out for Bobby so he pops in a 8-track of sex sounds and rocks the van to fool his friends.

There isn’t just sex though. There’s also healthy male bonding. Bobby mixes it up with fellow van owner and tattooed goon Dugan (Steve Oliver), drag racing his van for the love of a good woman. Bobby laces free beer with castor oil to get back at his mean, prank-playing colleagues led by Bill Adler (The Pom Pom Girls).

You haven’t lived until you’ve seen Bill Adler and Danny DeVito race, fast motion, to a car wash bathroom. On second thought, scratch that.

This movie is what it is. If you find complex plots difficult to follow, you are pro-nudity and you like pimping rides, The Van is for you. One character said it best, “It is kind of like a whorehouse on wheels.”

I couldn’t have put it better myself.

* * *

92 minutes

Rated R for Rubenesque ladies er, attacking motorists, raunchy day dreams, reefer smoking and street racing

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