Episode 01 - The Van (1977)
We start our journey down the decrepit halls of the Grindbin with a staple of the Crown International library. As you will learn around these parts, Crown is the mark of quality when it comes to exploitation films.
Today we will indulge ourselves in the story of a young high school graduate who purchases the vehicle of his dreams; one that will allow him to lure in women for sexual abduction. This is a tale as old as time, it’s 1977’s The Van
Directed by: Sam Grossman
Written by: Robert J. Rosenthal, Celia Susan Cotelo
Starring: Stuart Goetz, Debroah White, Danny Devito
Where you can watch it: FREE with Amazon Prime.
Today we are going to dive into the cinema dumpster with the what I can only describe as the quintessential starting point of Grindhouse movies. I have a special connection to this movie as it was my own personal introduction into the world of lost cinema that existed through the 1960’s-1980s. Before VHS and DVD there was only way to see bad movies and that was at the theater or the drive-in. These movies were made on shoestring budgets and were meant as nothing more than throwaway entertainment to provide distraction between handjobs.
The Van is a movie that lives in a parallel universe, one that tells us it’s ok to keep clawing at a woman after she says no and one that encourages the youth to drink while driving. It’s a special kind of crazy that delves you into a world you might never have known existed. A world in which hookers roam pizza parlors looking for teenage customers and where people with future molester Vans congregate at the beach to get drunk and drag race. The 70s were truly a magical time where AIDS never existed and unprotected sex with strangers was a mere curiosity.
This movie was the only movie directed by Sam Grossman (RIP). Why he never directed anything else is a mystery to us all. The only thing we can learn about him from his IMDB page is that he:
privately compiled an important collection of Old Time Radio shows, a subject upon which he was an expert. He contributed many of these to both University collections and several on-line OTR websites.
And that is all. Even though Sam might have only given us this gem in his short lifetime, he certainly left us with something unforgettable. But enough of my lamenting, let’s watch the trailer:
If you watched that and you’re still wondering what the hell this movie is about, you’re not alone. Let me explain it to you: Bobby is a rapist. He buys a van to rape women. He sort of succeeds. Danny Devito makes an appearance. The End.
The Van itself is arguably the most confounding thing in this movie. Thankfully someone (please read their screen name) decided to just upload the reveal of “The Van” to YouTube so I can share it all with you.
That’s right, not only does this Van come with shag carpeting and a water bed, it also has a toaster and count em 4 mag wheels; 4! “And more!”
So what is the point of all of this? What lessons are learned? What characters come out changed? The answer to all of these questions is NONE; but trust me, it’s better off for it. Why spend time setting up some complex character development when you can just have a girl with a great set of “knockers” and a Van that is used to lure in women for deviant acts of borderline sexual assault? did I mention Danny Devito makes an appearance?
Later when this movie was released on VHS or in a knock off DVD store in Chinatown they played up the presence of Danny Devito. As we can see by these fine examples of cover art:
Judging by the cover you might surmise that Danny Devito plays a major role in this movie; you would be wrong. Very wrong. He occupies roughly five minutes of actual screen time and it serves no actual purpose to the “plot” of this film. Why did they insist on marketing him as the focal point of this movie? Can you even pronounce the name Stuart Goetz? I rest my case.
So I’ll quit writing and you can start listening to the first episode of The GrindBin. We hope you enjoy. Please provide us with any comments or suggestions you might have to help make our show better.