Armed with a quadraphonic 8-track stereo and shag carpeting, Judge Paul Corupe is ready to show you a dy-no-mite time.
Bobby couldn't make it…'till he went Fun Truckin'!
Drive-in specialists Crown International Pictures virtually captured the market on teen films in the 1970s. They served up a steady stream of light comedies that featured youthful rebelliousness, a smattering of nudity, fab music, and cool cars—all with a laid back California attitude. Though light on plot or any kind of character development, Crown's nostalgia-soaked teen films are among the most satisfying B-movie relics of the era, with an unparalleled ambiance of fun and freedom. The latest entry in BCI Eclipse's Starlite Drive-In Theater line, this double feature DVD pairs up two of Crown International's better films from the late 1970s: The Pom Pom Girls and The Van.
Facts of the Case
In The Pom Pom Girls, best buddies Johnnie (Robert Carradine, Revenge of the Nerds) and Jesse (Michael Mullins, No Place to Hide) are the stars of the Rosedale High football team. But outside the locker room, things aren't so mellow. Jesse is forced to confront his abusive football coach (James Gammon, Major League), and ladies man Johnny angers the school bully Duane (Bill Adler, Van Nuys Blvd.) when he steals away his girlfriend, Laurie (Jennifer Ashley, Chained Heat). Meanwhile, things are heating up for the big game with Hardin High, and Johnnie and Jesse are caught in a war of pranks that goes too far when the guys steal a fire truck to hose down their rivals.
Stuart Goetz (Record City) catches you on the flipside in The Van as Bobby. This goofy high school graduate slaves away in a car wash owned by Andy (Danny DeVito, War of the Roses) in order to save up for his custom wheels, a bright yellow Chevy van nicknamed "The Straight Arrow." Bobby's cherry ride is decked out with '70s staples like a CB radio and quadraphonic 8-track stereo. But in the back, Arrow is packing two TVs, a waterbed, mirrored ceilings, and wall to ceiling shag carpeting. Never lucky with the ladies, Bobby has pinned all his hopes for finally getting laid on his brand new custom ride. He sets his sights on Sally (Connie Lisa Marie, Starsky and Hutch), the gal pal of town bully Dugan (Steve Oliver, Werewolves on Wheels).
Caught between the unambitious beach party and hot rod flicks of the 1960s and the lewder sex comedies of Porky's and its rough-edged ilk, these freewheeling, sun-kissed celebrations of youth were drive-in staples during the always groovy 1970s. Often making use of the same locations and the same low-rent, post-pubescent cast, Crown built up quite a library of these good-natured titles that seemed to exist in their own little world.
By departing from Crown International's established no-name cast formula, The Pom Pom Girls is among the finest teen films the B-studio cranked out. As the impulsive and often mischievous Johnnie, Robert Carradine is far more likable than many of the protagonists in these throwaway films. He acts circles around the rest of the fledgling cast. Director Joseph Ruben (Sleeping with the Enemy) attempts to work in some drama by highlighting the conflict between the coach and hotheaded Jesse. But all attempts at seriousness ultimately falls flat, overwhelmed by a few brief flashes of locker room nudity, a cameo by doomed cult starlet Cheryl "Rainbeaux" Smith, a joint or two shared under the bleachers, and a drunken party on the beach. Though the humor in The Pom Pom Girls is never laugh-out-loud funny, it's never supposed to be, achieving instead a kind of natural lightheartedness that makes it feel far more realistic. Witness the food fight between Johnnie and Duane that has them playfully smooshing ketchup-coated French fries and greasy burgers in each others faces—you can see actor Bill Adler actively stifling his laughter and clearly enjoying the scene. That sense of slice-of-life fun makes the picture a breezy, grin-busting timewaster.
Reveling in custom van culture, the libido-soaked The Van is even more of a time capsule than The Pom Pom Girls. Goetz's obvious awkwardness as being cast a lead actor ultimately pays off in the insecure Bobby, who is so laughably pathetic at coercing chicks back to his awesome van that he immediately wins over audience sympathy. Floating on the AM pop soundtrack of Sammy John's minor chart hit "Chevy Van," Bobby embarks on a series of sexual misadventures before finally hooking up with "good girl" Tina (Deborah White, Monkey Trouble). But just when everything starts to looks 10-4, Bobby generously hands over his car payment to his part-time bookie boss to help him out of a jam, and has to drag race the slimy Dugan to keep the repo man from taking his wheels. Oddly enough, Stephen Oliver's bully Dugan was a running character who appeared in several of Crown International's films throughout the decade. He's always a highlight as the meat-headed lout who wants to pound on any weakling that hits on his girl. As with The Pom Pom Girls, the fun is really in the spontaneous details, however, as Bobby checks out a dyn-o-mite custom van show, plays too much pinball, and gives his co-workers some Exlax-laced beer after they send his convertible through the car wash with the roof down. In the predictably silly conclusion, Bobby finally realizes that the joys of casual sex and van ownership just aren't as groovy as a steady gal. But as any serious strip cruiser knows, the ride is far more important than the destination.
If anything is going to harsh your buzz, it's that both The Pom Pom Girls and The Van are offered in pan-and-scan transfers. The first film doesn't look too bad, and may actually be presented in open-matte. The Van is clearly misframed; this appears to be the same transfer that has been kicking around the public domain circuit for the past few years. Grain and print damage also crop up occasionally on both features, but it's never too distracting. Just don't go in expecting state-of-the-art visuals. The mono soundtracks for both films sound as good as they probably ever will, which is to say sufficient. As for extras, BCI Eclipse has packaged this disc with the popular "Drive-In" theme, giving viewers the option to watch the films accompanied with some badly-digitized concession stand ads, the Mighty Mouse cartoon Wolf! Wolf!, and trailers for BCI's other drive-in friendly titles Malibu Beach, Weekend Pass, The Beach Girls, and Jocks.
A great introduction to the swingin' Crown International teensploitation classics, this DVD is a frothy wayback-machine that will even appeal to those who didn't grow up complaining about the oil crisis while trying on a pair of bellbottoms.
Not guilty, man.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice, The Pom Pom Girls
Perp Profile, The Pom Pom Girls
Studio: BCI Eclipse
Distinguishing Marks, The Pom Pom Girls
Scales of Justice, The Van
Perp Profile, The Van
Studio: BCI Eclipse
Distinguishing Marks, The Van
• Mighty Mouse Cartoon
Review content copyright © 2006 Paul Corupe; Site design and review layout copyright © 2016 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.