Wednesday, September 17, 2008

GAS! (1971)

This crazy-ass Roger Corman flick is mentioned on a lot of sci-fi sites and blogs for a couple of reasons: 1) technically, it is set in the future and falls just within the parameters of the apocalyptic film genre, as hinted at by its subtitle: "…Or, It Became Necessary to Destroy the World in Order to Save It"; 2) a sci-fi plot device sets the plot in motion: an experimental gas is accidentally released which causes the death, by premature aging, of everyone over 25. But once that occurs, in the first 10 minutes of the movie, there is no more science fiction, indeed, no more plot to speak of, except for the conceit that the under-25's couldn't make a better world on their own. The film becomes essentially a hippie vaudeville show, somewhat like the stage musical Hair without musical numbers, and Hair without the music would be tedious. This film isn't completely terrible, but I can't recommend people subjecting themselves to it film unless they are 60's film buffs--yes, it's from 1971, but it's a 60's movie in every other meaningful way.

Once the gas is released, our leading hippie couple (Bob Corff and Elaine Giftos) take off on a road trip with some friends, including Cindy Williams (from Laverne & Shirley), But Cort (from Harold & Maude), Talia Shire (Pacino's sister in The Godfather films) and Ben Vereen, to find a utopian commune in New Mexico. What follows is a series of largely unrelated satirical sketches, some of which are funny--when they burn books from a library to stay warm, someone expresses outrage until it's explained that it's Jacqueline Susann and Harold Robbins feeding the flames--but most of which are not, or are carried on far past their prime amusement threshold. Along the way, they run into a motorcycle-riding Edgar Allan Poe with a raven on his shoulder, a group of raping and pillaging football jocks, a Hell's Angel gone respectable, an effeminate Native American who wants to give the English language back to the white man, and a marshal named McLuhan (that's what passes for wit here). Williams is pregnant and ready to deliver, but refuses to bring her child into such a world, so she simply doesn't give birth.

During a gunfight scene, it's not the bullets that kill, but the cowboy actor names which are yelled out with each shot ("William S. Hart!! Gene Autry!!"). When someone asks if killing was necessary, Corff replies, "Maybe I could have winged 'em with a Dale Robertson or a Clint Eastwood." And that's about the funniest line in the movie. The continued sighting of road signs about seeking advice from an oracle is a "Laugh-In"-like gag that leads to a very weak punch line. The "fascist jocks" storyline is given way too much attention, but like everything else, goes nowhere. The whole thing feels like it might have worked as an off-Broadway revue, but as a movie, it's all presented far too literally. Some songs are by Country Joe (who has a cameo) and the Fish. The film's title is often cited as "Gas-s-s-s," though the animated credit sequence simply calls it "Gas." [DVD]

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