GAS-S-S-S (Gas! -Or- It Became Necessary to Destroy the World in Order to Save It)

(director: Roger Corman; screenwriter: George Armitage; cinematographer: Ron Dexter; editor: George Van Noy; music: Country Joe and the Fish/Barry Melton; cast: Robert Corff (Coel), Elaine Giftos (Cilla), Ben Vereen (Carlos), Cindy Williams (Marissa), Alex Wilson (Jason), Bud Cort (Hooper), Talia Shire (Coralee), Lou Procopio (Marshall McLuhan), Phil Borneo (Quant), Alan DeWitt (Dr. Murder), Bruce Karcher (Edgar Allan Poe), George Armitage (Billy the Kid); Runtime: 78; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Roger Corman; MGM Home Entertainment; 1971)

“It takes more than a few hits on the bong to get into this messy pic.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A youth-culture-oriented film that has a group of peace-loving hippies searching for utopia in an America that loves its violence. Surprisingly effective in an insane nonsensical way, but certainly no classic or mind-bending experience. It starts out as an ‘end-of-the-world’ psychedelic sci-fi flick that’s filled with nostalgia for the hippie days of the 1960s, but ends up being a satire on all youth films. It was the last film cult producer-director Roger Corman (“Bloody Mama”/”The Red Baron”/”Frankenstein Unbound”) made for AIP, as he was bitter that the studio chopped up his baby with changes that ruined the pic (very difficult to accept the pic in this chaotic state). They reedited without his permission and cut such prized scenes as his Jewish God conversing with Jesus in fear it would antagonize Middle America. It was one of Corman’s few films that lost money because it was so disjointed. As a result, Corman started his own production company called New World Pictures. Writer George Armitage keeps it as an insane anarchistic freakout that leaves a stench across a large swath of Texas and New Mexico; it compares football players with fascists, policemen with sadistic dictators, the Hell’s Angels become golf-obsessed country club members and the guardians of America’s sacred middle-class virtues and the upward mobile are viewed as the power-hungry masses who crave war.

During the christening of a new biological-chemical warfare laboratory in Alaska, a bottle of a new experimental gas to stop the aging process is accidentally swapped with the champagne bottle and when broken by the American general it unleashes a gas that kills everyone in the world over the age of 25 but leaves those under 25 untouched. Peaceful hippies Coel (Robert Corff) and Cilla (Elaine Giftos) flee the police state of Dallas, taken over by a power-hungry rookie policeman who bears a grudge against hippies. In the wide-open prairie, their vintage pink Ford Edsel is high-jacked by youths pretending to be legendary cowboys from film lore and firing six-shooters. The couple is heading to New Mexico to find a pueblo commune they heard about where everybody is into good vibes and love. They hook up with two other daffy couples who help them reclaim their car in a gun fight from the play-acting used-lot cowboys, and they all make that arduous journey to Pueblo together. Youth turns against youth and evil new societies keep popping up along the road, but the determined seekers of a brave new world trudge on. Their biggest problem is escaping the thug football team, the Warriors, who force them to join. Their motto is loot, rape, burn, and pillage.

It’s not a good pic by any means (in fact it’s a terrible plotless ramble of an idiotic film), but it’s probably worth a look for certain curious viewers because it’s so raw, audacious, bizarre and diverting. The film’s funniest scene had the couple burning the works of Jacqueline Susann and Harold Robbins to make a bonfire to keep warm. The funniest line is when someone says “People who eat Army food end up dead.” The most pretentious bit is having Edgar Allan Poe as a literary device and as a satire on all the films Corman did on Poe stories, showing up repeatedly on a motorcycle with the beautiful Lenore on the back seat with him lecturing the kids on how to conduct their lives and reminding them of their pending doom.

Country Joe puts in an appearance as the self-proclaimed “godhead” and radio personality with a band, singing during a concert the film’s best tune “When you bury my body, don’t bury my soul.” But too many lame jokes and sorry-assed songs fill the screen, with forgettable songs such as “I’m Looking for a World,” “This Is the Beginning,” and “Maybe It Really Wasn’t Love.” It takes more than a few hits on the bong to get into this messy pic.