Roger Corman's Gas-s-s- (also known as Gas! -Or- It Became Necessary To Destroy The World In Order To Save It) is a weird mix of dystopian science fiction and hippy era counter culture ramblings. It was the last film that Corman would make for American International Pictures, and one that the studio would infamously tampering with quite a bit before rolling it out to theaters and drive-in's across the continent.
When the movie begins, a couple of hippies named Coel (Bob Corff) and Cilla (Elaine Giftos) dsicover that the military has screwed up. How? Well, they were working on an experimental gas that kills anyone over twenty-five years of age who breathes it in and, yeah, they've accidently released it into the atmosphere. Not surprisingly, chaos ensues and a few different social class wars erupt. The Brainiac types figure they're destined to lead this new world order while the athletic types don't necessarily see things the same way. Then there are those who went into the military, the cadets and the new recruits. They have an advantage over everyone else because they're armed and trained how to use their weapons.
Into this insane new world voyage Coel and Cilla, essentially going on an Easy Rider style journey hoping to somehow make a better life for themselves. Along the way they encounter some like-minded free thinkers and flower power aficionados like a pregnant chick named Marissa (Cindy Williams is Marissa), a black cowboy type named Carlos (Ben Vereen), a mortician named Edgar Allen (Bruce Karcher), a rifleman named Hooper (Bud Cort) and his fiancÚ Coralle (Talia Shire credited as Tally Coppola). Before it's all over Country Joe And The Fish will show up to jam, but that doesn't mean it necessarily makes a whole lot of sense.
Far more interesting when evaluated as a counter culture-centric product of its time than a narrative film, Gas-s-s- is as entertaining and involving as it is confusing and just flat out bizarre. The opening animation, which features a cartoon general voiced by someone trying to sound a whole lot like John Wayne, sets the stage for the oddities to come. The film is a mess to be sure, but it's a fascinating relic for a few reasons, not the least of which is the cast. It's fun to see Cindy Williams here before she'd go on to star in Laverne & Shirley and to see Talia Shire pop up quite a few years before she'd go on to star alongside Sylvester Stallone in Rocky. Ben Vereen might seem like an odd choice to play a cowboy, but he makes it work in his own odd way, while both Bob Corrf and Elaine Giftos are fun to watch. Giftos will be recognizable to cult movie fans for her appearances in The Student Nurses (made the same year as Gas-s-s-s and in Robert Vincent O'Neill's 1984 teenage hooker classic Angel.
For all the logic gaps and plot holes, you've got to at least admire what Corman was trying to do here. Flawed or not (and it is very flawed) this is one ambitious B-movie that features some pretty impressive set pieces of political unrest and weird apocalyptic scenarios. The desert scenery where much of the movie takes place is the perfect backdrop for the story, such as it is, to unfold and hey, you've got to dig the soundtrack that was put together for this one. They don't make'em like this anymore.The Blu-ray:
The film arrives on Blu-ray from Olive Films in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen and it looks, in a word, excellent. Colors really pop here and the movie's visuals are quite colorful. This is nicely brought out in the transfer. Detail is very strong throughout the film and although things do exhibit a natural amount of film grain, there aren't any major issues with heavy print damage. Skin tones look nice and accurate, color reproduction is fantastic and the black levels are nice and strong. There is no evidence of any noise reduction and no problems with any compression artifacts or crush.Sound:
The only audio option on the disc is an English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track but it sounds quite good. Levels are nicely balanced and the music that is used throughout the movie is appropriately punchy sounding. There's good depth to the track and no problems with any hiss or distortion to note.Extras:
No extras aside from a trailer, static menus and chapter selection. This was previously paired with Wild In The Streets on DVD where it was released as part of MGM's Midnite Movies line. No extras outside of a trailer on that release, but there is a Blu-ray release of this film available in the UK that has quite a few supplements on it. None of those have been ported over to this US release, unfortunately.Final Thoughts:
Gas-s-s-s is a pretty bizarre film made all the more bizarre, no doubt, by the studio tinkering but it's got its own charm. More effective as a time-capsule than a narrative movie, it's never the less an entertaining picture with some great ideas at work and a fun cast. Olive Films' Blu-ray release is disappointingly light on extras but it does look and sound good. Not Corman's best film by a long shot, but one that his fan base should definitely check out. Recommended, so long as you know what you're getting into.