Roger Corman’s Gas-s-s-s, his final film as director for AIP, is dated (and probably even was for the period it got released), but somehow it’s almost part of its charm. It’s an irreverent comedy about a noxious gas that wipes out everybody- at least in the US much as we can figure- who’s over the age of 25. Party-time! In what appears to be, in the premise, as a slight twist on Corman’s own Last Woman on Earth, it’s an epic of low-budget proportions, a rampant fiasco of kids in hippie-wear (or not as case turns out) and the Darwinian struggles that take place as the roughnecks, jocks and bikers-on-country-clubs face off against those darn ‘commie-anarchists’. Certainly a good premise indeed, at least for those who love the exploitation fare of the period (myself counted, even as I’m from after that era).
While it might be one of Corman’s (intentionally) funnier pictures, there’s a nagging feeling that something’s not totally there. It is cheap, it is slapdash, it’s episodic. The problem, as with some of Corman’s other movies, is that a little more effort would make something even more interesting. If there was, for example, another snappy and sharp writer alongside George Armitage, who could whip the script into a tight and awesome shape, it could even be one of the great exploitation films. As it stands, it’s merely OK overall. Luckily the good tries to outweigh the bad, which is that there are some really, actually clever one-liners (“Hey, we all have our own inconsistencies, that doesn’t stop the revolution,” to “Drop that chloride, you commie anarchist!”) and seeing the biker country-clubbers and the God lightning bolt climax.
Best of all is to see a running-gag in-joke for Corman- probably more than one, actually. The first is more obvious, and laugh-out-loud, which is a biker Edgar Allen Poe, who just shows up here and there like some sage wise-man (who is, of course, not over 25) with his wife and occasional raven on his shoulder spouting garbled quotes. The second is a little more subtle, which seems to be a play on his film the Trip, as in the psychedelic-type scenes (i.e. dancing to Country Joe and the Fish) with the camera zooming in and out fast, lots of hand-held, etc). Corman’s gone through this all before, so it has to be questioned: how much of this is tongue in cheek, and how much is just almost shoddy film-making? Can’t be sure. At least there was consistent chuckling to be had, especially at seeing a young Bud Cort in a cowboy hat, and, of all people, Talia Shire!