GAS; OR IT BECAME NECESSARY TO DESTROY THE WORLD IN ORDER TO SAVE IT
Gas seems to have started out as a hippie end of the world film and ended up a freewheeling parody of every genre that Roger Corman has moved through in the past end of the world films, biker films, acid trip films, even his Edgar Allen Poe series. It is a giant self-satire and in retrospect a moot one for this was the last film that Roger Corman ever made at AIP, where he had worked for the last fifteen years, before leaving to found New World Pictures, all ironically over clashing with AIP management who did not understand Gas.
The film is largely a plotless ramble. However, Roger Corman has a sophisticatedly droll sense of humour, which is often missed by many people who regard him as only an exploitation producer he did after all make The Little Shop of Horrors (1960). Gas comes full of sly, offbeat gags (albeit of questionable taste today) like the victim that faces her rapists demanding to know who is first and ends up quoting Kinsey at them; or the posters in a church that proclaim Happiness is Sally Field as the Flying Nun. The film gains its greatest amusement out of the reversal of then contemporary youth culture one where the Hells Angels become the new conservatives and the football jocks become marauding gangs, practicing their tackles for raping victims.
Gas is more bizarre than anything else Edgar Allan Poe turns up at various intervals on a motorcycle with Lenore riding pillion passenger to deliver auguries of doom like some narrator in Greek tragedy; God delivers frequent voice-overs; and at the end a divine lightning bolt causes every other character in the film to emerge from the ground, where they are joined by a truckload of people wearing oversized masks of John F. Kennedy, Eisenhower, Martin Luther King, Che Guevera and Alfred E. Neumann.
For all its silly, seemingly made-up-on-the-spot nonsense, Gas is a surprisingly well made film. The photography of the wide-open countryside and particularly the background view from the pueblo anchors the film in an often-lyrical milieu. Another plus is Country Joe McDonalds score the images of a dead city with Country Joe, accompanied by a hypnotic organ drone, singing When you bury my body, dont bury my soul, are particularly vivid and memorable.
Roger Cormans other genre films as director are: Day the World Ended (1955), It Conquered the World (1956), Not Of This Earth (1956), War of the Satellites (1956), Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957), The Saga of the Viking Women and Their Journey to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent (1957), The Undead (1957), Teenage Caveman (1958), A Bucket of Blood (1959), The Wasp Woman (1959), The House of Usher/The Fall of the House of Usher (1960), Last Woman on Earth (1960), The Little Shop of Horrors (1960), Creature from the Haunted Sea (1961), Pit and the Pendulum (1961), Premature Burial (1962), Tales of Terror (1962), Tower of London (1962), The Haunted Palace (1963), The Raven (1963), The Terror (1963), X The Man with X-Ray Eyes (1963), The Masque of the Red Death (1964), The Tomb of Ligeia (1964), The Trip (1967) and Frankenstein Unbound (1990). Cormans World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel (2011) is a documentary about Cormans career.