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|Directed by||Roger Corman|
|Produced by||Roger Corman|
|Written by||George Armitage|
|Music by||Country Joe & the Fish
|Edited by||George Van Noy|
San Jacinto Productions
|Distributed by||American International Pictures|
Gas-s-s-s (also known as Gas! or It Became Necessary to Destroy the World in Order to Save It) is a 1970 motion picture produced and released by American International Pictures. It was producer Roger Corman's final film for AIP, after a long association. He was unhappy because AIP made several cuts to the film without his approval, including removing the final shot where God commented on the action - a shot which Corman regarded as one of the greatest he had made in his life.
The movie is a post-apocalyptic dark comedy, about survivors of an accidental military gas leak, of an experimental agent that kills everyone on Earth over the age of twenty-five. (A cartoon title sequence shows a John Wayne-esque Army General announcing — and denouncing — the "accident"; the story picks up after the victims have died.)
The lead characters, Coel and Cilla, were played by Robert Corff and Elaine Giftos, and the cast features Ben Vereen, Cindy Williams, Bud Cort and Talia Shire (credited as "Tally Coppola") in early roles. Country Joe McDonald makes an appearance, as spokesman "AM Radio".
In Dallas, at the Southern Methodist University, news comes in about a gas which has escaped from a military facility. It starts killing everyone over 25.
Hippie Coel meets and falls in love with Cilla. They discover a Gestapo like police force will be running Dallas and flee into the country.
Their car is stolen by some cowboys. They then meet music fan Marissa, her boyfriend Carlos, Hooper, and his girlfriend Coralee. Marissa leaves Carlos, who finds a new girlfriend.
The group meet Edgar Allan Poe who drives around on a motorbike with a girl on the back. They then have an encounter with some bikers who play golf, after which they attend a dance and concert where AM Radio is performing, and passes on messages from God. Coel sleeps with Zoe but Cilla is not jealous.
Coel, Cilla and their friends arrive at a peaceful commune where it seems humankind can start fresh. Then a football team attacks them.
Eventually God intervenes. Coel and Cilla are reunited with all their friends, and there is a big party where everyone gets along.
- Robert Corff as Coel
- Elaine Giftos as Cilla
- Bud Cort as Hooper
- Talia Shire as Coralee
- Ben Vereen as Carlos
- Cindy Williams as Marissa
- Alex Wilson as Jason
- George Armitage as Billy the Kid
- Country Joe McDonald as AM Radio
- Pat Patterson as Demeter
George Armitage had met Roger Corman at 20th Century Fox when the latter was making The St Valentine's Day Massacre. Armitage later recalled:
|“||I wrote a script called—it was called either Carrot Butts or A Christmas Carrot—which had animated cartoon characters, Bugs Bunny and so on, coming to life. It was about the studio systems and all this stuff. My agent gave it to Gene [Corman, Roger’s brother], who gave it to Roger, and he loved it, so they submitted it to UA [United Artists] where they had a deal—Mike Medavoy was just taking over there and he was younger than I was. From there, Roger said: “Well, that didn’t work, why don’t we try something else?” Usually he has a title or something and he’ll say: “Go ahead, write something, just keep the title.” With Gas-s-s-s it was just the concept: “Everybody over thirty died.” I think that’s what he had, a sentence, and that’s what we went with... He let you make it your own, and I did. UA greenlit it, we went back in ’69 to shoot in New Mexico and Texas. I was the associate producer as well, and we were writing it as we went—which is something that Roger liked to do.||”|
Corman says filming commenced using a first draft, which was rewritten constantly throughout the shoot.
Roger Corman was angry what AIP did to the film. He later wrote:
|“||I ended the film with a spectacular shot from on top of the mesa, with a view sixty, seventy miles to the horizon... God, who was a running character throughout the film, made his final comments on what went on...There must have been three hundred people on top of that mesa. It was one of the greatest shots I ever achieved in my life. And AIP cut out the entire shot. They ended the picture on the couple's cliched kiss - because they didn't like what God was saying. The picture ended and made no sense... Final cut approval had never been put in writing at AIP. It was more a tacit agreement... AIP had grown into the biggest independent in the U.S. It was now a publicly held company. The more irreverent the film, the greater the financial risk... Jim [Nicholson] had grown conservative and it was his objections to my work that lead to the cuts. Jim had done this on four films in a row. [Gas-s-s-s was] the one that really did it for me.||”|
Samuel Z. Arkoff of AIP recalled it differently:
|“||When Roger left for Europe to shoot Von Richthofen and Brown for United Artists, he turned over the rough cut to us. Jim [Nicholson] and I viewed it, and realized it needed substantial work. We so informed Roger, who didn't disagree... Roger's handpicked editors eliminated lines, entire scenes, and even one of the leading characters in the film. They also cut out a final shot that Roger adored, in which he positioned the leading man, his lady, and three hundred extras on a mesa... The camera panned back while the words of God were heard in a voice-over. For some reason, the voice of God had an accent. Roger thought it was one of the most spectacular shots of his film career. The editors thought it belonged on the cutting room floor, which was right where they left it... We had tried, but the editors just couldn't save the picture.||”|
The film premiered in New York as part of a retrospective on Roger Corman's work.
According to Samuel Z. Arkoff, "when Gas-s-s-s was released, it was promoted with ads that proclaimed, 'Invite a few friends over to watch the end of the world.' The picture didn't make any money."
It was the last film Corman directed for AIP, although he went on to produce Boxcar Bertha for them.
- Roger Corman & Jim Jerome, How I Made a Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never lost a Dime, Muller, 1990 p 166
- Samuel Z Arkoff, Flying Through Hollywood by the Seat of My Pants
- Film Retrospective to Honor Kazan By A. H. WEILER. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 27 Jan 1971: 32.
- Gas-s-s-s at the Internet Movie Database
- Gas-s-s-s at AllMovie
- Review of film at New York Times
- Gas-s-s-s at Grindhouse Database
- Review of film at AV Club
- Review of film at Variety