Thirty years before the latest mainstream computer animated kids movie became what adults obsessed over at drive-in theaters, there was a time when a movie called GAS PUMP GIRLS could dominate the giant outdoor screens, and probably played on a double or triple bill with similar T&A fodder. With its cast of veteran character actors and attractive starlets, GAS PUMP GIRLS breaks no new ground by aping a number 1970s Hollywood hits (including AMERICAN GRAFFITI, GREASE and ANIMAL HOUSE), but can easily fill the void on a lonely summer night when there’s nothing else to do (or watch).
The rundown gas station owned by aging Uncle Joe (“Sach” himself, Huntz Hall, MASTER MINDS) is in a bad state. Nobody’s coming in for fuel, as they’d rather go to the spiffy, well-staffed Pyramid service station across the street. In the meantime, Uncle Joe’s favorite niece June (Kirsten Baker, CALIFORNIA DREAMING) is part of a the Hometown High graduation ceremony where her and her best gal pals are subjected to having their robes torn off as a prankster ties them to the legs of their folding chairs, revealing that most of them are just sporting panties underneath. After a celebratory dance, the sincere June and a convertible full of a friends check into Uncle Joe’s for a fill-up and witness the sorry state he and his business are in.
Soon after, Uncle Joe suffers a minor attack, and as he’s bed-ridden, his wife decides it might be time to sell the station. Concerned June breaks into inspiring song in front of Uncle Joe’s, and she has a brainstorm to re-open the place, with improvements. Fixing it up with the help of a lot of pink paint and rechristening the place “Joe’s Super Duper”, her and her sexy exhibitionist allies wear matching outfits of cut-off tight t-shirts and denim short-shorts, and operate the station with the hope of attracting a lot of new customers (it of course works). Doting boyfriend Roger (the recently deceased Dennis Bowen, VAN NUYS BLVD.) and his two buddies (Paul Tinder and Rob Kenneally) join on as mechanics and the once-opposing leather-clad trio known as the Vultures (Steve Bond, Demetre Phillips and “Happy Days” regular Ken Lerner) also come on to help out (and become romantically linked with some of the girls). All seems fine and dandy until the cigar-smoking operator of the Pyramid station across the street, Mr. Friendly (Dave Shelley) is furious over the customers they’re robbing him of, as he uses the most unethical tactics to bring their competing business down.
With its simplistic plotline (it’s hard to believe it took three guys to write this), GAS PUMP GIRLS is a dopey, “put your brain on the shelf” teen sex comedy where all the male high schoolers are over or pushing 30, and the Vultures clan wear their leather jackets perennially in the warm California sun (a nod to GREASE’s T-Birds or perhaps even The Ramones). But the girls are all gorgeous, and there’s a good number of topless bits among the site gags and double entendres (June describes the technique of pumping gas to her unenlightened female co-worker as, “Grab it, stick it in, squeeze it and let it peter out”.) Aside from the lovely blond Norway-born star Baker, the other “Gas Pump Girls” include Sandy Johnson (H.O.T.S.), Rikki Marin (CHEECH AND CHONG’S NEXT MOVIE), Leslie King (JENNIFER) and Linda Lawrence (DEATH DIMENSION).
More than 20 years after filming his last Bowery Boys entry, Huntz Hall, who had recently won accolades for portraying movie mogul Jesse Lasky in Ken Russell’s VALENTINO, appears at the beginning of the film and at the very end, typically wearing a baseball cap (unfortunately, the flap is not upturned). His brief scenes are amusing, in a nostalgic sort of way, as he gets frustrated over a pesky fly, uses an overdo bill for a paper airplane and gets agitated at his bedside visitors. The other guest veterans are Hollywood tough guy Mike Mazurki (NIGHTMARE ALLEY) and “Car 54, Where Are You?” star Joe E. Ross as an idiotic pair of craggily faced hitmen who look like they could have been related (except for the height difference); it’s fun to see them, but they’re pretty much wasted (Ross of course does his trademark “Oooh! Oooh!” shtick). Veteran New York-based deejay Bruce ‘Cousin Brucie’ Morrow can be heard throughout as an on-air personality, spinning the forgettable discofied tunes found on the soundtrack (which was available as an album upon the film’s release), but it comes off, no offense to our Cousin, as a poor man’s version of what Wolfman Jack wonderfully achieved in AMERICAN GRAFFITI.
Vestron Video released GAS PUMP GIRLS on VHS in the early 1980s, and there was also a subsequent laserdisc. The DVD from Jef Films released a few years ago was unlicensed and likely sourced from the laserdisc, so this disc from the MGM Limited Edition Collection is the first official DVD, and therefore the real deal. Like most of the manufactured-on-demand releases from this series, there’s nothing to complain about here, as the transfer looks to have been made from the original elements, presenting the film in its proper 1.85:1 aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement. Colors are stable, fleshtones look accurate and detail is mostly on the sharp side, with very little in the way of dirt or debris. The mono audio is also clean with no noticeable hiss or distortion. An original anamorphic theatrical trailer has been included (“Drive in and check them out!”) and chapter stops can be navigated at ten minute intervals. (George R. Reis)
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