8/1/13

Retro Film Report #33: Gas Pump Girls (1979)


If you enjoyed Screwballs, Zapped, Joysticks, Incoming Freshmen, H.O.T.S., etc. then this is a perfect way to spend an hour.  Personally, I'd rather see Gas Pump Girls any day over big budget pretentious crap like The Dark Knight and its ilk.  Late seventies - early eighties sex comedies are a class unto themselves. They follow a formula much like the slasher pictures, rarely veering far from the template.  Gas Pump Girls is no exception.

One problem with these films is they never quite deliver as much T&A as you expect. After all, there's not much to these films beyond the babes, so you'd naturally expect it to be wall to wall gratuitous nudity.  Rarely is this the case; however, they certainly delivered the goods far beyond their late eighties - 1990s counterparts. For example, I expected Zapped! to be an uninterrupted series of boobs, butts and bush.  Instead, there's literally five seconds of "the good stuff".




The key is going into it with low expectations. I mean let's face it - it's a rare occurrence for a film to live up to its poster (case in point: every 1950s sci-fi movie).  If you simply are in it just for some lighthearted, risque fun, then you're in the proper zone, fully prepared to soak in the wonder and majesty of vintage sexploitation.  Let the magic begin.


Gas Pump Girls was filmed in Sacramento, and you can actually check out the exact spot on Google Maps.
3201 Marysville Blvd, Sacramento, CA 95815

The director (Joel Bender) never really went on to anything notable - unless you count some Power Rangers and Sweet Valley High episodes.  This film was such fun, I was disappointed to learn Mr. Bender didn't go on to direct dozens of other drive-in romps.


The opening scene showed much promise.  Indeed, I'll go on record saying that this is in the Top 10 opening scenes - only Trainspotting and Pulp Fiction beat it.

Okay, I'm being a bit hyperbolic.  Let's just say it's an awesome opener.
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A prankster sneaks behind the graduates and ties the girl's gowns to their chairs; so, when they step forward, off comes their gown.  Conveniently, they're wearing only panties underneath.  This is gratuitous nudity of the highest magnitude.  Surely, this deserves a special place in the hallowed halls of the Gratuitous Nudity Pantheon.


What other films share this hall of honors?  To name a few...Fast Times at Ridgemont High - The Phoebe Cates pool scene, Trading Places - Jamie Lee sheds the sweater, and Lifeforce -  Mathilda May's space girl is the gold standard....

I could go on and on, but I've got a movie to review.


Naturally, instead of being mortified, the girls are completely okay with this unexpected turn of events. They don't make'em like this anymore, folks.


The very next scene is the locker room (I told you this had a promising start).  Other than providing another opportunity for cheesecake, the scene serves the purpose of introducing us to the main characters.  From left to right:

Jane (Leslie King): Obviously a pun on "Plain Jane".  She's the insecure, dowdy girl of the bunch.  The actress never went on to do much - a couple episodes of C.H.i.P.s and writing credit for an eighties vampire flick called To Die For (1988).

Betty (Linda Lawrence): The uppity, sexually experienced one.  Spends the movie being snobby and grumpy.  Linda was smoking hot in her appearances on The Incredible Hulk, Starsky & Hutch and C.H.i.P.s... but then dropped off the face of the earth.


January (Rikki Marin): She doesn't really have much of a personality trait - more or less just eye candy.  Marin was married to Cheech Marin.  She starred in, wrote and produced several Cheech & Chong films including the dreadful Corsican Brothers.

April (Sandy Johnson): She's the clueless, uninhibited bimbo of the bunch.  April provides the majority of the onscreen nudity in the film.  The actress, Sandy Johnson, has the distinction of playing Michael Myers' sister in that infamous opening scene in Halloween.  She was also a Playmate of the Month in 1974.

June (Kristen Baker): The primary character of the film.  She's the moral center and voice of reason in Gas Pump Girls.  Kristen Baker is from Norway and has the distinction of being the chick in Friday the 13th Part II who goes skinny dipping (Terri).


So, June's Uncle Joe runs a gas station.  It's having trouble competing against a newer station across the street, and the stress has given him a heart attack.

Uncle Joe is played by Huntz Hall, who has the honor of being on the cover of Sgt. Pepper's.  He's situated two to the left of Bob Dylan.  Huntz has a pretty impressive background including Bowery Boys pictures, a stint in WWII, and a marijuana bust.  Fact: The guitarist for Cheap Trick modeled his wardrobe/appearance after ol' Huntz.


June goes to Uncle Joe's filling station to reflect on the sad state of affairs and - get this - sings a song!  Out of nowhere the movie is a musical.  I picture drive-in audiences booing and throwing soda cans at the screen.  Not a particularly bad song, but it really seems awkwardly out of place.


But June has an epiphany: Why not spruce up Joe's place and get her friends to dress in sexy outfits? Surely that will improve business.  (Notice the Chevron logo changed to "hevon".  The competing station across the street is similarly adjusted from Citgo to "pyramid".)


January and Betty wear the fuel types and pump gas, and June gets her boyfriend (and his two friends) to fill in the mechanics' role.  Needless to say, business improves dramatically.


Uncle Joe's new found success does not go unnoticed by Pyramid Petroleum Products (PPP) across the street.  The local manager, Mr. Friendly (Dave Shelley), places a call to the big boss (shown above), and the plot thickens.


PPP actually puts a mob hit on Uncle Joe's.  One of the thugs is actually Joe E. Ross! Everybody knows "Oo! Oo!" Ross.  He's the voice of Sgt. Flint on Hong Kong Phooey, and Herman Munster's partner in Car 54, Where Are You? The other thug is played by Mike Mazurki, who, since the 1940s,  I will wager has played a thug in more films than any other actor.

How does our gang get out of this mess? I mean, how can five gas pump girls and three wimpy guys stand up against a couple of experienced mobsters?  Answer: The Vultures


They got off to a shaky start, but the three members of the Viking biker gang are all about helping out Uncle Joe's.  They operate the towing service, and now act as protectors, beating the shit out of these two old mobsters with 2 by 4s.

All three act exactly like Andrew Dice Clay, and are thereby excessively annoying.  However, they do grow on you.

From Left:
  • Butch (Steve Bond): The leader of The Vultures.  Bond would become a successful soap star on General Hospital and Santa Barbara.  He also got butt naked for Playgirl.
  • Pee-Wee (Ken Lerner): The asinine dimwit - I would say comic relief if he provided either comedy or relief. In actuality, he provided neither.  Lerner is Michael Lerner's brother, and played the principle on Buffy.
  • Hank (Demetre Phillips) - The bruiser of the trio.  Phillips barely did anything- a few spots on TV and then "poof" obscurity.


June's three guy friends that help out as mechanics are Hal (Rob Kenneally), Michael (Paul Tinder) and her boyfriend, Roger (Dennis Bowen).  None of their filmographies are particularly interesting, other than Bowen's recurring role on Welcome Back, Kotter as Todd.


And could they have picked a goofier looking ginger to play June's beau?  Were they thinking Archie Andrews, perhaps, when they cast him? I guess I shouldn't talk too badly of him - he has since passed away.  Plus, he played "Bix" on a classic After School Special ("Francesca, Baby") about a girl dealing with her drunk-ass mother.  A common storyline for those afternoon forays into despair.


You might be wondering at this point, "Where's all the gratuitous nudity?"  Indeed, the film started off strong, but then went limp in that department.  April takes her top off a couple times, but that's it.  The last respectable nudity took place in the locker room scene!  It's a bummer, but it's tough to complain when the girls are wearing skimpy clothes throughout.


Notice the signs read "No Gas Today".  The diabolical gas company, PPP, has leveled a crushing blow against Uncle Joe's.  They won't deliver any more gas, and the tanks have run dry! Damn you, PPP!

This is the final straw.  What is our gang going to do?


I think the answer is obvious.  They dress up as sheikhs, motorcycle cops, and harem girls, break into the PPP Headquarters and confront the big boss face-to-face.  As you would expect from a fool proof plan like this, the big boss is sympathetic to their plight and shuts down the station across the street!

Yes, it's a happy ending for all.  The evil Mr. Friendly now works for Uncle Joe, and Joe's gas station is back on its feet.  Betty is now going out with Butch, Hank with January, and Pee-Wee with Jane, and Sandy with Hal.  Roger of course is still with June (and Michael evidently is left to go masturbate alone).


All in all, not one the best sex-coms of the era, but still not what I'd call a disappointment.  It could've been improved by upping the raunch just a bit, and maybe actually being funny.  That being said, it was still a lot of fun, with nary a dull moment.  I'd recommend it.

7 comments:

  1. It's been a while since I've seen it but it seems like "The Van" had an opening scene with some graduation disrobing as well...

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  2. Great review! That last picture sure looks like happy ends to me. (groan)

    I think you'll like my new Netflix update. http://www.retrohound.com/new-netflix-instant-streaming-for-august-2-2013/ Lots of '70s and '80s cheesy stuff.

    As an aside, I was looking for an Amazon.com link on your site the other day when I was going to make a purchase there and couldn't find one. You should have one on the main page.

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    1. I forgot to mention I'm a big fan of Mike Mazurki.

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    2. I actually bookmark your monthly list and drill down on it each month. As I've said before, Netflix has an awful setup for scavenging for vintage instant flicks. Their "classics" category sucks and they don't let you search by year.

      Instantwatcher is okay, but it's somewhat of a pain and I'd much rather just have a list of what's new in the retro-movie world like you offer.

      And, yes, you're right - I should have an amazon link on the main page. Thanks again.

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    3. Glad you like the list and follow it regularly. There's a pretty high amount of your style movies this time around. That's not always the case.

      There's so many ways Netflix could improve the search, I'm stunned that they don't put in the effort.

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  3. Would make a good double bill with The Pom Pom Girls.

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  4. I like this movie since it features a Triumph Spitfire. And boobs. That is all.

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