Written by Greg Barbrick
Somehow I missed the “disco-gas-station” phenomenon of the late seventies, and it is a real shame. As a consolation however, there is the film Gas Pump Girls (1979), which presents a vision of this world in all of its glory. There are all sorts of reasons to enjoy this movie, but for starters there is the legendary former Bowery Boy, Huntz Hall.
In Gas Pump Girls, Hall plays Uncle Joe, owner of a rundown gas-station in Sacramento. A big, new shiny Pyramid station across the street has just opened up, and is doing huge business. When Joe’s niece June (Kirsten Baker) and her friends graduate, his station is facing foreclosure. Then he has a heart attack. To help him out while recuperating, the girls clean up the station and keep it running.
They soon discover that sexy teen-age girls in short shorts and barely-there tops work well in pulling in business. Customers even leave the Pyramid pumps to get gas at the re-named “Super-Duper Gas” station across the street, when they see the hotties in action.
Mr. Friendly (Dave Shelley) is the proprietor of the Pyramid station, and is none too pleased with this turn of events. So he sends over his goons to shake things up. Besides all of the gratuitous 18-year-old breasts on display, and the chance to see Huntz Hall back in action, Friendly’s thugs are another reason to watch Gas Pump Girls. They are Moiv (Mike Mazurki), and Bruno (Joe E. Ross). For anyone who has ever watched Car 54, Where Are You, Ross was the crazed Gunther (“Oooh, oooh”) Toody partner of Officer Muldoon (Fred Gwynne) on that hilarious program. Mazuki’s name may not be as well known, but he virtually defined the “thug” role in countless movies over his long career. He is probably best remembered as the gruesome “Splitface” in the 1945 production of Dick Tracy.
The girlfriends and their boyfriends handily dispense with Friendly’s bad guys, so he takes things to the next level. Friendly gets the mysterious gas-distributor Mr. Smin (Jack Jozefson) to cut off their supply. Right wins out in the end however, as June and her friends take their case directly to Smin, and he relents. The station is saved, Uncle Joe gets better, and everyone is happy.
The paper-thin plot is just an excuse for the real point of the film. Actually there are two points (no pun intended). The picture takes every opportunity to show our girls topless, beginning with the opening graduation ceremony. Somehow the young ladies’ gowns have been rigged (bras and all) to tear away as they step up to receive their diplomas. Besides the nudity, it seems that the producers actually expected to make money on the soundtrack.
During the opening credits, there is a prominent notice reminding us “Soundtrack available on Blockbuster Records.” And what a soundtrack it must have been. I wonder if anyone ever actually bought a copy of it. If they did, they would have heard generic disco tunes along the lines of the theme song “Love Is A Gas.” I love it when the whole gang has nothing better to do than dance around the station to this stuff.
Gas Pump Girls is a nearly perfect example of a late-’70s drive-in flick. It was probably shown as part of a double-feature with something like Chatterbox (1977) or Up In Smoke (1978), and everyone had a good time. Gas Pump Girls is now available as part of the MGM “Manufacture on Demand” (MOD) series.