As evidence U.S. moviemaking can provide renegades, wacky outsiders and authentic independents missed even by fests, filmmaker-actor-author Giuseppe Andrews delivers a sui generis, obscenity-filled spoof of meat-eating and slackerdom memorably titled “Garbanzo Gas.” Story premise alone — a cow wins a slaughterhouse contest for an all-expenses-paid vacation — just begins to suggest the cockeyed logic of the piece, which recalls John Waters’ early underground pics in its combo of sharp politics and extreme comedy. Pic is the sort most fests will be too scared to touch, allowing auds to discover it on their own, including as a DVD on Andrews’ own website.
As rootless buddies Leon (Miles Dougal) and Alan (Walt Dongo) fight in a motel room over money and how they missed the broadcast of a kangaroo fight on live TV, pic’s antics seem less like Waters than pre-vintage Sam Shepard.
While Cow (the intensely bearded Vietnam Ron, dressed in a ridiculously funny bovine outfit suitable for a grade school stage play) is picked up by the side of the road by T-Bird (Walter Patterson), Leon launches into a song-and-dance number gone ape. Merriment is broken by news of elderly Dingles Davenport (Tyree) having just wiped out 10 of his fellow assisted living residents in a killing spree. Apparently, he got messages to kill through his orthopedic shoes.
Leon and Alan’s most central concern, however, is getting something to eat. Ordering room service proves too much for them, and a desperate try at ocean fishing is equally hopeless.
They soon see Cow, but it appeals to their kinder nature and volunteers to use its unlimited credit (good up until Monday, when it gets slaughtered) to order steaks for them. As Leon remarks, “I’ve never seen a cow work a phone like that!”
Back home, T-Bird has a lengthy sexual bout with g.f. Tawney (Tiffany Naylor), but — when he starts hearing messages to kill Tawney that he believes are coming from his bathroom towel — he obeys. With this act, like Leon and Alan, his taste buds are primed for “a steak and fully-loaded baked potato.”
“Garbanzo Gas” operates inside its own hermetically sealed world, with a set of rules that allows its serious message about the horrors of meat-eating to be sandwiched inside a screwball bun. After a few unique twists of fate, Dingles delivers an unforgettably obscene monologue that’s all the more mind-blowing because it comes out of the mouth of non-pro thesp Tyree — who looks 80-going-on-100 and, like almost everyone in the cast, lives in Andrews’ mobile home community in Ventura, Calif., where all of his shorts and features are lensed.
Very much like the script, which adheres to no conventional form, the acting is tuned to its own frequency, somewhere beyond standards of “good” and “bad,” and utterly committed to Andrews’ ear for the trailer-trash absurd. As a one-man filmmaking band, Andrews really puts on a show; signaling his apparent unlimited energy, he’s completed two features since passing “Gas.”