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By Merle Bertrand | May 30, 2000

“It’s the film mass transportation advocates don’t want you to see!” While this slogan isn’t exactly the marketing tag line of choice for David Gebroe’s oddly unnerving short film “38 Geary,” it could be. Nicholas (Mike Spiegelman), slogging through another crappy day of work at his crappy job, can’t wait to catch the bus home. He wouldn’t be so eager if he knew that the warped bus-riding denizens on the 38 Geary route were ready to scrape him from his office frying pan and into the public transit fire. Scabs (Kurt Weitzmann) is the first to accost Nicholas. His face covered with grotesque, open festering sores, this aptly named pest persistently invades the desperately patient office worker’s space and sets him on edge. Vile as he is, Scabs is a mere warm-up act for Sal (Joshua Curtis), who’s nothing if not a maniac. By turns desperately pleading and loudly obnoxious towards Nicholas and all his fellow passengers, Sal is every user of public transportation’s nightmare.
David Gebroe’s film is actually more intriguing for the way he made it — shooting it as the cast and crew actually rode on the bus’ titular route — than it is in its own right. There’s an inherent edginess to “38 Geary,” not so much as far as the actors are concerned but for the innocent riders nearby. In some ways, this is two films for the price of one. Watch “38 Geary” first for its own sake. Then go back and play the tape again, this time studying the faces of those unwitting captive “extras” in the background. It’s an experience similar to watching a live sociology experiment. Or at least a real life “Candid Camera” sketch. You might never take the bus again.

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