EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|GREASER'S PALACE (director/writer: Robert Downey; cinematographer: Peter Powell; editor: Bud S. Smith; music: Jack Nitzsche; cast: Allan Arbus (Jessy), Albert Henderson (Seaweedhead Greaser), Michael Sullivan (Lamy 'Homo' Greaser), Luana Anders (Cholera), George Morgan (Coo Coo), Ronald Nealy (Card Man/Ghost), Larry Moyer (Captain Good), John Paul Hudson (Smiley), Jackson S. Haynes (Rope Man), Larry Wolf (French Padre), Alex Hitchcock (Nun), Pablo Ferro (Indian), Toni Basil (Indian Girl), Stan Gottlieb (Spitunia), Herve Villechaize (Mr. Spitunia), Don Smolen (Gip), Joe Madden (Man With Painting), Don Calfa (The Agent Morris), Woody Chambliss (Father), Elsie Downey (The Woman), Rex King (Turquoise Skies), James Antonio (Vernon); Runtime: 91; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Cyma Rubin; Scorpion Releasing; 1972)|
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
An unimaginative, unfunny,
gross-out satirical parable on Jesus that's set in the 1800s in the
Old West, with the messiah a dandy with a Noo Yawk Jewish accent named
Jessy (Allan Arbus), an
aspiring vaudeville actor/singer/dancer
in a pink brimmed hat and zoot-suit who is en route to Jerusalem. The
irreverent offbeat slapstick comedy is so silly, witless and tiresome
that the pic is unwatchable-an embarrassment. It's written and directed
by underground filmmaker Robert
Downey ("Up The Academy"/"Chafed
More Excuses"), best known as the father of Robert Downey Jr.
(the seven-year-old appears as a
mutilated pioneer child). Downey's a NYC based experimental
filmmaker whose career bottomed-out after his surprise success with
Putney Swope. This is Downey's
most ambitious pic and his most costly, budgeted for $1,000,000
dollar. It turned out to be his biggest flop, turning off even his most
Jessy parachutes into the
sagebrush desert on the American side of the Mexican border and wanders
on foot in the wilderness of the Old West. The wanderer soon becomes
involved with the eccentric
residents of a frontier tumbleweed town run by the evil, brutal and
Seaweedhead Greaser (Albert Henderson), who is a land baron and owner
of the dance-hall called Grease's Palace that also acts as a church.
Greaser is constipated and is always running to the bathroom, has a mariachi band and keeps his mother locked
in a wooden cage. After Jessy
brings Greaser's despised son Lamy
Greaser (Michael Sullivan)
back to life by touching him and saying "If ya feel, ya heal"
after the old man has killed him because he suspects he's a "homo,"
with this becoming an annoying running gag that has Greaser's illegitimate son repeatedly
getting killed by his rotten father and Jessy bringing the little guy
back to life every time and the revived soul tells about his wonderful
afterlife experience. The joke is that Jessy's healing powers leads him
on a strange trip he never planned, as he now has a gathering of loyal
followers hoping for miracles. When Jessy gets a chance to perform at
Greaser's Palace his singing and dancing doesn't excite the locals, but
when the blood starts flowing
from his palms they go wild and he wins the audience over. Later
Jessy's send out to the desert by the Holy Father (Woody
Chambliss) and gets crucified by a dying woman he brings
back to life (who is supposed to be his mother).
Some of the oddball
characters include Greaser's daughter Cholera (Luana Anders), the star
singer/exotic dancer at the saloon; the Holy Ghost (Ronald Nealy) who is dressed in a sheet and
a derby and pleasures himself by putting out his cigar on Lamy's hairy
chest; a topless Indian scout
(Toni Basil) riding around town, that gives us gratuitous titty shots;
the crippled weirdo Vernon (James
Antonio) who is healed by Jessy and now crawls; and the interactions of a sexually
(Herve Villechaize) and his bearded transvestite wife (Stan Gottlieb) are a few of the eccentrics who try to make
funny with such juvenile material.
The slight plot is built around a collection of skits made to be shocking, violent and perverse, whose appeal might be to those who find such self-indulgent absurd antics irresistible despite their depravity. For me, though it's beautifully filmed and the acting is fine, I couldn't wait for this constipated piece of crap to end.
REVIEWED ON 5/20/2010 GRADE: C-
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ