Greaser's Palace (1972) from Tuna and Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Two thumbs sort of up. It's obviously not for everyone. In fact, this is actually a poorly and cheaply made movie. On the other hand, it is so strange and so "sixties" that it is really appealing for many who miss the spirit of anarchy in the art of that era.

Tuna's comments in white:

Greaser's Palace (1972) could only have come from the 1967-73 era that we now call "the sixties". Those who remember that time might recall that a common justification for having long hair was that Jesus had long hair, the implication being that hippies were more "Christlike" than the conservative Christians who were not very kind to longhairs. I suppose a natural outgrowth of that was making a hippy "Life of Christ" film, and Robert Downey (senior) stepped up, or perhaps stumbled up, to the plate. The Jesus character, Jessy (Alan Arbus) is a zoot-suited wannabe song and dance man on a holy pilgrimage to the Old West, looking for the agent Morris. He enters a small town that seems to consist entirely of "Greaser's Palace", a saloon owned by the local strongman, Seaweedhead Greaser, which features performances from his daughter, Cholera Greaser. Then there is his son, Lamy "Homo" Greaser, whom Seaweedhead keeps killing, but whom Jessy/Jesus keeps resurrecting. Lamy describes each death experience as follows, "I was swimming in a rainbow with babies and they were all naked, then I turned into a perfect smile."

Jessy does some required schtick, including dancing on water, raising from the dead, healing cripples (one of them crawls into the palace chanting "I can crawl again"), and curing an Indian chief by expert chiropractic manipulation. God the Father, after killing a pioneer woman's husband and son, keeps shooting her with an air gun (no, not a BB gun, but "air gun" as in "air guitar" - an imaginary gun) and an air bow and arrow as well. The women is to become Judas, after Jessy heals her. The Holy Ghost, who wears a sheet with holes cut out for the eyes and a western hat, does a lot of complaining about being misunderstood and under-utilized.

Seaweedhead is terminally constipated, and a mariachi band is on hand to play whenever he is in the outhouse. Hervé Villechaize is married to a bearded man named Petunia. By now, you should have the idea that this is a seriously strange film. I suspect that viewers should prepare by trying to get as high as the film makers likely were.

The nudity is supplied by Toni Basil, as a topless Indian scout. We see her breasts while she's running, riding a horse, and talking in exaggerated sign language to a pipe smoking Indian who answers in perfect English. Like this film itself, she is a surviving relic from the era. She also appeared in Five Easy Pieces and Easy Rider, had an international hit song "Mickey," directed a hit video of the song, and has done a lot of work with choreography, as recently as 2001.

I don't want to give away too much of the ending, but the final scene is a sunset shown in real time.

Most of the comments at IMDb are very positive. Seems like there are a lot of people who remember the 60s.

Scoop's comments in yellow:

Sometimes I start a review by drawing your attention to the fact that it's an odd movie, and you won't like it if you're a mainstream filmgoer. Wellsir, this ain't just an odd movie. This is arguably the oddest movie ever made. It makes Don't Touch the White Woman, the movie with Mastroianni as General Custer, seem like a Doris Day movie.
It centers around Jesus returning to the earth in the old west, into the most run-down, shabbiest town in any dried up gulch. (Well, I suppose Bethlehem was no Paris either.) He's on his way to Jerusalem to be an actor/singer/dancer, and he's a whiz at performing 1940's boogie-woogie ("He's got the boogie in his fingers and the hubba-hubba in his soul"), although he's about sixty years ahead of his time and it isn't much appreciated by the locals.


The only nudity came from Toni Basil, as an Indian maiden.
Jesus, aka "Jessy", (Allan Arbus - the psychiatrist Sydney from M.A.S.H., and husband of the strange photographer Diane Arbus) is wearing a black and white striped 1940's zoot suit and a big pink hat, and looks pretty much like Jim Carrey after he puts on The Mask. God the Father is a crusty lookin' old cowboy greybeard. The Holy Ghost wears a cowboy outfit except for the bed sheet over his head with two eyeholes cut out, and he's upset because The Father never gives him a chance to do anything important..

Seaweedhead Greaser is the guy who runs the town, and he has constipation problems. It appears to me that he can't move to action unless properly spurred by Mariachi music, so his quartet follows him around in case he needs them. Like all movie strongmen, he has a wimp of a son, and he kills the kid, Lamy Homo Greaser, in the first scene, but Jesus/Jessy later brings him back to life like Lazarus, and .....

Let's see. Tattoo from Fantasy Island plays a homosexual cowpoke who makes a move on Christ. And there's a 90 year old man playing a character named "Petunia", clad in pink gingham drag, and .....

... and there's really no way to describe this without going through every discontinuous scene. It was directed by the supremely odd Robert Downey Senior, and will give you a clear hint that Downey Junior's drug problems may be inherited.


DVD info:

See the links to the left. If you like Greaser's Palace, you will undoubtedly love Putney Swope, Downey Senior's no-budget masterpiece, a satire of what happens when a bunch of Black Power advocates are accidentally thrust into the management of an advertising agency.

The Critics Vote

  • The normally conservative Leonard Maltin gives it 3/4.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 5.1. Surprisingly high. The rating doesn't mean much. You will either love it or think it's the stupidest thing you've ever seen. Or both.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C+. By now you have already decided if you need to see this or not, but the proper score as a cult oddity is C+, as it doesn't not get much odder than this, and, in the proper frame of mine, has much symbolism and possibly a truth or two hidden in all the foolishness.

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