Greaser's Palace (1972) Poster

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10/10
Surreal, absurd, unique
Afracious1 March 2004
Greaser's Palace is a comical, chaotic, absurdist and surreal religious parody. It's like El Topo meets The Life of Brian. Alan Arrbus plays a strange messiah-like zoot-suited actor/singer/dancer called Jessy, who one day parachutes into a field close to a Western town where a host of odd characters hang out, the main one being a constipated chap called Seaweedhead Greaser, who runs the titular saloon. Jessy has some miraculous traits - he can walk on water and heals some of the locals by telling them: "If you feel, you heal". One of the most memorable scenes (and my favourite) is when Jessy approaches a group of people praying and says to them: "I bring you a message. Exactly six miles north of Skagg Mountain in the Valley of Pain, there lives an evil devil-monster. His name is Bingo Gas Station Motel Cheeseburger With A Side Of Aircraft Noise And You'll Be Gary Indiana. And he loves to hurt people. The last time I saw Bingo Gas Station Motel Cheeseburger With A Side Of Aircraft Noise And You'll Be Gary Indiana, he told me what he wants to do. He wants to come down here and kill each and every one of you. But I said to him: 'Bingo, wait a minute!'. And the reason I said that is because I believe in you people. I believe you can do the job. I believe you can help each other. I believe you can make this world a better place to live in. That's it". 

If you haven't seen this film then it must go on your must-see list of films, category surrealism. Chaotic cineastes will approve.
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Genius or Madness? You make the call!
Sat-27 December 1998
Movie Review: Sometimes in film a scene which is weird, horrifying or disturbing is carried to such an extreme that it transcends being grotesque and becomes beautiful. Jodorowsky's "Santa Sangre," Fellini's "Satyricon," and all of Lynch's films have moments like these. Unfortunately, "Greaser's Palace," though it tries really hard, never quite goes from ugly duckling to swan. Weird, horrifying and disturbing (and sometimes hilarious) it is indeed, but the pieces in the puzzle never quite come together. I must say this, though, Robert Downey has made one hell of a riveting film. I couldn't turn away from my TV screen for an instant. The movie seems to be a rather loosely told version fo the passion of Christ, set in the wild west. There is a Christ figure (who arrives on earth rather anachronistically via a parachute wearing a pimp suit), some disciples (about 17 of them), a miracle or three (some walking on water, some raising of the dead, a little healing, a little stigmata, etc.), and the obligatory being nailed to a crucifix. However, I don't recall the rest of the plot being in the Bible. I'm not going to try and describe it, except to say that the Christ figure is a singer-dancer-actor going to Jerusalem, to get an audition with the great agent Morris. Indeed, in one scene he puts on a little song and dance routine for his disciples, but they aren't impressed with his performance until he starts screaming and bleeding from the holes that appear in his hands, at which point they applaud. The image of Christ as showman, rather than a shaman, is quite provocative, and the audience that is only satisfied when their savior is in pain seems to be a glimpse into human nature not often afforded the viewer of this film, which is filled with cartoony violence, stilted dialogue, and unnatural posturing. The fact that this hint of truth about what we really want out of entertainment (in an age when we pay $29.95 to watch the Ultimate Fighting Championship on Pay-Per-View, who wouldn't enjoy a little screaming and stigmata?) comes in the midst of all these people doing their best to act inhuman, or at least unhuman, may indicate that there is more to this film than meets the eye. But is the movie good? I'm not certain about how good or bad it is, but I know that I was mesmerized by it. There were so many disturbing, fantastic, and humorous things...A few that come to mind are: --Herve Villechaize as the diminutive gay man who has "Jesus" over for dinner and flirts with him. --Herve's "wife," a bearded man in drag who angrily squeezes the Messiah's testicles after he refuses to sleep with the couple. --The woman who keeps getting shot throughout the film by an unknown assailant. --Mr. Greaser's intense orgasm and/or bowel movement which causes his palace to explode (I didn't understand either...). --Lamey Homo's description of the afterlife, "I was swimming in a rainbow with naked babies, and I turned into a beautiful smile," which he repeats three times during the film (he keeps getting killed and brought back to life). --The Holy Ghost. --The Native American who gets his lower back problem fixed when the Messiah turns out to be not only the son of God, but also a fairly good chiropractor. --The savage beating of a transvestite nun by Lamey Homo and the monk. --Etc. Throughout the film I was continually trying to determine whether I was watching the work of a genius or a just a load of crap. I'm still not sure, but I know one thing; this movie is fascinating, and though it never really becomes more than the sum of its parts, they certainly are interesting parts. "Greaser's Palace," is weird, funny, disturbing, gross, ugly, and strange, and I wholeheartedly recommend it. I guarantee you won't forget this film.
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10/10
The Anti-Gibson: The Passion of Christ told as a Spaghetti Western with a side of Shrooms...
Larry_Hiam18 June 2006
Warning: Spoilers
A woman (Job, Everyman, or Adam/Eve, though she plays another rather more narrow character in this multiple/simultaneous role) suffers the slings and arrows of a cold vicious cosmos at the center of a hot barren desert. Ouch!, it hurts, it REALLY hurts!! Trust me on this..... she gets walloped! Including the worst pain a mother could endure.

Greaser (Caesar) as absolute despot, runs the world in small, a dot on the map in the middle of this desert. He is inhumanly patient, ruthless, vicious, gleeful, cruel, capricious, and whimsical. Over the course of the film he personifies welds of any two of these traits. He has an entourage of minions, lackeys, and wannabes. They perform his bidding without question. The balance of the town residents have no power, but are at the complete mercy of Greaser (standing in not only for Caesar, ruler of the known world, but also personifying the indifferent, uncaring world and cosmos). But he has the worst case of constipation the world has ever seen. For all his power, and all the aid of the Mariachi brothers, and the shining love of his own mother who he keeps in a cage, - he can't make.

People go about their business as best they can, - with many rather bizarre distractions. There is a transvestite nun, or the ugliest female nun ever imagined (taking THAT bromide to its extreme logical conclusion, one quite ridiculous, but somehow fitting in this picture). A rancher has vaguely necrophilic fantasies regarding the local First Peoples. Christ Jesus turns out to be a rather exceptional chiropractor. Our female heroine keeps getting kicked in the teeth, again and again, - and again for good measure. She seems stuck in the Old Testament. Greaser's perenially disappointing son, Lamy Homo, also gets this treatment at the hands of his own father. The sins of the fathers visited upon their sons, the errors of history repeating themselves from generation to generation. An old coot in a white dress nicknamed Petunia, but who's real name is Luci(fer) tempts our other protagonist, Jesse, who although is technically not a criminal, is treated as one. A guy in a Charlie Brown ghost sheet with two round black eyes cut out protests that his role is too small. A little game of chance takes forever.......

That same Jesse arrives earlier in the film via an extreme wide establishing shot of a conestoga wagon rambling, creaking, and rumbling as it crawls across the desert plain. Just as it passes, - and the scene is sedate since there's nothing else happening,- Jesse arrives in the Old West from the top of the frame via a giant parachute, hits ground, dusts off his Zoot-suit, and unsurely gains some footing with some shuffling dance steps. He continues this perfect if uncertain timing over the plain, seeking..... something.

He finds "the agent Morris", a poor excuse for John the Baptist in any century, who also sees other futures, since he seems to wish to protect his head by wearing a space helmet.

In bemused/focused reverie, Jesse performs numerous miracles for the townsfolk;some of whom become cloyingly annoying. And for this receives the attention, and the rare(unique)if unspoken admiration of Greaser. He appears on Greaser's stage, to be approved or rejected by the audience. The female lead (Adam/Eve/Job/Everyman) takes on perhaps her most significant role as that of Judas.

Long before the pointlessly cryptic DaVinci Code (an insult to both Catholicism, the whole of Christendom AND Leonardo DaVinci, not to mention the likely intelligence of any typically well-read history buff; and again another Hollywood flick filmed in MurkyVision!) - Downy Sr. presents the "fact" of the act between Jesse and Mary Magdeline; oddly, for a film so apparently zongo and off-center, the only major departure from general Christian orthodoxy. A bad one at that, but well,it was the 70s, it was spring, we were young.....

The quietest scene in the entire film is perhaps the most powerful, - where Jesse is chastened by His Father - "You... get... going!!!", played by a perfectly cast, cloud-white bushy-haired, bushy-bearded, Amish-looking grandfather. All in the midst of spectacularly gory and absurd carnage. Sounds like the world to me.

Despite all the couching in absurdest non-linear plotting, extreme violence SEEMING to be merely lurid and gratuitous, and the many bizarre characters and subplots to nowhere, this is really a very gripping, awesome, violent, fabulous, eye-catching, mind-catching, amusing, hilarious in places, and ultimately heart-rendering re-telling of the Passion of Christ. (NOT the second coming as this or that reviewer has stated.) There are two other scenes which vie with the Father/Son meeting for most powerful/compelling/affecting sequences in the film. I omit their descriptions to provide motive for your unfilled spare time.

Repectfully, Larry Hiam
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8/10
Jesus plays the palace
kayester11 March 1999
Quite simply one of the odder incarnations of a Jesus story: in a desolate town in the middle of a borax desert in the late 19th century, where Herod has a serious case of constipation, the holy ghost is a cigar smoking actor under a white sheet with eye-holes and a mouth cutout, and Jesse aka Jesus wants to be a song and dance man. But the people won't let him be. Alan Arbus is dry and laid back in the role, always puzzled and not at all a mystery. Downey hit the high point of his career with this one, possibly the last movie he made without someone looking over his shoulder. I wish he'd the opportunity to continue exploring filmmaking of this type.
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10/10
Robert Downey Sr. delivers strange laughs in a comical surreal western.
NateManD19 July 2005
"Greasers Palace" is a wacky and strange western filled with uneasy laughter. In the 70's, Robert Downey Sr. was known for his strange and bizarre humor. At times certain jokes make absolutely no sense. That's what makes his films so funny. The story concerns a Christ like man in a zoot suit, named Jesse. He's on his way to Jerusalem to be a singer. On the way viewers are introduced to many strange characters; a guy in a ghost suit, a man dressed as a nun, and a women who repeatedly gets shot. Jesse wants to sing at the Greaser's Palace lounge. The evil Seaweedhead Greaser and his daughter preside over the palace. They are very picky on who can preform there. Sr. Greasers son is accused of being gay and is killed by his father. Thank goodness for Jesse's miraculous powers as he's able to revive Sr. Greaser's son from the dead time and time again. In some aspects the film appears to be a parody of El Topo. It also has a Montey Python style of humor and wit. Who can forget the films outrageous musical numbers too? So if your looking for a strange, nonsensical, religious, western comedy; Greaser's Palace is a film you'll most likely enjoy!
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9/10
downey's best - think brautigan on film
SatyrIX17 December 2002
I'm sure there's no such thing as a perfect robert downey movie, but some are better than others; some Downey movies are even better than other movies, generally speaking - and for its best sequences & acting, this obscure, lysergic cinematic parable, rates as one of the most memorable & thought-provoking films I've ever discovered. Downey is super-Altman; the Christian satire is simultaneously Neitzschean & Brautiganesque - Allan Arbus is excellent.

Downsides to the movie are several, & typical of this filmmaker - easily a third of the movie is incoherent boring & gratuitous - Downey's self-referential homages to family & friends are typical of independent filmmakers; Downey has literally taken this type of nepotism to the level of art, but it never succeeds, in any of his movies. Yet none of his other films achieve the kind of profundity this one at least occasionally does. & in spite of its excesses & shortcomings, the film brims with political & poetic energy & ideas. Quite probably this is the work of a director who thinks the raggedness & incoherence & navel-gazing are all enhancements, or at least necessary to The Experience (etc., etc.). Bow-tied think-tankers might remain unmoved by the delicate insights of Downey. But I'd have to go so far as to say Greaser's Palace stands as a far more compelling & visceral evocation of the drug dazed visionary daydreaming that preoccupied so many well-endowed minds in the sixties & very early seventies than do, e.g., Nicholson's 'Head' or Hopper's 'Last Picture Show'. Downey, Arbus & Co. at least have much more brain to fry.
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8/10
I loved it!
Kimal900024 August 2004
I saw this movie after midnight on a movie-channel, in a dark room. I really wasn't expecting much but somehow this strange and surreal film has a mood to it that very few movies have. Don't try to make sense of it ( I don't know if there is any ) Just relax, and take it in, and you'll see what I mean.

Nothing in this movie is spelled out. It is a mystery. It's very funny, and it just leaves you with a feeling of having seen something very important and meaningful about life and death, but you're not sure what...

My favourite spot in the movie is when "our" man is asked to give something to the followers, upon which he starts to hum a continuous tone. The "disiples" soon catches on and sings the tone to. He then leaves them, and they dare not stop this gift they have been given. Throughout the rest of the movie you can always hear them in the background or nearby, off camera, as the movie goes on with other things!

And the closing scene with the setting sun, and the music/sound just had me mesmerized!

I saw it only once, in 1986, and even today I often think about it. I wish I could buy it, but I haven't seen it anywhere. I really want to see it one more time.

A MUST see !
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Robert Downey's savagely funny take on the passion and death of Christ is original and thought provoking.
Kate-8422 June 1999
Jesus comes back to the old west as a 1930's song-and-dance man in a zoot suit and takes on local strongman Mr. Greaser, whose struggles with constipation are painful to witness. I love this film. It will never be selected as entertainment for anyone's church youth group, but its fresh take on Christianity make for a wild and very original ride.

Favorite moments: Lamey Homo protesting his dad, Mr. Greaser's, disciplinary methods, "I dreamed I was swimmin' in a rainbow and there was millions of babies and they was naked...Dad? I don't want to die any more." Dad's response: "Then behave yourself!" Sibling rivalry on the part of the Holy Ghost protesting God the Father's refusal to let him take on some of God the Son's perks (like being crucified): "You'll never know what I can do because you never give me a chance!" Jesus healing the paralyzed man, who is seen later in the film crying, "I can crawl again! I can crawl again!"

It took me a moment to identify which character was supposed to be Judas, until the woman settler, who goes through so many terrible disasters, began counting out thirty pieces of silverware.

It is somewhat disjointed, and definitely sacrilegious in spots, but those drawbacks are very minor. This is an original, savagely funny film.
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The weirdest American movie of the 1970s!
Infofreak10 May 2004
The unexpected box office success of 'Easy Rider' at the end of the 1960s opened all kinds of doors for all kinds of people. Suddenly there was a new "youth market" to be exploited. Thousands of hip kids were getting stoned and watching the likes of '2001' and 'Easy Rider'... mmm, what might they want to groove behind next? The old school film execs were baffled for the most part, and this allowed De Palma, Coppola, Altman, Scorsese, Ashby and Bogdanovich and others to get their big breaks. This period has been discussed a lot recently in books and documentaries, but what about the freaks who didn't become household names? What about say Robert Downey Sr and 'Greaser's Palace'?? Look I've seen some weird movies in my time, but 'Greaser's Palace' could well be the weirdest American movie of the 1970s! I have no idea whether Downey was familiar with 'El Topo' or not, and Hollywood had already dabbled in hippie Westerns with 'Zachariah' the previous year. Maybe these movies were some kind of influence on him, I don't know, maybe it was synchronicity. Even trying to describe this film makes it hard to believe it ever got made, watching it is even more bizarre. See, it's kind of a stoner's parable about Christ. Allan Arbus (who subsequently had a recurring role on 'MASH' the TV series and played the baddie in Jack Hill's blaxploitation classic 'Coffy') is Jessie, a zoot suit wearing fellow who parachutes into a wacked out town in the Old West. The town is run by Seaweedhead Greaser (Albert Henderson). His daughter Cholero (Luana Anders) is a burlesque performer, his son Lamy Homo (Michael Sullivan), well I don't know what he is exactly but he keeps getting killed and comes back from the dead describing his visions of the afterlife ("I was swimming in a rainbow with millions of babies... ...and they was naked......and then all of the sudden I turned into a perfect smile!"). Jessy just wants to sing and dance and get to Jerusalem where "the Agent Morris" awaits him, but he becomes a messiah figure for many of the townsfolk, which irks Cholero no end. Then you've got a topless Indian girl (Toni Basil), a gay midget (Herve Villeechaize), and a guy walking around wearing a sheet who I assume is the Holy Ghost (Ronald Nealy). Making sense? Maybe if you smoke as much weed as seemingly went into making it! Arbus is terrific throughout and it's always cool to see Luana Anders. She was one of the most interesting actresses of the period, appearing in cult favourites 'The Pit And The Pendulum', 'Night Tide', 'Dementia 13', 'The Trip', 'Easy Rider', 'Evil Roy Slade' and 'The Last Detail', and working with key figures Roger Corman, Francis Ford Coppola, Robert Altman, Hal Ashby, Dennis Hopper and Jack Nicholson. If you like weird movies then 'Greaser's Palace' is a must see!
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10/10
Ahead of its' time
murphlaw27 March 2000
This movie is incredibly strange and one of my all-time favorites. It reminds me very much of the surrealism of Bunuel, eg. Exterminating Angel or Discreet Charm of the Bourgoise. Greaser's Palace is well worth visiting.
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10/10
whacked out western about Jesus
jher27 November 1998
Basically this movie is wacky. It features, Jesus Christ in a Zoot Suit, God in a black cowboy outfit and the Holy Ghost in a white sheet with eyeholes and a cowboy hat. Innana or at least what I believe to be the personification of Goddess-worship also is featured and almost killed several times by unknown assailants. Herve' Villechaize has an amusing homo- sexual role with Jesus and the overall best part has to do with Greaser's Bowel movements... A must see for David Lynch fans.
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Uhh, yeah
ReelJohn-226 January 2001
Yeah, what those comments above this one say. It's really weird. Even if your not out to see the symbolism which is included in everything this movie does, you won't be able to turn away. At times it resembles a car crash; something in you says maybe you should look away, or just go about your business, but are somehow unable. A must see.
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10/10
Uncannily beautiful
kgann18 July 2009
Yes, as all the other comments will tell you, this is an absurd, bizarre film, with Jesus in a purple zoot suit parachuting into the old west and some strange religious allegory going on that I never manage to piece together. However - what amazes me every time I watch it (and I've watched it a couple dozen times) is how visually sumptuous it is, how lovingly the scenery and characters are fondled by the camera in this crude, weird story. Describing what happens doesn't really do it justice, because it ends up being more than the sum of its parts. I first saw it in a theater in 1975, never forgot it, and when it came out on DVD I really fell in love with it. Some of my cult favorites like Eraserhead have faded a little over the years, but this one continues to astonish me every time.
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10/10
Something off the beaten path
chuxmix7 August 2000
When I first saw this film, it was at 2am on a Sunday morning. Half awake, staring blindly into the screen, what I saw defied description. The story of Jesus Christ told in an Old West setting with Jesus' character wearing a zoot suit? Count me in!

The dialogue is extremely non-sequitur, and the characters are hilarious! Herve' Villachaise is wonderful as a condensed cowboy married to a 6-foot tall man named "Petunia".

I highly recommend this movie simply on the basis that it is so bizarre (even though Greaser doesn't think he's bizarre enough). Oh, and knowing that Robert Downey directed this puts a few things into perspective as well (yes, that's Robert Downey Sr., as in Father of R D Jr.)
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A Stranger Arrives
sol-11 May 2017
Dressed in a 1920s zoot suit, an amateur magician parachutes in an Old West town where he causes unrest by performing tricks that the locals believe are miracles in this decidedly weird western from Robert Downey Sr. Written as a deliberately anachronistic character, the protagonist here is intriguing; as his tricks involve healing the sick and walking on water, he is clearly modeled on Christ, yet with the way he dresses and lands in town, it is as if he has been sent from the future back to the Wild West. Whatever the case, Allan Arbus (of 'M*A*S*H' fame) is excellent in the lead role, remaining calm and collected throughout (turn the other cheek) and always very enthusiastic about performing - even when a card guessing trick terribly backfires. For a Christ-like figure, he is highly subverted, encouraging kindness and good will by getting those he comes across to applaud his acts and marvel at his showmanship. For all its ambition though, 'Greaser's Palace' remains a highly episodic motion picture, often coming across as a series of loose sketches than a plot-driven story - something that dulls the religious parable at hand and makes the overall experience a tad uneven. There are some great running gags in the mix too though, such as Arbus constantly bringing local black sheep Michael Sullivan back to life, much to the outcast's constant bewilderment.
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9/10
If you feel your healed
jwstump15 May 2010
If Greaser's Palace does not make you pause and reflect. You need a little more time in the kiva to straighten out.

In 1972 it was an Art theatric smoker; now it is a late night movie broadcast. What a change in a single generation

The message rings as true some 38 years latter. It might make Colera angry but Jesse still puts the Hubba Hubba in my Soul

Robert Downey's portrayal of the Trinity helped in my grasp of this concept. Nobody knows who the Ghost is but he moves the story

If you feel you're healed

All the best John Stump
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3/10
Only for the most tolerant of absurdist film freaks
Eegah Guy19 March 2001
This religious satire/parody by independent filmmaker Downey is pretty dull stuff. I fail to see why this self-indulgent tripe was supposedly critically-acclaimed in its day. Skip this one and watch a Jodorowsky film instead.
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The old man with the Last Supper painting (hidden message)
dogeymon5 February 2007
The most bizarre part of the film is where the little old toothless man with the painting starts saying some gibberish over and over again (hoshi-jeb, hoshi-jeb, hoshi-jeb) So I plugged it into a sound recorder and played it backwards. And ya know what I find?? I believe he's speaking backwards, and what it distinctly sounds like he's saying is, "Veggie Soup". Hmmmmmm.....??

IMDb won't let me post this without at least 10 lines of text so I'm now typing a bunch of stuff just so they'll let me post this and it's pretty lame that they have to do this to me because all i wanted to do was make a comment, I didn't feel like writing an essay, but it's what they're forcing me to do and now I'm done.
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3/10
Talk About A Flash From the Past
tramky29 May 2005
I saw "Greaser's Palace" in New York City when it first came out. It was a Playboy production at a time when Playboy was seeing the Playboy Clubs begin to decline and they were looking for other avenues--film production seemed like a nice idea at the time, but it was short-lived, partly, not doubt, because of this film.

The only thing I remember about this film, other than the odd wardrobe and overall weirdness, was the line "Do you want to suckle my stinger". I have no idea which character said that line, or to whom it was said.

I'd like to find this movie on DVD & watch it again, a second time after all these years, to see what I've forgotten--undoubtedly quite a bit of it.
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not half as good as PUTNEY SWOPE or POUND.
coex6 December 2002
not half as good as PUTNEY SWOPE or POUND. But, here is Downey on a budget: widescreen and in color too! Intensely dry humor starts this western off to a weird start. By the end of the first half hour, I started to "get it", but then the film shifted gears to Jodowroski territory with Allan Arbus in a zoot suit shuffling across the plains of the Old West, performing miracles along the way. The film completely falls short of anything near the more hardcore Jodowrosky stuff (real profound symbolism, artsy fartsy-ism, etc.), but it does entertain the terminally stoned mind. Which is not a bad thing.

Cinema fans schooled in the post-blockbuster world will no doubt be bored to tears. There's no buzz editing and explosions. Fans of indie films from the 60s and 70s will only note this for it's historical significance. Worth watching for that alone, but not much else.
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10/10
One of my Top 10 Favorites
Jacksonb-210 December 1999
I saw this movie in the late 70's in a stuffy hot 2nd floor big open room on folding metal chairs in an "art film" series on campus.

It is unique, and still rates in my top 10 favorites. I love religious spoofs, and cowboys and the old West really add to the humor. Yet another story of a reluctant messiah, who just wants to be a song and dance man, but has to deal with his destiny.

It was too much for the commercial market, so never got the wide screening it deserved. If it were released in 1999, it would be a bigger hit.
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6/10
A sometimes interesting, sometimes entertaining, and always messy film from Robert Downey…
agboone721 June 2015
I discovered Robert Downey Sr. fairly recently, given that, in all modesty, I consider myself rather well versed in cinema. I don't know what I expected, but certainly it wasn't what I got. Without question, this is the appeal of Robert Downey's work: its absolute unpredictability, its complete absurdity. He is not a genius of the cinema, but he's clever as can be, he's unrelenting in his satire, and he's highly original.

This quality — originality, uniqueness; call it what you like — means a great deal to me. I've seen so much cinema, from the late 1800s to the present, from America to Japan and everything in between, that I very rarely stumble across something that is a truly novel viewing experience. The three amateur films that began his career as a filmmaker — "Babo 73", "Chafed Elbows", and "No More Excuses" — were the first experiences I had with Downey, and I was pretty instantly enamored with him. The films aren't masterpieces. In fact, they're far from it. They're filled with flaws and shortcomings, but also with moments of fantastic off-the-wall humor and scathing satire. More than anything, they're almost completely unique. I was reminded very slightly of a few of Godard's films with the Dziga Vertov Group from the early '70s, like "Wind From the East" and "Vladimir and Rosa", and a bit more of Scorsese's early short films, but otherwise I can't really recall any films that came to mind as being similar to these remarkable bundles of absurdist energy.

I next saw "Putney Swope", Downey's first professional film, if I'm not mistaken. It was very similar to its predecessors, only much more polished and professionally executed. Two films later, in 1972, Downey came out with "Greaser's Palace".

The first thing I noted about this film was the change to color. Aside from that, however, the cinematography is very similar to "Putney Swope", utilizing a realist style with hand-held camera-work and so forth. Downey's basic sense of humor is present, but on the whole, "Greaser's Palace" is a very different film from the other four Downey films I've seen. It's much more toned down, and the general mood of the film diverges significantly from what we're used to. Downey deviates somewhat from his usual absurdist farce and buffoonery (although he definitely doesn't dispense with it entirely), replacing it instead with something more quiet and understated, by comparison to his other films, that is. For the first time in any of his films that I've seen, there are moments in "Greaser's Palace" that actually appear to be intended to be taken seriously, at least to some extent. The final shot of the film is absolutely stunning, both beautiful and disturbing on a visceral level. It's truly a very strange film, and while it doesn't all together work, it has its moments.

"Greaser's Palace" is an allegorical film, a parable of the life of Christ. Downey clearly doesn't subscribe to any specific political beliefs or ideologies, and has said so himself. These aren't left-wing films with a social message; they're just raw satire for its own sake. When all is said and done, the primary function of Downey's films is to be enjoyed. It's comedy for comedy's sake. If, however, there was ever a Robert Downey film that felt like it was intended to mean something, this is that film. Religious satire has always been present in Downey's films, but until now it had always been overwhelmed by the much more dominant political satire in his films. In "Greaser's Palace", though, the religious satire is the core of the film. The allegory is extremely thinly veiled, comically so, and Downey pulls no punches.

For instance, I recall three figures standing together in a field near the end of the film. One is a younger man who refers to the older man next to him as his father. The third figure is a man covered in a white sheet, with two holes cut out where the eyes might be. These three not-so-mysterious figures are, of course, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. This is Downey's idea of humor. Whether it's funny or not will depend very much on the viewer. While the symbolism and metaphor are far from brilliant, I've found that there is more than enough humor to be found in his irreverence alone. His blatant lack of respect for religion and politics, I believe, has worked to wonderful comedic effect in his films.

I thought "Greaser's Palace" was a mess for the bulk of the viewing, and it probably is the worst of the five films I've seen by Downey — certainly the most flawed — but in its own way it may also be the most interesting. The usual frenetic pace of Downey's comedy is melted into something closer to deadpan humor at times, and by the end of the film I must say that I was vaguely interested. I haven't made a great deal of effort to interpret the symbolism and the allegory, and the specifics of what exactly Downey was trying to say, because ultimately I feel like I'd be left with what I already know: Downey never really tries to say much of anything. He simply makes fun of everything. And here he takes great pleasure in ridiculing religion on every imaginable level.

Is "Greaser's Palace" a good film? I don't think so. But it's interesting, at least in part, and while I think it fails on the whole, I won't say that I wasn't engaged by it for certain moments, particularly towards the end of the film. I found that it had much more impact on me than I could logically or rationally account for. Give it a shot, and see what you think. A film this original and unique earns some respect on those merits alone.

RATING: 5.67 out of 10 stars
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2/10
70s Gone Wild
artpf28 September 2013
This is one of those crazy counter culture flicks that some how got backing in the 1970s.

It rambles. It fumbles.

But it's strangely hypnotic.

For me there isn't much of a plot. Maybe because it was directed for pot heads, I am missing something. I don't really get the life of Christ reference really. Except that Greaser does some healing. And makes some references to Jerusalem, but it's all way too obtuse and silly to be taken as a true satire or even a referential film.

Life of Brian was so much better.

The movie loses it's hypnosis about 20 minutes into it and become boring...again, maybe because I'm not high...or maybe because the 70s are long gone and they weren't that fun or kooky to begin with.

A lot of these wacky 70s films are just not so wacky today. The hippies are retiring and the world is going to hell. No time for meaningless drivel.
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Jesus Western Christ
Michael_Elliott4 December 2009
Greaser's Palace (1972)

** (out of 4)

I know that there are people out there who really, really enjoy this movie as its cult following appears to get bigger and bigger each year but I can't say I'm one of them. After hearing so many things about this film I had to try it for myself but I never really got drawn into the movie so for the most part it left me bored. The film is pretty much a stoner's (or alternative) look at the life of Jesus Christ but set in the Old West. A zoot suit wearing man is going through a small town where he heals the sick and brings the dead back to life. This doesn't sit too well with the town bad guy. That's pretty much the only bit of "plot" that I could pick up because this movie certainly succeeds at being strange and surreal. I think the likes of someone like Bunuel would even have a hard time following everything that goes on in this thing. The humor isn't in your face funny but more often than not it's just laid back and really comes off without having to use any punchlines. Something, or almost anything, will happen and you either laugh or you don't. The film really doesn't push too hard for laughs so I think it's really going to depend on whether or not the viewer can really get into the film from the start. I was unable to so that certainly explains why I wasn't really going along with the thing. I certainly respect the attempt but it just wasn't my cup of tea. Look quick for Robert Downey, Jr. playing a molested boy.
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