SEAWEEDHEAD GREASER: Coo Coo. I wish I could put my arms around each and every one of them, and let them know that everything is going to be okay.
COO COO: Why don’t you, Sea?
SEAWEEDHEAD GREASER: I’m not bizarre enough.
COO COO: Who is?
–dialogue from Greaser’s Palace
DIRECTED BY: Robert Downey Sr.
FEATURING: Alan Arbus, Albert Henderson, Michael Sullivan, Hervé Villechaize
PLOT: Perpetually constipated Seaweedhead Greaser and his gang of hired guns run a small Western village in the middle of the desert. One day Jessy, a mild-mannered hispter in a zoot suit, parachutes into the nearby countryside. Jessy, who is traveling to Jerusalem to become an actor/singer, stops in town to walk on water, repeatedly resurrect Greaser’s son Lamy Homo after Greaser has him killed, and do a boogie-woogie song and dance number before winding up crucified.
- Director Robert Downey began his filmmaking career in the early 1960s with a series of low-budget, absurdist short films that gained him a devoted following. His 1969 advertising/race relations satire Putney Swope brought him the adoration of the hippie counterculture. Greaser’s Palace is his only big-budget production, made with $1,000,000 invested by an independently wealthy Broadway producer.
- Downey’s son is the now-famous actor Robert Downey Jr.; the younger Downey appears, uncredited, as a child in this movie.
- The credits to this film begin to scroll before the movie starts instead of afterward, and many of them are illegible.
- The topless, mute Indian girl is none other than Toni Basil, who later went on to fame with her gratingly catchy 1982 pop single “Mickey.”
INDELIBLE IMAGE: Jessy, still in his striped suit and white gloves and shoes, crucified, with his pink and lavender hat perched atop the cross.
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Set in a barren town in the old West, Greaser’s Palace is a series of bizarre sketches which run a gamut from arid comedy to hints of disturbing perversion. These absurd anecdotes hang off a storyline that loosely and enigmatically follows the outline of the New Testament. In a movie where the Holy Ghost appears as a cigar-smoking man wearing a bedsheet with eyeholes cut in it and a black stetson, whether the movie is weird or not is the last question you’re likely to be asking yourself.
Clip from Greaser’s Palace
COMMENTS: A man leaning on a crutch waits for the “messiah” to come and heal him. Continue reading 44. GREASER’S PALACE (1972)