Greaser’s Palace (1972)

Article 3786 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-14-2011
Posting Date: 12-26-2011
Directed by Robert Downey Sr.
Featuring Allan Arbus, Albert Henderson, Michael Sullivan
Country: USA
What it is: Comic western Biblical allegory

A man parachutes down into the old west so he can go to Jerusalem and become a singer/dancer/actor. On the way he heals the sick, raises the dead, and walks on water. However, he discovers that his most popular method of entertainment is very different…

Once again we have an art movie that becomes a de facto fantasy because there’s no other real place to put it. Some of the reviews and comments I read on it compare it to one of the works by Alexandro Jodorowsky, and it’s easy to see why; it pretty much is mining the same surreal demented vision of the old west as EL TOPO. It’s an allegory on the Christ story, with the character of Jessy being Jesus, and several other characters are clearly stand-ins for other characters from the Gospels; I’ll give you one guess who the guy in the white sheet is supposed to be. It’s a bit tempting to want to dismiss it as a self-indulgent mess, but I can’t do that; some of the metaphors work well enough to make me wonder if I’m not just getting some of the others, and there are moments where it’s just sincere enough that I can’t quite see it as a complete joke. I’m not familiar with most of the cast by name, but there are a few that I recognize, such as Luana Anders, Toni Basil, and Herve Villechaize; the scene where the last of these actors flirts with Allan Arbus is probably one that will forever stick in my memory (albeit unwillingly). For me, the most amazing moment in the movie came when I finally figured out the metaphor of the woman who spends most of the movie dying horribly. Strange, strange, strange, and despite the religious themes, it’s probably not going to play in any church basements anytime soon.


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