Robert Downey Sr. Made One of many Strangest Acid Westerns Ever

Have you ever ever watched a traditional Western and thought “That is nice, nevertheless it’s lacking Jesus doing jazz arms”? Nicely if that’s the case, then have we received the film for you! Some motion pictures appear to exist outdoors of the standard paradigm of movie criticism. As an alternative, their worth rests on how unusual or otherworldly they’re, and the way efficiently they create in us a sense or a tone that we did not even know existed. Acid Westerns do that fairly effectively and oftentimes evoke the contradictory feeling of alienation within the acquainted. The 1972 movie Greaser’s Palace directed by Robert Downey Sr. does this fairly successfully, although the entire level of the movie stays imprecise at greatest. Regardless, it’s an attention-grabbing entry in an attention-grabbing subgenre throughout the peak of cinema’s existential break from normalcy throughout the late ’60s and early ’70s.


What Is ‘Greaser’s Palace’ About?

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Greaser’s Palace follows the journey of Jesse (Allan Arbus) as he travels all through the American frontier on his solution to Jerusalem to observe his dream of being a well-known dancer and singer. On his manner, he stops in a city that has been taken over by Seaweedhead Greaser (Albert Henderson), a cruel tyrant who terrorizes the residents and imposes exorbitant taxes on them. In one of many earliest examples of Seaweedhead’s reign of terror, he shoots his personal son Lamy Homo (Michael Sullivan) within the chest a number of instances for interrupting his daughter Cholera’s (Luana Anders) erotic dance routine on the saloon. Jesse, dressed to the nines in a purple go well with with white gloves and looking out as if he may bust out right into a present tune at any second, goes round therapeutic folks and elevating the useless (together with Lamy) with the tremendous groovy maxim “in case you really feel, you heal”. Jesse quickly positive aspects fairly a wholesome following, most of whom have migrated away from Greaser’s tight grip.

What Are the Similarities Between ‘Greaser’s Palace’ & ‘El Topo’?

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Whereas the plot and tone of Greaser’s Palace are undeniably absurd, unavoidable comparisons might be made between it and Alejandro Jodorosky‘s The molethe counterculture traditional which got here out a mere two years prior. The movie even beats Jodorowsky to the punch with a subversive and satirical tackle the Jesus Christ narrative one 12 months earlier than the celebrated surrealist would launch his magnum opus The Holy Mountain. Whereas Greaser’s Palace is under no circumstances as meteoric of a movie as The moleit shares a lot of the identical DNA, even when one appears to be like previous the surface-level similarities.

Each movies are clearly various takes on the Western with pseudo-spiritual leanings, however the irreverence with which it handles these leanings is actually the place the similarities get attention-grabbing. Each movies have characters which might be in impact much less so characters in themselves and extra so broad archetypes that query the validity of social authority. The Christ determine in Greaser’s Palace is surprisingly not very non secular, particularly when in comparison with most of the characters in Jodorowsky’s movies. He’s an aimless traveler with the paper-thin motives of reaching stardom and success, not a smart guru and even much less so a messiah. Even in Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountainthe Christ determine is on some kind of non secular journey, even when it’s not the one which we’re used to seeing. It is a daring interpretation of Jesus Christ, as if faith is commonly satirized, there are nonetheless only a few examples of Jesus himself being the goal.

Greaser’s Palace is far more simple in its satire than The molebut the film’s level is both impenetrable upon first viewing or unsuccessfully communicated. The viewers is left with the query “What if Jesus was a lowly magician who for no larger cause had supernatural skills”, however the movie, sadly, does not delve any additional. Nonetheless, it’s an attention-grabbing idea and one seldom if ever tackled on display screen.

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‘Greaser’s Palace’ Has Imprecise Non secular Leanings

Greaser’s Palace is clearly commentating on faith, particularly Christianity, by means of the townspeople blindingly following Jesse. As beforehand talked about, the portrayal of Christ right here is that of an affordable trickster who passively wanders via city, seemingly therapeutic folks at random with little to no company. Jesse goes on to faucet dance on water and carry out different variations of well-known biblical miracles. He’s clearly seen by the folks as a savior, although he by no means provides any indication that that’s his intention. He merely wanders via the city, bestowing blessings upon them. The townspeople seemingly by no means cease to ask the place or from whom he has acquired these skills, they only take them at face worth and go from there.

There may be additionally a caricature of the Holy Spirit, performed humorously by a person in a white sheet ghost costume. Whereas these interpretations of God are amusing at first look, they aren’t given a lot thought past the preliminary shock of seeing these figures in such an irreverent mild. Whether or not the movie goes strictly for a extra farcical humorous tone or whether or not it is attempting to make extra substantial critiques of faith is not clear. What is evident is that Greaser’s Palace has some beef with organized faith, particularly Christianity, however we’re by no means advised what that’s. Is it that folks observe faith blindly with out digging deeper into the what, why, or how of their beliefs? Or is it satirizing the best way that a lot of contemporary Christianity has merely turn out to be a type of frivolous leisure? There are threads of each, however neither is examined additional. The movie nonetheless stays worthy of debate just by being so audacious as to deal with such Christian symbols with irreverence.

Regardless of a comparatively middling reception, the movie did have its champions upon launch, most notably Time‘s Jay Cocks who thought-about it Robert Downey’s “funniest, most achieved and most audacious movie but”. Downey was recognized within the 70s for his satirical comedies, most notably Putney Swope from 1969 which turned a cult traditional, and Greaser’s Palace matches neatly into his physique of labor in addition to remaining a curiosity in its personal proper. One can solely think about that it’s much more attention-grabbing now than it was when it was launched, because the themes that it a minimum of makes an attempt to deal with are nonetheless extremely taboo.

Even when its intentions are by no means made clear, the movie feels unequivocally fashionable in the best way that it mixes non secular pondering, social satirebodily comedy, absurdism, and even scatological humor. There are movies as we speak that goal to realize related issues, resembling Swiss Military Man or Sorry to Hassle You to various levels of success. Generally what makes a film attention-grabbing although, will not be in how effectively it succeeds, however how and why it fails. On the finish of the day, Greaser’s Palace is an attention-grabbing experiment that pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable in American movie, even when nobody was paying consideration.