One of the bigger surprises at B-Fest 2001 was this bizarre retelling of the life of Christ, set in the American Old West. Allan Arbus (best known as Dr. Sidney Freeman on the M*A*S*H TV series) is Jessy, our zoot-suited Christ figure who claims he is headed for Jerusalem to become a singer/dancer. "It is written that the Agent Morris waits for me there," he confides to his sidekick, shortly after parachuting into the film.
Director Robert Downey Sr. stacks surprise after jaw-dropping surprise on his viewers: there is the woman who bears the indignity of wound after fatal wound in scenes unrelated to the main plot. The Father and Holy Ghost (a man with a sheet draped over his head, and a cowboy hat propped on top) wander through the film as the Ghost complains that the Father hogs the spotlight. And all the while, bad guy Greaser (who kills his son "Lamy Homo" repeatedly only to find that Jessy resurrects him every time) is so constipated that he keeps a mariachi band nearby to mask his screams of pain when he goes to the outhouse.
These things sound entertaining when lumped into a paragraph like the one above, but the calmer (yet sometimes confusing) scenes between the surprises can seem interminable. Fortunately, there's enough going on that you won't fall asleep. Occasionally a cameo will grab your attention, such as that of a young Robert Downey Jr. as the kid who is murdered early in the film, or Hervé "Tattoo" Villechaize as the very hungry midget. And hey, isn't that actor, dancer, choreographer, and "Hey Mickey" singer Toni Basil as the Indian Girl?
Greaser's Palace may well be the weirdest film you ever see about the life of Christ, but it may also be the one to which you pay the most attention. Stick around for the explosive ending.
Greaser's Palace is presented in widescreen glory; I don't suppose the sunset included in the movie would be the same in pan & scan. The print is remarkably pristine; it doesn't seem to be remastered, but the sound is presented in Dolby Digital Mono.
There are no extras to speak of, but I will mention the menu quickly. Instead of a top menu that allows you to either play, futz with the audio setup, or go to the chapter listing, this disc kicks you straight into a colorful chapter listing with stills from each chapter. The two pages of chapter selections are efficient, even if it is a bit confusing not to be greeted by a standard top menu page. This is one of those films that just begs for the trailer to be included; I'm really curious as to how in the world this film might have been marketed.
Chris Holland, 3/9/2001