Follow TV Tropes


Film / Greaser's Palace

Go To
Jesus Christ, zoot suit and all

"He's got the boogie in his fingers, and the hubba-hubba in his soul!
The movie's tagline, as well as a line from Jessy's big number

Greaser's Palace is a 1972 B-grade "acid western" movie directed by Robert Downey Sr. The movie is supposed to be an allegory of the story of Christ through the New Testament, starring Allan Arbus as the symbolic Christ, Jessy, who parachutes to earth, and is sent on a journey Jerusalem to become an actor/singer, as per the mission bestowed upon him by the Agent Morris. Also throughout the movie is the titular Greaser's Palace, a saloon of some kind, run by Seaweedhead Greaser, who is in a constant state of constipation, and has a son named Lamy, whom he believes is gay and keeps killing because of it, and a daughter named Cholera, who performs in a vampish manner at the Palace.

Although Downey, Sr. made a career for himself directing low-budgeted (and low-quality) B-movies, this one in particular is just about the highest-budgeted movie Downey, Sr. ever directed in his career (financed at $1,000,000 by a producer who did him a favor). Oh yeah, and this is supposed to be a comedy, if you couldn't tell.

The film provides examples of

  • Ambiguous Time Period: The movie itself appears to take place back during the days of The Wild West, however, Jessy is clearly from the present day (well, The '70s), decked out in his zoot suit, his large fedora, and sporting an enormous Jewfro.
  • Back from the Dead: One of Jessy's powers. All his has to do is lay his hand on you, and say, "If you feel, you heal", and boom, you're alive again.
    • Jessy's crucifixion brings back to the life a husband and son a woman had lost to Indians attacking.
  • The Cameo: Robert Downey Jr. in his second film role as... what else... a boy who gets killed.
  • Catchphrase: Whenever Jessy brings someone back to life - "If you feel, you heal."
  • Creative Closing Credits: Actually, it's more like creative opening credits; given that this movie is from The '70s, credits at the beginning of the movie, as opposed to the end, was still common. However, the credits for this movie are presented in a fancy, almost Biblical-looking font that pretty much render almost all of the credits completely illegible.
  • Deus ex Machina: Jessy.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Seaweedhead finally being able to poop properly is filmed like he is orgasming.
  • Easy Amnesia: Aside from knowing he's on a journey to Jerusalem to become an actor/singer at per the Agent Morris, Jessy doesn't seem to have any other idea as to who he is, where he is, why he's there, or why people seemed to be so impressed with his ability to bring dead people back to life and walk on water.
  • Eccentric Townsfolk: So much so, in fact, that Jessy is arguably the Only Sane Man in this movie.
  • The Ghost: At one point, Jessy tries to warn his followers about a devil monster called "Bingo Gas Station Motel Cheeseburger with a Side of Aircraft Noise and You'll Be Gary Indiana". However, we never actually see Bingo Gas Station Motel Cheeseburger with a Side of Aircraft Noise and You'll Be Gary Indiana.
  • Groin Attack: After Jessy rejects the advances made at him by a transvestite hermaphrodite, said transvestite hermaphrodite reacts by grabbing Jessy's penis and breaking it.
  • Hell Is That Noise: In the final shot of the movie, we see the sun setting. During this shot, the continuation of a moving, cinematic score accompanies the scene, then about a third of the way into the sequence, the music is abruptedly interrupted, and is replaced with a series of muffled noises that sound akin to alien space crafts, and even what sounds like a man's muffled screaming and wailing. As the sun continues to set, a vacuum sound grows increasingly louder and louder to the point that when the sun has finally completely set, the sound is almost deafening.
  • Homoerotic Subtext: Galore in this movie. First of all, Greaser's son, Lamy (pronounced "Lay me", get it?) is continuously killed by his father over and over again for thinking he's gay, only for Jessy to bring him back to life each time. Lamy's description of the after life is always the same, "I was swimming through a rainbow, and there was all these babies, and they was all naked, and then I turned into a perfect smile"). At one point, a man dressed as a nun attempt to make out with Jessy after watching him dance on water. Later still, Jessy drops by a shack where a midget and his transvestite "wife" live... and they both hit on Jessy during his visit.
  • It Will Never Catch On: Agent Morris calls Jessy a failure whose show is terrible. Note, this scene is immediately after everyone was impressed and clapping for Jessy's performance.
  • French Jerk: There is a monk with the French accent who ignores Jessy's message (despite proclaiming Jessy to be the Chosen One) and acting rudely. However, he is also the only character that is concerned when Jessy reveals his stigmata wounds.
  • Leitmotif: Not so much a leitmotif, however, Greaser feels that to be accompanied by a mariachi band will somehow help him have bowel movements since he's so constipated throughout the movie.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Seaweedhead thinks Lamy is gay and kills him as a Homophobic Hate Crime. However by the end of the movie, he realizes Lamy isn't gay.
  • Mood Whiplash: When Jessy first arrives at the Spitunias', "Mrs." Spitunia" is initially very brash with him and tells him to, "Get the fuck out of here if you know what's good for ya!", but after they sit down to their meal of vanilla grits, Mrs. Spitunia, as mentioned previously, starts flirting with and hitting on Jessy but batting "her" eyes at him, and making rather crude gestures implying "she" wants sex from him.
  • Obvious Stunt Double: When Jessy is crucified again at the end, it's clearly obvious that it's a dummy we see nailed to the cross - his suit and tie are positioned to look as if they are wind-blown, yet, they don't move in the breeze.
  • Only Sane Man: Jessy is easily the most normal character in the movie, being the only one to notice just how strange everything around him is. For perspective, he would be the "weird" guy if he were in any other film.
  • Overly Long Name: Jessy's mission, as it were, is to warn the townspeople of the devil-monster named Bingo Gas Station Motel Cheeseburger With A Side Of Aircraft Noise And You'll Be Gary Indiana.
  • Pick a Card: When Greaser and his people make a trek to see Jessy for themselves, among his people are a magician, who does this very trick for him. However, none of the cards the magician removes from his deck is the card that Greaser picked. And this sequence goes on for quite a lengthily amount of time.
  • Plot Threads: The movie has three different threads that are all twined together:
    • The first, and least-expanded upon, is a family of three is riding through the desert, when the husband and the son (Robert Downey, Sr. and Jr. making cameos) are killed by when Indians start attacking their wagon with bows and arrows. The wife later buries her husband and son, and continues trekking through the desert herself, despite facing the obvious hardships such as grief, lack of nutrition, and also taking an arrow or two herself, until Jessy brings her back to health in the end for her to crucify him, bringing her husband and son back to life.
    • The second involves Seaweedhead Greaser and his saloon, both of which are facing problems, with Greaser himself having a terrible case of constipation and having trouble having bowel movements, to constantly killing his son Lamy, whom he believes is gay, and his daughter Cholera, whose performances in the saloon basically about throwing away her virginity are losing popularity among the regular patrons. It isn't until Jessy is brought to Greaser's Palace that everything starts to take a turn (though, not necessarily for the better) for the Greaser family, as well as their followers.
    • The third, and probably more familiar of the plots is, of course, Jessy randomly parachuting to earth, in his large pink fedora, and his suit zoot, as he makes his way through the desert, on a journey to Jerusalem, where it had been written by the Agent Morris that he's needed there so he can become an actor/singer/dancer, but aside from that tidbit, Jessy really has no other idea about who he is, where he is, why he's where he's at, or why people seem to be drawn to him when he brings people back to life or boogies on water, and tries to use his journey as a way of finding himself.
  • The Reveal: After Jessy does his number at Greaser's Palace, nobody reacts, so he removes his gloves to reveal the holes in his hand from where he had previously been crucified... suddenly, the crowd goes crazy for him.
  • Satanic Archetype: Supposedly, Greaser's daughter, Cholera, is supposed to symbolize Satan.
    • Agent Morris can also been seen as this given how he is a red-clad figure who tries to get Jessy to abandon his quest.
  • Say My Name: When the midget keeps calling out for his transvestite "wife"; "Spitunia!!! Spitunia!!! SPITUNIA!!! SPITUNIA!!! SPITUNIA!!! SPITUNIA!!!"
  • Significant Monogram: Variation: The character Jessy's name is often pronounced to sound like "JC."
  • Stop Worshipping Me: Played With. At the start of the movie, Jessy is annoyed by his followers and even ditches them. However, he later returns to warn them about Bingo Gas Station Motel Cheeseburger with a Side of Aircraft Noise and You'll Be Gary Indiana and tries to convince them help each other and make the world better. They ignore his message.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Towards the end of the movie, when Greaser finally has a bowel movement, talk about a literal explosive diarrhea, as his bowel movement is so powerful, his entire Palace goes up in a fireball.
  • Unusual Euphemism: From the opening verse of Jessy's boogie-woogie number:
    Jessy: Well I'm a killer-diller daddy with a pig in my pants / and I'm a groove juice jackson, won't you give me a chance
  • Walk on Water: Jessy not only walks on water, but also dances, boogies, and even does backflips on water.
  • Weird West: And Jessy's really the only one who finds his surrounding bizarre... probably because the Eccentric Townsfolk think nothing of it.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: Jessy keeps telling people he's on his way to Jerusalem to become an actor/singer, but it's clear he's nowhere near the Holy Land. It's more clear he's wandering through the desert region of the continental U.S. (The movie itself was filmed in New Mexico).