At last, the 1972 film “Greaser’s Palace” has been re-released on DVD.
Directed by Robert Downey – (includes Robert Downey Jr.’s uncredited film debut)
Tipping my hat in tribute to the late Don Van Vliet, this is the “Trout Mask Replica” of movies.
“Greaser’s” is visually styled as if it was a Sergio Leone film on an Owsley-grade acid trip. Allan Arbus as the singing, dancing, zoot-suit-wearing Christ figure “Jessy”, parachuting into the old west. The mariachi band playing whenever Mr. Seaweedhead Greaser uses the outhouse. Hervé Villechaize as a gay caballero.
A minimal overview of the weirdness that is “Greaser’s Palace”: a film that must be seen to be believed.
The reason why everyone should watch “Greaser’s Palace”, and listen to “Trout Mask Replica”, at least once: They are creations of pure artistic vision, uncompromised by commercial concerns. They were made because Robert Downey and Captain Beefheart had the overwhelming drive to bring their artistic visions to life, without regard to whether anyone else would “get it”.
Personally, I find Downey’s “Putney Swope” (1969) and Beefheart’s “Lick My Decals Off, Baby” (1970) a bit more cohesive. Both of these works are no doubt easier for the average person to grasp than “Greaser’s” or “Trout Mask”. Don’t get me wrong: “Putney” and “L.M.D.O,B.” are still highly original, brilliant works in their own right. For artistic vision, both would merit at least nine out of ten on the “Greaser’s/Trout Mask” scale.
“Greaser’s Palace” and “Trout Mask Replica” are the Perfect Tens of artistic vision. Some people could live a dozen lifetimes and never “get” these two works. Those that do “get it” are rewarded with a transcendent experience far beyond what any “normal” movie or album can deliver, raising your inner being to a higher plane of perception.
Which is why “Greaser’s” and “Trout Mask” are forever fresh, brimming with soul energy. Pure artistic vision is never dead or dated for those who “get it”.
Jessy: “I bring you a message. Exactly six miles north of Skagg Mountain in the Valley of Pain, there lives an evil devil-monster. His name is Bingo Gas Station Motel Cheeseburger With A Side Of Aircraft Noise And You’ll Be Gary Indiana. And he loves to hurt people. The last time I saw Bingo Gas Station Motel Cheeseburger With A Side Of Aircraft Noise And You’ll Be Gary Indiana, he told me what he wants to do. He wants to come down here and kill each and every one of you! But I said to him: “Bingo, wait a minute.” And the reason I said that is because I believe in you people. I believe you can do the job. I believe you can help each other. I believe you can make this world a better place to live in. That’s it.”