Featuring: Michael “The Video Dead” St. Michaels , Sky “Don Verdean” Elobar , Elizabeth “‘Eastbound & Down’” De Razzo
Director: Jim “ABCs of Death” Hosking
Writers: Toby “ABCs of Death” Harvard & Jim “ABCs of Death” Hosking
As I sit here, eating room temperature Dollar Embargo brand clam chowder hobo style (well, my spoon is plastic rather than metal, so “sub-hobo style” then), the looming presence of the anniversary of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre reminds me of lost loves. In this case, my most recent (and likely final) failed foray into matters of the heart dropkicks her way to the forefront of my fractured psyche. We fell for each other hard and fast. After the first week she was deep into “I’ve never known anyone like you. I need you like oxygen” territory and we were exchanging ‘L’ words. Hers was “lederhosen” and mine was “lemon curry”. But, only five weeks after that vindictive little pervert Cupid nailed us with a heart-shaped nuke, we were overcome by the fallout. She broke up with me because her other boyfriend “accidentally” impregnated her, so she needed to focus on making an impromptu family with him and his other girlfriend, whom other boyfriend wanted her to “convince” that the best thing for them would be to join together as a trio. But we’ve all been there before, right? “Tale as old as time” and all that.
Anyway, rather than linger any longer on the “loved and lost” debate in the face of this Hallmark hollowday, I’ve instead paired up with my cinemasochist brother from the Hawkeye State (in that it’s the state with the lamest super power and nobody likes it?) to play a round of bad movie Russian roulette! From his secret list of six flicks (five farts and one favorite), random.org chose for me The Greasy Strangler.
Well, it could’ve been worse. I was one chamber away from the bullet of malaise known as Atlas Shrugged. Uggh. Ayn Rand is spending the rest of eternity getting her blood drained by razortooth leeches hanging on every inch of her body for writing that bullshit. Every inch. Anyway, let’s get greasy, disco people!
Oh, and if you’re anything like me (in which case, my sympathies) and were hoping this would be a US remake of The Oily Maniac, I fear that itch will have to remain unscratched…for now.
In keeping with the spirit of the holiday (or its symbolism if nothing else), today’s movie is about love. The love between a cheesy old cornball and a hootie tootie disco cutie. The love between a single parent and their child. The love between an aging disco historian and the music that shaped his life. The love between a pig-nosed weirdo and his rented shoes. The love between a man-beast and his penchant for strangling people…while drenched in grease. The Greasy Strangler is packed so tight with love, watching it will make you feel like you’re being crushed under a roomful of heart-shaped Whitman sampler boxes!
Damn. That was such a whopper of a metaphor. It was less a metaphor and more like a metaphive!
Shut up. You laughed. Liar.
Produced in part by hobbit-for-life Elijah Wood (who pulled similar duties on A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night and Cooties, in case you didn’t know), our tale takes place in Los Angeles. The City of Angels in the Outfield. The land of nasty redheads and bums on their knees that Randy Newman declared his passion for so, well, passionately. It’s here that tourists and everyday fans of walking tours can take part in Big Ronnie’s Disco Tour – a trudge through the down-trodden avenues and alleyways of abandoned buildings where the biggest names of the industry may or may not have done some things of interest. Just don’t inquire about the tour’s promise of free drinks, because you won’t like the result. Unless you tend to spend a lot of your lunch hours engaging in contradictory exchanges at the Argument Clinic, in which case inquire away!
The eponymous patriarch of the tour is geriatric retiree of the disco scene, Big Ronnie (Michael St. Michaels), who claims to have once had a backroom bang session with a pair of Korean twins and a certain celebrity whose name rhymes with Jichael Mackson. There was milky cum everywhere. And yes, before you ask in a distressed voice signifying your revulsion, that is an important detail I could not omit. Co-hosting the tour (in a matching uniform of pink shorts, pink sweater, gray knee-high socks and white sneakers) is Ronnie’s son Big Brayden (Sky Elobar), for whom the adjective “big” clearly wasn’t earned due to his personality. An awkward, balding, unkempt milksop of a human being, Brayden manages to catch the hungry eyes of an odd little lady named Janet (Elizabeth De Razzo) during one such tour. The pair fall fairly quickly for each other, testing the audiences’ gastrointestinal fortitude with a series of uncomfortable scenes of intimacy. You’ve been warned.
Ronnie doesn’t take the pairing well, frequently debasing his boy to others (mostly over Bray’s tendency to shit on seemingly everything) and inserting himself into the lovebirds’ interactions in an attempt to nip their budding romance in said bud. It’s never made clear if it’s because Ron sees Janet as a threat to the odd love-hate relationship he shares with Bray or if the old man’s just jealous that his hideous offspring is getting more action than his own hideous self has had since Bill Clinton was using Monica’s ham wallet as a humidor.
Note: I didn’t use the descriptive “ham” because of a thinly veiled referral to Miss Lewinsky having any perceive resemblance to a member of the porcine family. I used it because ham is both pink and greasy, much like a lady’s rude parts (as long as you’re doing it right, anyway), so please keep any and all aggressive projections of your personal assumptions of me to things that don’t wrongly accuse me of chauvinism. Even my less-than-friendly exes would laugh you out of the room over such accusations.
Speaking of pigs, the rest of this oddball ensemble is made up of Brayden’s pig-nosed (literally) pal Oinker (Joe David Walters, who looks like the result of a drunken night of genetic engineering between Jon Benjamin and Wallace Shawn), Ronnie’s longtime discotheque brother Big Paul (Gil Gex) who’s blind and runs an automated car wash, the wonderfully weird detective Jodie (who’s what I would expect Hunter S. Thompson to become after a few years in the Black Lodge) and a small selection of victims to serve as fodder for the titular wringer of necks. Speaking of, whom is this murderer with such a clear disregard for his own personal hygiene? From whence came this inhuman atrocity that stalks the streets while a coating of congealed Crisco conceals (not really) his visage from his victims? What evil lurks in the heart that beats beneath the monster’s slimy, sludgy, rancid raiments? Why does he take it upon himself to comedically maim and menace his victims in hyper-violent manners like a modern age Toxic Avenger? Shit! Now there’s a crossover I’d sacrifice a finger for! Anyway, as much as I’d like to address there queries for you, I’m afraid you’ll have to watch the movie for yourself!
But should you? Let’s discuss.
Greasy made me wonder if I’d blacked out at some point in my day and woke up during a very special episode of “Tim and Eric’s Bedtime Stories”. If Jared Hess directed a script co-authored by David Lynch and John Waters, this is a pretty solid approximation of what I imagine you’d get. There’s a hodgepodge of humor, humanity, horror and outright “What the fuck am I watching?!” we’re left to rifle through which will no doubt leave a lot of people put off or pissed off. Deep down in its bowels, it has a charm all its own for those who will enjoy it. However, at the same time it comes off as a deliberate endeavor to manufacture the next big midnight movie. The problem with such an undertaking is that movies aren’t made to be cult classics, they’re chosen. It’s comparable to issuing your own nickname or giving yourself a “World’s Greatest Tubthumper” mug: you just don’t do it!
Sound snobbish? Look at Plan 9 from Outer Space or The Room. Both are movies that were made with genuine efforts and affection, helmed by misguided gents who thought they were making masterpieces. These were movies that no one genuinely liked, they were only enjoyed ironically (something that used to be fun before hipsters ruined it for the rest of us) because they were so awful that they were amazing! If it’s something you and your amigos can vet by riffing the shit out of it like refugees from the Satellite of Love? If it’s the type of movie that qualifies for Deep 13 certification? That is how a cult movie is christened – with the waters of mockery. The Greasy Strangler? It’s unriffable. It’s a movie that wants you to make fun of it, but it’s too easy. There’s no challenge. It’s made to be bad, and that’s not good. It winks so much at the audience that you ask it 20 minutes in if it needs a hit off of your Visine®!
Making jokes at the expense of its visually jarring cast and their clothing that looks like it was fished from, not a Salvation Army, but the dumpster behind a Salvation Army, is tantamount to calling an obese person “fat” or an acne-riddled person “pizza face” or Hi-C Hitler “too mentally incapable to be trusted with chewing his own food, let alone being president”. It’s lazy. It’s the easy way out. It’s what the intended object of ridicule wants you to do so they can C.D. Bales your sorry ass in front of Daryl Hannah! It reminds of my least favorite RiffTrax – Birdemic; a movie so obviously made to be terrible that it’s barely worth making fun of. Lo and behold, the ‘Traxers themselves just released the writer-director-masochist’s latest repugnant rectal release through their own website! Maybe I’m just an asshole…no…I’m definitely an asshole. Nevertheless, count me out.
Where the hell was I driving this bus before taking a detour down Route “Ignore the Rambling Jackal-Headed Old Man”? Oh right, I was evaluating today’s feature. The direction and cinematography are unexpectedly…good. Going solely on its premise, I had prepared my peepers for a parade the likes of a herky-jerky Troma turkey. It happened to me when I first watched The Human Centipede and I was caught just as unawares here. Upon my mandatory second screening, I only enhanced my appreciation, so kudos to Mr. Hosking in that regard. The dialogue is heavily seasoned with quotable lines for fellow fiends to banter back and forth in verbal volleyball, most notably the running accusations between Ronnie and Brayden of each being a “bullshit artist”. I’d bet my collection of West Nile infected mosquitoes that those two words make up no less than 10% of the dialogue between them. I was okay with it (sometimes even entertained by it), but if you’re the type of person who’s not keen on scripts packed with premeditated quotables, prepare to be irked.
The premise of the movie loses steam right around the 50 minute mark (just about the point where the Strangler investigation picks up, strangely enough), but the introduction of the aforementioned Jodie to the proceedings was just the defibrillator that my dwindling interest needed to guide me the rest of the way to the credits and the end of the tunnel. One aspect that didn’t need a jolt in the jimmies for me was the soundtrack. We’re given a mish-mash of delightful tunes and noises that reminded me of the music you’d hear on off-brand NES cartridges half of the time, and just plain charming boondoggle tunes that you imagine a grown up Gene Belcher composing while ‘shrooming alone in his college dorm room on any given Friday night. My praise aside, I have no plans to pick up said soundtrack. I can’t enjoy it on its own, like I would with a Tarantino movie or TMNT II: the Secret of the Ooze. Greasy and its music exist in a symbiotic relationship from which neither can be removed, lest they both die on their own. If the Plover isn’t allowed to eat the crocodile’s scraps from its mouth, the Plover will starve and the crocodile will…get Gingivitis? I dunno. As Thoth once drunkenly slurred to me over a plate of seafood nachos at ChiChi’s, “Neither a zoologist nor a dentist be”.
As for the special effects, they’re solid. There are several instances of popped eyeballs that actually were quite impressive! My compliments to the digital effects team on that. Not so much for their “people being shot” bit, but even big money movies rarely manage to pull that one off without traditional squibs, so it’s not a big deal.
As much as I hate people using the term “revelation”, I’m going to endure some self-inflicted shame and say it now: Michael St. Michaels is a revelation. The best takeaway from The Greasy Strangler is Big Ronnie. Not just because of the lines he’s given, but the way this amazing man delivers them. His rantings remind me a bit of Raleigh Theodore Sakers’ soliloquies off of the Robbin’ the Hood album. Physically, MSM looks like a demented troll, which in and of itself contributes to the actor’s unique appeal, but the little vocal affects he applies to his words are fucking enchanting! He tells a dirty story with a silky growl of aplomb that puts a reading of Wordsworth’s Greatest Hits to shame. I don’t remember a damn thing about the man from his role in The Video Dead (which isn’t surprising since I remember almost nothing from it, having not seen it since high school), but by the bearded clam of Cleopatra did he make Big Ronnie his own. Sublime, you crazy old bastard. Sublime.
Oh yeah, speaking of genital manes, be prepared for a LOT of prosthetic peckers being prominently portrayed. And old man asses. Merkins too. Or, as I like to call them, “pubic zirconium”. So, if the sight of sagging white butt cheeks or weirdly shaped dicks ensconced in gnarled overgrowth gets your gross out gland activated, either skip this ride or bring your barf bag.
In closing, despite my apparent praise for the flick, I’m giving The Greasy Strangler a middling recommendation. A solitary viewing was enough for me, and the only real reason I would go back to it is to show it to others. Beyond that, I don’t really feel the need to sit through it again. Should you take this to heart and seek to experience the greasiness and strangling for yourself, allow this next piece of wisdom to guide you – as I told my Evil Dead Bride/Editor/Valentine while we watched it, don’t question anything in this movie because there are no answers. Trying to understand the gaping maw of chaos will only lead to an eternal void of madness for the mind.
With that, I bid you all adieu. Check out Ragnarok’s review for Oasis of the Dead by clicking this link right here (or the banner image up near the top), then be sure to get your cracks back here for our next episode. Till then, may all of your V-Days be endurable and your VDs be curable!
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Anubis will return next time in
“The Man Who Laughs (and Kills)”