The Greasy Strangler: Special Director's Edition [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - FilmRise
Review written by and copyright: Robert Segedy (13th April 2019).
The Film

I admit that I have some odd tastes; I love the Universal classic horror films of my youth, I am nuts about Film Noir, I enjoy slapstick all the time, I despise musicals and don't dig children's fare; I have enjoyed my fair share of John Waters films and I also prefer violent films to more peaceful films, but the film that easily cleaned my clock as it were was a film entitled "The Greasy Strangler". Why do I call it one of the worst made films, but I will defend Ed Wood's "Plan 9 from Outer Space" (1959) at the drop of a hat? Because even old Ed had boundaries and without them, what we end up with is "The Greasy Strangler". So what is so bad about this "award winning" film?  Well, strap yourself in because it's going to be a bumpy ride. 

We are clearly in L.A. even without being told. Everything looks already used up. The film opens with a younger man coming into the bedroom of an older man (Michael St. Michaels) that is his father. The dialogue is boorish and stupid. I mean, the film just started and I could feel my teeth on edge already. Perhaps it was the idiotic theme music that played over the credits; some synthesizer noodling like you used to hear when you went to the mall in the 70's and some fat man sat at an organ outside the store and played some nonsense repeatedly. That is what the filmmaker's decided upon for their film; it immediately sets the pace of what is to come. The son, Brayden (Sky Elobar) is dressed in only his underwear and for the majority of the film that will be his chosen garb. He is overweight, slumped, long nasty looking hair that is in a comb over on top and long on the sides. In a word, this dude is repulsive. He's wearing what looks like woman's frames and his overall appearance is anemic. The dialogue goes something like this" "Wake up Dad. Come on, get up. I have your coffee for you." The father, who somewhat resembles Klaus Kinski wearing some type of fright wig, sort of rolls out of bed like he doesn't have any legs. The man takes the coffee and takes a sip. He makes a face and then utters something like "This coffee stinks. It needs to be greasy. Go put some grease in this." Obviously this is the motif that is being suggested. Grease, not the word, but actual grease from food and otherwise plays a major role in this film.  "Gross huh, who ever heard of greasy coffee? the man continues to shout. "Next thing you'll be saying that I am the Greasy Strangler, huh? Well, I have news for you, laughs, I am the Greasy Strangler. Har,har. No son, I'm not the Greasy Strangler." They both stand there in a fugue like state laughing. Five minutes in and I am ready to bail.

Big Ronnie and his son Big Brayden sponsor a walking tour of LA called "Big Ronnie's Disco Tour" and he essentially is lying about the various musical acts that were purported to have lived in LA at the various abandoned storefronts and apartments that he stops in front of. Father and son are sporting a matching set of dayglo pink shirts and shorts for added hilarity. On this tour, there are four suckers, er customers. Three odd men of various racial identities and a sole woman that will bond with Brayden and her name is Janet (Elizabeth De Razzo). The tour hits a snag after Big Ronnie claims that The Bee Gees wrote a hut song while standing in a doorway waiting for a ride. Not buying it one of the men states that the brochure advertising the tour promised that there would be free drinks included and the men get into a shouting match with Ronnie. The phrase "bullshit artist" is lobbed about repeatedly and Ronnie is a vehement bastard as he shrugs it off when the men walk away after their vocal encounter with the two. This is the first sighting of elderly ass that we get to see and the shot is held for much too long, but don't worry, there's plenty more uncomfortable nudity to come. In fact we get to see all of the major players in their birthday suits and makes one ponder just exactly what newspaper ad did they respond to?  "Actors wanted for John Waters like insipid satirical horror film. Nudity a must; don't be shy."    
  
For reasons unknown, Brayden and Janet hit it off. She must see something in him that is not apparent to the rest of us. He mentions that he is a cornball and other soft sentiments and they set up a date for later on. Meanwhile Big Ronnie is standing there with his ass; apparently he is unable to pull them back on by himself. The relationship between father and son is abrasive and aggravating and that realism is apparently what the director is striving for. As the film proceeds, this is akin to driving past a bad accident and being unable to stop rubbernecking at the smoking wreckage. This film really strives to achieve a grotesque realism the filmmakers hit a certain third grade mentality and work it hard with repeated lines and a delight in anything anatomical. There are discussions about a great number of disgusting things and combined with the film’s fetishistic obsession with greasy food, the end result is stomach churning. Marketed as a blackly comic horror film, the film mines every inch of repulsive territory along the way which includes non-appealing nudity, both male and female, an oversized penis prosthesis sported by Big Ronnie and a dramatically undersized penis heralded by the son, dialogue that is rapacious and unseemly, and a bizarre obsession with greasy food.

Later that night, we see the three tourists, scantily clad of course, standing outside their motel and trying to obtain a snack from a vending machine, when a grease encrusted stranger appears and violently kills all three of them, hence the title, "The Greasy Strangler". It is no surprise that in reality it is the father Big Ronnie and that he then goes through a car wash in order to be cleansed of the Crisco coating. The car wash is run by a blind black man named Big Paul (Gil Gex) and the two men then have a conversation about disco dancing. Once again we see the reoccurring themes of disco, grease, murder and nudity. The next morning we find father and son keeping up their daily routines with Brayden waking up his abusive father and then cooking some over saturated bacon. Brayden informs Big Ronnie that he has a date with Janet and that things are moving rather quickly. Big Ronnie is clearly upset by this news and you can literally tell by the expression on his face that he is thinking of dastardly deeds.

Brayden and Janet go out for a romantic meal alone at a Polish restaurant. Brayden reveals how his mother left him with his father and ran off with a man named Ricky Prickles (Sal Koussa) who is a health obsessed individual. Big Ronnie, left to his own devices, goes out looking for something to eat and he stops at a hot dog vendor (John Yuan). Insisting that there is not enough grease on the hot dog, Ronnie helps himself to the vendor’s grease supply and coats his hot dog completely. Afterwards he devours his hot dog and after covering himself in grease, he goes out looking for revenge on the vendor. The hot dog vendor retreats to his RV and is then strangled while on the commode by Big Ronnie. I do recall that I did laugh at the vendor’s eyeballs popping out of his head and then Big Ronnie consumes them. See, humor on all levels is displayed throughout. After the murder, Ronnie heads to the car wash to cleanse himself.

The next day Big Ronnie and Brayden run into a friend of Brayden’s; he is an individual that is wearing a false pig like nose prosthetic and is apply named Oinker (Joe David Walters). Why this is included in the film may be to demonstrate the Big Brayden 1) has a friend and that 2) he may be a loser but he is not a complete loser. Or that the filmmakers decided that Big Ronnie needed someone else to kill (and he does) and then he removes Oinker’s pig nose and abuses his corpse. Meanwhile Brayden and Janet have sex in a strange scene and then the next morning Big Ronnie begins his seduction attempts on Janet by eating a grease-encrusted grapefruit. Later a bizarre scene takes place between Janet (while she is urinating) and a naked Big Ronnie, where he barges in on her while she is trying to use the bathroom. Ronnie’s penis literally hangs halfway down his thigh and is seen in all of its unappealing glory. The trio goes out that night to an oddly deserted discotheque and Big Ronnie threatens to evict Brayden if he cannot accompany them. By this time, the director has convincingly created another type of reality; a world of disgustingly greasy food, a world populated with nothing but strange individuals, and it is wholly contained in the film.

Ronnie is obsessed with bedding Janet, not because he is attracted to her and her buxom form, but in order to insult Brayden. There is an oddly combative relationship between the two and it almost feels like Big Ronnie is the Superego to Brayden’s under cultivated ego and the two are locked into a life and death struggle in order to establish some type of dominance. Or maybe the two men are more like two wild animals trying to out rut each other, their delicate balance thrown out of order once a female enters the picture. Maybe I am really overthinking the entire thing and it is nothing more than an exercise in disturbing images.

The next day Brayden and Janet have a huge argument and it is clear that Brayden is obviously upset. Even this jaded viewer felt a slight twinge of shame as Brayden flees the house while upstairs Big Ronnie and Janet make noisy love culminating in a scene where the duo start chanting that Janet is a “hootie tootie disco cutie.” I found this to be slightly amusing, but still repellant nonetheless.

One night Brayden confronts Janet and tells her that he is truly in love with her. Big Ronnie, slathered in grease, is standing in the stairwell and he overhears this declaration of love and it infuriates him. Pretending to go through the car wash, Big Ronnie attacks Big Paul from behind and then saws off his head and does a dance with it. The next day amateur sleuth Brayden deducts that Big Ronnie is the greasy strangler after all and he calls a detective named Jody to report his suspicions. Detective Jody appears at the door and it is obvious that it is Big Ronnie in a poorly devised disguise that includes oversized sunglasses, braces and incredibly long glued on fingernails. Brayden and Janet show the detective a spot of oil on the carpet in Big Ronnie’s bedroom and tell him that this is the same type of grease left behind at the crime scenes by the greasy strangler. In the only authentically funny scene Detective Jody repeats that “the oil is meaningless circumstantial evidence and that all enquires end here.” Detective Jody repeats this phrase again and again repeatedly and, I couldn’t help but chuckle.

Later that night the two lovebirds have reunited and Janet has affirmed that she too is in love with Brayden. The camera pulls back to reveal that Big Ronnie is under the bed and that he has overheard everything. Big Ronnie awkwardly makes his appearance known and loudly informs Brayden that Janet and he were lovers and that Brayden is once and for all evicted. Janet informs Big Ronnie that the two of them plan to marry and that Brayden can come live with her at her apartment. Big Ronnie transforms himself into the greasy strangler, slaps Brayden silly and grabs Janet and makes a getaway. Brayden discovers Big Ronnie’s secret trash can full of grease and he too coats himself in the stuff; his inner rage is finally allowed to channel outward. He tracks the two of them at a movie theater where Big Ronnie is engaged in throttling Janet. Brayden pushed dad aside and strangles Janet himself until her eyes pop out of her head and then they both consume the orbs.

The next day finds father and son walking on the beach, and in an unexpected turn, Big Ronnie reveals that he actually cares for Brayden; he also informs him that he would rather be with his son than co-owning a disco in New Orleans with John Travolta. They both agree that they each found Janet mutually disgusting and decide to kill Ricky Prickles together, in an act of father-son bonding homicide. Greased up the two head to a wooden area where they murder Ricky Prickles and then in a surreal moment, they witness themselves captured and executed by a firing squad. A fountain of grease and confetti explodes from their heads respectively. The two then appear back in the forest, still grease encased, and they shake wooden spears angrily at the camera. Shades of the first scenes of Stanley Kubrick’s landmark film "2001: A Space Odyssey" (1968). Fade to black, the credits roll. Insipid music plays.

Video

Presented in widescreen 1.85:1 HD 1080p 24/fps using AVC MPEG-4 compression. This is an amateurish film school effort with clear cinematography by Mårten Tedin and that is the least of its negative charms. Lots of scenes filmed indoors and out, the film is acceptable in general terms.

Audio

Two audio tracks are included in English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround or English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo. As I have stated the soundtrack made me squirm and that may have been the necessary effect overall. The subtitles helped to keep the dialogue laden scenes on track. There is a lot of talking in this film for the most part and at times there are humorous scenes but this type of humor is not for me. Optional subtitles are included in English for the hearing impaired.

Extras

The disc included an audio commentary track with the co-writer/director Jim Hosking and his two co-stars Michael St. Michaels and Sky Elobar, and they are amusing as they recant various incidents that occurred while making this film.

Interviews with the cast and crew features:

- Michael St. Michaels as Big Ronnie: (9:10) a conversation with the actor on the set.

- Sky Elobar as Big Brayden: (9:24) he shared with us that Brayden’s Immune system is really strong.

- Elizabeth De Razzo as Janet: (11:08) the actress believes that her character is a twisted devious soul.

- Carl Solomon as Danny the Crooner: (16:34) this actor actually has four roles in the film.

- "The Tourists" (22:03) the three victims really milk this interview for all its worth.

- Producer Ant Timpson (11:08) one of the many producers of the films speaks on camera.

- Producer Designer
Jason Kisvarday (7:35) the person responsible for the overall look of the film.

- Art Department Zack Carlson (12:11) mutual friends are to blame for his involvement in the production.

The film's original theatrical trailer (1:50) is included. As is the film's "Red Band" theatrical trailer (1:50), Rated "G" for excessive greasiness.

Finally the disc closes with the film's original teaser trailer (0:57).

Packaging

Comes packaged in a standard blu-ray clamshell case.

Overall

This film works in its own skewed logic on a predictable course, but nonetheless manages to insert itself into one’s head like an annoying pop song that overstays its welcome. Certainly not recommended for family consumption or for those with weak stomachs. Repellant on a number of levels but it may find a demented audience via home rental.

The Film: D Video: B+ Audio: A Extras: A Overall: C-

 


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