THE GREASY STRANGLER Blu-Ray Review: Bad Sex, Good Food
I love The Greasy Strangler. I’ve seen it five times now, twice in theatres, and I’ve taken delight in showing it to friends and even family. Obviously I’m going to review the Blu-Ray. The edition I was sent was a two-disc limited-edition Australian edition by Monster Pictures, whose Monster Fest hosted the Australian premiere of the film. It’s only available via local retailer JB Hi-Fi, and I’m not certain how much it overlaps with its North American cousin, but it’s region-free, so you might be able to order it from outside the Antipodes if you so desire.
The movie itself is either up your (seedy, darkened) alley or it isn’t. Occupying a singular alternate reality with its own logic, it plays out like a series of surreal comedy sketches atop a quietly adorable relationship movie. Full of weird ding-dongs and weirder sex, it’s like a John Waters film, but shot in L.A., and filtered through a dry English sensibility. There’s a unique, matter-of-fact rhythm to The Greasy Strangler's juvenile outlook, and a grimy texture to both its production design and its character-actor-heavy casting. It’s also just, like, super gross, and super funny, if you groove on director Jim Hosking’s cinematic vision. I know I do. (A full review can be read here.)
Disc One bears a welcome commentary from director Jim Hosking and lead actors Michael St Michaels (Big Ronnie) and Sky Elobar (Big Braden): a slow, casual chat mostly comparing the smelliness of locations, arguing over the appropriate length for butt shots, lauding the film’s supporting cast, and debating which scenes were the most challenging to shoot (or are the most challenging for audiences). One of the more intriguing morsels of information: Hosking had any women in the background of shots digitally erased so that Elizabeth de Razzo’s character Janet would be the only woman in the film. Ordinarily I'd take issue with that, but for this movie, it kind of makes sense.
Also on the first disc: a slew of on-set interviews with the cast and crew. They’re poorly produced, with terrible sound and at-times out of focus camerawork, and bits of audio from one interview scattered throughout all the rest. Everyone’s positive, as you’d expect, but less sanitised than your average EPK talking heads. We hear about the challenges of working with the makeup effects; of de Razzo turning down the film three times before taking it; of Hosking being a first-time director. It's interesting, but fairly standard stuff, although Zack Carlson does a good bit on why there should be more bad sex in movies.
The best interview is a three-way bit with Holland MacFallister, Abdoulaye N’Gom, and Sam Dissanayake, who play a trio of thirsty, ill-fated disco tourists in the film. They die early on, in one of Greasy’s most memorable sequences, but they’re clearly thrilled to be working (again) with Hosking, whose eye for unusual actors gave them roles in shorts and commercials long before the feature rolled. All three give a terrific interview - particularly N’Gom, who effuses lyrically about Hosking’s “authentic vibrations,” comparing him to Hitchcock and Pasolini, among others.
Also noteworthy: character actor Carl Solomon, the film’s inspiration, who plays four roles in the film. He says he “loves dialogue,” but it seems most of (if not all) his dialogue was cut from the film. It’s fun to hear a near-background performer - and an ordinary working actor - talking about his small, carefully considered roles in such an excited way, like a character out of a Christopher Guest movie.
Over on Disc Two, we’ve got another set of interviews, conducted after production and produced more professionally than the rest. Hosking himself shows up, discussing the process of getting the film financed, as well as his philosophy on comedy. Elobar - now skinnier and bearded - talks more about the film’s penises and greasy suits, and seems to imply that Doug Jones was involved in the production somehow (?!). De Razzo’s interview is the most intimate, as she discusses her character’s sexuality and describes in wince-inducing detail the process of applying her giant merkin. I now have little desire to wear a merkin.
Two further featurettes and some deleted scenes round out the basic package. One featurette, entitled "The Greasy Trap," explores the ancient, mould-infested house the film shot in, which was so dusty the crew wore face masks during the shoot. Another explores the special effects - many of which, while done practically on set, were somewhat surprisingly replaced by CGI in the final film. Meanwhile, the deleted scenes don’t add a huge amount, other than a lot more weird sex dialogue, though they do reveal a lovely cut subplot about a pair of street vendors holding a vigil for their deceased hot dog salesman friend.
This Australian edition bears a number of exclusives of varying quality. There’s a bunch of marketing material for the film’s Australian tour; a viral video of “ordinary Australians” reacting to the film; a mostly awful home movie following the Greasy tour bus across the country. A Q&A session from the film’s Monster Fest screening is let down by an audience that apparently expected de Razzo and Elobar (St Michaels would have been involved, too, were he not allegedly turned back at the border) to perform like trained monkeys. Boo, audience.
The most unique feature, though, is “Greasy Down Under Cuisine,” in which de Razzo and Elobar are subjected to a range of “authentic” Australian food. The pair soldier through kangaroo sausages; dim sims (fried and steamed); chiko and sausage rolls; Vegemite sandwiches (“so gross”); mince pies; lamingtons, Tim Tams, and Milo; Sunnyboys; and local beers Carlton Draught, Victoria Bitters, and Foster’s. For Australians and New Zealanders, it’s somewhat surreal seeing foreigners’ reactions to what - for us - is mostly bog-standard fare. At 26 minutes, the clip is way too long, but it wouldn’t reach its surreal, captivating heights were it any shorter. “This is food for people who work hard,” says Elobar as he munches a mince pie; this is a feature for people Down Under.
I’m not going to try to convince you to watch The Greasy Strangler; you’ve likely already made up your mind. If you like interviews, though, this is the Blu-Ray for you - especially if you have a familiarity with Australia, or a desire to gain one. Be warned, though: Australia is pretty fucking greasy. Last time I went there, there were flies, like, everywhere.