Robert Downey Sr.  

A unique member of the counter-culture that made several socially aware, rebellious satires and raw, scatter-shot, underground comedies in the 60s and 70s, and has worked very sporadically on zany comedies with forced, silly dialogue since then. He is most famous for Putney Swope, although the movie hasn't aged too well. These early movies are marked by social absurdities, often plot-less, chaotic satire, whimsical dialogue and one-liners, tastelessness, politically incorrect jabs, with a series of vignettes designed merely for silly punch-lines, puns or non-sequitur wackiness, all feeling like a more unhinged Kentucky Fried Movie or Monty Python. Father of Robert Downey Jr. whom he has been using since childhood in various unconventional movie roles instead of hiring a baby-sitter.

Of Some Interest

Babo 73  
Downey's anti-establishment first is a fast-paced silly satire on politics and religion. It presents the adventures of Taylor Mead as the president of the 'United Status'. A priest pick-ups a hitch-hiking woman, rapes her and leaves her in the bushes, there is a concern of overpopulation amongst the 'Red Siamese', a meeting with the PM of Luxembourg over H-bombs ends in violence, there is a confession for using the government's name in vain, he argues with his cartoonishly tense advisers in the toilet, one of which majored in self-flagellation, they discuss the symbolism of a champion greyhound without testicles, the president salutes parking meters, there's slapstick, lots of advise like 'every man has a right to be a bigot' and absurd political arguments, the president prays and searches for his disarmament plan while missiles magically fly backwards into the ground, and so on, with one odd, anarchic sketch of silliness after another.

Chafed Elbows  
Early, underground film by Downey with raw, wild, absurd and typical Downey humor which is mostly told through photographs and stills with voice-overs (the ultimate way to save money on a movie?). The protagonist is a man down-on-his-luck who has incest with his mother, and starts his day by going to a doctor who discovers he is pregnant with 890 dollars and helps him give birth to the money through his hip. The humor flies by at top speed, with one-liners ("I'm such a committed vegetarian I don't even eat animal crackers"), zingers, a silly song, and random Pythonesque scenes and vignettes such as the one where an artist signs his name on the protagonist and declares him an art-piece, or a church-goer that is hooked on sniffing socks. Silly, creative, energetic and funny madness.

Greaser's Palace  
El Topo as directed by Robert Downey. The Wild West is a wild place indeed. Greaser runs a local town/palace, hates his son whom he thinks is a homo, and is followed by a gang of unruly, worshipful, raunchy men who hope Greaser will overcome his constipation. A pioneer wife travels through the prairies to settle with her family but wakes up to find her husband's and son's throats cut. A Jesus figure lands in a parachute on his way to Jerusalem to meet his agent (who wears a bubble helmet and platform shoes) and become a big star, he resurrects the dead much to Greaser's consternation, walks and dives on water, heals the lame so they can crawl again, and out-performs Greaser's daughter on stage. In the meantime God keeps taking cruel potshots at the Job-like pioneer and the Holy Ghost wanders the deserts in a sheet. By far Downey's most accomplished and entertaining movie.

Putney Swope  
A wild, in-your-face satire and strange entry in the Blaxploitation genre that often borders on the bizarre or even the surreal. The main target is the advertising business, but businesses and society in general are attacked in many ways as well. Swope is a token black man in an advertising agency who is voted to the position of chairman by mistake after the previous chairman suddenly drops dead. After promising no big changes, he fires everyone and replaces them with militant black men, changes the name of the company to Truth and Soul and proceeds to make honest but crass advertisements with raunch, tastelessness and bouncing boobs, firing anyone for any slightest nuance he doesn't like. He keeps a mountain of money in a basketball court, a midget president and his wife become involved in his business, while he has to deal with devout Muslim, sellout or flasher employees. A mildly amusing oddity, and probably not as funny as many people remember it.


Moment to Moment (AKA Two Tons of Turquoise to Taos)  
A completely chaotic hodgepodge, like someone grabbed all the leftovers from Downey's 60's output, sliced them up and scattered the pieces all over the floor, then poured glue over the pieces and made a movie reel out of the whole mess. Every few seconds there's something else, including many scenes and skits that feel improvised, from people playing baseball on horseback, old men fighting over sex, a space ship being vacuum cleaned, someone asking for directions to jive, or a woman giving her panties to a man who claims hunger. The actors spout naughty or strange non-sequiturs, puns or tongue twisters, and there are many throwaway amusing lines like "I have a brain tumor." "It's all in your head" or at a meditation session: "let your mind go, let your body go, let your wallet go", or a politician's speech "I see the elimination of all unemployables". Of course some people may try to see art or a connecting thread in this mess, but it's a mess.

No More Excuses  
A weird one from Downey splicing together several elements: There's a soldier from the Civil War who faked his death and suddenly finds himself in modern New York looking for Yankees. There's the single scene in the new permissive society after the sexual revolution, with real people in the street talking candidly about their experiences and self-serving pick-up goals. A representative from the 'Society for Indecency to Naked Animals' (a satirical hoax), argues lengthily about the need to clothe animals for decency. The story of Charles Guiteau who tried to assassinate President Garfield three times is told in slapstick fashion for no discernable reason. There's a priest who likes to rape prostitutes but can't seem to get past the locks on the door, and a chimpanzee interviewer who is invited into bed to replace the priest, resulting in some wacky sex. What does it all add up to? Nobody knows. But it has fun exposing the new society's anything-goes attitude towards sex.

Various dogs waiting to be killed in the pound are acted by humans using their closest human personality, race and wardrobe. They rant/bark endlessly, making monologues on their lives outside of the pound so that Downey can make all kinds of silly jokes and puns based on the dog's personality and characteristics, and insert various vignettes involving humans behaving wildly in the world. Sexual urges are indulged in as the human-dogs copulate, masturbate, hump or give birth to a penguin while the others get excited. And then there's the odd sub-plot involving a serial killer who shoots people at random in the street. Arguably a satire on society vs. animal behaviour, but this is mostly Downey goofing off rather than anything insightful.

1999- by The Worldwide Celluloid Massacre Table of Contents