WILLIAM GREFE WEEK: The Psychedelic Priest (2001, but really 1971)

Also known as Electric Shades of Grey and Jesus Freak, The Psychedelic Priest wasn’t really directed by Stewart “Terry” Merrill, but instead William Gréfe, who was paid for this movie in trading stamps, which he described in Brian Albright’s Regional Horror Films, 1958-1990: A State-by-State Guide with Interviews as “Instead of cash, if you owned a TV store and I owned a garage, and you needed your transmission fixed, you’d give me trading stamps. When I needed a TV, I could go get a TV from you.”

Gréfe got paid $100,000 in trading stamps to make this movie that was never released until thirty years later because everyone felt it would be a bomb. As for Gréfe, he was now the president of Ivan Tors Films, making family movies, so he realized that “I didn’t want some wild hippie drug movie with my name as writer and director.”

The cast and the crew were non-actors, mostly real hippies, and the story is rambling at best, as Father John realizes that he can no longer preach to the young people, so he goes on some sort of quest to learn how to fit into a world that doesn’t need religion any longer. He almost leaves the cloth for a woman named Sunny, but by the end of the movie, he’s come back to his commitment to the church.

This was shot on the fly, with scenes mainly being improvised, as well as a soundtrack that is really solid. It’s a great experiment and whether or not it works for you is, well, up to you. I dug what it was trying to do, even if it’s not always successful.

Originally released by Something Weird, Arrow Video has put this on their new He Came from the Swamp box set. Diabolik DVD has it for sale now.

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