This fledgling cinematic effort from producers Alan Yasnyi and Albert Salzer and director-comedian Shelley Berman has a group of well-meaning but hopelessly square merchants of a small town near New Orleans who are fed up with the crowds of hippies lounging around on the sidewalks outside their businesses.
One of the merchants, Maury Sherman (Louis Quinn), comes up with the novel idea to buy a nearby ramshackle ghost town called Riverway and deed it over to the hippies – if they promise to move there.
Intrigued by the offer, the hippies relocate to their new utopian commune, which they name Violets.
Undaunted by the condemned buildings and tumble-down shacks, the long-haired homesteaders quickly set about repairing their homes and establishing an idealistic social order.
When the realities of having a money-free existence kick in, the group set up businesses to earn their daily bread – wine-making, candle-making and leathercraft. An innocent entrepreneur horticulturalist nicknamed “You Know” (former Monkees star Micky Dolenz) plants his one baby marijuana plant and puts up a tiny picket fence around it.
But Violets cannot sustain itself without doing business with the outside world – and the outside world is disgusted by the community of hippies. Even worse, the hippie utopia gradually becomes an approximation of the capitalistic society it had tried to flee.
Filmed in 1971 but not released until four years later, Keep Off My Grass! was both the first and last directorial credit for Shelley Berman.
Marcus J. Grapes
Susan C Buch