Davy Jones, Peter Tork, Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, and a LOT of other people. Dir: Bob Rafelson
Once upon a time when I was in high school, I was obsessed with The Monkees. I watched the show on Saturday mornings (2nd generation fan) when I was little but then when I was in high school, Mtv started airing the episodes in conjunction with the 20th Anniversary of the show (September 12, 1966, but Mtv started showing them in the Spring of ’86). Anyway, I went to see them in concert, I had a Peter Tork t-shirt, I had all their albums, etc.- even the ones without Peter. I was dying to see Head, but it wasn’t available on video yet. Then the day it came out on video, I went to rent it and it was checked out. That night I had a dream in which I was actually watching the movie and The Monkees were swimming around in slow motion with lava-lamp-like colors in the water. The next day I went to school and a friend of mine, who had made it to the video store in time to rent it, was trying to tell me about it. I was all “NO. DON’T TELL ME.” And then I told him about the dream I had the night before and he started freaking out because that’s what happens at the beginning of the movie. He kept insisting I must have seen it. I had not. But I did watch it a few days later, and it was almost exactly what I had dreamed.
Head is billed as a comedy, but it’s kind of not funny. Not because it’s a bad movie, but because it’s a surreal biography of the group and how they were treated. So if you know the symbolism, it’s fairly disturbing to see it represented onscreen.
There are those who don’t like The Monkees. I get that. But there are things that must be known about them to have a valid opinion. It is better to dislike the producers than to dislike any of the band members. The producers envisioned a tv show about a pop band and intended to make money from the show and the record sales. Then they sent out casting calls and many musicians answered. There were two experienced actors who were musically inclined as well. These young men wanted to be in a successful band that would launch their music careers. Who can blame them for this? After Micky, Davy, Peter, and Mike were cast, they were basically chained to this image. They were mistreated by the producers, shunned by musicians who worked their way up the “hard way” (as if getting cast wasn’t hard), and ridiculed by people who worked on the Columbia lot. They were capable of, and wanted to, play their own instruments and write their own music, but had to fight to get that right, and it wasn’t until their third album that it happened. So basically, they were lied to and treated like crap. And they still wanted to be successful.
Now normally I don’t give away spoilers, but I’ve already given away one. I can’t give away the plot, because there’s not one, which is not to say there is no substance to the movie, it’s just that it’s a series of events that end up being a cycle rather than telling a story with a beginning, middle, and end.
There are scenes from classic movies like “The Black Cat”, and a giant Victor Mature is in it as well. There are anti-war sentiments, drug references, peace, love and Coca-Cola. The settings vary greatly from a bridge to a desert to a snowy mountain to a harem to a movie lot (and subsequently a movie set).
The movie was not well-received for a number of reasons. The main one was that there was a parental advisory on it, so the bulk of their fans could not even get in to see it. It was too adult for the kids, and it was too The Monkees for the audience who would have appreciated it. In fact, The Monkees weren’t even named as being in it (see very strange movie poster above). It is reported that a theater-ful of people who were all about the psychedelic promise of the movie walked out when the Monkees appeared onscreen. They felt like they had been duped.
Head was reportedly conceived in a hotel room during a marijuana-fueled talking session between the group, Jack Nicholson and Bob Rafelson and was recorded on tapes. And then these tapes were taken by Nicholson and converted into a script, again reportedly, under the influence of LSD (or LDS for you Star Trek IV fans). So the title is appropriate.
This movie had some of the best songs The Monkees ever recorded in it. The Porpoise Song, Do I Have to Do This All over Again, and Circle Sky are the ones that pop into my brain most immediately.
I’m not going to say you will like this movie. You should like it- I certainly do- but it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Davy Jones didn’t, and he was in it. The main point is that you should see it. It’s a cult favorite which means it’s a cultural thing. And the soundtrack is extremely awesome.