By 1968, The Monkees, a prefabricated television pop quartet that parodied earlier Brit rockers, The Beatles, had taken their sitcom shtick as far as it was going to go, and with the inevitable cancellation of their show after two seasons (ironically enough, in 1967 The Monkees records outsold both The Beatles and The Rolling Stones), the boys sat down with director Bob Rafelson and producer Jack Nicholson (who penned the screenplay over a weekend on L.S.D), blew some pot, and the movie, Head, was born.
Never saw Ringo Starr plummet off of a bridge and get rescued by psychedelic mermaids. Just sayin'.
After we see Mickey Dolenz interrupt a bridge dedication ceremony by abruptly hopping off the handrail into a muy trippy color filtered rendition of The Porpoise Song (the band's finest moment, IMO) and his suicide attempt is thwarted by a pair of humanitarian aqua-tarts, a groupie kisses each member of the band and declares them "even" before walking out. A Nicholson-penned chant parodies their tv show theme, declaring that the boys are in on the big joke, and as each dramatic vignette unfolds (caught in the middle of a war in a fox hole with no ammunition, wandering aimlessly through the desert, getting pummeled in the ring by Sonny Liston, being ridiculed by a transvestite waitress...) they manage to break through the manufactured film reality in one way or another, only to be thrust into the next, usually more far out than the last.
Marcia Brady's pink lacy underthings just got slightly moist...
Along the way, they're depicted as dandruff sucked out of the hair of a giant Victor Mature by a vacuum cleaner, they enjoy a hookah party with groovy go-go chicks, get hassled by recurring cops (Logan Ramsey) and caped heavies (Timothy Carey), and after screaming teenagers overwhelm them after a live performance on stage and literally tear them apart, it is revealed that they are only mannekins. Davey Jones does a lively song and dance number with Toni Basil about a son abandoned by his father, and then gets criticized by Frank Zappa with a bovine pal. Michael Nesmith rants about surprise parties and Peter Tork sucker punches women, against his better judgment, of course. In the end, they're unable to escape the trappings of the script and be truly free, so they all jump off the bridge... only to end up in an aquarium tank that's driven off the barren set into storage by the director, Rafelson, himself.
"Atta boy, Mike!!!", sputters Lord High n' Low (Timothy Carey).
You'll see the likes of Dennis Hopper, Annette Funicello, stripper Carol Doda, and Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Nitschke among the film's many cameos. Though The Monkees heyday was before my time (a female cousin of mine from Easton, Pa was one of their hysterical screaming teen proponents of the day, or so I've been told), I discovered their quirky show through syndicated reruns, like many others my age did. Interestingly, I met Peter Tork at an acoustic gig he did at Vintage Vinyl in New Jersey back in the nineties, while I was recovering from yet another case of alcohol poisoning and numbly thumbing through the punk and oi section. Nice guy. A bubbler packed with h.g. frodis (Like the lingo, Dolenz) and this one on the ol' plasma screen makes for a solid experience, serving as irrefutable proof that these guys had evolved into something much deeper than their saccharine prefab origins. Three Wops.
"Hey guys, what are we doin' tryin' to drown, we should be on that train and gone..."