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Head(1968)

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Head (1968)

It sounds like someone's LSD flashback. Frank Zappa, boxer Sonny Liston, Annette Funicello, female impersonator T.C. Jones, San Francisco's legendary topless dancer Carol Doda and other cult celebrities appear in a movie scripted by Jack Nicholson and directed by Bob Rafelson (Five Easy Pieces, 1970) that showcases the TV-created pop band The Monkees in the leading roles who in one scene play dandruff in Victor Mature's hair. Entitled Head (1968), this Cuisinart-puree of pop culture infused with anti-establishment posturing and served up in the then-current style of a trippy experimental film could only have happened in the late sixties when Hollywood studios were in a try-anything phase to capture the rapidly receding youth market. Rampant use of recreational drugs among Hollywood's elite and film industry personnel might have had something to do with it too.

Virtually plotless with a free-form structure that owed a lot to the scattershot sketch format of TV's "Laugh-In" (1968-1973), Head was like the anti-A Hard Day's Night (1964) for cynical hipsters. Instead of depicting David, Micky, Michael and Peter as the endearing goofballs worshipped by teenyboppers across America, it deconstructed their image, revealing them to be a synthetic by-product of Hollywood marketing. The irony was that The Monkees were in on the joke and were only too happy to spoof their once popular TV series (1966-1968) and their pre-packaged personalities. Head also marked Bob Rafelson's feature film debut after an apprenticeship of producing and directing episodes of The Monkees TV series. And it was clearly a transitional film for Jack Nicholson who already had penned several screenplays including The Trip (1967) and was on the verge of stardom without knowing it - Easy Rider (1969), released the following year, would catapult the actor to overnight success.

Initially called Untitled, Head was an unconventional project from the beginning. According to author Patrick McGilligan in Jack's Life: A Biography of Jack Nicholson, "Bob, Bert [Schneider, executive producer], and Jack, with the four Monkees in tow, went to Ojai [California] for several days. They smoked "a ton of dope" (as Davy Jones recalls) and tossed ideas into a running tape recorder...The script was set up to have the least continuity imaginable, and only the slenderest plot trigger - the four Monkees leaping off the Golden Gate Bridge in an effort to escape the mental prison of a black box, which was "Head," meaning pothead, but also meaning all the rules and straitlaced conventions inside one's head that inhibit enjoyment of life. With their tapes and notes, Nicholson and Rafelson went away to the desert for inspiration. According to at least one account, they scribbled a treatment while tripping on acid."

By the time filming began on Head, The Monkees were less than happy with their circumstances. Not only were they feuding with Columbia over their contracts and salaries but they felt betrayed by Rafelson and Nicholson after they were informed that none of them would receive a writing credit on the film. "We were disappointed and angry," Micky Dolenz said. "Mike was furious. He took all the tapes and locked them in the trunk of his car!" As a result, Micky, Davy and Mike (without Peter's involvement) refused to show up on the first day of shooting which infuriated Rafelson and Nicholson. After a day of negotiations, filming resumed with all four band members but relations between the Monkees and their director were decidedly strained after that...and Mike, Davy, Micky and Peter never received a writer's credit for their contributions.

When Head was completed, Rafelson and Nicholson launched a guerilla advertising campaign in New York City, plastering stickers for the film everywhere on taxicabs, signs, police helmets, you name it. At one point they were even arrested for being public nuisances but their efforts were in vain. The critics were unimpressed and the film held little appeal for anyone who wasn't a fan of the Monkees' TV show. Dolenz stated later, "Because the film was rated R, most of our fans couldn't even get into the theatre to see it in the first place and those who did just didn't have any idea of what we were up to." Nicholson, however, maintains even today that Head is one of his proudest accomplishments and still calls it "the best rock-'n-roll movie ever made." Despite its commercial failure, Rafelson was equally pleased with it, comparing it often to Fellini's 8 1/2 (1963).

The remarkable thing about Head is how well it holds up today despite being mired in the counterculture of the sixties. Some of the satirical jabs and anti-war rhetoric are as timely as ever, particularly the scene where Micky attacks a defective coke machine in the middle of an Arabian desert set. Or the scene where a deranged football player (Green Bay Packers' middle linebacker Ray Nitschke) repeatedly tackles Peter in a foxhole while chanting, "We're number one, we're number one!" Rafelson and Nicholson also have fun spoofing different movie genres and in one Western burlesque Teri Garr gets to deliver the immortal line "Suck it, before the venom reaches my heart!" after being bitten by a rattlesnake. The film's uneasy mixture of comedic throwaway bits with actual newsreel footage of Viet Nam and other flash points of the sixties gives it a subversive edge though some critics found it pretentious. "There was this one very disturbing sequence," Dolenz recalled, "in which Bob used that famous piece of news footage of Vietnamese General Nguyen Ngoc Loan pulling out a snub-nosed .38 and shooting Vietcong Captain Bay Lop in the head....At one point in the movie it is shown thirty-two times simultaneously in split screen."

In the end, The Monkees may have had the last laugh since they were finally able to play their own music in Head after being dubbed by studio musicians in their television show (The band members, with the exception of Michael Nesmith, weren't real musicians when they were first hired for the TV series but learned how to play by the time Head went into production). And Head includes some of their best songs such as Nesmith's all-out-rocker "Circle Sky" (recorded before a live audience in Utah), Tork's two "Summer of Love" ditties, "Can You Dig It" and "Long Title: Do I Have To Do This All Over Again," "As We Go Along," a Carole King-Toni Stern composition featuring the guitar work of Ry Cooder and Neil Young, plus "Daddy's Song" by Harry Nilsson and the psychedelic opening number, "Porpoise Song," written by Jerry Coffin and Carole King.

Years after being ridiculed as an infantile imitation of The Beatles, packaged for fickle teenagers, The Monkees are finally getting a little overdue respect for Head whose cult continues to grow whenever it is shown. And Bob Rafelson and Jack Nicholson have nothing to be ashamed of either.

Producer: Bert Schneider, Bob Rafelson, Jack Nicholson
Director: Bob Rafelson
Screenplay: Jack Nicholson, Bob Rafelson
Cinematography: Michel Hugo
Art Direction: Sydney Z. Litwack
Costume Design: Gene Ashman
Film Editing: Michael Pozen, Monte Hellman
Cast: Peter Tork (Peter), Davy Jones (Davy), Micky Dolenz (Micky), Michael Nesmith (Mike), Annette Funicello (Minnie), Timothy Carey (Lord High 'n' Low), Abraham Sofaer (Swami), Vito Scotti (I. Vitteloni), Charles Macaulay (Inspector Shrink), Charles Irving (Mayor Feedback), Percy Helton (Heraldic Messenger).
BW&C-86m. Letterboxed.

by Jeff Stafford

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Head (1968)

The evolution of Head began as an idea session between the show's producers Bert Schneider, Bob Rafelson, Jack Nicholson and the four Monkees one weekend in Ojai, California. "Everybody agreed that the movie should be anti-Monkees," according to Patrick McGilligan in Jack's Life: A Biography of Jack Nicholson. "This creation of Bob and Bert's had become a Frankenstein monster running amok through their lives. Untitled (as the Monkees film was initially called, as if it were a piece of abstract art destined for museum walls) would expose the very process that had created the Monkees, the hollow, star-making machinery of Hollywood."

"The weekend trip did not go without incident," Micky Dolenz recalled in his autobiography with Mark Bego. "When the time came to discuss writing credit, we were informed that only Jack and Bob would be given credit. We were disappointed and angry. Mike was furious. He took all the tapes and locked them in the trunk of his car! After a few days of "negotiations" the tapes were returned, but we didn't get any credit!"

After that first free form idea session in Ojai, "Jack and Bob fired up some joints, dropped acid, took a walk on the beach, and came up with the novel idea of deconstructing the Monkees in a melange of music, Vietnam footage, and kitschy pop culture artifacts." (from Easy Riders, Raging Bulls by Peter Biskind).

Toby Rafelson, the ex-wife of the director, said "I think that repudiating the very thing the Monkees stood for, using them in order to do this, which he didn't mind doing, shows you what his colors were, which was that his own image of himself was more important than the product...I think the need to feel cool, in the minds of guys like Bob and Bert, was terribly, terribly important." (Easy Riders, Raging Bulls by Peter Biskind).

Dolenz later wrote in his autobiography, "...the making of the movie was to have its problems, at least initially. Right from the beginning of the television series, there had been a dispute over our salaries...It was Mike, naturally, who took the lead and introduced us to Jerry Perenchio - a very powerful agent in Hollywood at the time. Jerry took us on and promised he would cut us a very lucrative deal. The only problem was that we would have to stick to our guns, make a stand, even strike if it became necessary. It did. I don't remember what we were asking for, it couldn't have been much; yet Bob and Bert wouldn't give in. We didn't have many choices open to us: either hold firm or cave in. And to make matters worse, Peter had decided that he was not going to join us. Peter! The antiestablishment, anticapitalistic antianti. Here we were, the workers, lined up at the barricades, ready to take on the opulent potentates, and Peter sided with the parsimonious PTB! He was a scab!...The first day of shooting came along and there was only one Monkee on the set: Peter.....But by the next day we were all back. The deal had been done, the negotiations finalized. Unfortunately, even after all the millions that Bob and Bert had made off of the Monkees, I don't think they ever forgave us for standing up to them that one time."

After Bob Rafelson and Jack Nicholson clashed with the Monkees over sharing screenwriting credits, the director began to play records on the set by other rock groups such as The Electric Flag, just to antagonize the Monkees.

The underwater mermaid sequences were filmed in the Bahamas.

Other locations used in Head included Bronson Canyon in Griffith Park, the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, the Valley Auditorium in Salt Lake City, the Gerald Desmond Bridge in Long Beach and the Screen Gems Studios in Wilmington, North Carolina.

The Monkees' beach house which was regularly seen on their TV series was also used in the film but with some new additions such as an elevator cage and an aquarium.

At the time of filming, Davy Jones was secretly married to Linda Haines but she can be glimpsed briefly in a party scene during the song "Long Title: Do I Have To Do This All Over Again."

Even though he admitted the screenplay was total nonsense, actor Victor Mature reputedly agreed to do the film saying, "All I know is it makes me laugh."

Teri Garr was cast in the film because she was a friend of Jack Nicholson's; they had taken an acting class together from Eric Morris and some of their classmates were Harry Dean Stanton, Maggie Blye and singer/dancer Toni Basil.

Helena Kallianiotes, who plays the lesbian hitchhiker Palm Apodaca in Five Easy Pieces (1970), appears as a belly dancer in the "Can You Dig It" musical number.

Compiled by Jeff Stafford

SOURCES:
I'm a Believer: My Life of Monkees, Music and Madness by Micky Dolenz and Mark Bego
Jack's Life: A Biography of Jack Nicholson by Patrick McGilligan
Speedbumps: Flooring It Through Hollywood by Teri Garr
Easy Riders, Raging Bulls by Peter Biskind
AFI
IMDB
Hollywood Rock by Marshall Crenshaw & Ted Mico

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Head (1968)

Director Bob Rafelson worked in New York City as a writer on various television shows before moving to Los Angeles to work on The Monkees as a writer and director. He shared producer duties with Bert Schneider who would later produce Easy Rider (1969) and Rafelson's Five Easy Pieces (1970).

Rafelson, writer/co-producer Jack Nicholson, and Dennis Hopper make cameo appearances in the Columbia-Screen Gems Studio cafe segment of Head.

Toward the end of The Monkees' TV series, rock 'n roll musicians Frank Zappa and Tim Buckley, father of Jeff, made appearances on the show.

You'll notice there are no opening credits for Head.

Head includes film clips from Gilda (1946), Golden Boy (1939), City for Conquest (1940), The Black Cat (1934), and newsreel footage from the Viet Nam war.

The Coca-Cola company took offense at the scene in which Micky beats up a coke machine in the desert and tried to get an injunction against the movie. They weren't successful.

The Coca-Cola machine scene is often excised from TV showings of Head.

Some of the Vietnam war footage that was used in Head was also featured in producer Bert Schneider's 1974 documentary, Hearts and Minds, directed by Peter Davis. It won the Oscar for the Best Documentary that year.

Carol Doda, who appears in a cameo as Sally Silicon in Head, was a stripper who worked at the Condor Club in San Francisco and expanded her breast size from 34B to 44D through silicon injections.

T.C. Jones (aka Thomas Craig Jones) was a cross-dresser and eccentric character actor who made memorable appearances in the Jayne Mansfield comedy, Promises! Promises! (1963), the psycho thriller The Name of the Game Is Kill (1968) and such TV series as The Wild, Wild West and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (the creepy "An Open Window" episode). He plays Mr. AND Mrs. Ace in Head.

The tagline for Head was "What is HEAD all about? Only John Brockman's shrink knows for sure!" [John Brockman was the mastermind behind the film's promotional campaign].

The first cut of Head ran almost two hours but after a disastrous sneak preview in Los Angeles it was edited down to a length of eighty-six minutes.

Peter Tork can be heard whistling the chorus to the Beatles song, "Strawberry Fields Forever" in one scene where he enters a bathroom.

Shortly after the completion of Head, Jack Nicholson was cast by Vincente Minnelli in On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (1970) on the basis of his performance in Psych-Out (1968).

According to Micky Dolenz, Frank Zappa once asked him to be the drummer for his band, the Mothers of Invention.

Micky Dolenz described Head in his autobiography as "action, thrills, adventure, sex, horror, slapstick, beautiful scenery, and state-of-the-art visual effects, including, to my knowledge, the first use of "solarization" (that saturated negative colorizing hippie trippie photographic technique). This film was a hippie's wet dream. Kind of like Hellzapoppin meets Peter Max."

The composer and conductor of the incidental music cues in Head was Ken Thorne who served as the musical director on Help! (1965), the Beatles' second film.

Percy Helton, who appears as the Heraldic Messenger in Head, was a prolific character actor who appears in countless films and TV shows such as The Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres and Bonanza. His film credits include Kiss Me Deadly (1955), 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954) and Miracle on 34th Street (1947) as a drunken Santa Claus.

Head choreographer Toni Basil had a top forty hit in 1982 with the song "Mickey." You can see her briefly in the "Daddy's Song" musical number in the Monkees' film.

Micky Dolenz recounted in his autobiography that "One day after the film had been released, I was standing around at a car wash waiting for my little red Mercedes 280 SL to get out of the bath when this fifteen or sixteen-year-old girl comes up and starts berating me about how I was "glorifying the war and condoning the killing!" She thought that by showing that footage in the movie we were somehow endorsing the war instead of decrying it. Needless to say, I was dumbfounded. But it did make me realize how far we had come, or rather how far we had gone from our original intentions and design."

Compiled by Jeff Stafford

SOURCES:
I'm a Believer: My Life of Monkees, Music and Madness by Micky Dolenz and Mark Bego
Jack's Life: A Biography of Jack Nicholson by Patrick McGilligan
Speedbumps: Flooring It Through Hollywood by Teri Garr
Easy Riders, Raging Bulls by Peter Biskind
AFI
IMDB
Hollywood Rock by Marshall Crenshaw & Ted Mico

back to top
Head (1968)

"The film's success is in a series of satires on movie clichs, and in several blackouts. These are probably Nicholson's, and worth seeing...We get the destruction of a Coke machine, a montage of three stereotyped desert scenes, a Western shoot-out with fake arrows, a Hollywood soda fountain brawl, things like that. They're good, and the rest of the movie (including trick photography that already seems out of date) isn't unpleasant. And you may, for metaphysical private reasons of your own appreciate the scene where The Monkees play dandruff in Victor Mature's hair."
Roger Ebert

"A mind-blowing collage of mixed media, a free-for-all freakout of rock music and psychedelic splashes of colour."
- Daily Variety
"Random particles tossed around in some demented jester's wind machine."
- Richard Combs, MFB (Monthly Film Bulletin)

"It's spotty, but there are some inspired moments, some great photography, really odd guest stars, and some of the Monkees' best songs. It's all very anti-establishment and drug-tinged."
- The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film

"A narrative cul-de-sac of genre parodies, musical numbers, smug antiwar statements, and bilious McLuhan-esque satire...it's uneven but mostly a blast, with great tunes like Harry Nilsson's "Daddy's Song," Michael Nesmith's barn burner "Circle Sky," and Gerry Goffin and Carole King's grandiose "Porpoise Song."
- J.R. Jones, The Chicago Reader

"Peculiar, compelling riposte to the Monkees' manufactured TV image. Psychedelic, imbued with cynicism...If your abiding image of The Monkees is one of the perky four-piece up to wholesome high jinks, prepare yourself for quite a shock...Intentionally comic but painfully self-conscious...it's also astounding cinema, a very personal trauma played out in disturbing acid-warped visuals. Messy it may be, but Head acts as a fascinating document that marked the passing of Woodstock's loved-up summer into the violent winter of Altamont."
- Channel 4 Film

"..it's The Monkees' own 2001--their YELLOW SUBMARINE--their GODZILLA VS. THE THING. Not just a good film, not just a weird film, this is one of the most cleverly-conceived masterworks of the LSD era. And would you believe me if I also said it was one of the few most cerebral and hallucinogenic movies ever made? All on a G-rating? Well, you'll just have to check it out for yourself, won't you?"
- Steven Puchalski

"The point seems to be to take aim at every genre they can think of, so the band are sent to fight in the Vietnam War, making it surely one of the first films to take a satirical stand on the conflict, or plonked right down into a boxing drama with Davy up against Sonny Liston and Annette Funicello as his tearful girlfriend in the crowd imploring him to take a dive. But all these scenarios warp, as if the force of the disdain for the formats is too much for the plot logic to hold together....While the music is edited in just as randomly as the rest of the story and footage, it all blends together, if not smoothly, then at least provocatively."
Graeme Clark, The Spinning Image

"Despite obviously dated aspects like clumsy psychedelic effects and some turgid slapstick sequences, the film is still remarkably vital and entertaining....The typical zany humour is intercut with harsher political footage and satire on established genres of American cinema, exploding many a sacred cow into the bargain."
- TimeOut Film Guide

"The result is a visually daring cinematic game that is virtually plotless and better off for being so."
TV Guide

"A psychedelic trip of a movie which does for the Monkees what A Hard Day's Night (1964) and Yellow Submarine (1968) did for the Beatles, and what Monty Python did for us all. Sometimes funny, slick and clever, often just plain silly."
- Halliwell's Film & Video Guide

"There are some funny moments...but film is a mess (by design - that's the shame) and tedious."
- Danny Peary, Guide For the Film Fanatic

"This plotless, triplike movie, which resembles a big-budget episode of "Laugh-In" for dopers, is filled with constant reminders that everyone involved was aware of the plastic, preconceived nature of the Monkees."
- Jay Schwartz, Hollywood Rock

"The film tosses in old jokes, blackout routines, documentary footage of the suffering and horror of war, plus the Monkees, and tries to sell it all as a mind-blowing psychedelic collage."
- Pauline Kael, 5001 Nights at the Movies

Compiled by Jeff Stafford

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Head (1968)

Davy to Sonny Liston:Great, I'll have a go at him. You won't hurt my face will ya? Million dollar head, this.

Micky: We told you a hundred times, good officer, sir. We last saw him inside the john... er... comfort room.

Mike: [ordering at the cafe] I'll have a finger sandwich, hold the mold. Davy Jones: And, uh, I'd like a glass of cold gravy with a hair in it, please.
Mrs. Ace: One of your own?

Voice in the desert: Quiet, isn't it, George Michael Dolenz?

Testy True: "Quick! Suck it before the venom reaches my heart."

Peter, Davy, Micky, Mike: Hey hey we are the Monkees, you know we aim to please. A manufactured image with no philosophies.

Cow: Monkees is da cwaziest people!

Mrs. Ace: Are you still paying tribute to Ringo Starr?
Micky: Would you like a pinch in the mouth?
Mrs. Ace: I'll think about it.
Micky: Don't hurt yourself.

Mike: Okay. You think they call us plastic now, babe, but wait 'til I get through telling them how we do it.

Peter: Let me tell you one thing son. Nobody ever lends money to a man with a sense of humor.

The Critic: That song was pretty white.
Davy: So am I; what can I tell you?

Lord High'N'Low: Boys, don't never, but never, make fun of no cripple!

Inspector Shrink: The tragedy of *your* time, my young friends, is that you may get exactly what you want.

Micky: C'mon let's get outta this nightclub!
Mrs. Ace: But what about the food?
Mike: Have it cleaned and burned!

Lord High'N'Low: Hey! Nobody walks out on me! Not even myself!

Peter: Everybody's where they wanna be.
Micky: That is a particularly inept thing to say, Peter, considering that we are in a vacuum cleaner.

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teaser Head (1968)

It sounds like someone's LSD flashback. Frank Zappa, boxer Sonny Liston, Annette Funicello, female impersonator T.C. Jones, San Francisco's legendary topless dancer Carol Doda and other cult celebrities appear in a movie scripted by Jack Nicholson and directed by Bob Rafelson (Five Easy Pieces, 1970) that showcases the TV-created pop band The Monkees in the leading roles who in one scene play dandruff in Victor Mature's hair. Entitled Head (1968), this Cuisinart-puree of pop culture infused with anti-establishment posturing and served up in the then-current style of a trippy experimental film could only have happened in the late sixties when Hollywood studios were in a try-anything phase to capture the rapidly receding youth market. Rampant use of recreational drugs among Hollywood's elite and film industry personnel might have had something to do with it too.

Virtually plotless with a free-form structure that owed a lot to the scattershot sketch format of TV's "Laugh-In" (1968-1973), Head was like the anti-A Hard Day's Night (1964) for cynical hipsters. Instead of depicting David, Micky, Michael and Peter as the endearing goofballs worshipped by teenyboppers across America, it deconstructed their image, revealing them to be a synthetic by-product of Hollywood marketing. The irony was that The Monkees were in on the joke and were only too happy to spoof their once popular TV series (1966-1968) and their pre-packaged personalities. Head also marked Bob Rafelson's feature film debut after an apprenticeship of producing and directing episodes of The Monkees TV series. And it was clearly a transitional film for Jack Nicholson who already had penned several screenplays including The Trip (1967) and was on the verge of stardom without knowing it - Easy Rider (1969), released the following year, would catapult the actor to overnight success.

Initially called Untitled, Head was an unconventional project from the beginning. According to author Patrick McGilligan in Jack's Life: A Biography of Jack Nicholson, "Bob, Bert [Schneider, executive producer], and Jack, with the four Monkees in tow, went to Ojai [California] for several days. They smoked "a ton of dope" (as Davy Jones recalls) and tossed ideas into a running tape recorder...The script was set up to have the least continuity imaginable, and only the slenderest plot trigger - the four Monkees leaping off the Golden Gate Bridge in an effort to escape the mental prison of a black box, which was "Head," meaning pothead, but also meaning all the rules and straitlaced conventions inside one's head that inhibit enjoyment of life. With their tapes and notes, Nicholson and Rafelson went away to the desert for inspiration. According to at least one account, they scribbled a treatment while tripping on acid."

By the time filming began on Head, The Monkees were less than happy with their circumstances. Not only were they feuding with Columbia over their contracts and salaries but they felt betrayed by Rafelson and Nicholson after they were informed that none of them would receive a writing credit on the film. "We were disappointed and angry," Micky Dolenz said. "Mike was furious. He took all the tapes and locked them in the trunk of his car!" As a result, Micky, Davy and Mike (without Peter's involvement) refused to show up on the first day of shooting which infuriated Rafelson and Nicholson. After a day of negotiations, filming resumed with all four band members but relations between the Monkees and their director were decidedly strained after that...and Mike, Davy, Micky and Peter never received a writer's credit for their contributions.

When Head was completed, Rafelson and Nicholson launched a guerilla advertising campaign in New York City, plastering stickers for the film everywhere on taxicabs, signs, police helmets, you name it. At one point they were even arrested for being public nuisances but their efforts were in vain. The critics were unimpressed and the film held little appeal for anyone who wasn't a fan of the Monkees' TV show. Dolenz stated later, "Because the film was rated R, most of our fans couldn't even get into the theatre to see it in the first place and those who did just didn't have any idea of what we were up to." Nicholson, however, maintains even today that Head is one of his proudest accomplishments and still calls it "the best rock-'n-roll movie ever made." Despite its commercial failure, Rafelson was equally pleased with it, comparing it often to Fellini's 8 1/2 (1963).

The remarkable thing about Head is how well it holds up today despite being mired in the counterculture of the sixties. Some of the satirical jabs and anti-war rhetoric are as timely as ever, particularly the scene where Micky attacks a defective coke machine in the middle of an Arabian desert set. Or the scene where a deranged football player (Green Bay Packers' middle linebacker Ray Nitschke) repeatedly tackles Peter in a foxhole while chanting, "We're number one, we're number one!" Rafelson and Nicholson also have fun spoofing different movie genres and in one Western burlesque Teri Garr gets to deliver the immortal line "Suck it, before the venom reaches my heart!" after being bitten by a rattlesnake. The film's uneasy mixture of comedic throwaway bits with actual newsreel footage of Viet Nam and other flash points of the sixties gives it a subversive edge though some critics found it pretentious. "There was this one very disturbing sequence," Dolenz recalled, "in which Bob used that famous piece of news footage of Vietnamese General Nguyen Ngoc Loan pulling out a snub-nosed .38 and shooting Vietcong Captain Bay Lop in the head....At one point in the movie it is shown thirty-two times simultaneously in split screen."

In the end, The Monkees may have had the last laugh since they were finally able to play their own music in Head after being dubbed by studio musicians in their television show (The band members, with the exception of Michael Nesmith, weren't real musicians when they were first hired for the TV series but learned how to play by the time Head went into production). And Head includes some of their best songs such as Nesmith's all-out-rocker "Circle Sky" (recorded before a live audience in Utah), Tork's two "Summer of Love" ditties, "Can You Dig It" and "Long Title: Do I Have To Do This All Over Again," "As We Go Along," a Carole King-Toni Stern composition featuring the guitar work of Ry Cooder and Neil Young, plus "Daddy's Song" by Harry Nilsson and the psychedelic opening number, "Porpoise Song," written by Jerry Coffin and Carole King.

Years after being ridiculed as an infantile imitation of The Beatles, packaged for fickle teenagers, The Monkees are finally getting a little overdue respect for Head whose cult continues to grow whenever it is shown. And Bob Rafelson and Jack Nicholson have nothing to be ashamed of either.

Producer: Bert Schneider, Bob Rafelson, Jack Nicholson
Director: Bob Rafelson
Screenplay: Jack Nicholson, Bob Rafelson
Cinematography: Michel Hugo
Art Direction: Sydney Z. Litwack
Costume Design: Gene Ashman
Film Editing: Michael Pozen, Monte Hellman
Cast: Peter Tork (Peter), Davy Jones (Davy), Micky Dolenz (Micky), Michael Nesmith (Mike), Annette Funicello (Minnie), Timothy Carey (Lord High 'n' Low), Abraham Sofaer (Swami), Vito Scotti (I. Vitteloni), Charles Macaulay (Inspector Shrink), Charles Irving (Mayor Feedback), Percy Helton (Heraldic Messenger).
BW&C-86m. Letterboxed.

by Jeff Stafford

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