25 years ago this evening I was in Philadelphia attending a Monkees fans convention. Hey, don't laugh - over 1,000 people from around the world were there and a great time was had by all. Even Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones and Peter Tork showed up during the weekend to answer questions from fans and the weekend concluded with a sold-out Monkees concert, one of many sold-out shows during the 1986 Reunion Tour - the top grossing tour of 1986, by the way.
The event held on this particular evening was a screening of the Monkees feature film, Head, one of the the strangest motion pictures ever made. I wasn't sure what to expect, since I had never seen the film but I found it to be a fascinating experience. The movie bombed in its initial 1968 release but has become a popular cult film so I was worried that the audience would create a distraction by reciting the dialogue throughout the entire screening. I was relieved to find them only shouting out lines from Head's eclectic soundtrack album, which I had owned since I was a kid. Now the album made sense. Kinda.
Head is a 1968 psychedelic no-opening credits comedy-adventure major motion picture, starring TV group The Monkees (in credit order: Peter Tork, Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz andMichael Nesmith), and distributed by Columbia Pictures. It was written and produced by Bob Rafelson and Jack Nicholson, and directed by Rafelson.
During production, the working title for the film was "Changes", which was later the name of an unrelated album by the Monkees. A rough cut of the film was previewed for audiences in Los Angeles in the summer of '68 under the name of "Movee Untitled".
The film featured Victor Mature as "The Big Victor" and other cameo appearances by Nicholson, Teri Garr, Carol Doda, Annette Funicello, Frank Zappa, Sonny Liston, Timothy Carey and Ray Nitschke. Also appearing on screen in brief non-speaking parts are Dennis Hopper and Toni Basil.
Head begins at the dedication of a bridge. After a politician struggles with constant feedback with his microphone as he tries to give a speech, the Monkees suddenly interrupt the ceremony by running through the assembled officials, to the sound of various horns and sirens. The rest of the film has no overriding plot. There are several short vignettes that consist of a conflict and resolution, but the film is essentially plotless (as the opening song relates: "We hope you like our story/Although there isn't one/That is to say, there's many/That way, there is more fun!"). It is, rather, a seemingly stream of consciousness stringing-together of musical numbers, satire of various film genres, elements of psychedelia, and references to topical issues such as the Vietnam War. The distorted consciousness and psychedelia elements resemble that of an LSD trip, a widespread recreational drug at the time, made illegal in 1967.
Trailers for the film summarized it as a "most extraordinary adventure, western, comedy, love story, mystery, drama, musical, documentary satire ever made (And that's putting it mildly)."
Read the entire Wikipedia entry here.
The Head trailer:
Here is a clip from a scene featuring Peter Tork, director Bob Rafelson, co-writer Jack Nicholson and if you look closely ar around :30, you'll see a long-haired Dennis Hopper.
Needless to say, Head is most definitely not a movie version of The Monkees tv series!
Head is available on DVD and is probably streaming on Netflix.