Favorite Scene Theatre: Head (1968)

I’ve written before about HEAD, The Monkees’ amazing sole feature, and I’ll probably do so in the future. I think of it as a San Francisco type film despite its Hollywood origins since HEAD is so steeped in 1968 counter-culturism. Written by Jack Nicholson in full psychedelic satire mode, directed by Bob Rafelson, HEAD should be seen as one of the launching pads for the 1970’s New Cinema. The profits from The Monkees’ television series (produced by Rafelson) would lead to the formation of BBS and ultimately, to EASY RIDER (1969) and beyond.

As for me, I love The Monkees. I had the thrill of seeing everybody’s favorite, Mickey Dolenz (in snazzy white suit and hat), at The New Beverly last year when Edgar Wright screened this for an appreciate audience at his “The Wright Stuff” film festival. Their TV show was witty, anarchistic along with the great songs and by the end, had dropped the phony laugh track as a final FU to the sterilized TV landscape. HEAD was meant to de-construct The Monkees for the wary counter-culture, who primarily saw them as Beatles rip-offs (though the Liverpool Lads also loved them Monkees; Michael Nesmith was even in their studio for the orchestral freak-out on “A Day In The Life”).

Sadly, the film was marketed to “heads” but rated “G” and the disparity was not lost on audiences. Pauline Kael walked out during the lyrical, sweeping “As We Go Along.” Whatever. HEAD is now regarded as a 60’s pop classic with fantastic tunes, especially “The Porpoise Song,” and its free-wheeling narrative is in the subversive spirit of the era. Nicholson even has a soldier wearing the same football helmet he’d adopt in EASY RIDER. Better still, the film is genuinely funny, with ace comic Dolenz stealing all his scenes, which leads us to this awesome deconstructive bit with him, Nesmith and Terri Garr.  And now from the gang that gave you HEAD…

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2 Responses to “Favorite Scene Theatre: Head (1968)”

  1. That “soldier” with the football helmet? None other than an actual footballer, the legendary Ray Nitschke. Just one of many, many way cameos in HEAD. Teri Garr wasn’t well known yet (she’d also guested on Star Trek around this same time), but lots of other famous faces… Frank Zappa, Annette Funicello, Devine, boxer Sonny Liston, Victor Mature, and Davy’s dance partner? Choreographer Toni Basil (who later had a huge pop hit with “Mickey” in he early 80s).

    Awesome, trippy, crazy movie… I hope either Criterion or Rhino will release a new deluxe DVD/Blu-Ray on its own. Maybe include the 1969 TV special “33 & 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee” on it too? I’d totally buy that.

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