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Film: Head
"From the guys who gave you Head..."

Head is a film released in 1968, starring TV rock group The Monkees, and distributed by Columbia Pictures. It was written and produced by Bob Rafelson and Jack Nicholson, and directed by Rafelson.

Head begins at the dedication of a bridge; 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, 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 film was a flop, grossing $16,111 with a $750,000 budget, and was one of the factors that led to the band's demise. Audience and critical reception were both poor; it was too trippy to appeal to established fans of the band, its actual target audience being the same people who hated their TV show. Through the years, however, it was Vindicated by History, along with the band itself, and became a Cult Classic, standing as an example of pure weirdness matched by very few films of the era.

It's so weird, three That Guy with the Glasses members are necessary for a review.

Tropes:

  • All There in the Script: Very few of the guest characters' names are mentioned onscreen. They can be gleaned from the end credits, but if you don't know the actors involved, you won't know who is who. For instance, do you know which character Lord High 'N' Low is?note 
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: One of the vignettes is a commercial where the Monkees play dandruff flakes on Victor Mature's head. Later, a giant Mature is among those chasing the boys at the end.
  • Avoid the Dreaded G Rating: Inverted: Head was (and is) rated G, probably because it was released when the MPAA rating system was brand new and the G rating didn't yet mean "for little kids only". Given the film's trippy atmospherenote  and occasional violence, it would almost certainly get a PG or PG-13 today.
  • Belly Dancer: Featured in the "Can You Dig It?" sequence.
  • Berserk Button: Mike really, really doesn't like surprises. And that includes Christmas.
  • Borrowed Catchphrase: Frank Zappa 's cow says: "Monkees is the craziest peoples!" This is a direct reference to an old catch phrase from radio and film comedian Lew Lehr.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Almost constantly, even more so than the TV series, and a lot more cynically or dramatically.
    • Some are in-jokes, like the big Black Box on the set they find themselves in.
    • Perhaps the only known instance of Breaking The Second Wall: Micky, in the frontier scene with Teri Garr, gets fed up with the farce that is acting and tears a hole in the scenic backdrop to leave.
    • In the same scene, Teri Garr's character (in a character) dies, whom Micky revives by kicking and saying "Come on lady, you're not even dead." Inverted: Garr's character is confused that she's actually alive.
    • The end of the diner scene when Peter storms off and the crew start milling into the shot (and we see Nicholson and Hopper).
  • The Cameo: Several: Annette Funicello, Frank Zappa, Dennis Hopper, Sonny Liston, Toni ("Mickey") Basil, Ray Nitschke, a young Teri Garr, Victor Mature, Carol Doda and even Jack Nicholson himself. Although Nicholson and Hopper are cases of Retroactive Recognition as they were only producers of the movie and weren't yet famous actors.
  • Dada Ad/What Were They Selling Again?: One reason that Head may have failed at the box office was its bizarre television ads which consisted solely of a continuous shot of advertising consultant John Brockman’s face with the word "Head" superimposed on it at the end. The spots never mentioned that it starred the Monkees... or even that Head was a movie.
    • This can be credited almost exclusively to Executive Meddling, though. Even the Monkees themselves didn't understand the marketing strategy. Peter Tork later criticized "those two-minute commercials for Head that were so avant-garde as to be positively repulsive."
    • The spots were a parody of Andy Warhol's experimental film Blow Job, which would still be well outside the scope of public familiarity.
  • Erudite Stoner: Peter, especially during his philosophical and psychedelic monologue.
  • Giant Eye Of Doom: Davy is spooked by a giant eye inside a medicine cabinet.
  • Hammerspace: Davy's cannon at the climax of the film.
  • Heartbeat Soundtrack: Preceding the "Happy Birthday"/"Long Title" sequence.
  • Here We Go Again: They did some of the major bits twice (i.e. the boxing scene, the factory tour, the bridge ceremony, the Porpoise Song, and stuff).
  • How We Got Here: The Monkees running and interrupting the bridge-opening ceremony is explained later.
  • Intentionally Awkward Title: Rumor has it that Head was titled as such so that when Rafelson and Nicholson released their next film Easy Rider, it could be promoted as being "from the guys who gave you Head". Also an obvious drug reference.
  • Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Inverted. Peter recites his highly intelligent philosophical monologue (as passed down by his Old Master, the Swami), and literally forces the Monkees to listen to him. He then goes on to say: “But then, why should I speak…since I know nothing?”
  • Mind Screw
  • Mirror Routine
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: The Swami (played by Abraham Sofaer) is clearly modeled on Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (one of a handful of references to The Beatles in the film).
  • Pie in the Face: Peter, by an angry waitr(ess) near the end of the movie.
  • Random Events Plot: More "random events" than "plot", and done deliberately.
  • Scary Surprise Party: Michael was lured to his own death…err…birthday party.
    • Funny they didn't celebrate Davy's birthday, too (both were born on December 30).
  • Scenery Porn: The footage of the individual Monkees strolling through natural settings during "As We Go Along".
  • Shirtless Scene: Micky and Davy.
  • The Something Song: "Porpoise Song" and "Daddy's Song".
  • Starts with a Suicide: The film starts off (and ENDS) with Micky Dolenz jumping off a bridge...which arguably makes the whole film his near-death hallucination.
  • Thirsty Desert: A shirtless Micky shamelessly beating up an empty Coke machine (and then proceeding to blow it up) in the middle of the barren desert. Signifies the film’s many fans’ Crowning Moment Of Awesome.
  • The Vietnam War: Several actual clips from the war are featured, as well as a scene with the Monkees as soldiers in battle.
  • Watch It Stoned: In a desperate last-ditch attempt to sell the movie, Columbia Pictures added a blurb from New York Times reviewer Renata Adler to its poster: "Head is a film to see if you've been smoking grass". Except, Adler hated the movie and that line was meant to be an insult.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Micky and Peter both punch women in the face during the movie (though in Peter's case, it's actually a man in drag).
  • You Look Familiar: Vito Scotti, who plays the man who surrenders his tank to Micky in the desert, appeared in the TV series as Dr. Marcovich in the episode "The Case of the Missing Monkee".

The MonkeesFranchise/The MonkeesMichael Nesmith
HäxanCreator/The Criterion CollectionHeaven Can Wait 1943
Hang 'Em HighFilms of the 1960sHellfighters
HancockCreator/Columbia PicturesHitch

alternative title(s): Head
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