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USA 1968
Directed by
Bob Rafelson
90 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

Head

The brainchild of Bob Rafelson who kick-started his career as a director with it and running between between 1966 and 1968, The Monkees was a TV sitcom about the merry pranks of a Beatles-like pop band that.  The show became a huge with the the "Prefab Four" -  Micky Dolenz, Mike Nesmith, Davy Jones and Peter Tork - as they were unkindly but not inaccurately called at height of their fame outselling both the Beatles and the Rolling Stones combined . 

Although they were hired to play characters and were never actually a band in the usual sense of the word (Rafelson had originally intended The Lovin’ Spoonful to be the band in question but this fell through due to contractual arrangements. The Monkees' songs were largely written by Tin Pan Alley songsmiths like Neil Diamond and Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart with studio musos playing the instruments), their phenomenal  success inspired them to seek some degree of artistic legitimacy (the band kept going until 1971)

The result was Head, co-produced and co-written by Rafelson with Jack Nicholson ( they would again pool their talents for Five Easy Pieces (1970) and The King Of Marvin Gardens (1972) in which the boys set out to deconstruct their commodification and the illusionism of the entertainment industry in general, tossing in a few groovy Beatle-ish tunes with psychedelics visuals (as well as one awful flower-power ballad).

The result is however a far-from-compelling film lacking even the coherence of the 1967 Roger Corman/Jack Nicholson Zietgeist movie The Trip, being more of a free-wheeling montage of self-referential parody, sight gags, industry in-jokes, snippets of old movies and newsreels and cameo appearances  from the likes of Victor Mature, Annette Funicello, Sonny Liston, Frank Zappa including T.C. Jones in his pre-Divine days. The influence of A Hard Day’s Night (1964) is readily apparent

It’s not particularly clever or funny and I can’t imagine it being much better if you were stoned (surprisingly, despite the Monkees' popularity  it did no business on release largely thanks to poor distribution), but for those so disposed, it does have some passing charm as a window on more innocent  times.

 

 

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