The Monkees - Head
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176 of 180 people found the following review helpful
When this film was made the career of the Monkees was already in decline as their show had been cancelled and their music was no longer charting ('Porpoise Song' from the "Head" soundtrack got up to number 62 on Billboard). The group was tired of their squeaky clean image as the 'Pre-Fab Four', and they just wanted out. This film was conceived in an effort to reach out to more adult audiences, and to hasten their departure from the scenes as the prototype MTV 'boy band'.
The film itself is a quirky, stream of consciousness movie that treads the line between anti-war statement film to over the top comedy in scenes where, for instance, they have to frolic on the scalp of Victor Mature (in a sequence known as 'dandruff') and are subsequently sucked into a giant vacuum cleaner by Victor Mature's hairdresser. There is no plot as such, but there is some redeeming social commentary such as when Frank Zappa tells Davy that he needs to work on his music more (but compliments his dancing, done with Toni Basil). At the end of the scene Frank Zappa's cow offers her opinion of the Monkees, in a scene that must be my favorite of the movie.
Some of the music is great, with the Nesmith tune 'Circle Sky' getting top mention. It's a great song, filmed live in a scene designed to show how the boys had been devoured by their public image. Other musical numbers are a bit lacking, particularly 'Daddy's Song' and 'As We Go Along.'
Highlights in the film are in the cameos. Not only do Toni Basil and Frank Zappa put in appearances, so do boxer Sonny Liston (who fights Davy), Terry Garr (who pleads to have poison sucked from her finger), Annette Funicello (who pleads tearfully with Davy in a love interest scene), and Jack Nicholson and Dennis Hopper in a cantina scene. Most peculiar of all credits are for writers and producers, namely longtime Monkees collaborator Bob Rafelson, and Jack Nicholson, who later collaborated on "Five Easy Pieces" and "The Postman Always Rings Twice", among other projects.
There are also extras consisting of theatrical trailers, including one in Portuguese, and television ads for the film. The film was essentially not promoted, certainly didn't connect with the typical Monkee demographic, and was a disaster at the box office. This didn't trouble the band, as it gave them a clear path out, with Peter quitting very shortly after the movie was released. This is as unlike the Monkees TV show as can be imagined, and I recommend it for anyone looking for a trippy sixties flashback stranger than most any other. I was fortunate enough to see this in a theater, and have loved it ever since. I recommend the film to people who know about the Monkees or just think they do. I guarantee that it will shatter your preconceived notions of the band.
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90 of 92 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon January 23, 2005
Like all cult movies, "Head" contains unusual, unorthodox - even beautiful - moments interspersed with material that simply does not work. With "Head," the Monkees - the most maligned pop rock group of the 1960s - created some of the very best and biting sequences that have ever appeared in a rock movie. It's not as consistently brilliant as "A Hard Day's Night," "Almost Famous," or "This is Spinal Tap," but it's one of the very best rock films ever made.

Virtually everyone knows that the Monkees were American TV's attempt to harness some of the Beatles' electricity. Unfortunately for the Monkees, their TV debut almost perfectly coincided with "serious" rock criticism, which brutally mocked them as prefabricated, defamed them as hoaxes, and ridiculed their brand of Beach Boys-meet-British Invasion sound. Persecuted beyond belief, the Monkees were denied anything resembling hip status and their resentment of this treatment influenced the insights the band (along with Jack Nicholson) contributed to the screenplay.

In one memorable sequence, the Monkees are mobbed onstage after performing a song. They're ripped to pieces by their adoring fans, revealing they aren't human at all but merely robotic mannequins. In another, they change the lyrics to their TV theme song to admit they are nothing but soulless fakes. And, in sequences framing the beginning and end of the film, we have simulated suicides. All of this is accompanied by some of the most accomplished psychedelic pop any mainstream rock band recorded in the hippie era. (It's very fitting that "The Porpoise Song," which plays over the credits here, was resurrected in the similarly disturbing film "Vanilla Sky.") This is nightmarish, haunting material unlike that of any other rock film of the 1960s. To the Monkees, the last 1960s psychedelic revolution wasn't the dawn of Aquarius; it was Armeggedon.

Unfortunately, there are also a lot of injokes, and some hammy slapstick that would not have been out of place in the Monkees TV series. This ruined the pace of the film, and detracted from the Monkees' message. The DVD version of the film suffers further in not being widescreen, and requires minor restoration beyond what was done for the VHS release a few years ago.

This isn't a film for everyone. If you like to believe that rock and roll can change the world (or if rock is now totally irrelevant to you), you won't like this film. If, on the other hand, you love rock with a passion and aren't afraid to question the foundations of many of your rock beliefs, you will find many segments of this film rewarding.
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41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
on April 9, 1999
Upon release in 1968, Head must have seemed to serious movie and music audiences then what a Backstreet Boys movie would seem to us now. But what most didnt realize was that the Monkees were completely aware of the ludicrousness of their situation and were able to poke fun at themselves and their images. They were also a great rock band, something that music fans were for some reason in denial of. So the Monkees were stuck with the little girls, who lost interest by the time Head came out.And this is a shame, as Head not only is a wierd, hilarious snapshot of where the Monkees were situated in pop culture in the late 60's, but also a great example of late 60's experimental film-making. There is something truly different about Head, a sense that you have no idea where its going or why. The comedy is slightly high brow as well, not slapstick like the TV show. Not everyone will like it, but if you are a Monkees fan, prepare to be amazed. Be proud to show it to your friends!!!! The DVD unfortunately does not employ true widescreen, but "full screen widescreen" which I have yet to fully understand. The picture quality is varied. There are some sequences, like the opening "Porpoise Song" number, which are very scratchy and dotted, yet others look crystal clear. This may be the intent of the film-makers, yet I doubt it. The sound is great, and the many trailers and TV ads included are a treat, but a commentary track by the guys themselves would have been very welcome. An excellent edition to anyones DVD collection as it is, and you cant beat the price.
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on September 27, 2004
I'm not saying that there wasn't somethin being smoked when they wrote this but it's NOT just gibberish. The movement of the Monkees away from just being a pre-fab band was considered "suicide" by some and thus this film begins with Mickey jumping off a bridge. Get it? The direction the Monkees are moving in is "suicidal" because it's a major step in a completely different direction. They were no longer simply over dubbing voices on pre-written and performed musical tracks and in the film after Mickey takes the plunge the lyrics of Porpoise Song tells us that he wants to feel and know what's real because "an over dub has no choice it can not rejoice". RCA Victor wanted the Monkees to remain manufactured and a money making pop machine so in this film the Monkees make fun of that idea with lines like "the money's in - we're made of tin" and by blowing up what is portrayed as a highly popular but unsatisfying money making pop (Coke) machine. Get it? They also portray themselves as dandruff on the head of Victor (Mature) who are used to sell product and make money. Victor as in RCA Victor. Get it? Victor menaces the Monkees who try to get out of the box they keep being put in. Get it? There's more: there's a scene with rabid fans who rip them to pieces, there's satire of the idea that each Monkee has a sterotypical role to play (Pete's "the dummy"), Zappa gives excellent advice to Davy, there's war footage (more career suicide since their handlers wanted them to stay 'safe' and not be political) and even the age old saying that a hugely popular musical act could "sing 'Happy Birhday'" is here. Every manufactured movie cliche is spoofed also. This is an extremely symbolic but meaningful film. It's trippy and unlike anything else BUT it has something to say and DOES make sense if you get it.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on May 31, 2006
For years, like everyone else I slagged the Monkees off as nothing more than the 60's version of 'NSync. Which well, they were to a degree, but there is also a whole other side to this band that isn't generally known, and that is that eventually this came to be a group of REAL ARTISTS who had minds of their own and a vision. This movie, along with its soundtrack and the excellent Headquarters album, is proof. This is a classic of late 60's psychedelia. Written by the Monkees themselves and Jack Nicholson(!),there is no "plot" to speak of, just a series of increasingly bizarre, absurd and sometimes disturbing skits and imagery.Sometimes it doesn't work, but for the most part it does. Basically, this was the Monkees attempt to destroy their image as teenyboppers, challenge their audience, and start anew.The film starts with a chant that basically says "yep, we ARE fake, and it's all bs, kids", followed by the Monkees committing metaphorical suicide by jumping off a bridge, so the whole point of the film is obvious. In the artistic sense it was a success, but a commercial failure.I've read stories of little girls that were so upset when they saw this during its theatrical run that they ran out of the theater crying. Two scenes that stand out are the awesome live version of Circle Sky, with it's images of screaming teenage girls at a Monkees concert interspersed with disturbing images of the death and destruction of Vietnam, and an absolutely brilliant bit involving Mickey Dolens bashing the hell out of a Coke machine in the desert. There is a LOT of truth to the allegation that the Monkees were the Pre-fab Four, but in this instance the Monkees accomplished something the Beatles did not. Head succeeded where Magical Mystery Tour failed.This film is the perfect marriage of music, film, and socio-political commentary, by a group of guys that you would never expect. This shows just what a powerful marriage rock n' roll and film can be, and just what MTV could've been. It's one of the best rock films ever done, possibly THE best. This is proof that you shouldn't believe everything Rolling Stone tells you. Highly recommended.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on December 16, 2001
This movie goes right up to the top, together with The Beatle's
"Magical Mystery Tour" and "Easy Rider", as the movies which
define the psychedelic era.
The Monkees are legends and this movie is so cool because they (and the writers) make a lot of statements (such as the very obvious anti-Viet Nam war - and the fact that they can play live) to show the world that they are not just "tv puppets" controlled by the producers of their tv show.
Don't get fooled into thinking this is a feature-length hilarious adventure based on the tv series - as it's not. It is a wonderfully psychedelic, intelligent and cleverly written and well-acted movie which is full of wild imagination and sly humour, with some great in-jokes and cameos (if you can spot them) which any fan of late sixties music will enjoy. It's a more whackier version of The Beatles' "Help!" in my opinion...
Also, it's quite dark and bleak in its' depiction of the Monkees - they don't really act like the characters they play in the tv show, more rather they act near enough their real selves.
The scenes at the beginning and end of the movie where they jump off the bridge to the tune of "Porpoise Song" is one of the most beautifully filmed things I have ever seen and it always brings a lump to my throat and a few tears to my eyes. It is like the movie's basically saying: This is the end of the Monkees (which turned out to be the case near enough)...
This movie practically killed The Monkees career but they did go one step beyond the bizarre zone with their final tv outing: the ultra-psychedelic tv special "33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee". All I can say about that one is: See it to believe it, man!!
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on November 1, 2005
What can I say about a movie where, in its first few minutes, the prefab pop-culture TV phenoms the Monkees commit suicide by jumping off a bridge? And then the movie just gets even weirder from there!

All I can say is that it's a freakin' classic! This is one of my favorite movies of all time!

The conventional story behind this movie is that the screenwriters--including Director Bob Rafelson, the Monkees, and Jack Nicholson (yes, THAT Jack Nicholson)--came up with this film's rather diffuse storyline while doping it up in a secluded hotel room somewhere. But the truth of the matter is that this is a very smart, very well-constructed film that deals sardonically with fame, consumerism, commercialism, war, and 1960s pop culture in general. Despite its wild psychedelic trappings (and there are many), by the time the movie's over, it WILL make sense to you. You will need to (and want to) watch it another time or two to truly "get it", but inevitably you will.

People who aren't Monkees fans will probably be scratching their HEADs for 85 minutes, but anyone who IS a Monkees fan will at least appreciate some of the best music that the group ever generated, including Carole King's "The Porpoise Song" and "As We Go Along", and Mike Nesmith's own "Circle Sky".

This is an amazing film that is way, WAY aHEAD of its time, including a lot of optical tricks that could even be used today. This is not the kind of movie that you should rent for your family, though, when the latest "Harry Potter" is not on the rack at the video store. It's a film that you need to watch when you just want to check your brain at the door and let the possibilities and excitement of late-'60s filmmaking wash over you. If that seems like something you would enjoy even in the slightest, then you will be in absolute heaven with this movie.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on March 10, 2000
"Head" remains, without a doubt, the strangest movie I have ever seen. I was aware, before viewing, of the fact that this was not at all like a Monkees TV show episode, and that the Monkees were trying to branch out on their own and do something artistic and outside of their image, a bit like "Magical Mystery Tour." I was still unprepared for the utter bizareness of this. Necessarily, it is a mixed bag. There are some good songs, some brilliant sequences (particularly the Jones black and white, white and black dance scene) and some wild creative fun. But overall this is a busy film that may leave one feeling at a loss, if not a bit sick; not because the film is gross or anything, just because it is so rapid-fire pointless.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on January 7, 2002
This is now one of my favorite movies. If you're looking for more of the innocent hijinx from the show, this movie might not be for you. If you're not a fan of the Monkees, but you're into the whole 60's thing of not making any sense due to being on hard drugs for most of the decade, or if you're an obsessed fan of the Monkees and looking for many different ways to obsess, then this movie is definitely for you. The plot is really muddled, but was intended to be anyway. It starts out with Davy, Micky, Mike, and Peter running from a mob of people, onto the Brooklyn Bridge and committing suicide over the edge and into the water below. The music is good. Songs written by Peter Tork, Carole King, Mike Nesmith... Watch for cameos by Annette Funacello, Frank Zappa, Jack Nicholson (he helped write it). Good cinematography, good songs, good movie. Didn't do well at the box office due to promotion issues and lack of similarity to the show. Developed a cult following in later years.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on June 25, 2001
There are some that say the sixties weren't as wonderful as they are, and for those naysayers, we have HEAD, the Monkees' only film, directed by Bob Rafaelson and co-written by Smilin' Jack Nicholson. The movie is a marvel--unsuspectedly so--in so many areas of craft, expertise, and deliberate artistry that one is flabberghasted by what only SEEMS to be slapdash and happenstance. A sixties mind-bender? An LSD-induced psychodrama? Possibly. But HEAD features so much good music, so much good acting, so much humor, and so much all around technical brio, that it must be ranked up near 2001: A Space Odyssey as one of those "artifacts from the sixties" that put to shame much of the current CGI-generated trash and guano. Without "computer effects"--and with good-old fashioned analog inventiveness, as in the miraculous solarization effects, HEAD proves to even the casual viewer to be a remarkable piece of work. The Monkees could certainly act better than almost any "prefab" group cobbled together since then, from New Kids on the Block to In Sync to Boyz 2 Men. The music? Well, it was the Monkees, which was the Beatles, which was a paragon of popular music for its all-around quality. The question is, for the modern viewer--as opposed to the old hippy who may have seen this film while sucking on a hash pipe in the Haight thirty years ago--is the film entertaining? See for yourself. And if the film is good in terms of the basic prerequisites of entertainment, it STILL packs a wallop as social satire, putting the spikes, prickles, and poniards in such worthy targets as consumerism, media overload, and the cloaca of "showbiz." HEAD is, in that respect, STILL--er--"with it" and "relevant" today. Buy this film. Sure. It's an inflated twenty bucks. But don't blame the producers for trying to earn a buck in a devalued-dollar society. HEAD is actually one of those flicks that's WORTH the post-Alan Greenspan buckeroos. So drop out and tune in, brothers and sisters. This HEAD will turn yours around.
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