Head: The Monkees Film…Is A Movie

Michael Nesmith, Peter Tork, Davy Jones and Mickey Dolenz in Head. Courtesy of Sony.

Head, the 1968 psychedelic film starring The Monkees and co-written by Jack Nicholson, is a movie that is largely without a plot.

After the passing of Michael Nesmith, I decided that I would finally get around to watching Head. Unfortunately, because of my schedule, I finally got around to watching the 85-minute long film on Friday afternoon. In December 2010, The Criterion Collection released the film on Blu-ray and DVD as a way of celebrating Bob Rafelson, Bert Schneider, and Steve Blauner. The Monkees would not exist without the trio. However, the band would have been better off without doing the film. Seriously. While the film would go onto develop a cult following over the years, I’m just not a fan. I give them points for trying but that’s about it. The film doesn’t really feature the kind of pop songs we know and love. Instead, it features a psychedelic feel that describes the end of the 1960s with a genuine hit song.

The back of the Head DVD describes the film as “a kaleidoscopic satire that’s movie homage, media send-up, concert movie, and antiwar cry all at once.” That’s definitely one way of putting it. This film does not have a plot as it is nothing more than watching a series of vignettes and musical performances on screen. This is a film that is not going to be for everyone and yes, this also includes fans of The Monkees. If it is the kind of film that you like, well, you do you. It’s worth checking out just for curiosity but that’s really about it. Personally, I do not expect to rewatch Head again.

For all that is bad about the film, there are also some highlights. The film’s theme song, “Porpoise Song,” is one of their best songs. It is set against the typical psychedelic vibe that one expects to see during the late 1960s. Outside of this, there’s a performance of “Circle Sky,” also featured on the Justus album in 1996 with new lyrics. Overall, the soundtrack is simply darker and does not feature any Boyce and Hart songs at all.

Suffice it to say that Head is very much a film of its era, psychedelic and all. Unlike A Hard Day’s Night and Help!, the film does not really have a plot. The film has elements that can certainly be found in the likes of Magical Mystery Tour and Yellow Submarine. At the end of the day, The Monkees are not The Beatles. You can see why they mesh well together but the filmmakers should have waited until they had a cohesive script before going into production.

Jack Nicholson, who produced and co-wrote the film, also has a cameo in a scene with Dennis Hopper. Nicholson and Hopper’s cameos both come during a restaurant scene. The cameo came one year before Nicholson broke out as a far in Hopper’s directorial debut, Easy Rider, in which also starred Hopper.

Could things be different? Certainly.

DIRECTOR: Bob Rafaelson
SCREENWRITERS: Bob Rafaelson and Jack Nicholson
CAST: Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, Peter Tork, with Victor Mature, Annette Funicello, Carol Doda, Frank Zappa, Teri Garr, Sonny Liston

Columbia released Head in theaters on November 6, 1968. Grade: 2.5/5

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.