Head (1968) Poster



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Co-writer Jack Nicholson actually compiled the movie soundtrack in its final form, with snippets of the movie dialogue between songs, and is so credited on the album cover. (When he saw Michael Nesmith at work in the studio and asked if he could help, Nesmith let him take over, because "I just want to go home".) Nicholson had unwavering enthusiasm for the movie, joining in a stickering campaign to promote the premiere, and declaring later that "I saw it, like, 158 million times, man. I loved it!"
Five years after its premiere, the movie was shown in a 1973 Raybert retrospective, along with Five Easy Pieces (1970) and Easy Rider (1969), and finally gained a positive response from fans and critics.
Mireille Machu, the girl who kisses all four Monkees near the start of the film, was co-writer Jack Nicholson's girlfriend at the time.
The movie's origin was in Ojai, California, where The Monkees, producer/director Bob Rafelson and writer Jack Nicholson spent a weekend in a resort motel verbally tossing story ideas into a tape recorder. This became the script for this film.
For fear a Monkees movie would keep serious movie critics and moviegoers away, the producers decided on a promotional campaign that emphasized the film had nothing to do with The Monkees.
A misleading ad campaign (featuring a balding man's face and no mention of The Monkees), combined with a poorly timed release date (due to postproduction delays) of 6 November 1968, two months after The Monkees (1966) show was canceled, sabotaged this otherwise fun-loving crowd-pleaser at the box office. It made a meager $16,111 in ticket sales.
This film intersperses film clips featuring John Brockman (who engineered this film's promotional campaign) and The Rockettes, and scenes from the following movies: Gilda (1946), Golden Boy (1939), Jam Session (1944), Salome (1953), and The Black Cat (1934).
Peter Tork whistles the chorus to "Strawberry Fields Forever" by The Beatles when entering a restroom.
There are no opening credits.
The "box" shown in several scenes in the film was inspired by a large square booth that was built for The Monkees during the filming of their TV show. Between takes, they grew bored and wandered around the studio, often getting lost, so studio brass had a large "room" built for them in one of the sound stages. According to one of the Monkees, they would spend time there studying their scripts, composing and playing music, and smoking (which they were forbidden to do on the set). Colored lights were added to the room to page whoever was needed on the set.
Peter Tork was the only one of The Monkees to appear on the set for the first scheduled day of filming--the others had decided to strike, in protest against not being allowed to write and direct the movie themselves. While they soon returned, feeling they'd made their point with producers Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider, the unity between the band and the producers was forever broken. For their part, Rafelson and Schneider began playing albums on the set by other groups like Electric Flag, claiming, "That's REAL rock-n-roll."
Veteran actor Victor Mature agreed to appear in the movie after reading the script, admitting none of it made sense to him: "All I know is it makes me laugh." His character "The Big Victor" is presumed to be a comic jab at RCA Victor Records, which was the distributors for The Monkees records, and which also owned NBC, which aired their TV series.
The Coca-Cola Co. reportedly wasn't amused at The Monkees' take on then-current Coke commercials (desert wanderer Micky Dolenz faces off against an uncooperative soda machine, as a jingle plays), and tried to get an injunction against the movie. When the movie reappeared on cable and home video in 1986, Columbia Pictures was owned by Coca-Cola, and the issue apparently forgotten.
The "box" that The Monkees keep getting trapped in and attempt to escape from is symbolic of television, as the real Monkees felt trapped in what they considered to be their increasingly silly TV show. They wanted to "escape" the show in order to express themselves with no boundaries to their creativity. The first realization of this freedom was, in fact, the film "Head."
Lee Kolima plays the security guard. Lee was also in 2 episodes of The Monkees (1966) ("The Spy Who Came In From The Cool" and "Devil And Peter Tork").
Michael Nesmith's birthday party sequence was shot at Paramount Studios on a set from Rosemary's Baby (1968). It featured 100 extras and pop artist Edward Kienholz, whose 1964 sculpture "Back Seat Dodge '38" was featured on set.
Micky Dolenz filmed his underwater rescue by the mermaids in the Bahamas.
Rumors abound that the title was chosen in case a sequel was made. The advertisements would supposedly have read: "From the people who gave you HEAD."
In many scenes, only three of The Monkees are shown together, with the fourth completely out of the scene. This is a reference to the "three monkeys": see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.
Had its television broadcast premiere on "The CBS Late Movie" (1972) Monday, December 30, 1974 (Michael Nesmith's 32nd birthday, and Davy Jones' 29th), at 11:30 pm (EST), airing opposite The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (1962) on NBC and The Gator Bowl (Texas Longhorns versus Auburn Tigers) on ABC. CBS repeated the film on Monday, July 7, 1975, also @ 11:30 PM (EDT), against "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" on NBC, and "Wide World Mystery" (1973) on ABC.
The Monkees wanted to be involved in this project from start to finish. When they learned they would be denied screenwriting credit, all but Peter Tork decided to rebel by failing to show up on the first day of shooting, 11 February 1968.
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When it was finally edited together into a cohesive whole, it ran 10 minutes short of an unprecedented 2 hours! A poor audience response at an August 1968 screening in Los Angeles eventually forced the producers to edit the picture down to 86 minutes.
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Final film of Tor Johnson.
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John Brockman, whose head was used for the infamous ad campaign upon the film's 1968 release, can be seen in the movie exactly 78 minutes in, in much the same pose.
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An uncredited party guest, Linda Haines was soon to become Mrs. Davy Jones only weeks after giving birth to their first daughter, Talia (second daughter Sarah followed three years later).
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Pauline Kael, acclaimed film critic for The New Yorker, briefly reviewed what portion of the film she saw, but admitted in print that she walked out after about an hour.
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Vito Scotti plays the Italian army tank driver I. Viteloni, an homage to the classic Italian film I Vitelloni (1953).


Dennis Hopper:  right behind Jack Nicholson, wearing brown.
Jack Nicholson:  after Peter Tork punches a guy in drag.
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