Monkees vs Macheen: “Monkees Marooned”

“Just sit right back, and you’ll hear a tale”

“Monkees Marooned” debuted October 30, 1967 and begins as many episodes do, with Peter getting into trouble. He walks around town and plays his acoustic guitar. An unseen man summons him, offering to show him some “good pictures.” Peter agrees, “I’d love to. I haven’t seen a good picture since Carnival in Costa Rica with Dick Haymes and Vera-Ellen.” That’s the first of MANY Hollywood mentions in this episode. Leonard Sheldon shows him the baby picture from “The Picture Frame.” He wants Peter to buy a map of Blackbeard’s treasure. I wondered why they were so specific to mention Leonard Sheldon’s name since it’s such a small part. According to Monkees Tripod site, it’s in homage to Sheldon Leonard, producer of television shows such as The Andy Griffith Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show, and I Spy. (Possibly Big Bang Theory main character names Leonard and Sheldon are also paying homage.) Peter doesn’t have any money so Leonard offers to trade him for the guitar. Peter isn’t suspicious at all when Leonard hides from a cop walking by. He makes the trade and leaves with the map. A moment later, Mike walks by and Leonard tries and fails to sell him the guitar. Monkees stand-in David Price is in the background of that scene.

At the dock, Mike, Micky, and Davy pick on Peter for his gullibility. Mike tries to move on, “it’s no use in crying over spilt milk.” Micky and Davy mock Mike for his Fatherly proverb use: “A stitch in time saves nine” and “A watched pot never boils.” Mike announces that they’re going to go find the treasure. Cut to Davy already in the row boat, fantasizing that he’s in the Revolutionary War. Davy doesn’t believe it when the others tell him he’s got too much stuff on the boat, but when they “launch the ship,” at his command, he sinks.

The Monkees row the boat ashore on a deserted island, check the treasure map, and go off in some direction that they hope is north. On the same island, Monte Landis as Major Pshaw sleeps on a wicker chair. Thursday, his right hand man, lazily fans him while watching “Monkee See, Monkee Die,” “The Chaperone,” and “Captain Crocodile” on a television. “Who writes that stuff?” he asks. The writer of this episode was Stanley Ralph Ross, who also wrote the episode “Wild Monkees.”

The Monkees wander the island and accidentally hit a trip wire, which alerts Major Pshaw to their presence. At the hut, Pshaw jumps up from his chair, shouting “Sound the alarm!” Thursday plays the “Charge!” cavalry bugle call on a trumpet. In the chaos, Pshaw accidentally fires his rifle.

As Pshaw and Thursday hunt for the Monkees, Pshaw explains that he’s been on the island for ten years looking for the treasure and he’s not going to let anyone steal it. Thursday is an admittedly politically incorrect stereotype of a “native” islander, but his costume includes some unexpected touches, such as a kilt and black boots. The relationship between Pshaw and Thursday is a parody of the 18th century fantasy story, Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe. Crusoe is shipwrecked on the “Island of Despair,[It’s not going to show up in any tourist brochures – Editor’s Note]” and in one of his adventures he rescues and befriends a native islander and names him “Friday.” Well, Friday is Crusoe’s friend and servant. It’s a complicated relationship. In “Monkees Marooned,” Thursday is clearly at least twice as smart as Pshaw, and I imagine that he’s really from Los Angeles and hangs around Pshaw for some scheme of his own.

As the Monkees swat at insects, Mike casually sings the theme to a 1950s’ television show called Jungle Jim. Monkees director of photography, Irving Lippman, was director of photography for Jungle Jim as well as cinematographer for a couple of Tarzan movies in 1966-67. Micky uses his insect spray and discovers it attracts insects. The editors treat us to footage of a stop-motion Pterodactyl, just to make it more ridiculous. Distracted, the Monkees step right into Pshaw’s net and Pshaw pulls them up with a crane.

At Pshaw’s hut, he announces to the Monkees that it’s his practice to shoot all trespassers. Davy pleads, as a fellow Englishman, for a head start. (Landis plays Pshaw with a British accent.) Thursday has a cringe-worthy line: “White man speaks with straight tongue.” But his words convince Pshaw, who agrees to be “it.” Pshaw starts counting as though it were a game of hide and seek. The Monkees run off and hide on the island. This bit is a parody of the “The Most Dangerous Game” [Let’s not forget Deadly Prey! – Editor’s Note] short story by Richard Connell (1924). The main character, Samuel Rainsford, is stranded on a deserted island and hunted by General Zaroff and his servant, Ivan. Too bad Pshaw is only a Major.

The Monkees rush for the shore but find their boat is missing, “It’s gone!” Peter starts to cry and Mike advises that crying won’t get him anywhere. Micky points out (showbiz-reference style), “I don’t know, look what it did for Barbara Stanwyck.” Speaking of references, this episode is also a parody of Gilligan’s Island, the popular 1960’s television show about seven stranded castaways. (You know, in case you never heard of it.) Honestly, I would have appreciated fewer Hollywood/literary references and more actual story.

Next, the Monkees come across episode director James Frawley, dressed in white safari garb. Mike inquires, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” For the record, Dr. Livingstone was an 18th-Century British missionary, explorer, anti-slavery crusader, scientific investigator, and national hero. (Geez, now I feel like an underachiever.) While in Africa, Dr. David Livingstone lost contact with the outside world and journalist Henry Morton Stanley was sent to look for him. Finding him in Ujiji, Tanzania, Stanley’s legendary first words to him were “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” Frawley, dressed more like Stanley than Livingstone, introduces himself as Dr. Schwarzkopf and tries to sell his services to the uninterested Monkees.

Pshaw and Thursday stop to ask a stock-footage snake where the Monkees went; the snake “points” with his tail. Thursday is unimpressed with his morals, calling him a “dirty snake in the grass.” Meanwhile, Mike suggests the Monkees split up. The other three misinterpret that the band is over and Micky starts singing The Monkees theme. Mike clarifies they have a better shot at hiding individually, and they head off in different directions. As usual, Mike’s job in this episode is to be the voice of reason while the others act like children.

At this point, it would have been nice if the Monkees had used some creativity. Maybe they could have come up with a plan to stop Pshaw from killing them or trick him into giving them a boat or other way off the island; in other words take over the situation as they have been known to do. Instead, they meet another wacky character/walking literary reference. A Tarzan-like jungle call scares the Monkees back into a huddle. Kimba, a senior-citizen version of Tarzan, the iconic jungle hero of novels, comics, films, and much more, comes swinging in on a vine and crashes in the trees.

Kimba of the Jungle speaks a long sentence in a “strange” tongue, but Peter understands him. He asks Kimba to repeat himself; Kimba just says “Kretch.” Peter translates an entire back-story: Kimba was left behind by a movie company, and the actress who played his wife ran off with a casting director. Mike points out “All he said was Kretch!” Peter, “Well, it’s not the word, it’s the way he said it.” Kimba agrees to hide them. They hear gunshots, and there’s a funny sight gag as the sound turns out to be Thursday playing the noise on a tape recorder.

After pulling Kimba out of quicksand, Mike explains that Pshaw’s trying to kill them. Kimba agrees to use his Tarzan-like powers to call the animals for help, “Apes, lions, elephants.” He calls but they get no help from these stock footage animals: a sleeping lion, an ape making an exasperated gesture, and an elephant heading away. The Monkees are left holding cute little animals: a chicken, rabbit, cat, and a puppy. It’s quite a made-for-Tiger Beat moment. (Well, maybe not the chicken.) Micky notices their footprints and freaks that they’ve been going in circles. The others break the fourth wall to explain that it’s just a small set. They mention The Lone Ranger and how he always rides by the same rock, and so on.

Thursday and Pshaw split up in order to search better. Fortunately, the Monkees run into Thursday first. Davy bounces off Thursday’s impressive torso and asks, “Didn’t I see you in a Stewart Granger movie?,” referring to shipwreck movie, The Little Hut. Davy asks if he left “Major P-shaw,” and setting up a running gag, Mike corrects him, “Shaw!” Thursday knows where the boat is and decides they can all escape when the Major goes to sleep. He wants to join them. Yeah! Though I wish the Monkees were the ones coming up with ideas, it being their show and all.

I really enjoy Rupert Crosse, the charming and funny actor who played Thursday. Sadly, he died in 1973. Interesting Monkees-related trivia, Rupert Crosse later co-starred on the television show The Partners as Detective George Robinson. Another Monkees guest cast actor, Godfrey Cambridge (the parking lot attendant from “It’s a Nice Place to Visit”), was originally cast in that role but he didn’t get along with the star and show creator – none other than Get Smart’s Don Adams. Crosse was also a good friend of actor and Head co-writer Jack Nicholson and was one of the actors Nicholson mentioned in his Oscar speech for As Good as It Gets.

Thursday hides the Monkees in the Major’s hut, figuring it’s the one place Pshaw won’t look. But Pshaw comes in firing his gun and asks if they have any last words. They all start muttering different things: “Mary had a little lamb,” “Four scores and seven years ago” etc. Thursday says, “Sock it to me” over and over, a phrase used in the Monkees tune “Goin’ Down” and of course in “Respect” by Aretha Franklin. (Phrase popularized by Laugh-in after this episode aired.)

Pshaw suggests his methods of killing them, inviting quick cut-away fantasies. Hurray, fantasies! They didn’t do these as much in season two. Pshaw’s first suggestion, boiling in polyunsaturated oil, leads to a shot of Davy bathing in a pot on the beach. Peter gets a manicure at Pshaw’s suggestion of “bamboo under the fingernails.” Pshaw’s threat to “expose you to the ants” results in a scene Mike politely-awkwardly greeting a small group of “aunts.” No one is better at politely awkward than Mike. The most absurd suggestion is the “tongue lashing” the Pshaw gives Micky.

Peter realizes Pshaw is looking for the treasure without a map, so he offers his. Pshaw quotes Looney Tunes character Sylvester the Cat with his shout of, “Suffering Succotash!” The treasure was right under the hut. After two seconds of digging with bare hands, Davy declares he’s found it and they bring out a wooden chest. Pshaw dreams of gold but when he opens it, an old woman in a Jane costume pops out and hits Pshaw with an umbrella. Jane, played by Georgia Schmidt, is Kimba’s leading lady. Kimba and Jane have a romantic reunion and the Monkees happily look on. A romp to “Daydream Believer” (John Stewart) begins. This is the second episode in a row that ended with the Monkees reuniting a couple. How sweet.

In the romp, various characters come out of the trunk, including Peter Tork’s stand-in David Pearl as a photographer. They also bring back the guy in the gorilla suit, previously seen in “Monkees on the Line” and “Monkees Chow Mein.” The romp itself is pointless; the story already wrapped up. There’s a shot of Micky crossing the wooden bridge edited with shot of traffic below from the “Case of the Missing Monkee.” We also see our old friend, Reptilicus.

In the tag sequence, Peter runs into Leonard Sheldon on the street again, who offers to sell him Liverpool. Peter has learned something and he summons the cop from the beginning. The cop turns around and tries to sell him Cleveland. Peter walks off in disgust. Yeah Peter! Next, is the Rainbow Room performance of “What am I Doing Hangin’ ‘Round” (Murphey/Castleman) with the Mexican cantina décor from “It’s a Nice Place to Visit” in the background.

“Monkees Marooned” has a lot of good lines and sight gags as well as funny performances from the guest cast. It’s still watchable, but my complaint is that the Monkees are so passive in “Monkees Marooned.” Everything just happens to them once they get to the island. They spend a lot of time reacting to the weirdness of Pshaw, Kimba, and the delightful Thursday. There’s no point where they ever try to fool or thwart Pshaw; their own brand of craziness never gets the chance to come out and play. Even when the Monkees are innocent victims of some villain, at some point in an episode I expect them to execute a scheme of their own; it’s a bummer that it never happened in this one. Literary and Hollywood references aren’t enough to make an episode work.

by Bronwyn Knox

Every couple of weeks, “Monkees vs. Macheen” examines the crazy, spirited, Ben Franks-type world of the Pre-Fab Four: David Jones, Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, and Peter Tork alias The Monkees.

 

Monkees vs Macheen: “Hillbilly Honeymoon” (a.k.a. “Double Barrel Shotgun Wedding”)

“Y’all come back now, y’hear!”

“Hillbilly Honeymoon” aka “Double Barrel Shotgun Wedding” was written by Peter Meyerson and directed by James Frawley. Meyerson wrote eight Monkees episodes including the debut episode “Royal Flush,” and the very similar-in-plot episode, (it’s doppelganger you might say) “Prince and the Paupers.” This episode debuted October 23, 1967 and was filmed September 12-15, 1967, after their big 1967 July 8-Aug 27 summer tour. The Monkees have a new look in the episodes that were shot from September onward. Micky’s curly hair is the most noticeable, but the Monkees started dressing in what I’d call a more “hippy” look and Mike didn’t always wear the green hat.

The story begins with the Monkees lost and driving their Monkeemobile through a small town that’s divided by a white line. On either side are two feuding families, the Weskitts and Chubbers. The Monkees ask for directions, but gun-toting Weskitts and Chubbers warn them to stay on the white line. The Weskitts and Chubbers parody the Hatfield and McCoy real-life family feud that occurred between two rural families in the West Virginia and Kentucky area from 1863-1891. Mike sends Davy to follow the white line out of town and find some help.

Davy starts to walk the line but gets pulled into a haystack by a pretty young woman in pig-tails, Ella Mae Chubber. She kisses him (with a pop sound effect) and then has the nerve to warn him her boyfriend won’t like it. Ella Mae resembles Elly May Clampett from The Beverly Hillbillies with her name, hair, and costume. The other three main characters in “Hillbilly Honeymoon” also have Beverly Hillbillies counterparts: Maw equals Granny, Paw resembles Jed, and Jud is a Jethro type. The Monkees were parodying this popular television show that ran from 1962-1971. Both are “fish out of water” stories: The Beverly Hillbillies is about a group of hillbillies trying to navigate their way through society in Beverly Hills, while “Hillbilly Honeymoon” has our California boys trapped in hillbilly country. Admittedly the “Hillbilly Honeymoon” versions of these characters are lot nastier, in a fun way of course.

Paw points his rifle at Davy and Ella Mae and makes it clear Davy has to marry her. Jud Weskitt approaches with his rifle and makes it clear Davy’s going to die for kissing Ella Mae, because she’s his girl. Since Ella Mae’s a Chubber and Jud is a Weskitt, I can add Romeo and Juliet to the list of things parodied in “Hillbilly Honeymoon.”

After the opening theme, Ella Mae tries to keep Paw and Jud from killing both Davy and each other. Micky pops into the frame and tries to talk the men out of fighting but they just shove rifles in his face. Micky and Davy run off, and the two feuding clans start shooting at each other, accompanied by banjo music. There’s lots of bullets flying around but no deaths occur that we see. Micky pops up in the haystack and Ella wants to kiss him now. He points out he’s not Davy but she kisses him anyway. Micky responds, “Well, I tried,” and makes out with her. Now Paw wants Micky to marry Ella Mae because she’s about to turn 16 and he doesn’t want anyone calling her an “old maid.” Yep, those kind of stereotypes. Paw takes Mike, Micky, and Peter away at gunpoint. Maw tricks Davy into thinking she’s a helpless old lady and asks him to help her cross the street. As a reward for his kind service, she and Jud kidnap him.

At Maw and Jud’s, cabin, Jud wants to put Davy into his vat to make liquor out of him while Maw explains the health benefits of anger and hate. At Paw and Ellie’s cabin, Paw wants to know which Monkee will marry Ella. Micky, Mike, and Peter eagerly volunteer Davy. Paw points out that Jud’s got Davy and going to get him will get them shot. All three declare in unison, “We’ll risk it.” Paw agrees to send Micky and keep the other two but Ella wants one for herself. She approaches Mike, “I think you’re cute.” Mike breaks the fourth wall in terms of actor/character and says, “So does my wife and kids.” He volunteers to go with Micky. Peter frets that they’re abandoning him but Mike promises they’ll be back for him “or we’ll die trying.” Paw gleefully points out, “That’s a distinct possibility.”

I love that Dub Taylor plays Paw with a menacing smile. Sure he’s going to blow your head off, but he’ll have a good time doing it. I also figured out that I recognized Dub Taylor from the old Hubba Bubba “gum fight” commercials. Big bubbles, no troubles. You 70’s-80’s kids will know what I’m talking about.

Jud has Davy in a sack. Between this and “Everywhere a Sheik, Sheik,” people really enjoy putting Davy in sacks. He’s ready to boil Davy when Micky and Mike arrive outside, dressed as hillbillies. They push a pig wearing a baby bonnet in their baby carriage. The pig, the bonnet, and carriage remind me of Alice in Wonderland, when Alice takes the Duchess’s baby outside and discovers it’s a pig. Mike and Micky try to convince rifle-wielding Jud that they’re cousins. Jud doesn’t recognize the names Claude and Roy, or Luke and Ezra, but seems to remember a Roland and Clem. He still wants to get rid of them until Maw insists, “That’s no way to treat kinfolk” and lets them inside. Meanwhile at Paw’s, Peter becomes Ella’s next victim [She’s a lonely woman, apparently – Editor’s note]. She chases him, and he gives in as Micky did, with a resigned, “Well, I tried.”

Micky and Mike see Davy in the sack, but they’re intimidated by Maw and Jud. Jud wants Mike to prove he’s a cousin by playing his nose. Mike (in a line delivery worthy of Jim Parsons) tries to stall, saying his nose is “out being fixed.” He gets nervous when Jud points the gun so he starts tapping the side of his noise, and the sound editors help Mike out with a “boing, boing” sound. Micky accompanies Mike by tapping the pig. This begins the romp to “Papa Gene’s Blues” (Michael Nesmith), a first season song that’s perfect for this romp and episode. During the song, Maw, Jud, Mike, and Micky play in a jug band, and also do some square dancing, joined by Davy in the sack. There’s some footage from “Don’t Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth” with the Monkees performing farm chores, bailing hay,etc. My favorite bits are Micky and Mike smoking ears of corn and Mike politely attempting to light Maw’s pipe with a match, but failing until she eventually just busts out a Zippo. Billie Hayes, the actress who plays Maw, is a lot of fun to watch.

After the nose-playing, Maw welcomes them to the family. Micky frees the pig to create a distraction. Maw and Jud chase after it, giving Mike and Micky time to look through the sacks for Davy. When they just find oats, they start crying that Davy Jones is dead. Funny gag as Davy comes up behind them joins in the crying over his own death. They all abruptly stop to figure out what to do now.

Mike pulls out a script and they use it to figure out that they need to get Peter from Paw and Ella Mae’s. With this, and Mike’s earlier mention of his family, this entire episode feels looser than usual. The first season episodes, for the most part, create the reality of them as a band with the fourth wall breaks as a knowing “wink” to the audience. This episode and some others after it make no pretense at creating a reality; I’m constantly reminded I’m watching a show. With this episode, there’s so much funny stuff that it doesn’t hurt the energy of the episode. There’s never a dull moment.

Outside Paw’s place, Micky, Mike, and Davy start making pig calls. Ella Mae and Paw come out, and Micky and Mike rush in to get Peter, but Davy’s pants are caught on a nail. Paw turns around and cocks the rifle at Davy. He asks Ella if Davy was the one kissing her. Ella isn’t sure, “Maybe. I can’t tell one from the other no more.” Paw makes Davy drop to his knees and tries to force a proposal. Instead, Davy starts singing “I Wanna Be Free.” Paw isn’t impressed, “Anybody who sings like that deserves to die.” The other three Monkees run out on the porch. At Paw’s gun-pointing threat, Davy finally says “Will you marry me?”

Outside Paw’s, Mike, Micky, and Peter agree they’ve got to stop the wedding so they head for Jud’s. I love Micky leaping over the porch rail and posing as he proclaims Davy’s predicament. He looks like he’s trying to crack Mike up. Those little moments, they can’t be scripted. Inside, Paw and Ella have dressed Davy up in a suit for the wedding. Elly thinks he’s “purdy” but Paw’s not satisfied: Davy still looks like a city slicker. Davy suggests, “Why don’t you rub dirt all over me or something?” Unable to detect sarcasm, Paw and Ella go for this idea.

Mike and Micky tell Jud that Ella’s getting married. Naturally Jud grabs his gun. Mike and Micky stop him. Mike tells Jud he’s got to treat Ella like a gentleman. Jud’s response, “But she’s a girl!” inspires the first “Isn’t that dumb” recurring line from Micky. Huge compliments to all the guest cast actors. The episode is packed with over-the-top and corny stereotypes but the actors make it into great comedy. Billie Hayes and Lou Antonio have the most ridiculous lines but I still laugh every time I hear them delivered.

Maw wants to know, who’s going to teach Jud how to treat a girl? Micky announces, “Raybert presents, coming straight from the mountains, Uncle Raccoon!” Peter enters and speaks in a German accent until Mike stage whispers, “wrong accent.” Peters tries again with a hillbilly accent that’s awkwardly over-the-top. I dig the fact that all the Monkees get a chance to shine and be funny in “Hillbilly Honeymoon.” The Monkees have Jud practice proposing to Ella Mae on Micky in a bonnet.

The scenes of Jud’s training are intercut with Davy fussily complaining about being covered in soot and Paw’s spitting and so on. I’ve never seen this fastidious side of him before. They’re contrasting a British fastidious persona with the dirty hillbillies, I suppose. Davy tries to convince Ella to elope with Jud, but Paw won’t have it because Jud is “dirty, dumb, and violent.” Well, yeah.  There’s a subtle anti-violence message here.

The same barn used in “Don’t Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth” and also “The Monkees in a Ghost Town” is decorated for a wedding in this episode. Paw walks Ella and Davy down the aisle with his gun. The preacher, played by Jim Boles, who also played the Dad in “Don’t Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth,” starts performing a funeral service. Once he restarts the right ceremony, Ella Mae is reluctant to take this “stranger to be your lawfully wedded husband,” so Paw jabs her. Jud walks in wearing a suit and followed by the other Monkees and Maw. He announces, “Gentleman Jud Wescott, come to claim his bride.” Paw isn’t happy and renews the fighting between the two clans, despite Micky and the Preacher’s efforts to keep the peace. The barn is crackling with gun fire and the families divide across the white line again.

Ducking behind a hay bale, Davy asks Ella who she loves best and she admits that it’s Jud. Davy plays matchmaker and calls over Jud and the preacher. The preacher marries the hillbilly couple behind the hay stacks as the gunfire continues.

Jud and Ellla are about to kiss when Paw comes up with his gun and says, “I got you at last.” Ella updates him that they’re married. Paw happily says, “You son-in-law” and hugs Jud. He takes the couple to the center of the barn and makes the announcement that the feud is over, “the houses of Weskitt and Chubber are joined.” Everybody celebrates. A Romeo and Juliet where no one has to die. Paw invites Jud to go ahead and kiss. Jud leans in, and Paw clarifies, “Not me, her!”

Despite all the hillbilly clichés, I love this episode. It’s so funny, even just thinking about it makes me laugh and it’s easily one of the best of season two. One thing that these recaps have taught me is a true appreciation for director James Frawley. I knew nothing about him before I started this recap project. There’s an interview with James Frawley here where he talks about directing The Monkees. The four actors were encouraged to go off the script, and they would disregard written scenes for ad-libbed versions. I would speculate this extended to the guest cast as well if they were up for it and willing to play. (I realize that when they were actually shooting they probably couldn’t improvise so much due to lighting placement and other technical needs.) According to the book, Monkeemania: The True Story of the Monkees by Glen A. Baker, 29 of the first 32 Monkees episodes directors had no previous television directing experience. Frawley’s willingness to experiment might have been because he didn’t have much experience at the time as a director so he wasn’t encumbered by having to do things the “right” way. The natural-seeming bits of comedy and interaction combined with the elements of magic and fantasy are part of what makes “Hillbilly Honeymoon” and many other episodes watchable over and over.

by Bronwyn Knox

Every couple of weeks, “Monkees vs. Macheen” examines the crazy, spirited, Ben Franks-type world of the Pre-Fab Four: David Jones, Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, and Peter Tork alias The Monkees.

 

Extreme Cinema! “Inquiring Minds Want To Know”

This is interesting; it’s a VHS dub, Nelson Entertainment, even has the FBI Warning (remember those?) and we have Adam Baldwin and Roy Scheider in Cohen and Tate, music by Bill Conti, and it’s an unusual score, like old time horror, like Dead Heat – that’s what it reminded me of, but first I wanted to ask if you remember the movie, My Bodyguard, also with Adam Baldwin. I did a write-up of it recently for Vintage Cable Box. This is unusual in that we pick up mid-story, a nine-year-old kid witnesses the murder of a mobster, and he is under protective custody as the movie starts, right?

This is the kid from The Believers? The kid wants to know when he can get back to his normal life, but his Dad tells him that’s never gonna happen. Shifty agent George has sweat on his upper lip. He’s nervous. I feel like something’s about to go down. I think Mom is in the kitchen. This house is like the TARDIS from Doctor Who, it’s much bigger on the inside. Uh-oh, phone’s not working. This is bad news. Something terrible is about to happen, and everybody’s nervous when George takes off. The wife looks familiar to me. They sit at the dinner table and Bill Conti goes nuts on the soundtrack. They have a spoken prayer at the dinner table. I’ve always found that creepy. The family dog takes and the kid gives chase. Roy Scheider and Adam Baldwin enter and kill the kid’s family! This is weird. I always ascribe Scheider and Baldwin to good-guy parts, but not here. Scheider makes a phone call and says, “It’s done.”

So we’re discussing some of the select work of Eric Red, writer and filmmaker, probably more famous for his scripts, The Hitcher and Near Dark than his work as a director. We talked about Cohen and Tate, and we’re going to talk about Body Parts with Jeff Fahey, as well as talk a little about Blue Steel (written with Kathryn Bigelow) and The Hitcher (directed by Bob Harmon), but I would like to say I think I knew where you were going when you suggested Eric Red for the podcast. He has a style that is very similar to Larry Cohen, the writer/filmmaker we both have enormous respect for; Eric Red is very similar. He’s a very gifted writer, because I think he writes with an eye toward shooting. He’s thinking about making the movie as he is writing it. If it came down to it, if he had no financing or support, he could do it himself. That’s what I think.

So, Blue Steel comes out in 1989, directed by Kathryn Bigelow, and I remember the critics hailing it as progressive, remember we were talking about Tyne Daly in The Enforcer last time, this affirmative action placing her character firmly in danger and she has to work to get the respect of Clint Eastwood’s Harry Callahan. This is a slightly different prospect with Jamie Lee Curtis, who, from a purely aesthetic sense, seems a lot tougher than Tyne. Isn’t that strange? That we can size people up (particularly females) in this way?

I miss the Tri-Star horse, don’t you? This takes me back, and I also remember that HBO produced the movie, and that The Hitcher was released by HBO on home video – Thorn/EMI HBO Video in the clamshell. We have another bit where a driver falls asleep at the wheel, like in Cohen and Tate, and I think he picks up Rutger Hauer just to keep himself from falling asleep. I could make a really terrible joke about Eric Red at this point, but I won’t. Remember when C. Thomas Howell was a teen heart-throb? He was all over the magazines in the early ’80s. And then came Soul Man. The movie was remade recently with Sean Bean in the title role. I love Sean Bean, but he’s no Rutger Hauer. Hauer is absolutely menacing, he’s just about perfect casting; he’s creepy, he’s inappropriate – the only problem is that he (and Sean Bean) are just too good-looking to be serial killers, don’t you think? Nine minutes in, he threatens C. Thomas Howell, right? Wow. You believe him. C. Thomas is kind-of a beta male up against an alpha male. It’s funny when the road worker calls them, “sweethearts.”

Opening credits for Body Parts, 1991 (with Jeff Fahey) are a collage of drawings of musculature, arms, legs, and torsos, which reminds me of some of Bronwyn’s drawings. As an artist, she’s constantly drawing hands and arms and feet. Frank Mancuso, Jr. ran Paramount for a time; he supervised several of Paramount’s franchises including the Friday the 13th movies. Fahey plays a criminal psychologist and a teacher. Can we stop for a moment to show Jeff Fahey a little love? He’s one of my favorite actors, ever since, I think Psycho III; he’s always interesting.

Written by David Lawler and Andrew La Ganke.
“Love Theme from Extreme Cinema” composed and performed by Alex Saltz.
Introduction written by Bronwyn Knox.
Narrator, “The Voice”: Valerie Sachs.
Artwork by Bronwyn Knox.
Head Title Washer: Ben Lauter.

Running Time: 1:33:36

This is a mini-bit tacked on to the end of the previous episode about Eric Red.

Eric Red was found to be at fault in a car accident that caused two deaths after he drove his truck into a crowded bar in Los Angeles on May 31, 2000. After the accident, Red apparently exited his vehicle, and attempted suicide by slitting his own throat with a piece of broken glass. Red survived the incident and was taken to the hospital under an alias and released weeks later. No criminal charges were brought, but a jury in a civil suit found that he had acted intentionally. The suit, which awarded over a million dollars to the families of the two men killed in the accident, was appealed to state and federal courts, which confirmed the original jury finding.

Andrew and I discuss the incident, and the L.A. Weekly article.

LA Weekly story: Death Race 2000, by Paul Cullum 01-13-2006, LA Weekly

Addendum Running Time: 15:27

Any and all images, audio clips, and dialogue extracts are the property of their respective copyright owners. This blog and podcast was created for criticism, research, and is completely nonprofit, and should be considered Fair Use as stated in the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. section 107. It is not an official product, and it should not be sold nor bought; this is intended for private use, and any public broadcast is not recommended. All music clips appear under Fair Use as well. If you’re thinking of suing because you want a piece of the pie, please remember, there is no actual pie. We at BlissVille have no money, and as such, cannot compensate you. If anything, we’re doing you a favor, so please be kind. We do this ’cause it’s fun, and nothing else.

 

Vintage Cable Box: “Richard Pryor: Live in Concert, 1979”

“What-choo takin’ my picture for? Who you gonna show it too? ‘I got a picture of Richard Pryor!’ ‘Who gives a fuck?’ Sit yo ass down! Motherfucker, sit down! You know you ain’t got no film in the camera. You just bullshittin’ just flashin’, ain’t nothin’ flashing. Sit yo ugly ass down!”

Richard Pryor: Live In Concert, 1979 (Richard Pryor), Special Event Entertainment

Comedians (Jon Stewart among them) have long made reference to a “holy trinity” of stand-up comedy, Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, and George Carlin, who had paved the way for modern comedians to practice their particular skill. The stand-up comedian tells a story, transforms the story into a joke, and waits for his or her audience to respond, often with laughter. Lenny Bruce is a bit before my time, so I understand the variations of Bruce and the evolution of his humor with Carlin. Carlin’s emphasis in his performance was in the machinations and manipulations of our common language. Bruce, from what I’ve seen and heard, placed his emphasis in shocking the audience; much like the way modern comedians shock their audiences. Richard Pryor’s considerable talents are invested in heartbreak, isolation, and anguish.

To say I was shocked, or floored into submission to Pryor’s incredible brand of levity upon first seeing Richard Pryor: Live In Concert would be a dramatic understatement. I had never, ever seen anything like this before, and most likely, will never see it again; even as more and more comedians attempt to shock and inspire us. Louis C.K. came close, but, compared to Pryor, he is a pale imitation, and a pretender (as talented as he is) to that specific throne. When I say I was floored, I mean (upon first viewing) I was on the floor, laughing so hard it hurt. This is the funniest (hence the greatest) stand-up comedy film I have ever seen. The film is a moody, unpretentious, raucous journey through the life and personal turmoil of a man with failings; either in his personal life, or his difficulties as a husband, and a father, or professional foibles as an entertainer. Yet, he can make you think, and make you feel good about yourself.

The Terrace Theater in conservative, predominantly white Long Beach, California sets the stage for the invasion of Pryor. He even makes fun of his predicament; to see a swarm of his black fans among his white fans shows that comedy can bring us all together. To see whites laughing alongside blacks (with no virtue signalling or judgments being made from either party) makes me feel good. It gives me hope. Language being more elastic in 1978 as opposed to these heady times, he makes repeated and unrepentant use of the “n” word, and despite what Ice Cube thinks about the subject, no one person or group can own a word, and to take that word away is to take away our understanding and appreciation of the word, as delivered with the master craftsmanship of Richard Pryor. Pryor would recant somewhat in later years for his liberal use of the word, but he railed against censorship, even when it was self-imposed. These words belong to all of us. It’s just that some people are better at using them. Pryor’s humor was rooted in his danger, his capacity for self-deprecation, and his emotional and chemical dependencies.

Pryor tell stories about his family; growing up the child of an extended poor family in Peoria, the tutilege and discipline (“Go get me something to beat yo ass with!”) of his grandmother, the bizarre wisdom of his father, and his various brushes with death. He speaks of an experience where he had suffered a heart attack, and thought he had died. In the hospital room, he opens his eyes and sees a bunch of concerned white faces looking down at him and he thinks, “Ain’t this a bitch. I done died and wound up in the wrong motherfuckin’ heaven.” In this new age of heckling and overly-sensitive, unoriginal comedians, Pryor works with ease, talks to the crowd; even when interrupted by his adoring fans, he engages them and you feel that there is no wall between him and the people in the seats. He completely owns the Terrace Theater. Comedy seems to be such an incredibly subjective art (horror movies are the same – they live or die based on our direct, subjective impressions of either what’s funny or what is terrifying to us) that everybody’s top ten lists on the subject will be different person to person, but Richard Pryor: Live in Concert is always on everyone’s list.

Our first cable box was a non-descript metal contraption with a rotary dial and unlimited potential (with no brand name – weird). We flipped it on, and the first thing we noticed was that the reception was crystal-clear; no ghosting, no snow, no fuzzy images. We had the premium package: HBO, Cinemax, The Movie Channel, MTV, Nickelodeon, CNN, The Disney Channel, and the local network affiliates. About $25-$30 a month.  Each week (and sometimes twice a week!), “Vintage Cable Box” explores the wonderful world of premium Cable TV of the early eighties.

Monkees vs Macheen: “I Was A 99-lb. Weakling” (a.k.a. “Physical Culture”)

“Yes, she’s my sunny girlfriend, she doesn’t really care.”

“I Was A 99-lb. Weakling” premiered October 16, 1967. Alex Singer directs a teleplay by Gerald Gardner & Dee Caruso, and Neil Burstyn, from a story by Jon C. Andersen. The title and the plot are both allusions to Charles Atlas and his famous bodybuilding program and advertising campaign, marketed to the “97-pound weakling.” The ad featured a cartoon of a skinny young man who gets sand kicked in his face, goes off and builds up his body, and then comes back to take revenge on the bully. Unlike the character Shah-ku in this episode however, Charles Atlas actually practiced the fitness lifestyle that he taught to others. (Rocky Horror fans will appreciate that I now have the “Charles Atlas” song stuck in my head).

The story begins with Micky on the beach, his head in the lap of a pretty young woman named Brenda. He makes the comment that “Physical beauty isn’t enough. I guess that’s why I fell in love with you, Brenda. I wanted a girl with some intelligence.” Brenda’s response is to look blank and echo, “Yeah, intelligence.” Ironic since this entire episode is about being influenced by physical appearance. Also it sets up Brenda’s standard “yeah, (whatever word was just said)” response that becomes a running gag in the episode. To Venita Wolf’s credit, she hits that vacuous note just right, and manages to be funny with very little dialog. A big, blond, muscular guy comes up and kicks sand on Micky (copying the Charles Atlas ad). Then he shows off his biceps to Brenda and asks if they’ve met somewhere before. Brenda confirms, “Yeah, before.” They never mention the bodybuilder’s name in the episode, but the IMDb refers to the character as “Bulk,” so that’s what I’ll call him.

Micky politely asserts himself with Bulk, trying to claim Brenda as his territory. Bulk tosses him over the sand hill, right next to Shah-ku (Monte Landis), who offers Micky a card advertising “Health and Strength” services. He’s dressed in a tunic and sandals, signifying in a vague way that he’s supposed to be some type of yogi or spiritual leader. Micky scoffs and goes back to Brenda. Bulk continues showing off to Brenda (who watches politely but doesn’t exactly look dazzled by him). Micky tries to beat Bulk back with kicks and karate chops but the big guys just holds Micky back by the head and tosses him back to Sha-ku. Micky tries to tear up Shah-ku’s business card, but can’t.

After the opening titles, Shah-ku shows Micky around his exercise studio. There, Micky takes a bunch of physical strength tests that Shah-ku has rigged to fail. Sha-ku keeps calling Micky skinny and weak, making him feel less than a man and Micky keeps trying to prove himself to Sha-ku. Micky is skinny of course but that certainly wouldn’t make him unattractive or unhealthy. Ideal body types may change over the decades, but I do believe that in any era young men were just as susceptible to this type of pressure about their bodies as young women. Shah-Ku’s complete health program is $150. When Micky explains he’s an unemployed drummer, Shah-Ku orders him to sell his drums for the money and sign the contract. This is a “Dance, Monkee, Dance” type situation, where the goal is to con someone into a contract. In this case, Sha-ku’s playing on Micky’s insecurities about Brenda and Bulk.

Micky packs up his drums at the pad while Peter and Davy try to talk him out of it. They wonder if Brenda’s worth it. Micky describes Brenda as beautiful, brilliant, and intelligent. Peter chimes in, “Yeah, intelligent.” It’s clear that Micky is blinded by Brenda’s itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny, yellow polka dot bikini. Peter and Davy claim they can get Micky in shape themselves. We get some scenes of their efforts to train Micky. Peter accidentally hits himself in the head with the resistance pulleys and says, “I wish Mike were here.” Davy impressively pulls off the “crow” pose from Yoga, balancing his entire lower half on his arms. When he gets stuck, he needs Micky and Peter’s help to get out of it. Davy also wishes Mike were there.

I wish Mike were here too. I hate it when any of the Monkees are missing; It throws the whole dynamic off. Since Mike’s my favorite, it bums me out that he missed the most episodes. He’s also missing from “The Card Carrying Red Shoes,” and only briefly appears in “Hitting the High Seas,” and “The Monkees Watch Their Feet” This episode was shot May 5, and 8-11, 1967, before he went in for his tonsillectomy on May 23. Possibly he was already not feeling well. The Monkees tripod website says he stayed out of this episode due to “artistic differences.” I can’t find any further information on what those “differences” were though.

Peter and Davy bring Brenda over to the pad as a reward/surprise to Micky for working so hard on his training. The score is the little sexy music theme that they always use for a pretty girl walking. Micky collapses trying to greet her. He tells her he’s stronger and has her feel his arms. She responds, “Yeah, stronger.” She really doesn’t care either way.

Next morning, Micky talks about going to the beach and beating up his rival, but the more reasonable and pacifist Peter and Davy talk him out of it. They claim they can get the guy out of the way so Micky can see Brenda. So it’s cons, tricks, and manipulation instead of violence. That’s in keeping with the Monkees style and much more entertaining.

On the beach, Davy challenges Bulk to “step over that line,” distracting him while Peter sprays red dots on Bulk’s back. Hilariously, after Bulk steps over a few lines in the sand, Davy taunts, “Just as I thought, you’re always taking orders.” Davy and Peter scramble away in fear of being pummeled. Brenda wanders up, eating an ice cream cone. Bulk calls her “Chick.” I don’t think he knows her name; that’s okay, we don’t know his. Peter runs back onto the beach impersonating a doctor.

I love Brenda’s indifferent yet grossed out reaction when Peter points out the dots on Bulk’s back, “Ew. Help.” Peter “diagnoses” Bulk with a disease that will sap his strength, tries to charge him $10 for it, and runs off. Peter was conveniently sharper than usual in this scene and I suppose it’s because Mike was absent and he had to pick up the slack. This contrasts with what we usually see; Peter is typically the one messing up. (Taking a picture of the wrong thing in “Monkee Mayor” or being manipulated by two dim museum guards in “Art for Monkees Sake.”) Mike seems more likely to have performed the doctor con; it had a Groucho Marx vibe and that’s his style.

To prove Doctor Peter’s point about Bulk losing his strength, Davy sends a volley ball down to Bulk. Bulk is unable to toss it back to him and Davy explains to the camera, “Shouldn’t think he could. Lead you know.” Bulk freaks out, “without my strength I’m nothing.” Brenda agrees, “Yeah, nothing.” Next, Davy pretends to be a kid, asking Bulk to hold his kite. Bulk grabs the string and is abruptly pulled up into the sky. We see black and white stock footage of a blimp to emphasize the joke. Peter tells Davy the blimp is taking Bulk to Bayonne, New Jersey. In a cute conversation that seems ad-libbed, Davy says, “You know I used to have girlfriend named Bayonne, NJ.” Peter, “Anything like the Secaucus girl?” The Secaucus thing seemed random, but it turns out David Draper, who plays Bulk, was born in Secaucus, N.J., so that was maybe an in-joke. I love this entire sequence of Peter and Davy messing with Bulk; they seem to be having a great time together.

Peter and Davy go back to the pad to update Micky on Bulk’s fate. This doesn’t make Micky any more confident; he still doesn’t have muscles. Davy and Peter solve this with a wacky costume. They dress him in football shoulder pads disguised with one of those down-filled winter coats. He practices a new “manly” voice.

Micky goes to the beach with his new outfit and voice and talks to Brenda. Bulk is somehow back from Bayonne and hangs around Shah-ku in his spot on the sand dune. They don’t have any dialog but Bulk must be in on the con with Shah-ku; he’s not really interested in Brenda at all. I guess Shah-ku’s paying Bulk a kickback. Bulk walks up to Brenda and Micky and tells Brenda there’s nothing wrong with his health. Micky stands up to challenge Bulk. When he shakes his hand, Bulk tosses him to Shah-ku again.

At the Monkees pad, Davy and Peter talk about Micky doing Shah-ku’s program on a week-to-week basis. Micky collapses from fasting to “purify his tissues.” With an unusually take-charge attitude (another example of something Mike would’ve done), Peter decides to call Shah-ku. He makes the red phone materialize in his hand and tells Shah-ku he’s very worried about Micky. Shah-ku tells Peter to move Micky to “stage two.” There’s also some amusing Monkees writer logic as Shah-ku takes another jab at the Monkees masculinity:

Micky makes dinner for Peter and Davy. To their extreme annoyance, he threw out their steak and made them some green cottage cheese and a wilted salad. [Since when can the Monkees afford steak? – Editor’s note] After dinner, Davy has a chat with Mr. Schneider about whether or not hunger justifies murder. Mr. Schneider has Davy’s voice instead of the usual James Frawley voice. Or, maybe Davy is delirious with hunger and just thinks Schneider’s talking to him. Shah-ku comes in and drags Micky out. He offers Davy a chance to get healthy too, “If you stand up you may join us.” Davy gives the expected response, “I am standing up.” Micky and Shah-ku pass Peter on the way out. Peter tells Davy he saw Shah-ku buying a hot dog, soda, and chili. They look shocked at each other and then at the camera. So much for Shah-ku’s health and purity.

At the Weaklings Anonymous meeting, a bunch of young men in matching gray tracksuits sit in Shah-ku’s gym. While Shah-ku speaks, Davy and Peter sneak in and disguise themselves in the gray tracksuits. They have a full-on physical comedy struggle to put on the tracksuits, combined with an amusing argument about Peter taking a quarter to buy a hot dog. Meanwhile, Micky sits at the desk and looks confused, as do the other meeting attendees, with Shah-ku’s chant of “The weak are strong, the strong are weak.” Shah-ku pressures Micky to sign the contract. Two musclemen loom behind him.

Shah-ku requests group members to come up and offer testimonials. Peter and Davy are dressed by now, so of course they volunteer. Micky recognizes them and knows what’s up. He keeps trying to stand up but is pushed back down by Shah-ku’s brawny assistants. Peter comes up and tells a story about being bullied by a cab driver, then Davy comes up and says, “Before I came to Shah-ku’s, I used to be 6 foot 2.” In other words, things that don’t fit with Shah-ku’s agenda. Musclemen chase them off stage but they keep popping back up; this devolves into chaos. Finally, Shah-ku decides to prove his own strength; he wrestles one of the big guys to the ground in a staged maneuver. Davy exposes Shah-ku–literally– by rushing up and knocking him over, displaying Shah-ku’s polka dot boxer shorts. Ha ha! Micky tries to escape and there’s more chaos leading into the romp.

The romp is set to “Sunny Girlfriend” (Nesmith) and has footage from the physical therapy room from “The Case of the Missing Monkee” with Mike. There’s also footage from “Monkees Marooned,” and “Monkees at the Circus.” The Monkeemen make an appearance. There’s a wink to Popeye as Davy’s able to knock down Bulk after eating some spinach. Brenda appears and rides the exercise bike with Micky. She’s gone from bored to happy and friendly and looks to be having fun with Micky. The romp ends with the Monkeemen capturing Shah-ku and Bulk in a net back at the Monkee pad.

Tag sequence as Micky hangs out with Brenda on the beach again. A scholarly looking man with glasses and reading Proust comes walking past. Brenda declares, “Ooh, I just love a man with a mind!” Venita Wolf lights up so much that I believe Brenda really does love a man with a mind. She never looked that excited about Bulk, or Micky for that matter. Micky is left floundering and alone again. The episode ends with the Rainbow Room performance of “Love is Only Sleeping” (Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil), a song from Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn, & Jones Ltd. that Mike sang. In the case of Micky and Brenda, love is D.O.A.

What’s interesting about the story to me is that Micky’s projecting all of this onto Brenda. She never showed any real interest in Bulk. Micky just assumed and took a trip down insecurity lane. Shah-ku and Bulk were easily able to manipulate that. If Brenda were such a great catch she would see in Micky all his great qualities: talent, wit, charm, sense of humor, creativity, etc. It’s also interesting to watch this in retrospect; what’s considered a healthy and attractive body today is different than it was in 1966, but the issues haven’t changed; we can still be influenced into hating our bodies by the media and each other.

I really enjoy this episode, but Mike’s absence is notable. A few times in past recaps I’ve mentioned the fabulous “Script-to Screen” project on the Monkee Magic Facebook group page. If you take a look there, you can find one for this script, and it confirms my guesses that some of the business that Peter performed in this episode was written for Mike. Mike or Micky typically come up with the plans to get the Monkees out of trouble. It’s a stretch a bit to believe Davy and Peter could do this without them. It’s a fun stretch though; Peter Tork has a unique charm to him when allowed to play a bit savvier. Still, I’m glad for the upcoming episode with all four of them working together.

by Bronwyn Knox

Every couple of weeks, “Monkees vs. Macheen” examines the crazy, spirited, Ben Franks-type world of the Pre-Fab Four: David Jones, Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, and Peter Tork alias The Monkees.

 

Monkees vs. Macheen: “Art for Monkees’ Sake”

“Monkees Imitate Art” aka “I WANNA LOOK AT LIBERACE!”

“Art for Monkees’ Sake” was directed by Alex Singer and written by Coslough Johnson. It debuted October 9, 1967. The episode title is a play on the French slogan, “Art for Art’s Sake” (l’art pour l’art) which means art for reasons of self-expression and not for any instructional, moral, or other useful purpose. The Monkees are most often comedy for comedy’s sake, and I love it.

Peter is at the Monkees pad, painting a very realistic picture of the bathroom door. Micky walks right into it and hits his head, aided by a little shaky-camera action. Mike suggests that Peter go to the art museum and check out the great painters instead. Peter takes his advice and goes to the museum where he paints copies of museum doors. Of course he does. Monkees guest cast actor Vic Tayback is back for the third time as Chuche, the museum guard. He makes the same mistake that Micky did, walking into Peter’s painting. He wants to thank Peter with a punch in the face but his partner-in-crime and fellow museum guard, Duce (Monte Landis) suggests they use Peter’s talent to help them steal a painting instead.

They set Peter up to copy “The Laughing Cavalier,” painted in 1624 by Dutch Golden Age painter Franz Hals. Chuche and Duce whisper their plan to steal the real painting and put Peter’s in its place. Meanwhile, Mike, Micky, and Davy worry about Peter. Mike considers the idea that he may have insulted Peter, but Micky says, “Well to insult somebody, they have to understand you.” Which is a slight to Peter’s intelligence, but on the other hand going through life never being offended would be a beautiful thing. Maybe not so dumb after all. At the museum, Peter has completed his copy, but he’s dressed the Cavalier in Mike’s green wool hat. Duce chides him, “I know it’s knitted, but it’s not needed.” They move Peter to the basement to fix the painting because the museum’s about to close.

Next morning at the Monkees pad, Mike, Micky, and Davy have breakfast with Mr. Schneider because Peter’s not back yet. (Mr. Schneider wears Peter’s pajamas.) They deduce that he’s in trouble. Peter, meanwhile, is reluctant to finish the painting, declaring, “I just don’t feel it.” Chuche wants to solve the problem with violence. Duce is more diplomatic; he explains, with his over-the-top fake Italian accent, that the Cavalier has lot of class, a lot of style etc.

Micky, Mike, and Davy are in the museum corridor. They decide to split up and check the various studios but head into each other instead of around each other, and there’s physical comedy as they try to get by each other. Silly and childish, but still funny. Also a meta-comment on the episode as the shape they make is a human sculpture. Mike redistributes the studio assignments and the three head away from each other.

Here comes one of my favorite bits. Micky finds a bearded artist at work in one of the studios. Before he can even ask about Peter, the artist interrupts to tell him, “You could never be an artist. You have no beard!” He scoffs at Micky’s suggestion that he use brushes, “A true artist must feel the painting in the canvas! In his soul!” Cut to a shot of the soles of his feet each doing a separate painting on the floor. Micky asks if he’s seen Peter, describing him as blonde, “weird looking.” The artist takes this personally and grabs Micky by the shirt with paint-covered hands. “You come in here to insult me! It’s because I’m a high school dropout.” He throws Micky out. The character beautifully and hilariously ran through all the stereotypes about artists: Egotistical, pretentious, hypersensitive, dramatic, emotional, and vain [Not to mention – under-educated. – Editor]. The artist does a little flamenco dance in front of the canvas. Fabulous scene with a funny actor playing the artist.

And considering how much I enjoyed that, the next scene gets even better. Mike enters another studio and finds formally dressed patrons waiting for a performance. They shush Mike who looks comically embarrassed and then surprised when Liberace walks in with a gold mallet and proceeds to smash the piano. Mike collapses on the ground and makes dismayed and incredulous faces while the rest of Liberace’s audience intensely and seriously watches. Mike tiptoes out and leaves them to it. Funny scene that has no plot purpose and is, dare I say, weird for weird’s sake. Liberace! For crying out loud.

I always figured that scene was a parody of rock-n-roll instrument-smashing. 1950’s rocker Jerry Lee Lewis was rumored to have destroyed and burned pianos. Pete Townshend had smashed his guitar at the Railway Tavern in Harrow and Wealdstone in September of 1964. The film, Blowup, featured The Yardbirds’ guitarist Jeff Beck destroying his guitar (after being told to emulate Townshend by director Michelangelo Antonioni). Jimi Hendrix famously set fire to his guitar at the Monterey Pop Festival in June of 1967. There may be more to this than destruction for destruction’s sake. Pete Townshend was inspired by artist and activist Gustav Metzger. Metzger, who died this past March, was responsible for the Auto-Destructive Art movement, an art form where artists would destroy objects in protest against the capitalist system and the threat of technology. Metzger organized the Destruction in Art Symposium that happened in London from September 9–11, 1966. The Symposium events included several piano destruction concerts, performed by artist Raphael Montañez Ortiz, which could be what these Liberace scenes are satirizing. It’s an interesting idea since these are counterculture ideas, but the audience watching Liberace has a “high society” look in their furs, diamonds, and tuxes.

The museum is about to close, so Duce and Chuche tie up Peter, Duce explaining the most important thing for an artist is “to suffer.” (Another artist stereotype.) On the museum main floor, the Curator chews out the guards, telling them to “be more punctual.” Out in the same museum corridor from the earlier scene, Mike, Micky, and Davy have failed to find Peter. Interesting shot composition, they stand in height order with Davy in the foreground. Davy asks if anyone checked the basement. Mike says “Nobody but a fool would paint in the basement.” You can see his mouth say “idiot” but they overdubbed “fool.” According to the Monkees Tripod site, this was Peter Tork’s request.

The thieving guards hang Peter’s fake in the museum. Micky, Mike, and Davy finally find Peter tied up and gagged in the museum basement. They compliment his “copy” of “The Laughing Cavalier” but Peter explains, “The man who painted that was brilliant.” Monkees in unison say: “That means they’ve switched the paintings.” Cut to a shot of Peter’s copy in the museum with Peter’s rather obvious signature in white paint.

Up on the main floor, the Monkees try to tell the Curator and the guards that the paintings have been switched. The Curator doesn’t believe them and, as Peter points out, the guards are the thieves. The Curator explains it’s impossible to steal the painting. He explains that by day two guards watch it, by night he turns on the alarm, which triggers a cage if anyone disrupts the invisible beams. He goes to demonstrate and springs the mechanism. As Micky says, “Caught like a rat in his own trap.” The Curator’s hysterical performance as he sobs on the floor is delightful insanity. The actor, Arthur Malet has a quirky/manic line delivery, like someone on the verge of a comedic nervous breakdown. He played a role with a similar effect on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in the infamous episode, “The My Friend the Gorilla Affair.”

The Monkees decide to switch back the paintings themselves. This leads to the “Mission: Ridiculous” sequence. Mike does overdubbed narration to introduce the team members as they each make a physical-comedy-laden entrance: The Manchester Marauder, (Davy) The Connecticut Counterspy (Peter), The Towering Texan (Mike), and the Los Angeles Leopard (Micky). The high point is Mike absent-mindedly electrocuting himself for several seconds on the rooftop antenna. This sequence is clearly meant to parody the Mission: Impossible weekly series, a show about secret agents using elaborate schemes to solve international crimes, which ran from 1966-1973. The Monkees begin their mission and sneak in through the museum roof on a rope ladder, while Chuche sleeps.

Davy wears goggles that allow him to see the invisible beams and nothing else. He stumbles around and knocks over a sculpture. He slips out the painting copy but Peter forgot the real painting up on the roof so he goes to retrieve it. Their noise alerts Chuche who comes out to see what’s happening. The Monkees imitate statues in order to fool him, and Chuche steals their cheese sandwiches. Peter and Micky tiptoe around the museum floor, following Chuche while Mike and Davy finish the switch.

They make their escape up the ladder but not in time, as Duce is now coming down the ladder towards them. I love Mike’s polite but still irritated response, “This is our ladder sir, we were going to escape.” Duce gets to the museum floor and pulls a gun on them. Everyone scrambles around and this launches a romp to “Randy Scouse Git.”

About the song, this was written by Micky Dolenz and inspired by the Monkees trip to England. The verses describe a party Micky attended that was thrown by the Beatles while the chorus “Why don’t you cut your hair, etc.” reflects bigoted remarks aimed at a fictional long-haired youth. The last part relates to the title, “Randy Scouse Git” which is taken from a British television show, Till Death Do Us Part which was the U.K. version of the American television show, All in the Family. The loud, narrow-minded father character, Alf Garnett, would insult his son-in-law calling him a “randy scouse git.” [American translation: “Meathead” – Editor] The Monkees record label in the U.K., RCA records, would not release the song unless Micky gave it an alternate title, so he named it literally “Alternate Title.” It became a #2 hit in the U.K. All four Monkees play on this one, Micky singing and playing drums and timpani, Mike on guitar, Peter on piano and organ, and Davy on backing vocals.

The romp is well edited; mixing Rainbow room footage with the Monkees and bad guys running around the museum. The song’s frantic energy suits the romp nicely. Chuche finally gets to punch someone behind a curtain, unfortunately revealed to be his partner Duce. Best moments include more Liberace piano smashing, a funny shot of Mike, Micky, and Davy holding up a frame around themselves, and Micky and the bearded artist fighting each other. At the end, the cage of crazy falls down on the Monkees and the guards and they fall asleep on top of each other.

In the morning, the curator is giving a tour to museum visitors and sees the cage filled with Monkees and crooks. With confusion and embarrassment, he describes them as “a new exhibit; an assemblage of iron and human beings.” Next is a tag sequence at the Monkees pad. Micky frames his painted shirt and Mike sings a little of “Papa Gene’s Blues.” Peter has given up painting and taken up carpentry. Micky sits on one of Peter’s new projects and collapses onto the ground. This is followed by the “Daydream Believer” (John Stewart) Rainbow Room performance clip. I love Davy dancing in front of the rainbow stripes, doing the “Davy Jones” where he leads his body with his ribs instead of his hips. I also enjoy the Monkees around the piano together, and the finale when they ham it up and step in front of each other. Just for fun, here’s a “literal” version of “Daydream Believer.” After the tune, we’re treated to a little more piano smashing as Liberace happily finishes his performance, and the society audience politely claps.

That was one of those episodes that I had thought of as funny but maybe not a standout. The more I look at it, the more I like it though, so I guess it’s a “grower.” The story itself is nothing special; silly to be sure, but no more so than the bulk of the other episodes. Fortunately there are extra touches in this episode that blend well with the comedy. The best two scenes have little to do with the story. Micky with the artist is side-splitting and a rare chance for him to be the straight man, reacting to someone else’s craziness. The surreal bit with Liberace, besides a great bit of stunt-casting, is The Monkees at its off-the-wall and satirical best. I also enjoy all the moments where people become art: The shot composition of the Monkees in the corridor, the tangle of bodies at various times, the “framed” Monkees and the finale with all the characters in the cage. Director Alex Singer has a knack for that. He posed them cleverly in the fashion-oriented “Monkees à la Mode” as well. Once again it seems in these early season 2 episodes the show creators were still invested in making an entertaining show.

by Bronwyn Knox

Every couple of weeks, “Monkees vs. Macheen” examines the crazy, spirited, Ben Franks-type world of the Pre-Fab Four: David Jones, Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, and Peter Tork alias The Monkees.

 

 

Extreme Cinema! “Go Ahead, Make My Day!”

Clinton “Clint” Eastwood Jr. (born May 31, 1930) is an American actor, filmmaker, musician, and political figure. After earning success in the Western TV series Rawhide, he rose to international fame with his role as the Man with No Name in Sergio Leone’s Dollars trilogy of spaghetti Westerns during the 1960s, and as antihero cop Harry Callahan in the five Dirty Harry films throughout the 1970s and 1980s, which is what we’re going to talk about tonight.

I was thinking about how fortunate we are, and how lazy we are because of Blu Ray, because of 1080p or more, we have ultra 4k or higher, I’m told. This is why we don’t go to the movies anymore. We don’t rush out to see a movie anymore, because we’ve turned our living rooms into little movie theaters where we don’t have to be disturbed; that’s incredible to me. Remember how we were talking about the Gladiator transfer? About how it probably looked superior to when the movie came out? This Dirty Harry transfer – it’s not that I don’t think it was superior, I wouldn’t know, but I told you it looked “faithful” to the original movie, I suspect. I like that they didn’t try to bring up the brightness. Cinema was dark back in the day, it was dark and detailed, and I was hoping they didn’t have like a millenial do the transfer, screaming, “It’s too dark! Bring it up!” They stayed faithful to the original release. Good transfer.

This is where we introduce “Dirty” Harry Callahan; December 23rd (a Christmas movie), 1971 – directed by Don Siegel. Harry and Rita Fink created the character with John Milius, Dean Riesner, Terrence Malick, Clint Eastwood, and Joe Heims, and all of those writers contributed to the script.

Magnum Force was released two years later, Christmas Day of 1973, the first sequel to Dirty Harry. This is the first Dirty Harry movie I saw. I saw it a few weeks before Sudden Impact, which was about to premiere on cable television. I remember thinking it was one of the coolest movies I had ever seen up to that point. I really liked it. It was really well-made and I think superior to Dirty Harry, although I asked Bronwyn, and she said she preferred Dirty Harry of the first two movies. This is about a group of rookie motorcycle cops who serve as a vigilante death squad serving under Hal Holbrook.

The Enforcer, directed by James Fargo, written by Stirling Silliphant and Dean Riesner, came out December 22, 1976 – another Christmas movie, that’s threee movies in a row released around Christmas – does the Dirty Harry franchise strike as something festive? “Kids! Another Dirty Harry movies, let’s put a .44 Magnum on the tree this year!” So here we have an SLA-Patty Hearst-type group of revolutionaries. I messed up when I was watching the movie with Bronwyn, because I got it into my head Patty Duke was a member of the Symbionese Liberation Army – Patty and her twin, can you imagine that? A hot dog makes her lose control. So, you have this psycho in the group, just a crazy-ass killing machine guy in the group, and they kill Harry’s partner, played by John Mitchum, who was in the first two movies. He dies, so Harry gets a new partner, played by Tyne Daly.

1983’s Sudden Impact, released on December 9th, was directed and produced by Clint Eastwood; the only Dirty Harry entry officially directed by Eastwood, though it’s rumored he helped direct Magnum Force because he had creative differences with Ted Post, and he might’ve assisted Buddy Van Horn directing The Dead Pool, but Van Horn was Clint’s good friend and works on every film Clint makes. This is still my personal favorite of the five. Mostly because we’re looking at the movie, the plot unfolding from the eyes of our heroine, who is really the bad guy when you think about it, right?

The Dead Pool came out in 1988, July 13th. I think there must’ve been issues with the production because I remember seeing trailers for the movie when I still living in Philadelphia, we moved up to New York City in February of 1988; perhaps they were gearing up for a Christmas, 1987 release (all of these Dirty Harry movies are Christmas movies) and they had issues in post-production, or it could’ve been related to issues with Eastwood’s former lover, Sondra Locke. Maybe Ratboy bankrupted Malpaso, who knows? The running time is 91 minutes, so I think some re-editing was done as well.

Written by David Lawler and Andrew La Ganke.
“Love Theme from Extreme Cinema” composed and performed by Alex Saltz.
Introduction written by Bronwyn Knox.
Narrator, “The Voice”: Valerie Sachs.
Artwork by Bronwyn Knox.
Head Title Washer: Ben Lauter.

Running Time: 1:35:13

Here’s a good overview of the Blu-Ray box set.

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