Monkees vs. Macheen: “The Monkees in Paris”

“The summer of love meets the city of love.”

“The Monkees in Paris” was shot in two parts: the main action in June of 1967 in Paris and the wrap-around segments with James Frawley on December 24, 1967. These were the last bits of any Monkees episode filmed. Bob Rafelson wrote and directed this one, which is really more like an extended romp. There’s not a lot for me to recap here, even less than I had to work with for “Monkees on Tour.” The Imdb technical specs state that it was filmed on 35mm like the other episodes but I wonder if that is correct; this one looks like it was shot on 16mm with an outdoor film stock, even the indoor scenes shot later with James Frawley. The episode has a cinema vérité feeling, similar to the extra footage that was shot and used in the first season romps (The Monkees on the beach in the red swimsuits, the Monkees riding the unicycles). It is also similar in feel to the Mardi Gras/New Orleans/Acid trip sequences in Easy Rider (1969), which was produced by Bert Schneider and Bob Rafelson.

To start things off, Mike, Micky, and Davy have a friendly game of checkers. Peter rushes in with a threatening letter. Something about getting off the ranch and returning the microfilm, in other words a mishmash of old episode plots. The Monkees ignore the “bad guy” who sneaks up behind them. He has a mustache, a foreign accent, and the usual television clichés.

James Frawley enters the scene and breaks the fourth wall to direct them to do the “Monkees scare.” He’s playing himself as the director even though he didn’t direct this episode. The Monkees are bored and complain they’ve been doing the same thing over and over, which is a valid argument. Davy mentions that there’s always a tall heavy and a small heavy. He doesn’t mention a smart and a dumb one but that would also be accurate. Frawley tries to convince them that it’s all great and to keep going. They rebel; they’re going on vacation while he works out the show’s problems. They head for Paris and leave him in the lurch.

This does reflect the behind the scenes feelings the Monkees had about the repetitive nature of the show’s plots. In the Micky Dolenz autobiography, I’m a Believer, he wrote “Quite frankly, we were getting a little jaded with the show as it existed, Every week Davy [Jones] would fall in love with some girl or Peter [Tork] would be kidnapped by some bad guy, or some guy spy would hide microfilm in somebody’s something or other.” That is a fair statement, after looking at over 50 of these episodes, I can relate.

They were more interested in getting on with their first and only feature film, Head, which began shooting the same day this episode aired, February 19, 1968. The next day, February 20, NBC announced their fall line-up and The Monkees was notably absent. The Monkees didn’t want to continue the show in the same way; they wanted a variety show with musical guests every week, an idea that was sort of tested by the episodes towards the end of the run where Davy, Micky, and Mike got to have musical guests of their choice included. The network wanted them to continue on with the sitcom format, so there was disagreement on how the show would have continued.

After the titles, the Monkees arrive in Paris and drive scooters around until some young women catch sight of them and start chasing them. There’s no dialogue, just action and music. The very 1960’s score gives way to “Love is Only Sleeping” (Chip Douglas, Bill Martin). The streets are wet and rainy and the Monkees run through an outdoor market on foot. The young ladies chasing after them were hired models, and the Imdb doesn’t list their names. The website monkees.coolcherrycream.com however has screen captures that identify them as Carine (Davy’s girl), Véronique Duval (Micky’s girl), Françoise Dorléac (Peter’s girl), and Carole André (Mike’s girl).

In reality, the Monkees were not famous in Paris, so they were able to film scenes without any fans bothering them. They hired the girls to pretend to be crazed fans. This contrasts with their popularity in Great Britain. According to The Monkees Day-by-Day by Andrew Sandoval, they had to cancel shooting part of the series in Manchester because, according to Rafelson, “They are just too well known here.” In Paris, the Monkees were even able to take a day off and do some sight-seeing.

Back at the pad, James Frawley is on the phone with Bob (Rafelson), complaining that the Monkees left. It’s cute that they’re pretending that red phone is connected to a real phone line. Frawley suggests they put on half an hour of commercials like The Johnny Carson Show. Burn.

I wish I knew Paris but I’ve never had the good fortune to go, so there’s not a lot of meaning for most of these locations for me. The four models corner the Monkees at a drawbridge. Then suddenly, they’re at an amusement park where they ride some little tricycles. There’s no attempt at continuity or a story. They go on some more rides and now each Monkee is paired up with a girl. They ride different styles of toy cars around. The Monkees are at a flower garden, walking around holding hands canoodling with their girls. “Don’t Call on Me” (Michael Nesmith, John London) is the music.

This entire episode has a very 1960’s vibe. I mean yes, I know this was all from the 1960s but I’d give this episode the prize for most dated feeling. I don’t have objective facts for this, it’s just the atmosphere created by the way this was put together with the music and the ’60s fashions are the only element to focus on. In the episodes with plot and dialog there’s a more timeless feel because they rarely got topical. They were youthful and rebelled against authority and the status quo, and those are timeless concepts, not restricted to a particular decade. In Monkeemania by Glen A. Baker, Mike Nesmith talks about Raybert and their progressive-for-the-time ideas about how to make The Monkees innovative. “What they really wanted was a show that mirrored the times without actually being part of it.” It’s funny that Rafelson directed this one because it’s very much part of the times. [He probably did it for the free trip to Paris – Editor’s Note] Most of the time the show made fun of hippies, if anything. But in “Monkees in Paris” all these lovely shots of them walking around in nature, arm-in-arm, seem like manufactured “love and peace.” They don’t seem organic, nor does it seem that they were intended to be humorous or ironic.

“Star Collector” (Goffin/King) plays as the Monkees do some clowning around, falling face forward out of a truck trailer. They’re back on the scooters at some kind of street fair. The girls chase them around again. Davy fools around at a clothing stand. Micky gropes his girl on a stack of mattresses. Peter tries to impress his girl with his violin playing. My only real laugh-out-loud at this episode comes from his facial expressions as he strives to get her attention. Next, they’re all at typewriters. Whatever they typed and show to the girls gets them slapped. They try again and get hugs. How many Monkees would it take to accidentally type Hamlet?

Next song is “Goin’ Down” (Dolenz, Jones, Tork, Nesmith, Hildebrand). A bigger group of fans chases the Monkees through cobblestone streets with cops–or gedarmes following behind. Mike looks like he’s having a great time. The fans catch Micky at some point and try to tear his shirt off until the gedarmes break it up, two of whom are David Pearl and Ric Klein. There’s an abrupt tone change where they walk around a cemetery with organ music in the background. The music goes back to “Goin Down” and groups of females continue to chase them through the streets. Mike drives some kind of three-wheeled truck type vehicle and the other three ride in the back. Micky, Peter, and Davy scare the girls and the police by taking their shirts off. Sure, that makes sense. The four girls from before join them on the little truck. The Monkees take a boat ride with their girls and the soundtrack plays a banjo instrumental of that often-used “Where the Old Folks at Home” (Foster) tune. There’s a sequence with Peter and Davy in old-timey swimsuits with their girls by a pool. It would have been clever if they’d switched to black and white film for that.

The Monkees and the girls ride through the city in a jeep as the music switches back to “Don’t Call on Me.” They manage to break the hood off their vehicle and cause a traffic jam. The French must have loved them. About the song, Michael Nesmith wrote it with his friend John London in their folk singing days, before the Monkees. The version of the song on Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones, Ltd. has an intro and fadeout that invokes a performance in a piano lounge somewhere. Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork, Davy Jones, and Bob Rafelson all participated in the ambiance recording. Mike’s vocal performance is different than usual on this song; instead of having his customary country-rock sound; he sounds like a smooth ballad singer. When I first heard the song I didn’t even recognize it as him. The four models chase the boys around and up the Eiffel tower while an instrumental “Alouette” plays. They climb all over it, making me dizzy. They all squeeze into a tiny box at one point. Cozy!

Back at the pad, the Monkees play checkers again. The scene begins the same way with Peter and the threatening letter. The Monkees aren’t having it. Mike complains to “Jim.” Frawley justifies that the actor has no mustache or accent and is asking for “the secret apple.” Mike and Micky promise to see us next week with something better.

Back to Paris, there’s a final montage of shots of the Monkees kissing and hugging the models. Micky puts a fur hood on two girls heads and pushes them together, then grins as though they were kissing. If I’m interpreting that correctly, I can’t believe that got past the censors. He also affectionately hugs an old lady, which is very sweet. There you have it, naughty Micky and nice Micky. There’s a random shot of Micky with Samantha Juste, his future wife [You are tearing me apart, Lisa! – Editor’s Note], holding him as he sleeps on a bus.

I have to admit when I used to catch the run of episodes on MTV and Nickelodeon back in the mid-eighties, I wasn’t too excited when this one came up in the rotation. I tuned into the Monkees for the funny dialogue and weird plots, to see the Monkees talk to me by breaking the fourth wall, etc. This episode is cute but it’s never going to be a favorite. As a teen I admit I did enjoy seeing them run around with the pretty girls. There is a fun romance element to it. Unfortunately the film stock they used was awfully washed out so any beautiful or interesting scenery is not getting the appreciation it deserves. My DVD’s are no improvement on how it looked on television. They did restore it on the Blu Ray box set apparently, according to the Monkees YT channel. Here’s a sample of the restoration. As I said in my intro, “Monkees in Paris” is an extended romp; it’s pretty and fun but ultimately pointless.

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.

 

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Monkees vs. Macheen: “The Monkee’s Paw”

“You’ll never work in show business again!”

“The Monkees Paw” was directed by James Frawley, written by Coslough Johnson, and first aired January 29, 1968. I enjoy this episode; it’s good old fashioned storytelling, based loosely on the short story, “The Monkey’s Paw” by W. W. Jacobs. In that story, a married couple comes into possession of a mummified monkey’s paw that was cursed by a “holy man.” The couple tempts fate when they make an innocent wish that leads to a tragedy. The point being, I suppose, “don’t mess with fate.” There have been many adaptations of this story, including films and stage plays, an opera, an episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, a radio play with Christopher Lee, and the short segment on The Simpsons “Treehouse of Horror II.”

The Monkees version begins at an empty nightclub where the band audition with “Goin’ Down.” The Manager of the club (played by Henry Beckman, the D.A. from “The Picture Frame”) rocks out awkwardly in appreciation. Davy plays drums and Micky sings up front, playing tambourine and maracas. Yeah, they should have set the band up that way the entire series. The nightclub’s current act, Mendrek the Magician, watches from the side, sensing that he’s about to be replaced.

After the song ends, the Manager immediately hires the Monkees. When Mendrek inquires about his own fate, the Manager calls him a has-been and fires him. The two older men argue. Mike intervenes, standing up for Mendrek and asking the Manager not to just “throw him out.” Mendrek thanks Mike by stomping on his foot. Mendrek is a sympathetic character, yet he’s also unsympathetic because, let’s face it, he’s kind of a jerk.

Now for a tangent about clothing styles. For the episodes filmed after the summer of 1967 tour, the Monkees everyday costumes changed from the interchangeable mix-and-match shirts to variations on tunics, mandarin collars, and love beads. Except Mike. Beginning with “Monkees on the Wheel” he wore a tucked in shirt and tie, which I suppose suits his on-screen personality. I suspect at this point the actors were choosing their own clothes and they all look terrific, but sometimes Mike looks like their older brother, chaperoning the band around town [Your pot-smoking accountant brother-in-law – Editor’s Note].

Mendrek assumes the Monkees are going to mock him. Instead they instead offer condolences. They are always supporters of the underdogs. Mendrek says, “Oh don’t be sorry. People don’t want to see Magicians anymore. They want to see reality. As it’s shown to them on television.” Wow. Replace “television” with “YouTube” and that line still works today! This theme of older entertainers threatened by young rock-n-rollers was also in “Monkees at the Circus” and “Captain Crocodile.” Micky finds the Monkey’s Paw in Mendrek’s things; he’s grossed-out, but curious. Mendrek tells the story of how he acquired it from a Lama while looking for “secrets of the unknown” in Tibet.

As told in flashback, Micky plays Young Mendrek, who has climbed a snowy mountain in a magician’s tux to see the High Lama. Instead, he finds the regular lama, known as “Reg.” Mike plays Reg with as broad a Texas accent as possible, comically smashing the expectations about how a lama would speak. Young Mendrek wants to see the High Lama, but Reg explains that he’s out back “sleeping it off.” That’s how he got his name. Nice subversive joke. Young Mendrek tells Reg he’s looking for “Tibetan Unknown Secrets.” Reg is resistant at first and even serves Mendrek papers for trespassing. Eventually, he gives Young Mendrek the Monkey’s Paw, claiming it will grant him three wishes.

Back in the present, Mendrek offers Micky the “priceless” Monkey’s Paw for a quarter. This is pretty nasty of Mendrek. Going by the source story, we can assume that he’s had misfortune because of it, and now he’s wishing this on Micky. I don’t think Micky’s after “mystic power” the way that Young Mendrek was. As Mendrek is leaving, Micky gives Mendrek the quarter, officially purchasing the paw out of pity so that Mendrek won’t be a “vagrant” as the manager calls him. After the Manager kicks Mendrek out, Mike, Davy and Peter look at the camera to tell us, “Well, that’s show business!” with a musical flourish. Recycled joke from “Monkees in a Ghost Town,” but it still works here.

Back at the Monkees pad, bad luck kicks in. Micky’s on the phone with the never-on-this-show-before mentioned “Musicians Union” asking how they can pay their dues if they don’t work? But they can’t work unless they pay their dues. Of course they haven’t worked for a long time. Peter gets in some deliberately out-of-character political commentary with a tongue-in-cheek delivery to the camera:

Micky wanders off holding the paw and distractedly wishes for a way they could get that money. I don’t think he intended to use Monkey’s Paw. (Although he knew about the wishes from Mendrek’s story.) There’s been nothing in Micky’s characterization to suggest he’s superstitious, but throughout every scene in the episode, he continues to hold on to the Monkey’s Paw. Out of the blue, the Manager walks in and says he’ll pay their dues and take it out of their salary, for a kickback of 142%. Later, Micky defends the Monkey’s Paw to Mike, Peter and Davy, as it got them their dues paid, despite the ridiculous interest rate.

Davy is starving and wonders if the Monkey’s Paw could get them some food. Micky wishes for a spaghetti dinner “big enough to feed all four of us.” Spaghetti noodles drop on his head. The others rush up and eat it right off of him. Notice that the Monkees are relatively innocent and don’t make any “Make us as popular as the Beatles” wishes. That’s true to the story where the poor couple involved only wishes for enough to pay their mortgage off, no more.

At his home, Mendrek’s daughter expresses her sympathies about his recent unemployment. He tells her he sold the Monkey’s Paw to one of those “long-haired weirdos.” Daughter worries, “Don’t you remember The Book of Mysteries said it was cursed?” The Book of Mysteries? Would that be Nancy Drew or The Hardy Boys? Mendrek says if that were the case, his luck would change immediately. Just then, he gets a call informing him that he won a million dollars. I can’t help but be a little happy for him. He looked so down and out in the earlier scene, and Hans Conried is so likable.

At the nightclub gig, Micky obsesses over the Monkey’s Paw and his final wish. The others tell him to let it go already. Peter complains that Micky hasn’t talked about anything else since he got the Monkey’s Paw. Micky starts to say, “I wish I could stop talking about it.” but only gets to “I wish I could stop talking…” before his voice vanishes. Someone announces the Monkees and they start playing “Goin’ Down.” It seems a little unfair that this happens to him, since he didn’t have any selfish intentions with his wishes.

Micky’s screwed since he can’t talk or sing. He stands on stage and mouths the words. The crowd boos them off the stage and the Manager demands an explanation. Mike bluffs that Micky’s singing with his feet, “Haven’t you ever heard of “A Young Man with a Corn,” which is a joke-reference to the 1950 movie, A Young Man with a Horn. Playing along, Peter suggests it’s like the jazz song, “Flat Foot Floogie with the Floy-Floy.” Davy makes the pun, “Sock it to me, baby.” Micky does some fast foot-work, but the Manager is unimpressed. He warns them that if Micky can’t sing by tomorrow the Monkees are, “Outta show business!” as he puts it. Does he have that kind of power?

At the pad, the Monkees huddle around Micky, who tries to say “Four Score and Seven Years ago.” Poor Micky. This is really hitting him in the worst place, his wonderful voice. Davy suggests that the Monkey’s Paw has no power, and the problem is all in his head. Did Davy forget the spaghetti ex machina? Mike reasons that the problem began with Mendrek. Well, duh.

The Monkees arrive at Mendrek’s house, where he has bags on his desk with dollar signs on them, as you do when you’re rich [Gene Simmons cashes another check! – Editor’s Note]. Mendrek is busy on the telephone. The Monkees, always eager to answer other people’s phones (See “Too Many Girls” and “Monkees in the Ring”),  answer some of Mendrek’s lines. There’s a Tonight Show reference when Peter tells a caller, “No, no Mr. Carson. Mendrek wants you on his show.” Mendrek pauses to give them his attention, and Mike brings up the Monkey’s Paw. Mendrek quickly brushes him off, claiming he’s too busy. Mendrek knows darn well the paw caused Micky’s problems.

I’m curious about Mendrek’s name. I wonder if it was inspired by the comic strip, Mandrake the Magician, which ran from 1934 to 2013. Mandrake was a hypnotist who used his powers to fight all kinds of villains and spies. It had a pulp-adventure feel, which is right up The Monkees’ writer’s alley.

Back home, the Monkees kid themselves that there’s some other cause for Micky’s sound of silence. They attempt to cure his “illness” with a cutaway gag, putting him in a boiling pot of chicken soup. Later, Micky silently chatters with Mr. Schneider, still holding the Monkey’s Paw. Mike, Peter, and Davy talk about him around the totem pole. Mike suggests that they need to re-teach Micky to talk. Davy makes a bad pun based on the totem pole, asking, “How?” With visibly red, stoned-looking eyes, he giggles uncontrollably at his own joke. I guess Davy Jones decided to play the “High Lama” himself in that scene.

Peter, Mike, and Davy dress in academic robes and give Micky lessons on talking. They use a blackboard that has a few inside jokes such as: “Save the Texas Prairie Chicken,” “Frodis,” and “legalize.” Mike wants to teach Micky to say “pencil,” but Micky still can’t speak. Peter tries to prompt him, using his p-popping trick. They give up, Mike holding the writing implement in question and pondering, “Do you suppose it has anything to do with the fact that this is a crayon?”

The Monkees hope that this is just a mental block. In a hilarious and memorable scene, they take Micky to a psychiatrist, played by Severn Darden (Guggins from “Monkee Vs. Machine.” They also use the same office set they used for Guggins. He gives Micky the ink-blot test, but the others keep piping in with their interpretations. Missing the point of the test, the shrink becomes furious, insisting that the only right answer is:

At the nightclub, Davy tells the Manager they’ve incorporated Micky’s silence into the act. By which he means, they’ve decided to imitate the Marx Brothers. Out on the stage comes Mike as Groucho, Micky as Harpo, and Peter as Chico. I guess Davy’s the Zeppo. Mike does bits from Groucho’s game show, You Bet Your Life. “Say the Magic Word, you get a hundred dollars.” There are other You Bet Your Life/Monkees connections. Joy Harmon, from the episodes “The Picture Frame” and “Monkees on the Wheel” and Pedro Gonzalez Gonzalez from “It’s a Nice Place to Visit” were both discovered on You Bet Your Life. Doodles Weaver from “Monkees Manhattan Style” appeared on the show as a comedian.

The Manager fires the Monkees and promises, “You’ll never work in show business again!” (Again, I doubt he has that power.) Back at the Monkees house, Mick-o mopes. Davy doesn’t blame the manager; he agrees an act like the Marx Brothers would never sell.

They wind up back at Mendrek’s. To his credit, he is now helping “the less fortunate.” That would include the Monkees. Davy and Mendrek’s cute daughter look through “The Book of Mysteries” to see if they can find a solution. Unfortunately she never gets a name; she’s listed on the IMDB as “Daughter.”

Mendrek hits the gong from “Monkees Chow Mein” to jumpstart Micky’s power of speech but only succeeds in freaking Peter out. Fortunately, Davy discovered that the solution is to sell the Monkey’s Paw to someone else. Mike suggests they only sell it to someone deserving and, with perfect timing, the Manager enters to re-hire Mendrek. They all get to work on selling the paw to the Manager. The Manager finds a quarter a bit steep and wants to know more about the “special powers.”

They demonstrate via the montage of magician’s tricks to “Words” (Boyce/Hart). Micky and Mendrek are the magicians who make the others vanish and reappear with “pop” sound effects. There’s also recycled footage of the Astonishing Pietro footage from “Too Many Girls.” Mendrek puts Micky in a giant cup of coffee, perhaps to accompany the giant phone from “Monkees on the Line.” Five Monkee points to whoever gets the reference in this picture:

After the romp, the Manager demands they sell him the Monkey’s Paw. They happily comply, and Mike suggests he go ahead and make a wish (with a look to the camera, inviting us in on the joke). The Manager wishes for a million dollars, which rains on him from above. Immediately the IRS shows up and arrests him for tax evasion.

Back at the Monkees pad, Micky talks a mile a minute to make up for lost time. The Monkees are once again right back where they started, no better or worse off, despite their ill-advised fling with the supernatural. They say goodbye, borrowing each other’s names, and sing the theme a capella. Overall, this was a fun adaptation of the original story. Lots of funny scenes and lines and I’m always happy when the plot revolves around them as musicians. The guest cast was terrific as usual, with the talented and engaging Hans Conried as Mendrek, walking the line between friend and foe to the Monkees.

There’s an interview clip, in which Peter talks about the death of the Hippie Movement, but more interesting is the outtake from the episode that follows. The Monkees are at Mendrek’s desk and do a brief Three Stooges “Hello, hello, hello.” Hans Conried breaks character and curses, “(whistle), I hate these kids.” According to this article on Something Else Review,  the actors playing the Monkees were encouraged by the producers to be energetic and goofy all the time, creating a spontaneous mood where “their madcap sensibilities could be captured with first-take efficiency.” Conried did not enjoy this environment. His expressed frustration was a moment that embarrassed Micky Dolenz because he was a fan of the older actor. Dolenz talks about this on Gilbert Gottfried’s Amazing Colossal Podcast.

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: “Monkees in Texas”

“Welcome to Videoranch!”

“The Monkees in Texas” places the boys in familiar territory : The Western. The earlier season two episode, “It’s a Nice Place to Visit,” was an excellent parody of film Westerns. “Monkees in Texas,” written by Jack Winter, is aimed at the television Western, and parodies popular shows such as Bonanza and The Lone Ranger. This episode uses anachronisms for the story and comedy – the costumes on the guest cast especially, but also the set and the storyline, are designed as though the Monkees somehow drove back in time to the late 19th century, while they themselves maintain their psychedelic 1960’s style. This is in service of the parody, as TV shows like Gunsmoke  (which aired against The Monkees on the CBS Television Network) took place in the old west. This device also puts the Monkees in a situation where they’re out of place once again.

The Monkees pull up to a house in a desert setting, driving a golf cart instead of the Monkeemobile. For the most part, the sets used in this episode were on the Columbia Ranch. Zilch, A Monkees Podcast recently had an episode packed with information about The Monkees use of these Columbia Ranch sets in various episodes. This particular episode used a part of Columbia Ranch know as” the Berm.” More information can be found here.

Once they get out of the cart, Mike explains to Peter, and the audience, that they’re in Texas at his Aunt Kate’s house. (Michael Nesmith was born in Houston, Texas.) The Monkees hear gunfire and duck for cover. Two women in 19th-century Western costume ride up on horses, and Mike identifies one of them as his aunt. Three masked men in black arrive and shoot at the women while the Monkees run inside to help Mike’s aunt.

The women shoot rifles out the window at the bandits as the Monkees enter the little green house. Aunt Kate greets Mike briefly and tells the Monkees to “grab a rifle.” Of course they all try to grab the same rifle. Aunt Kate clarifies that there’s one for each of them on the rack. There’s a Marx-brothers type scramble when Peter keeps putting the guns back on the rack as the others try to hand them out. The Monkees wind up cocking invisible guns. The younger woman, Lucy, gives them one of those “funniest looks from everyone we meet.” They try again, and each shows off their weapon: Micky, “Winchester seventy-three,” Davy, “Colt forty-five,” Mike, “Smith and Wesson, thirty-eight.” It’s all very faux-manly, except Peter who takes an anti-violence stance with a bottle of champagne, “Vintage sixty-six.”

The Monkees help defend the house, except Peter uses a finger gun and “fires” by saying “bang-bang-bang!” Peter explains to Davy, “Well, I hate violence. Besides I have more shells than you.” (Peter also used a finger-gun in “Monkee See, Monkee Die.”) The lead bandit asks, “Have you had enough, nesters?” Mike corrects them, “The name is Nesmith!,” a callback gag to the times Mike’s name has been mispronounced (“I’ve Got a Little Song Here,” “Monkee Mayor”). Aunt Kate corrects Mike that “nester” means farmer, so Mike politely allows the bandit to go on.

The bandits open fire at the house and Micky comments, “they’re throwing everything at us but the kitchen sink,” setting up the site gag when the bandits roll a flaming sink at the house. After the opening titles, Davy solves the problem by turning on the faucet and letting the water put the flames out. They all cheer Davy. It is pretty amazing since the sink’s not connected to any pipes. The sexist bandits realize, “that ain’t just women” firing at them, and they retreat. The Monkees celebrate and the women stare at them incredulously.

This is the first of two Emmy jokes in the episode. The Emmy’s were given out on June 4, 1967, so by the time this was shot in October of 1967, James Frawley, who directed this episode, had already won the Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Comedy for “Royal Flush” and The Monkees won for outstanding comedy series.

Lucy halts their celebration, “I wouldn’t be too happy about that, they’ll be back.” (Lucy is played by Bonnie Dewberry, who was also Dr. Mendoza’s daughter in “I Was a Teenage Monster.”) Micky, Peter, and Davy are eager to leave Aunt Kate’s now that the gunfight is over. Mike insists that they stay for family loyalty and bravery etc. but mostly because the bandits “killed our golf cart.” They cut to a shot of the golf cart, turned over on its side. Maybe that’s why they didn’t use the Monkeemobile. Micky and Peter go to get some help. Kate advises them to look more “Western” so they’ll fit in better. They don’t like strangers here, and the young Monkees are pretty strange.

Kate explains that Black Bart and his men have been trying to drive her off her land for about a year. The name Black Bart is an allusion to a real life outlaw, who robbed stagecoaches in the late 19th-century. Mike introduces Kate to Davy and then realizes he doesn’t know Lucy, the younger woman. She takes off her bonnet and flusters Mike with a shake of her long blonde hair, giving Mike the setup to be comically awkward.

Mike: “I’m afraid I don’t know this lady here… oh my…”
Aunt Kate: “Don’t you remember your baby cousin Lucy?”
Mike: “Huh? Lu—Lucy! Are you Lu—well, what, well, whatever happened to the buck teeth, the knobby kneed, uh, stringy haired, bad complexion, little girl that I used to hang around with?”
Aunt Kate: “That’s your other cousin, Clara. She still looks the same.”

Micky and Peter’s idea of looking “Western” is a Lone Ranger and Tonto look, parodying the popular Texas Ranger and his Native American friend characters of radio, television, comic books, and films. Micky and Peter are “The Lone Stranger” and “Pronto.” (Looney Tunes also did a Lone Ranger parody, “The Lone Stranger and Porky” in 1939). Peter is unsure of his outfit, as he should be since they both look like they’re wearing little kid’s Halloween costumes. But Micky reassures Peter that he looks very “psychedelic” because of the peace symbol and beads. [“Dirty hippies!” – Editor’s Note]

Micky and Peter enter the Marshall’s office and explain the trouble at Nesmith’s ranch. The Marshall (played by actor James Griffith who appeared in many Western television shows) is unavailable to help because he’s shooting his own TV show, and then has an Emmy dinner—for Emmy reference #2. He suggests they go to a saloon and hire outlaws.

Back at the ranch, Davy spots three men riding towards the house and warns the others. However, Kate identifies the men as friends: The Cartwheels, Ben and his two sons, Mule and Little Moe. This is a parody of the Western TV show Bonanza and the main characters Ben Cartwright and his sons (“Hoss” and “Little Joe”). Cartwheel insists Kate should sell her ranch to him for her “protection” of course. Kate politely turns him down.

Fun dialog moment:

Ben Cartwheel (to Davy): “Hey, uh, water my horse, will you, son?”
Davy: “Water your horse? I’m not a stable boy!”
Ben Cartwheel: “I don’t care about your mental condition; water my horse!”

Micky and Peter enter the saloon as a Western-style version of “The Old Folks at Home” (Stephen Foster) plays. (Davy performed this song in “The Spy Who Came in from the Cool,” and “The Case of the Missing Monkee.”) They get another of those “funny” looks, this time from the bartender. Micky bumps into a mustachioed cowboy at the bar, who is clearly Davy. A saloon girl grabs Micky, who protests with, “Not now, this is a family show!” The bartender is skeptical of this, “Family show?” When Micky and Peter look for hired guns to fight Black Bart, they meet Sneak and Red. There’s a misunderstanding, and Red ends up recruiting Micky and Peter into Black Bart’s gang. (Red is played by Len Lesser, who played George in the Western/gangster-flavored episode “Monkees in a Ghost Town.”)

I’ve seen it noted that the “bubble gum” joke was meant to be a reference to the Monkees “bubble gum” image. Could be, but I’m going to take it a different way. The “family show” joke suggests that the writers/producers make many of the jokes subversive and aimed at adults. With the bubble gum vs. tobacco, Peter ordering milk from the bar, and Micky’s line about the “family show,” and all of the gun violence and the Monkees playing around with the guns pretty much consequence free, they’re making fun of the idea of what a kid’s show is supposed to be. Most recent kid’s shows I’ve watched with my daughter are sanitized and full of “lessons.” No thanks. (Please, no morals.) At the same time, the Monkees act like kids most of the time, and they put kid’s jokes in an adult context, such as real Westerns which tend to be violent and aimed at adults, etc. The contrast makes The Monkees an unusual show. Other shows that pull this off successfully tend to be cartoons like Looney Tunes or Animaniacs.

I’ve been really enjoying this episode so far. These scenes in the saloon are my favorite because of the parody of Western clichés, funny dialog and sight gags, and a brilliant “tough cowboy” performance from Micky. High points include Micky missing the whisky bottle the bartender slings at him, the men with “prices on their heads,” Micky proving that he’s “fast on the draw,” and the excellent straight men: Sneak, Red, and the Bartender.

Peter and Micky hang out in Black Bart’s shack, where Micky plays cards with Red. Sneak busts in and declares that now’s a good time to attack Nesmith’s ranch. Peter sneaks out of the hideout and rides a horse right into the front door of Aunt Kate’s house to announce that Black Bart and his men are coming. When Davy rushes to get help, he accidentally falls on the horse the wrong way and rides it backward. He finds Ben Cartwheel, who instructs Davy to tell Kate he’s coming with his men. Davy makes the return trip backwards too; cool trick on Davy Jones’s part.

Mike digs up a jar of dirt from Kate’s ranch and takes it to the saloon. He asks for the Assayer’s office. The bartender replies, “This is it” and a sign identifying him magically appears. The Assayer/Bartender looks in Mike’s jar with that oft-used giant magnifying glass and tells Mike that the gook in the jar is “crude.” Mike misunderstands and leans in, “Oh. That’s okay, go ahead and tell me anyway.” The Assayer explains that “crude” is oil. Before Mike can leave, the Assayer asks for payment, so Mike puts some of the oil on his hand. Mike was very much like Jimmy Stewart (who, among other films, was in many Westerns) with his polite, unassuming demeanor in that scene.

Black Bart walks into his hideout without his mask, and if the audience didn’t catch on before, he is Ben Cartwheel. Bart wants to know who betrayed them to Kate. Red identifies the “Injun” as the one who went to the ranch. Ignoring the pejorative term for moment, clearly the joke is that Peter looks nothing like a Native American. Micky pretends not to know Peter, but when Bart orders Micky to kill Peter, he admits Peter’s his best friend. Red and Sneak draw guns on Peter and Micky.

A narrator’s voice employs the cliché, “Meanwhile, back at the ranch…” Mike tells Kate she’s going to be rich because of the oil on her property. They wait for the Cartwheels to save the day, but in case they don’t arrive, Mike tries to get John Wayne on the phone, yelling at the operator because, as in “The Prince and the Paupers,” he has trouble working these antiquated phones. It’s also a callback gag to “Monkees in a Ghost Town” when Davy tried to call Marshall Dillon from Gunsmoke. Kate hands rifles to Mike and Davy.

Black Bart and his men arrive at Kate’s ranch. They have Micky and Peter tied up and dressed like part of the gang. Their hands are tied, but they ride the horses away from the bad guys anyway. Bart lets them escape, figuring they can simply “kill them on the other side.” That doesn’t make any sense, but whatever facilitates their escape, I suppose.

Micky and Peter ride up to the ranch and tell Kate and the others that Cartwheel and Black Bart are one in the same. She doesn’t believe it:

Aunt Kate: “Ben Cartwheel’s the kindest millionaire in the whole valley. He wouldn’t hurt a fly.”
Micky: “Flies, no, but if you’re a human, he’ll kill ya!”

Between not catching on to Black Bart’s true identity, and not noticing that she had oil on her ranch, Aunt Kate is not the sharpest Nesmith. It seems the cycle had been going on for a year before the Monkee arrived: Black Bart and the bandits shoot at the women, and then Ben Cartwheel comes by and offers to buy the ranch. However, Kate wasn’t scared off; she was shooting right back and determined to hold onto her property. The Monkees contribution to moving the story along was brains (and comedy), not tough-guy gun slinging; Mike discovered the oil, and Micky and Peter discovered Black Bart’s true identity.

The good guys run inside, Micky giving Bart a saucy British “two-fingered salute” gesture before he shuts the door. I doubt he meant that as a peace sign, though maybe it passed that way to the censors. The gunfight launches a romp to “Words” (Tommy Boyce/Bobby Hart). It’s a very cartoonish romp, with lots of knocking bad guys on the head. The somber song is pretty, but doesn’t suit the action. Other notable elements are: Davy kisses Lucy for no reason, there’s a cameo shot of photographer Nurit Wilde, and the gun with the “Bang” flag reappears. Once again, despite all the gunfire, the romp allows the Monkees to save the day without anyone getting hurt. Black Bart and his men retreat at the end of the song, riding away from the ranch in defeat.

Oddly, after the romp, the editors stick in the same shot from the beginning of Lucy saying, “I wouldn’t be too happy about that, they’ll be back.” After which, they immediately go into the performance clip of “Goin’ Down” (Dolenz, Jones, Tork, Nesmith, and Hildebrand). This creates an unsatisfying ending. The romp wrapped the story up when the bad guys left; we don’t really need a tag sequence. But it would have been nice if they had done some quick scene instead of repeating Lucy’s line. I wonder if some footage got lost or was unusable.

This is still mostly a fine episode though. The plot was tight and moved along nicely and the writers/producers knew their source material well enough to make it fun. It would almost fit in well with the first season; it’s relatively innocent compared to other Season two episodes as far as all four of the Monkees really committing to the episode. They each had a part to play in the story and they all engage with the plot and don’t mock what they’re doing. The guest cast plays it straight and lets the Monkees be the joke-makers. If it wasn’t for the lack of narrative closure, this might have been one of my favorites.

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: “A Coffin Too Frequent”

“Tea and LSD” 

“A Coffin Too Frequent” was directed by David Winters, who has wide range of credits. He started out as an actor and was in both the stage and film versions of West Side Story. He quickly became successful as a choreographer, working on the film Viva Las Vegas and Shindig!, a variety show that featured Monkees guest-caster, Bobby Sherman. The Monkees was Winters’ directorial debut; he directed “Monkees Blow Their Minds” in April 1967, and “A Coffin too Frequent” in September 1967. Winters has many credits as a producer; notably he produced and directed Alice Cooper: Welcome to My Nightmare, and he directed, acted in, and produced The Last Horror Film.

“A Coffin Too Frequent” first aired on November 20, 1967. Why (oh why) did they never do these creepy episodes closer to Halloween? Writing credit went to Stella Linden, the only woman besides Treva Silverman to have writing credits on a Monkees episode. Born in England, Linden came to Hollywood in 1950. She wrote the film Two A Penny and a couple of episodes of the television series, The Count of Monte Cristo, which starred George Dolenz (Micky Dolenz’s father) as Edmond Dante. She also has a couple of acting credits.

The episode begins with the Monkees all going to bed in the same room. This is a change; in “I’ve Got a Little Song Here” and “Your Friendly Neighborhood Kidnappers” for example, they showed an additional downstairs bedroom. They’re all in the wrong beds so they do a fast-motion switch, settling down just in time to hear creepy laughter from somewhere in the house. Peter tries to soothe them with this notion: the only person that could be in the house is a burglar. There’s a comic pause and then panic as they get out of bed. Downstairs, tux-wearing Henry is lighting candles. Henry is played by George Furth, who we know and I love as Ronnie Farnsworth in first season episode, “One Man Shy.”

As he sets up, Henry mutters to himself about how Elmer will make him rich and famous. The Monkees sneak up behind Henry with a rope and a net, and they would have captured him, except Peter sneezes and they deploy the net on themselves instead. Henry turns around and tells the Monkees it’s almost twelve o’clock; they have three minutes to leave. I guess he must have a convincing tone of voice, because the Monkees do one of their classic fast-motion scrambles to run upstairs, get dressed, and pack in seconds. On their way back down, Peter magically levitates a trunk above the stairs for a few seconds. It falls, Wile E. Coyote-style. This is the first of many magical occurrences in this episode.

When the Monkees get to the bottom of the stairs, common sense hits Mike, and he realizes there’s no reason for them to be leaving; it’s their house. Henry produces their lease and Peter reads that they’re required on this exact date to vacate the place from midnight to sunrise. As little sense as that makes, it also makes no sense that Henry has their lease. The landlord, Mr. Babbitt, could have made an appearance.

The Monkees obediently head out the door but run into Mrs. Weatherspoon, played by Ruth Buzzi of Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In. Laugh-In didn’t debut until 1968 but it’s worth mentioning that she specialized in playing old-lady characters like Mrs. Weatherspoon. Although Buzzi was only in her early 30’s in the late 1960s, dowdy Gladys Ormphby (the lady who hits everybody with her purse) was her most famous character on Laugh-In.

After the opening titles, there’s eerie organ music. Nice touch. Mrs. Weatherspoon doesn’t want the Monkees to leave; she wants them to witness Elmer’s return from the dead. The Monkees aren’t feeling it. Micky explains, in his best Boris Karloff, “It’s not the passing beyond that bothers us so much, it’s the coming back.” They make excuses to get out: they’re just going out for a sandwich, a cup of coffee, and to make a phone call. But Mrs. Weatherspoon has a large Mary-Poppins style bag with her and she has what they require in her bag for each excuse. The most impressive part is when she pulls a visibly full and uncovered fine-China cup of coffee out of her bag and hands it over. (Mike holds the cup/saucer in later shots displaying to the camera that it’s now empty and clearly glued together.)

Henry, the scheming weasel, is now on board with the Monkees staying if it will please his aunt. They still want to leave, but this time Boris, a big guy pushing a wooden coffin, blocks their path. When I say “big guy,” I mean a Richard Kiel/Ted Cassidy sort of big guy. Boris is played by Mickey Morton, who stands over 6 feet, 7 inches, according to the IMDB [He’s like a scary (er) James Coburn. – Editor’s Note]. He is a variation on the Monster character played by Richard Kiel in first season episode, “I Was a Teenage Monster.” Intimidated, Mike agrees that they’ll witness anything.

This leads nicely into a fantasy sequence with the Monkees in a hilarious courtroom drama, as in “Dance, Monkee, Dance.” In this version, Davy’s the defendant, Mike’s the witness, Micky’s the prosecutor, and Peter is the judge. They each have large helpful signs around their neck to identify them. It turns out “the witness” is the brains behind the operation and they’re all in on whatever the crime was. Peter’s face and voice are the funniest parts of this scene. It’s pleasant surprise when he’s funny in ways that don’t involve him being “the dummy.”

Back to reality, Peter sneezes, and Mrs. Weatherspoon leaps into action, deciding he’s sick and taking him upstairs to bed. Henry explains to the remaining Monkees that at dawn Elmer’s spirit will rise, blow the trumpet, and leave. Micky, Davy, and Mike want out (and are thoughtlessly leaving without Peter) but are blocked again by Boris carrying tons of suitcases. Considering they’re only staying until sunrise, it really is a lot of luggage. Upstairs, Mrs. W. forces gallons of tea on Peter. Hilariously, it seems she had all these full teacups in her bag. That is one magic purse.

Micky and Mike hang out with Henry by the coffin. (Mike didn’t have the wool hat in the earlier scenes, but suddenly he’s wearing it.) Mike and Micky are skeptical of the idea that Elmer’s coming back, but Henry explains he’s invented a pill that’s supposed to help somehow. (?) Henry pulls out a bottle of aspirin “in disguise.” Cynical Mike makes a little LSD joke.

Mike: “You see, he gives us the pill and we believe Elmer came back from the dead. We also see pretty colors and things climbing up the wall. Boy, I betcha it does a lot of things.”
Henry: “I told you, I am a scientist.”
Micky: “Mad scientist?”
Henry: “No, but I will be if he keeps making those remarks.”

Davy decides to get to know Boris. He tells him he used to do an act called “High/Low” with a big guy. Davy and Boris go into a vaudeville soft-shoe performance, singing “Tea for Two” (Youmans/Ceasar). Well, Davy sings, Boris just grunts in time to the music. It’s a possible predecessor to the scene in Young Frankenstein where Victor and the monster perform “Puttin’ on the Ritz.” (One of my favorite scenes in the movie.) It’s also neat that it’s “Tea for Two,” given Mrs. Weatherspoon’s tea obsession. It’s going great until Henry ruins it, declaring he has total control of Boris. Boy, he’s possessive and insecure; this character is a variation of Ronnie Farnsworth.

Peter interrupts with calls for help. Upstairs, Mrs. Weatherspoon has wrapped Peter in a plastic bubble. Micky and Mike perform several rounds of physical comedy shtick, trying to get upstairs to help him. First they’re lifeguards, then fireman, and then keystone cops. Each attempt ends in them crashing into Boris, Davy, and Henry. Finally, they get upstairs and Micky and Davy pull Peter out of the bubble. No idea where Mike disappeared to for this scene. Maybe he’s hangin’ with Elmer.

Davy wants to talk to Mrs. Weatherspoon alone, suspecting that Henry is a crook. Henry sends Boris after Davy. Boris slowly chases Davy around the bedroom. There’s a funny moment where Davy scares Boris off by showing him his own reflection, and then checks himself out in the mirror [and his new haircut!], clearly enjoying what he sees. Eventually Boris catches Davy and tries to strangle him, until Mrs. Weatherspoon calls him off. Specializing in aggressive nervousness, George Furth chews on his hankie during this scene, just like he chewed on his cape in “One Man Shy.”

Mrs. Weatherspoon sits down to talk to Davy and Peter alone, while Henry and Boris listen at the door. The scheme is that if Henry gets Elmer to rise from the dead, she’ll give all her money to Henry’s foundation. Davy stands up and opens the door, and the eavesdropping Henry and Boris fall right in. Mrs. Weatherspoon suddenly vanishes. What the–? She really does have magic powers.

She’s gone down to stop Micky from sneaking a peak in the coffin by whacking him with her umbrella. He falls over stunned; that’s one magic umbrella. All four Monkees sit with her and explain they want to help her. They’re not as anxious to leave anymore, and I’m okay with that. I can buy they’ve gotten to like Mrs. Weatherspoon a bit, or at least feel sorry for her as a victim of Henry. It’s consistent with the show that they like to rescue the underdogs. She calls them “angels” and there’s a fantasy clip of Micky, Peter, and Davy as angels jumping around in the clouds with harp music. Apparently, only three out of four Monkees are angels. Back in reality, Micky breaks the fourth wall to tell us, “Now that’s a trip!”

The Monkees decide they need to look inside the coffin, but it’s being guarded by big, bad Boris. Mike coaches Micky into attacking Boris but that doesn’t get them anywhere; Micky ends up hurting his head on Boris’ formidable body. A couple of cool details about Boris’ appearance: He has an impressive scar running over his forehead and left eye, and is wearing a big gold earring in one ear. All three of the guest cast, Henry, Mrs. Weatherspoon, and Boris have this pasty, grey-tinted makeup and dark circles under their eyes, adding to the creepy tone of the episode.

Séance time. This is the second séance the Monkees have participated in; the first one was in “Monkee See, Monkee Die.” The cast sits in a half-circle of chairs around the coffin and holds hands. Creepy Theremin music plays as the camera pans around the circle and treats us to everyone’s comically nervous facial expressions. Except Boris, who retains his “sucked-a- lemon” face the entire time. Henry says, “And now the trumpet will blow.” The trumpet plays “charge!” (as it did in “Monkees Marooned”), which Mrs. Weatherspoon declares is “their song.” Micky is still in the circle in the previous shot, but then his voice comes from the coffin, “I say Henry that you are a crook.” Adding to the episode theme of magic in the air, quick and clever Micky has somehow replaced himself in the circle with Mr. Schneider. (Though in some shots there’s a continuity error when Mike has his hand in his lap instead of holding the dummy’s hand.)

Micky-as-Elmer strings Henry along. Henry says Elmer was supposed to rise but Micky says “you cheated Henry; you tried to cheat the dead…” Henry confesses, and then he begs and pleads. Micky reveals himself in the coffin and Henry sends Boris to slowly chase after the Monkees. Considering how plodding Boris is, they could’ve run out and grabbed a real (not keystone) cop at anytime. But the only location that exists in this episode is the Monkees pad.

Romp to “Goin’ Down” (Dolenz, Jones, Tork, Nesmith, and Hildebrand) begins. Good song choice, since there are horn arrangements used in the song. Notable continuity error in the romp when Henry stands near the totem pole and throws lit candles. They end up in a body shaped ring around keystone cop Mike–who’s standing by the same exact totem pole wall. Mrs. Weatherspoon is super energetic for an old lady, dancing and swinging from the ceiling. Mike seems to be missing from much of this romp footage, but everyone else gets in and out of the false-bottom coffin. Somehow Mrs. Weatherspoon, Micky, Davy, and Peter get Boris and Henry tied up and stuffed in the coffin. This romp featured some really spiffy editing; the editors make a lot of mini cuts in the action to time it well with the music.

Tag sequence as Mrs. Weatherspoon leaves, but now she’s wearing a mini-dress and tights. Since Mrs. Weatherspoon is magic, did she really need Henry to bring Elmer back? Once she goes, they all compliment Micky for helping her. The boy scouts call to offer Micky an officer’s commission. The Monkees compliment his horn playing but Micky suddenly realizes he doesn’t play the trumpet. We hear the trumpet blow and see an arm come out of the coffin holding a trumpet. It seems likely that it’s Davy’s arm since he’s suddenly not standing with the other three. All the same, the other three Monkees stare at the coffin and cough in fear. (See what they did there?) This is followed by the “Daydream Believer” (John Stewart) Rainbow Room performance clip, which always makes me smile.

This is another of those “guilty pleasure” episodes for me. I know it’s not exemplar, but I really enjoy it all the same. It’s a rehash of previous, better material, especially “Monkee See, Monkee Die” with the con game and the séance, and “I Was a Teenage Monster” with the giant, intimidating character and the unscrupulous scientist. It also borrows from “Dance, Monkee, Dance” and even “Monkee Mother.” Despite all that, there’s lots of great comedy and entertaining details. The courtroom scene, the “angels,” Davy and Boris, and other little quick bits that make me laugh out loud. The guest cast was wonderful. Ruth Buzzi is hilarious of course, Mickey Morton is scary and funny, and George Furth is a reliable foil for the Monkees. I even appreciate the fact that managed to tell a story all on the one set. They kept it simple and made it 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: “Wild Monkees”

“She told me to forget it nice; I should have taken her advice”

“The Wild Monkees” was directed by Jon C. Andersen, written by Stanley Ralph Ross and Corey Upton, and debuted November 13, 1967. Andersen also directed “The Christmas Show,” wrote the story for “I Was a 99-lb Weakling,” and co-wrote the story for “The Frodis Caper” with Micky Dolenz. I always figured this episode for a parody of The Wild One, the 1954 iconic film with Marlon Brando as Johnny Stabler, leader of the motorcycle gang, the Black Rebels. You know, the one with the famous line “What are you rebelling against, Johnny?” “Whaddaya got?” The Wild One is the original of the outlaw biker film genre that included films such as Russ Meyer’s Motorpsycho (1965), Hells Angels on Wheels (1967) with Jack Nicholson, and Raybert’s own Easy Rider (1969) though that film focuses more on social change and the hippie lifestyle.

“Wild Monkees” starts in an unusual way with Micky performing “Goin’ Down” (Dolenz, Jones, Tork, Nesmith, and Hildebrand) alone on a dark stage. Film editors show us multiple versions of Micky in different colored lights as he dances and sings. “Goin’ Down” is another song I really enjoy with the jazzy horn section (the song was arranged by jazz musician Shorty Rogers) and upbeat tempo, though the lyrics describe a man drowning himself after being rejected by a woman. Apparently Micky wasn’t super happy they used it in a Breaking Bad episode.

The story starts with the Monkees traveling for an out-of-town gig. They’re looking for the Henry Cabot Lodge (pun!) in that familiar dusty town that we’ve seen in “Hillbilly Honeymoon, “It’s a Nice Place to Visit,” and so on. Motorcyclists drive by and spray dirt all over them. Mike starts coughing from the dust, so Peter goes to get him some water from the car. When Mike drinks, he has a full body reaction to it and performs a great bit of physical comedy, leaping around, gagging, and doubling over. It’s basically a Bugs Bunny from “Hare Remover” tribute (when Bugs drinks the Jekyll Hyde potion). Peter admits he got the water from the gas tank. The Monkees find this amusing sign, “Henry Cabot Lodge and Cemetery. If you’re dying to have a good time see us.” Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. was a United States Republican Senator from Massachusetts and later was the Ambassador to South Vietnam from 1963-1964 and 1965 and served as Ambassador-at-Large 1967–1968, around the time this episode aired.

They pull the Monkeemobile up to lodge. Micky is unimpressed when he sees nothing but bored old folks on the porch. Micky: “Oh a virtual Disneyland for shut ins.” Mike: “No it’s not man. They won’t let people with long hair at Disneyland.” The lodge manager, Blauner, assumes they must be the band. He comes out to greet them and assures them he’s expecting some young people – a “travel club” of lovely folks. Cut to the motorcycle gang outside, tearing the “Henry Cabot Lodge” sign down.

When the Monkees come down from putting their things in their room, they all fall down the steps. It’s a funny sight gag, aided by a shaky cam effect on the exterior of the lodge. Blauner makes it clear they’re not hired as a band; they’re here to be the waiter, bellhop, and gardener and if they happen to play music, great. Micky calls it the “old badger game” and starts to protest that he’s taking advantage of their need for money, but when he gets to the end of the sentence they’re all in uniforms for work (Mike gets a magically-appearing mandolin.).

“The badger game” actually has nothing to do with tricking musicians into manual labor; it’s actually getting a man into a sexually compromising position, like with an with underage girl or someone else’s wife, and then blackmailing him.

Blauner orders the poor Monkees to take care of the guests. Right on cue, the motorcycle gang drive their bikes into the lobby. They’re well covered, with helmets, jeans, leather jackets, scarves, and sunglasses over their faces. When Micky approaches one and ask to help with the luggage, a very tall biker stands up. Davy approaches another biker and offers something to eat, then freaks when the biker stands up and is about a foot taller than him. Peter starts dusting and vacuuming a biker, who stands up and break the vacuum hose. Mike serenades another biker, which is noteworthy since at this point they haven’t made the big reveal.

Davy starts to panic and begs his biker, “please don’t kill me.” The biker grabs Davy and kisses him instead. After the kiss, Davy wants to be killed until she reveals herself as a pretty blonde woman. She comments, “You’re cute” and kisses him some more. Davy’s reaction might now be considered homophobic but for the time was probably considered natural and they’re mining comedy out of that discomfort [Imagine that. What a concept! – Editor’s note]. All the women take off their helmets to reveal they are all indeed pretty women. Blauner orders the Monkees to make the guests “happy” so the Monkees walk them upstairs with their suitcases. Dude, Blauner’s pimping out the Monkees to these women. (I’m kidding, I’m totally joking.)

Next are short, intercut scenes of the Monkees trying to woo their respective motorcycle chicks, and failing miserably. Davy sits with Queenie at a table and struggles to open the wine for her. She grabs the cork with her teeth and spits it into Blauner’s mouth. The tall redhead, Ann, tells Michael that he reminds her of someone that she could cuddle with and go to whenever she felt sad. She reveals this to be a cocker-spaniel. That was more entertaining than it should have been, only because of Mike’s mock self confidence and then awkwardness. Peter recites to his tall blonde partner, Jan, “a jug of bread, a loaf of wine, and thou beside me in the wilderness.” She thinks his poetry is beautiful but turns down his request for a date because, “let’s face it man, you’re a sissy.” Micky’s girl, Nan , has taken to calling him Fuzzy. Micky wants to kiss her, but she makes it clear he’ll get punched if he does. Micky condescendingly says “don’t be silly, my pet” and kisses her neck anyway. She punches him across the room. Well, she warned him.

The Monkees confer in their “room” which looks like it’s behind the set. Peter suggests they’re not being rough enough with the girls and Micky agrees. Peter and Micky were coldly rejected in those scenes but on the other hand they’re drawing a line about how they think men and women should relate. In other words, they think boys should be the tougher ones, not the girls. Never mind that Queenie kissed Davy twice.

Cut to them in Wild One-style motorcycle gang outfits, leather jackets and caps, sitting on bikes and for some reason in a classroom. There’s a pig with crossbones on the blackboard and another funny sign that reads “School of Hard Knocks and Bruises.” The Monkees take a pledge from the script and there’s a few fourth-wall breaking back and forth jokes about whether it’s a script or handbook. The point of the scene is that they are taking a vow to be dirty, violent, and offensive. They’re parodying the characters in biker films and their outlaw, outside-of-polite-society lifestyle. The Monkees want to become tough bikers (or pretend to be) in order to get these particular girls, even though they don’t really believe in this lifestyle themselves. There’s an undercurrent in this scene – could be the actors, could be the characters – that all of this biker stuff is absurd.

Of course motorcycle clubs aren’t just fictional, they became a subculture after World War II and I’m sure we’ve all heard of the Hell’s Angel’s. They’re highly organized with presidents, treasurers, etc. According to Wikipedia these groups have “a set of ideals that celebrate freedom, nonconformity to mainstream culture, and loyalty to the biker group.” Nonconformity and freedom kinda sounds like hippie ideals to me. There’s a relationship there, but not a full on match as hippies stand for peace and the bikers as depicted here are violent. Just like the man/woman thing, the writers are taking a (comic) stand on what bikers are like.

Now it’s the girls turn to fall down the stairs to the lobby. They’re wearing dresses and they run into the Monkees who are in their biker gear. Micky goes into a Marlon Brando impression to explain their change. He tries to demonstrate his toughness by breaking a table with his bare hands, but he fails. Davy makes the nonsensical claim their club is so tough they kill their new members for initiation. The girls say they are too tough for them. That’s why they left their boyfriends, Big Frank, Big Neil, Big Bruce, and Big Butch, leader of the Black Angels. Uh-oh. They didn’t mention boyfriends before. The Monkees recognize the Black Angels name and they start quivering with fear. They start backing out the front door and run right into the real gang, who are four actual tough and dirty-looking men. The Monkees turn and fall on their faces.

The Black Angels back the Monkees into the front desk. They tell Butch the name of their club is the Chickens. Wait, in “The Card Carrying Red Shoes,” Micky didn’t want to be a chicken. According to the Chicken Club rules, they’re not allowed to fight. Davy, always ready to take on a bigger guy, nearly loses his temper but the others talk him down.

Queenie tells Butch to leave the Monkees alone. Butch accuses them of turning his woman against them. He wants to know which one of them is after Queenie. Micky squeals, “None of us, we don’t even like her!” The other Monkees jump on him for that faux pas. The girls are offended and Butch is offended, “My woman ain’t good enough for ya huh, punk?” Wow, they can’t win.

Queenie confronts Butch and he shouts at her to shut up. She melts, “Oh, I missed you babe.” That’s cringe-worthy for me, but I can find many articles online stating that the women are voluntary participants in this culture that considers them property and their expected role is subservience. This little moment is pretty mild in that light, and kind of contradicts what happens in the conclusion of the episode. It’s also nice to know that women aren’t restricted to this lifestyle if they want to be part of the biker life. They have their own biker clubs.

Butch says tomorrow they’re holding their annual best riders contest and, “Winner gets to destroy everything in sight.” And that includes the Monkees. It’s implied but not said that he expects the Chickens to participate in the contest. That night the Monkees hold a meeting in their pajamas. Nobody’s tough in pajamas like that. Peter wants to fight because, “they hurt my feelings.” Micky points out the arguments against it: As “chickens,” it’s unconstitutional, it’s fruitless in solving a problem and you can “really, really get hurt.” Mike decides the wisest idea is to leave, but they are blocked by Butch and gang as they head up the stairs.

Next day, the contest is set up outside in front of the lodge. Blauner sells peanuts and popcorn, etc. The Black Angels are lined up on bikes and they give their war cry, a sound like lions roaring. The Monkees give their war cry, which is more chicken clucking. Queenie announces the start of the contest. The Monkees scramble around comically to get on the bikes. Richard Klein, Micky Dolenz’ stand-in, is the racing official and fires the starting gun.

They drive off, the Black Angels are way ahead of the Monkees. This becomes the romp, set to the Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones, Ltd, track “Star Collector” (Goffin/King), though the version in “Wild Monkees” has no Moog part. When the race starts, Peter never gets his bike started and stays at the starting line the entire time. The actors really ride the bikes so there is real footage of them riding through the dirt mixed with studio shots, such as Micky getting hit with newspapers and the stuffed chimp appearing on his back. David Price is a construction working eating lunch on the race route and Butch steals his sandwich. Micky ties Butch’s bike to a tree at a stop but Butch just pulls it out of the ground. David Pearl approaches Micky on his bike and dusts him with a feather duster, and steals his glasses. Black Angels win the race of course. The Monkees stand there with open arms expecting the girls to embrace them, but they all pass them and run to the Black Angels.

Butch wants to know who to destroy first but Queenie’s not having it. She tells Butch she’s tired of the open road. Queenie says, “Let’s settle down, we could build illegal motorcycles and raise little scooters.” Blauner suggests they could settle there and work for him. Interesting, that Butch agrees to go along with her and do what she wants, considering the stereotypical biker/biker’s woman relationship. He actually says, “My woman speaks for me.” It’s an unexpected feminist twist looking at it that way. Queenie and Butch kiss. As with “Hillbilly Honeymoon” and “Monkees Marooned,” we have yet another couple reunited by the Monkees.

I’ve always had a fondness for this episode. It’s great fun with the sight gags and many funny lines. I enjoy seeing the Monkees united in their fear and dislike for violence. I also like that they all get into this together; it’s not Peter or Davy dragging them into this with poor judgment, they’re all making the same mistake. It’s also a similar mistake they made in “The Monkees Get Out More Dirt,” pretending to be something they’re not in order to impress women. Speaking of women, there’s some notable dynamics going on between the sexes in this episode. A lot of the women on the show were delicate girls that Davy would rescue. There were plenty of dominant women, but this is a rare time that the dominant women are on the Monkees’ level age-wise. The biker women could take or leave the Monkees and the Monkees misunderstand their wishes completely. Of course this is a comedy so a lot of this is not meant to be taken seriously but I appreciate that the writers did something different. There’s a lot going on here: Feminism, pacifism, and male/female relationships.

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.