By the time the Monkees made Head in 1968, they had nothing to lose and they knew it — and they took advantage of it to make one of the most irreverent, subversive and downright peculiar films of the ’60s. Lacking anything that can even charitably be called a plot, it’s every inch a “head” film — a psychedelic, drug-hazed work that attacks everything in sight from Coca-Cola to the Establishment to Vietnam (the anti-war slant is very pointed) to Annette Funicello to movies to critics to you name it. The main thing, though, that it ultimately attacks is the entity known as the Monkees. It’s the deliberate assassination of the group by the group itself — as far removed from their carefully crafted TV image as possible.
The movie is so packed with pop culture references that it’s both dizzying and makes you wonder how much of it was even understood by its target audience. From Bela Lugosi in The Black Cat (1934) intoning, “Supernatural perhaps, baloney perhaps not” to Davy aping Gene Kelly in Singin’ in the Rain (1952) as he arbitrarily performs Harry Nilsson’s “Daddy’s Song,” the film just piles it on. (Did they think more than six people in the audience got the “monkeys is the craziest people” reference?) Totally surreal and completely captivating, it owes much to Richard Lester’s Beatle films and to the Beatles’ own Magical Mystery Tour — but it has its own identity.
– reviewed by Ken Hanke