Monkees vs Macheen: “Monkees in Texas”

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“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.

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Monkees Vs. Macheen: “Monkees on Tour”

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“Is It Live or is It Memorex?”

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“Monkees on Tour” has no storyline; it’s a documentary of the Monkees during their 1966-1967 North American tour. Most of the episode was filmed on January 21 and 22 in Phoenix Arizona and San Francisco. Writer and director credits go to Robert Rafelson and the episode aired April 24, 1967. According to IMDB trivia, Bob Rafelson filmed the concert on his own, without permission from NBC or Columbia studios, because he wanted to end the first season “on a different note from other television shows.”

The episode opens with Davy thanking the viewers for all the things that have happened to them this year. He’s sitting in a rocking chair on the Bewitched set and has shorter hair then we saw in season one. The Monkees set up that we’re going to watch what happens to the Monkees on the night of a concert. Micky, Peter and Mike remove Davy from the set and out the back door. This sequence was shot after the tour portion in March 1967 and was filmed on 35mm. The concert parts of the episode were filmed on 16mm.

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Micky, Peter, and Davy are wearing fake beards over their real beards. They grew those beards during the recording of the Monkees third album Headquarters which took six weeks to record from Feb-March 1967. According to the VH1 Behind the Music episode on the Monkees, six weeks was a long time by the standards of the day. (Shout-out to John Lorinc for sharing the Behind the Music link with me a few months ago.) The significance of Headquarters is that it was the first album they truly made as a group, writing and playing most of the instruments themselves and away from the influence of former music supervisor Don Kirshner. It was the #1 record on the US charts for one week before being bumped by the Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. If you are going to be bumped by something, it might as well be that. As a fan, I have to say that many of my favorite Monkees songs are on this album. I’m looking forward to hearing the more of the tracks from Headquarters as I start to recap season two.

Back to the show, the Monkees arrive at their tour destination in a plane. Kids scream, chant for the Monkees, and talk about how excited they are to see them behind a chain link fence. The Monkees stir the crowd up, touching hands and signing autographs before getting into a car and driving away. The audio and the film is really pretty bad. I don’t have the new Blu Ray; I just don’t have that kind of disposable income, so when I say that it’s bad, I’m talking about the DVD version, and what’s available on IFC and Antenna TV. I’ve read that the Blu Ray of this episode in particular is a great improvement. It’s frustrating to have bad audio on an episode that focuses on music.

Next is film of the Monkees doing random things. There are shots of them showering and getting ready and then having breakfast. Micky is sleeping and gets a wake-up call from Peter. In the DVD commentary for this episode, Peter Tork mentions that they were improvising and doing shtick “just as fast as we could.” There’s a cute bit where Davy imitates Roy Kinnear in the “fiendish thingy” scene from Help!:  “I am picking the sandwich up. I am putting the sandwich in my mouth. I am biting the sandwich.” 

More footage. Davy plays with a swan [Editor’s note: You shouldn’t mess with swans!].  Micky signs autographs and imitates a smiling robot. Peter, Davy, and Micky go horseback riding without Mike. Micky is without shoes. Peter asks if the horse is a boy or a girl because “your hair is as long as mine”; a little comment on the type of reactions long-haired young men might have gotten at the time. Davy wants to know if the horse has ever wanted to ride a person.  Mike, Micky, and Davy go to radio station KRUX. This was a Phoenix top-40 radio station back in those days and they sponsored the Monkees concert that evening. At the station, there’s a lot of crazy quick edits, including a shot of the disc jockey tied up on the floor and the Monkees messing with the dials. Mike gives the farm report again, like he did in “Monkees at the Circus.”

monkee-on-your-back

The record, “Mr. Farmer” by The Seeds, spins on the turntable as they cut away from the radio station. More random footage set to music, this time Mike Nesmith’s “The Girl That I Knew Somewhere.” During this sequence, Micky roller skates and gets chased by some kids. Mike takes the Monkeemobile for a spin, and we get to see the license plate number is 57A-MFG-015. He shops at a mall and goes up an escalator backwards. Davy rides a motorcycle through the dirt, shirtless. Between this and Micky riding the horse barefoot, I feel like an old lady for wanting to tell them, “Don’t do that.”

After 10 minutes and 34 seconds of this episode, there is still no live playing.

Back to the radio station, Mike interviews a young woman and asks if she’d hate the Monkees if she found out they couldn’t sing or play. When she says no, Mike is naturally curious as to why not. Her answer, “well because, you’re putting people on pretty good,” makes them and me laugh.

I wanted to talk about that a bit. I remember when I was a teen in the ’80s and the Monkees were popular again. Around that time, my Dad decided to let me know, “You know, the Monkees didn’t play their own instruments.” I’m sure every Monkees fan has experienced getting this “truth” from someone at some point. [Editor’s note: You need a safe space!] Yes, I’m aware that isn’t entirely the case. Getting past the controversy at the time and the way the Monkees felt about it themselves, the more accurate way to say that would be: they didn’t always play every instrument on all of their albums. They didn’t always write all of their songs. You could say it about any band.

I’ve always been drawn to the Monkees as a TV show primarily. That’s how I first saw them, in syndication in the late 1970’s, along with shows like Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, and Lost in Space. I was about five or six years old, so I didn’t know anything about the Monkees songs or records. In 1986, when MTV started showing The Monkees again on the “Pleasant Valley Sunday” marathon, that’s when I discovered the songs and the albums. In the VH1 Behind the Music on the Monkees, Eric Lefcowitz, author of The Monkees Tale, makes the statement that “without Don Kirshner’s involvement you really don’t have the hit songs, and if you don’t have the hit songs, it’s a completely forgettable TV show and I don’t think we’d be talking about it still.” I have to disrespectfully disagree with him. Without the show being as good and memorable as it was, those hit songs would only be present on golden oldies radio stations. It’s the show that I come back to decade after decade. Never, as a tot or a teen, did I worry about the Monkees as a “real band” in the same way I didn’t think that Elizabeth Montgomery or Barbara Eden had magic powers.

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This episode however, takes a break from fiction and shows them really playing. Eventually. Next shots are the outside of the venue, Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix. The sign shows that they’re on the bill with The Harlem Globetrotters, whom I was lucky enough to see play in person. (Thanks, Dad!)

On stage they play “Last Train to Clarksville” (Boyce/Hart). You can barely make it out over the screaming. This episode does show the popularity and the hype, how excited all the kids were to see the Monkees. The boy band from my day was Duran Duran. By the time I finally got to see them play live in the 1990’s, I just wasn’t a screamer. It’s hard for me to imagine myself reacting this way. My Mom was lucky enough to see the Beatles play live in Las Vegas in the 1960s. She told me she couldn’t hear a note for all the screaming.

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Next they play “Sweet Young Thing” (Goffin/King/Nesmith) and then “Mary, Mary” (Nesmith). Davy swaps out Micky on the drums for this one.  I know I already mentioned this has poor sound. I have a recommendation for something similar recorded around this time. The album, The Monkees Live 1967 which was recorded August 25-27, 1967 in Seattle, Portland, and Spokane. The record wasn’t released until 1987 due to the poor sound quality, but it was cleaned up in the ’80s for CD and the new generation of fans. I bring this up because there’s a fun bit on the record at the end of “Mary, Mary” where Mike drags out the end and forces Micky to keep improvising. Mike keeps promising he’s going to stop, then he starts to play again and Micky has to start again…until Mike plays a twangy “na-na-na na na na” on the guitar. You can see a bit of this in the episode, but it’s not as clear what’s going on as it is on the album.

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Back to it, Peter gets a solo spot and plays “Cripple Creek” (Traditional) on the banjo. They unfortunately cut away from the awesomeness for an awkward voiceover of Peter talking about needing some quiet and time away from people, while showing footage of him walking on a beach.

cripple-creek

Mike sings and plays maracas “You Can’t Judge a Book by the Cover” (Bo Diddley). In the middle of this is a cutaway of Mike in a car, talking to someone about sitting on an empty stage, imagining that he’s playing to a full house and saying “someday, someday.” I love Mike’s performance of the song. It sounds much cleaner on The Monkees Live 1967. Davy is introduced as, “the world’s best looking midget.” He sings “I Wanna Be Free” (Boyce/Hart). They cut to him talking to interviewer Bob about losing track of time on the road.

Micky is introduced as the hardest working man in show business, “Micky James Brown Dolenz.” He sings “I Got a Woman” (Ray Charles‎/Renald Richard). Cut to an awkward voice over where Micky wanders around the site of a house a man had built by himself (according to the voiceover) and talks about wanting to make something that will last. Back on stage, Micky parodies a bit James Brown used to do during live performances of the song, “Please, Please, Please”: Micky collapses, and Mike covers him with a black cape and starts to lead him off stage but Micky comes back and finishes the number.

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The Monkees are all back on stage for “I’m Not Your Steppin’ Stone” (Boyce/Hart). They’re all wearing white sweaters that look like the ones we see in “Star Collector” and “Daily Nightly” performance clips from the show. They take their bows and get bundled back into their car with a police escort.

There is a tag sequence with “I’m a Believer” playing and shots of the Monkees in all the locations we saw in the episode. Mike thanks many musicians of the day and ends with, “But most of all we’d like to thank the Beatles, for starting it all up for us.” I’m happy with the knowledge that the Beatles were fans of The Monkees as well. Here’s a couple of groovy quotes from the Beatles on the Monkees.

“I think you’re the greatest comic talents since the Marx Brothers. I’ve never missed one of your programs.”- John Lennon

“I like their music a lot…and you know, their personalities. I watch their TV show and it is good.”- Paul McCartney

Two days after this episode aired, the Monkees started work on the fourth album, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. After all I said above about appreciating The Monkees more as a show, I want to note that this record is one of my favorite all time records. I remember my excitement in receiving it for Christmas in the ’80s. I played it over and over again. My favorite tracks are “Salesman,” “Daily, Nightly,” and “She Hangs Out,” but the entire thing is good from start to finish.

Final thoughts on this episode? Obviously I prefer the episodes with comedy and a story line. But it was fun to see the Monkees perform. The “real life” bits all felt a bit staged, and as I said I do think it’s a shame about the audio, given that this episode was about the music.

I’ll be taking a little break, about two months or so, before picking up with the second season. Thank you so much to everyone who has been reading these. It’s wonderful to relive all these great episodes with other Monkees fans. Thank you to all the various Monkees Facebook group members. Your positive and insightful comments and likes encourage me to keep this going.

thank-you

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 at the Movies”

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“Sometimes The Clothes Do Not Make The Man.”

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I’m a little sad. This is the last narrative episode of season one for me to recap. I’m glad it’s a decent one. “Monkees at the Movies” aired April 17, 1967. It has many points in common with the previous episode, “Monkees in Manhattan.” 1. It was directed by Russ Mayberry and written by Gerald Gardner and Dee Caruso. 2. It was shot earlier but aired later (shot #12 but aired #31). 3. The Monkees are involved in a showbiz story. 4. It has a similar structure of story, two romps, interview, and music performance.

The show starts off with the Monkees playing checkers on the beach. Micky tosses a piece away, and they all end up jumping around as the hot sand burns their feet. B-movie film director Kramm and his assistant Philo spot them. Kramm thinks they’re “typical teenagers doing typical dance moves” and wants them as extras in his newest beach movie. We’ve heard them called “typical teenagers” previously in “Monkees a la Mode” and this is a similar instance of the older generation trying to use the Monkees in an attempt to stay relevant. The Monkees aren’t impressed with Kramm’s previous movie, “Beach Party Honeymoon” and aren’t interested until they hear it pays $30 a day [Quite a lot for an alleged “low-budget” production – I think Kramm skims off the top, if you know what I mean]. At this, they scramble around with the red suits and surf boards used in the opening credits of the second season.

The Monkees walk onto the outdoor beach set and the incidental music is a sound-alike to “Hooray for Hollywood” (Johnny Mercer, Richard A. Whiting for the 1937 film Hollywood Hotel). Other episodes used this piece, including: “I’ve Got a Little Song Here,” “Monkees in Manhattan,” and “The Picture Frame.” This episode is where I’m able to most clearly hear the resemblance to the original song.

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Kramm is shooting “I Married a Creature from Outta Town.” He explains to cast and crew, “It’s a message picture. And the message is: If we don’t finish it in ten days, we’re in trouble.” The Monkees creative teams are parodying a few different things here. First, Kramm’s film title alludes to the 1958 film I Married a Creature from Outer Space, directed by Gene Fowler Jr. (Fowler Jr. directed I Was a Teenage Werewolf which The Monkees parodied in the episode “I Was a Teenage Monster.”) Second, Kramm’s film is also low budget. The 1960s-70s was the “Golden Age” of the independent, sometimes exploitation b-movies, and drive-in sci-fi movies were part of this. Lastly, the introduction of Kramm’s leading man, Frankie Catalina.

Frankie struts out of his dressing tent with a blond coif. Frankie Catalina’s name is parody of beach party movie star Frankie Avalon, a geographical joke because Avalon is a city on the California island of Catalina. Beach party movies were popular in the 1960s, and Avalon was in six of them, as was Annette Funicello who appeared in Head. One of the last of this genre was called Catalina Caper, and featured Venita Wolf from the episode “I Was a 99-pound Weakling.” So that’s three types of movies being parodied, and possibly more that I’m not catching.

The crew prepares to shoot the volleyball scene. Yes-man Philo tells the Monkees the “versatile” Catalina can’t sing, is afraid of water, and breaks out in a rash around girls. In other words, he’s the perfect teen. (Philo was played by Hamilton Camp, part of folk duo Gibson and Camp and the voice of Greedy Smurf on The Smurfs.) Cramm tells Catalina to dominate the game but the energetic Monkees rule instead. Catalina accuses Davy of upstaging him and wants him fired. Then he insults Peter’s facial expressions, Mike’s hat, and calls Micky a “scarecrow in shorts.”

I had always thought that Bobby Sherman, who plays Frankie Catalina, was already a teen idol by the time this episode was shot and aired, but I was wrong. He recorded songs in the early ’60s and appeared on the show Shindig!, but it wasn’t until he was cast on the series Here Come the Brides in 1968 that he became a big star. His first top forty hit was “Little Woman” (Danny Janssen) in 1969. Sherman has another Monkees connection; in 1998 he was part of the Teen Idol Tour with Peter Noone and Davy Jones. (Micky Dolenz replaced Davy in 1999.)

At the Monkees place, they complain about Catalina. Micky busts out a different type of showbiz parody: Hamlet. Like they did to Ronnie in “One Man Shy,” they plan to make a fool of Frankie. They could have just quit the film. But let’s see what kind of havoc they shall create!

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First, Davy replaces the makeup man at Catalina’s beachside dressing table. He makes up Catalina to look like the werewolf and causes all the girls scream. Next, Micky messes with his cue cards, so Frankie’s speech to a girl that probably should have ended with, “I love you” ends with, “You’re under arrest.” Micky trashes Frankie to the press, implying he tried to proposition and shack up with Micky’s sister. Then, when Catalina has to lip sync to the movie’s big song, Mike messes with the record speed, making Frankie have to move impossibly fast, then slow, then fast etc. Kramm furiously yells, “Cut!”

During these scenes, Kramm wears some familiar clothes. For example, we see him wear a blue/white shirt that Peter wore in “One Man Shy,” and a red checked shirt that Davy wore at the end of “The Prince and the Pauper.” He wears other things that appear on the Monkees in other episodes, but I won’t list them all. I bring this up because clearly they’re trying to convey that middle-aged Kramm is wearing these clothes to appear hip like the kids. Technically, since this episode was shot earlier Jerry Lester would have worn these first, but I think the point remains valid: Kramm is desperately clinging to youth.

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Catalina, Kramm, and Philo watch the dailies, or actually a romp to “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You” (Neil Diamond). There’s the footage of the Monkees ruining his scenes and footage of Catalina dancing ridiculously fast, and the Monkees in red-suspendered suits from the 2nd season opening. I’m not sold on their motivation (though I am wildly entertained). They only took the job for the $30 bucks a day. There’s no moral imperative here. Sure Kramm’s full of crap and Catalina’s an egomaniac, but if the Monkees shut the film down, the whole crew will be out of jobs [Editor’s note – Hey, hey! We’re here to destroy the local economy!]. When the romp ends, Frankie Catalina gets mad and accuses Kramm of “conspiracy” to ruin him. He quits and says he can “do a mystery at Mammoth Studios.” This confuses Philo and Cramm.  Philo: “Mammoth Studios has been out of business for years!” Cramm: “That must be the mystery.”

Fictional studio Mammoth Studios seemed active during episode 12, “I’ve Got a Little Song Here,” but is abandoned when the crooks use it to lure the Monkees in the season 2 episode, “The Picture Frame.” I also learned that “Mammoth Studios” has been used in other film/television shows and books.

Monkees are at home. Peter makes an uncharacteristically cutting observation, “You know it’s going to be tough to replace a man like Frankie. After all where do you find a guy that can’t sing, act or surf?”  Mike suggests Davy go out for the part. That’s a bit unfair since Davy can sing and act. 

There’s another romp, this time to Boyce/Hart’s “Last Train to Clarksville.” Micky is a mustache twirling villain (wearing Babbitt’s cape and hat from “Monkee Mother”) and Mike is his somewhat reluctant assistant. Micky and Mike tie Peter to the railroad track. They’re hilariously incompetent at tying Peter and at one point, hand him the gun. Mike engineers the train to run Peter over. Here comes Davy to the rescue. Davy fights Mike and Micky, stops the train with his bare hands, and unties Peter. In an ironic “twist,” Peter punches Davy out, ties him to the track, and twirls his own evil mustache. It’s a cute filler romp that parodies silent films and has its own narrative. 

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Davy does NOT want to take over for Frankie. Mike concedes they can draw straws for it. But watch Mike and Micky’s faces, they’ve already decided Davy’s doing this. They literally draw straws and …

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Now they have to sell the idea of Davy to Kramm. Mike and Peter are on the beach pretending to trade records. Peter trades all his precious records for the Davy Jones solo record. They use the real 1965 David Jones solo album, released by Colpix. Next, Micky, Mike, and Peter wear the gray suits and pose as the press, questioning Kramm about his replacement star. With every star Kramm and Philo mention, the Monkees say “he’s no Davy Jones.” All of this is a satirical comment on the making of a star. Simply puffing someone up using the media [Editor’s note – Brilliant, actually]. By the end of this scene, they’ve got Kramm saying “he’s no Davy Jones.”

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Next, Micky takes over Kramm’s radio and becomes “DJ Micky the D.”  All the “hit songs” Micky plays are Davy singing “Baby I love you” over and over. Funny comment on the banality of a lot of pop songs. These shenanigans have convinced Kramm he needs Davy to star in the movie. We find out that Philo is also Kramm’s nephew.

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In a scene paralleling his intro of Frankie Catalina, Kramm now introduces Davy to the set. Davy comes out of the little tent with the same blonde hair and beach costume that Frankie had. He proceeds to behave the way Frankie did, showing off, shoving Micky and telling him to “watch it,” hamming it up for the cameras and so on. The Monkees look on incredulously as Davy asks Kramm, “did you get my good side?” Before the reshoot of the volleyball scene, Micky, Mike and Peter watch Davy arrogantly dismiss Philo and fuss with this hair. They agree that it’s gone to his head, and they need to save him from himself. The other Monkees keep the ball away from Davy easily as they play. As Kramm shouts, “Cut!,” Mike, Micky, and Peter grab Davy and wind him up in the volleyball net, burying his lower half in the sand.

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Davy tells Kramm he quits; he’s a musician and the film business is spoiling his character. The editors echo him saying “character” to accompany a series of clips of Davy in various costumes: as a painter from “Monkees Get Out More Dirt,” a chef from “Monkees a la Cart,” the prince from “The Prince and the Paupers,” as a boxer from “Monkees in the Ring,” Whistler’s Mother” from “Monkee See, Monkee Die” and “One Man Shy,” and more.

There’s no story end on what happened to the production. I’m okay with that, I like leaving things to the imagination. Presumably they found a new star or shut down. It’s hard to tell from the sequence of events how many of Kramm’s ten days of filming the Monkees wasted, between antagonizing Frankie, and Davy leaving the production without a star. I almost feel bad for Kramm. While he is probably guilty of bad taste and trying to make a quick buck from teenage moviegoers, he didn’t do anything to actively harm or take advantage of the Monkees. They had nothing to lose or gain. It was entertaining to see how easily they were able to sabotage an independent film shoot. It’s one of those episodes where the Monkees are more bad boys than heroes. I can dig it.

After Davy quits, they go straight into the “Valleri” (Boyce/Hart) performance that they used in “Captain Crocodile.” Here, you can see the two of the shirts that Kramm wore in the episode. This time Peter is wearing the red checkered shirt and Davy the blue one. Mike wears the jean jacket and jeans that he wore in the earlier “Clarksville” romp. The jeans suit was Mike’s own clothing, and he also wore them in “The Pilot,” “Captain Crocodile,” and various interview segments.

“Valleri” is followed by an interview segment with Bob. The significant moment is when they address the comment that people say they don’t play their own instruments. Mike says a reporter asked this just as he was about to walk out on stage. “Wait a minute, I’m fixin’ to walk out there in front of 15,000 people. Man, If I don’t play my own instruments, I’m in a lot of trouble.” It’s a well-placed topic since the next episode was “Monkees on Tour.”

I mentioned in the intro that this was similar to “Monkees in Manhattan,” but “Monkees at the Movies” is the much stronger episode. The romps, the sight gags, and the satire were all right on the money. The guest cast was perfect in their roles. The Monkees writers and producers are exceptional at satirizing Hollywood. I’m pretty sure you have to know something well to make fun of it. While “Monkees in Manhattan” was mild, here we see the Monkees attacking the star system, the press, exploitative filmmakers, and the concept of adults capitalizing on the young. It’s also a meta-statement because they mock a Hollywood system that made the Monkees themselves stars. As short as this actually is, with the two romps, interview and music performance, The Monkees did a lot with a little.

If you are interested in seeing more of the Monkees shared wardrobe or more about who wore what when, the Facebook Group Monkee Magic has photo galleries organized on these topics.

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Happy New Year!

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.