Monkees vs. Macheen: “Monstrous Monkee Mash”

“What an episode! I’ve never felt this way before!”

Boo! Welcome to the recap for “Monstrous Monkee Mash.” The name is a tribute to the novelty song, “Monster Mash,” written by Bobby Pickett and Leonard L. Capizzi, released in 1962. In that song, Bobby Pickett imitates Boris Karloff and tells the story of a mad scientist, whose monster rises up from the slab and creates a new dance sensation. Micky did his own Boris Karloff impression in “A Coffin Too Frequent.”

I have mentioned that I love these spooky themed-episodes, which would include “Monkee See, Monkee Die,” “I Was a Teenage Monster,” “The Case of the Missing Monkee,” “A Coffin Too Frequent,” and this one. The plot for “Monstrous Monkees Mash” is nothing special, but there are some unusual moments, editing tricks, and some other self-referential jokes. And of course it’s packed with pop-culture allusions. “Monstrous Monkee Mash” first aired January 22, 1968 and the opening credits tell us the director was James Frawley and writers were Neil Burstyn and David Panich.

The episode creeps in with a shot of the same spooky house used for the exterior shots in “Monkee See, Monkee Die,” but this time includes a flash of lightning effect. Lorelei, played by the gorgeous Arlene Martel (She was also Madame in “The Spy Who Came in from the Cool.”), leads Davy into the mansion library. She’s wearing all black, white face powder, and blood red lips. I had no idea Davy liked the Vampira type. A spooky but fun score accompanies this scene and the entire episode. Davy compliments the painting of the green-skinned vampire, which is clearly a real person standing in a frame. He goes over to the little toy bat on the desk and pulls its string. “I want to drink your blood,” says the bat in James Frawley’s voice. Davy wants to get the hell out of there, but Lorelei places a large gold necklace around his neck and kisses him. (It would have been fun if it had been the same “magic locket” from “Fairy Tale”.) There’s a “pop” sound, and Davy’s hypnotized!

The Count steps out of the painting and reveals their plan: Davy will become Dracula reborn. They express their excitement with evil laughter. Bwha-ha-ha ha! This episode is a tribute to the Universal Studios movie monsters from the classic horror and sci-fi films made in the 1920-1950s, featuring the iconic Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Wolf Man, The Invisible Man, and others. These also included comedies, such as Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein and Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy, etc. Abbott and Costello were an influence on The Monkees comedy style. Lon Chaney Jr., who was a guest star in “The Monkees in a Ghost Town,” starred in nearly 20 of these films and was Universal’s lead monster movie actor in the 1940s. His father, Lon Chaney, was in the two films that began this phenomenon, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) and The Phantom of the Opera (1925).

At the Monkee’s house, Mike, Micky, and Peter notice that Davy isn’t back from visiting his new girlfriend yet. Mike calls Lorelei’s number but all they get is an earful of evil laughter. Mike comes to the conclusion they need to go help Davy. Peter and Micky have a better idea; they hide under a blanket.

Back at the mansion, the count gives Davy lessons on being a vampire, including making him drink tomato juice to “get used to the color.” Davy’s feelings are summed up as, “Blood, bleh!” He gives Davy a Dracula cape, and Davy flies around, suspended on obvious black wires until he crashes into the wall. Peter, Mike, and Micky show up at the scary mansion and pull a large doorbell rope that’s an homage to the bell the Addams family pulled to summon Lurch. (You rang?) The Count and Lorelei invite them in, and then they leave the Monkees alone in the library and pop into the picture frame to eavesdrop.

Now, we get to the trippiest scene in the episode, thanks to the editing. There’s a random behind-the-scenes moment of Micky showing the director his medium and small “scare.” Mike finds the book on how to become a vampire. Peter takes a look and carries on about how he’s sure he’s seen the vampire pictured in the book before. (The audience can see it’s the Count.) The Count figures that Peter’s not-so-sharp brain is perfect for “the monster.” Micky flusters Mike with a comically self-centered panic attack, thinking the book applies to him personally. Throughout all this, there’s lots of quick cuts to the pictures of the Count in the book and various shots of the actual count, using the very fast editing style that they used in “Monkees on the Wheel,” “Monkees Watch Their Feet,” and “The Frodis Caper.” Besides making me dizzy, these quick cuts make the scene a standout. With just the dialogue and action alone, it wouldn’t be as interesting.

That would have been a very creepy Morticia Addams-type line to say, but with Peter’s delivery it’s adorable instead. Mike catches on that the Count is the same as the vampire in the book. He pulls Micky and Peter close to tell them his plan. Lorelei gets a pen and notebook to spy from inside the portrait. Mike suggests they act like everything is fine, while Peter goes to search the house. Peter quite wisely doesn’t want to, so Mike and Micky go to search the house, squeezing through the library door Stooges-style.

In the basement of the mansion, Davy is chained to the wall while he chats with The Wolfman, played by Monkees stand-in David Pearl. Davy convinces The Wolfman he’s being treated badly by the other monsters. In a cute reference to the Universal monster movies, Davy points out that the Wolf Man made over 30 movies with Dracula and never even got second billing. The wound-up Wolfman growls and menaces Lorelei when she enters the basement, so Davy translates his demands, “He wants a better percentage of the profits, he wants cook-outs on weekends, and he wants to play his own music.” Nice meta-comment on that last demand.

Lorelei pops into the library with Peter and they repeat the same “What a kiss!/It’s not my kiss, it is the necklace!” dialogue from earlier, and now he’s hypnotized. The Wolfman enters and wants to carry Peter off, so The Count distracts him with his “magic powers”– hot dogs on a string. “I love hot dogs!” declares the Wolf Man. So dumb, yet so funny. The Count and Lorelei lead Peter away for a good old fashioned brain swapping. This didn’t work out so well for the mad scientist in “I Was a Teenage Monster.”

Mike looks around the mansion while Micky holds his hand and crouches over like a little kid. The Mummy approaches them but instead of fearing him, they admonish him for being so dirty. Suddenly scared again, Micky makes a selfish suggestion to forget Davy and form a trio. They go back to the library and find Peter’s also missing (He’s gone!). Micky’s already moved on to forming a duo, and if Mike vanishes he’ll go solo. He sings, “Here I come, walking down the street…I get the funniest looks…”

Mike and Micky tiptoe around the hallway, unaware that the Wolfman is following them. Mike finds a “secret door” and excitedly walks through it. Micky turns around to tell The Wolfman “You oughta get a haircut, they won’t let you into Disneyland.” He realizes he’s talking to a monster and runs back into the library. Micky performs a classic Monkees-scramble to fast music, piling furniture against the door to keep the Wolfman out. Lorelei appears and the two of them repeat the kiss/necklace joke for the third time, until he gets to “What a necklace!” and Lorelei cuts him off with, “Oh, shut up.” [Cute. – Editor’s Note] Nice crescendo for that repeated gag. Lorelei tells the Wolfman he can have Micky. The Wolfman opens the door out so the furniture was never blocking his access to the library. Hee hee.

In the basement, Mike is impressed with the level of creepiness until he realizes he’s alone. He opens the sarcophagus and finds the Mummy. Creeped-out but still polite, he apologizes, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know this was occupied” and runs back upstairs to hide in the library portrait. Lorelei and The Count enter and start discussing their plans so Mike spies on them this time, using Lorelei’s pen and notebook. The ghoulish family intends to take Peter to the underground crypt with the monster and put his brain into the body of the Monster. They keep mixing up whose brain is going where, until Mike finally has to break out and ask for an eraser. The Count obliges. Heh.

Downstairs, Micky and Davy are both chained to the wall and they worry about their future as monsters. They fantasize about what it will be like and pop into Dracula/Wolfman costumes. Davy does a passable Transylvanian accent while Micky’s wolf man sounds like iconic disc jockey Wolfman Jack. Davy thinks they need a girl so he can bite her neck. Micky howls to attract a female, and Monkees extra Valerie Kairys answers his call.

Unfortunately for Davy, The Count interrupts them before any biting occurs. They’re confused about what he’s doing since it’s their “typical Monkees fantasy sequence,” and they analyze that part of the show for him, as Mike analyzed the tag sequence in “Monkees on the Wheel.” Basically, in a Monkees fantasy sequence, they’re in control and allowed to be and do whatever they want. The Count lays it out for them, “It seems this show is different!” He proves it by telling them to take off their makeup. They can’t! They break the fourth wall to call the makeup and prop department for help, but no one shows up. The Count is suddenly in a director’s chair with a cameraman nearby. He declares, “And I control you anytime I want to simply by thinking about it!” Thoroughly in charge, he orders the Wolfman to chain them back up and proceed with the operation. As the Count said, this show is different, and they’ve broken down and re-imagined their own format!

One thing about Ron Masak’s performance as the count: He shouts all of his lines. It’s over-the-top, even for The Monkees. My guess is that he’s doing an imitation of the television “Horror Host,” the kind that presents old horror films and makes jokes in between commercial breaks. This is a television trend that started when Screen Gems licensed 52 Universal horror films in 1957 and encouraged the use of hosts for the nationally-syndicated program, Shock Theater. Examples of hosts would be Vampira, Zacherley, Elvira, and, more recently, Svengoolie.

Here comes Mike to the rescue. But first he performs some awesome physical comedy. He gets to the basement steps, sneaking around in the most obvious way possible. Once he’s confident there’s no one around, he starts in with the manly strut and…he falls down the stairs. He hears the Count coming and hides in the sarcophagus with the Mummy. Cozy!

The Count gets ready for the brain transfer and breaks the fourth wall to mention the obvious fake backdrop behind him. Funny, I was thinking the same thing. It’s nice that it occurred to them their audience was observant. Mike sneaks out of the sarcophagus wearing the Mummy’s bandages. The Count calls on the Mummy-man for assistance, so Mike pretends to be the Mummy, shouting “Mummy!” at the Wolfman. The Count begins the operation, while Mike does his best Igor impression. The Count holds up and identifies a tool as a scalpel. Mike corrects him that it’s a bone chisel and, “it’s used to split!” He grabs the operating table with “Peter” on it and proceeds to “split.” Bad pun, but funny anyway.

Mike wheels “Peter” into the dungeon and frees Micky and Davy from the wall chains. The Count catches on that Mike tricked him, but Lorelei gleefully reminds him they still “control the others” with their thought waves. The Count summons Micky, who “attacks” by gnawing on Mike’s hand. This is a call back gag to “Don’t Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth” when Micky turned into a werewolf, and Mike salted his hand and offered it to him. Next, the Count uses his powers to make Davy bite Mike’s neck. This is getting weird; everyone stop snacking on Mike!

Mike tries to wake Peter for help, but of course Mike has taken the monster, and Peter’s still with the Count. Lorelei reminds the Count that he has the switch that activates the monster. I love Arlene Martel’s sexy/scary Morticia-esque performance in this episode. The Count throws the switch, commenting, “Do you realize the last time I did this, New York went out!” This ignites the romp to “Goin’ Down” (Dolenz, Jones, Tork, Nesmith, and Hildebrand). Monsters and Monkees dance and run around. The best part is Micky-as-Wolfman and the Wolfman fight over a fire hydrant. Ha. The most pointless part is old footage from the first season of The Monkees where the boys jump over a pool in front of the California Mountains.

This is a silly and cheesy but still fun episode. Despite the lack of originality, I can’t dislike something so hilarious, even the dumbest jokes land. This one certainly slides by on style over substance. The guest cast was a scream (pun intended); the Monkees were all charming and funny. The set decoration, the spooky yet bouncy background score, and the mood lighting are perfect, giving it just the right horror movie tribute feel. This is creepy-cute well before Tim Burton, though it obviously owes a lot to The Munsters and The Addams Family. While “Monstrous Monkee Mash” doesn’t have the social commentary factor of “The Monkees Watch Their Feet,” or the hipness of “The Frodis Caper,” it is worth mentioning with those other two because of the comic self-awareness, cool editing tricks, and variations on the traditional Monkees episodes.

David Pearl, who is hilarious in “Monstrous Monkee Mash,” got a credit at the end as the Wolfman, though this is far from his first appearance on The Monkees. Find a complete list of David Pearl’s appearances here.

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 Monkees’ Christmas Show”

“Holy sh–! It’s the attack of Eddie Munster!”

Sooner or later it seems all sitcoms end up doing a “Christmas Show,” or holiday special. This episode, which first aired on Christmas, December 25, 1967, is The Monkees version. It amazes me that it debuted on Christmas day, since these days television shows are on a break and/or in reruns from December through January. The episode is low on adventure and danger, no spies or gangsters. The Monkees nemesis is Melvin, a little boy who hates Christmas. It’s a “slobs vs. snobs” type episode on the order of “One Man Shy,” “Monkees à la Mode,” or “Success Story.” Melvin is a Scrooge-like character, but not because he’s greedy or selfish. He’s simply decided that emotions, good feelings, and fun are not for him [Oh, he’s a Vulcan. – Editor’s Note]. He’s possibly the worst nemesis they ever faced!

The episode starts out with the Monkees pushing their way, Three Stooges style, through the door of a mansion where they’ve been hired (so they think) by a Mrs. Vandersnoot to play a party. The butler is confused by the mention of the party and by the Monkees in general. (Burt Mustin, who played the Butler also played the Tarzan-parody Kimba character in the episode, “Monkees Marooned.”) He exits to alert Mrs. Vandersnoot of their arrival.

Peter wants to buy presents for everyone with the money they expect to make from the gig. Mike requests that he not buy the kind of presents he bought last year, which leads to a little flashback montage. He gave Davy an extremely oversized sports jacket. He bought Micky a chemistry set that turned him into Mr. Hyde and caused him to decapitate poor old Mr. Schneider. For himself, Peter bought an intelligence test that vacillates wildly between genius and total stupidity, until it self-destructs. Mike decided not to open his present until July; it turned out to be snow skis.

Mrs. Vandersnoot enters and clarifies that she hired the Monkees to babysit while she goes off on a cruise. The Monkees want nothing to do with this, until she tells them the pay is $100 a person in advance for the 10 days. Mike is still uncertain, pointing out that “those things take a lot of attention.” Enter the “thing” in question: Melvin, a 10-year old boy, dressed like a little business man. Mrs. Vandersnoot begs her nephew to change his mind and come along with her, but he coldly turns her down, taking Mike’s hand and pulling all the Monkees out of the house. I think Aunty should stay home and find out what’s wrong with her nephew, but then there’d be no story, I suppose.

Little nephew Melvin was played by Butch Patrick, aka Eddie Munster of The Munsters. The Munsters was off the air at the time, having completed its initial run from 1964-1966. The Monkees makeup department went out of their way to make Patrick not look anything like Eddie. He looks to my eye to have been sprayed with a fake tan (could be real tan and maybe old film just made it look that way) and is coming across on my screen as orange. He also has highlighted light brown hair and wears glasses. For his part, Patrick did an acceptable acting job in this episode. I saw the episode a few times as a kid before realizing he was Eddie Munster.

After the opening titles, there’s holiday-sounding incidental music. Stu Phillips really went all out in this episode; the score is prominent throughout. At the Monkees pad, Melvin tells the boys to go about their business; he certainly doesn’t need them to entertain him. The flustered Monkees decide to play music to pass the time. Melvin sees Mike and Peter pick up their instruments and asks, “Isn’t it the height of conformity for both of you to play the same instrument?” They explain that one is a bass, but Melvin doesn’t see the difference. He’s been with them a few minutes and is already causing them to question their value as musicians. Evil.

Mike points out that Melvin’s a kid, and they should play a game with him. They demonstrate “Simple Simon Says.” Melvin asks if he can be Simon. They’re thrilled that he wants to play until he says, “Simple Simon says ‘what is 180 times 3 Divided by 2 minus 7.’” The Monkees struggle to figure it out, using a blackboard, etc. Mike thinks no one could figure that out in their head but Melvin proves him wrong: he turns into a computer for a few seconds and gets the correct answer of 263.

Micky claims he’s good with kids and steps up to entertain him. The childlike Monkees haven’t done that well with kids that we’ve seen. The kids from “Monkee Mother” dominated them and left them tied and gagged. In “Captain Crocodile,” the Crocodile Corp tried to kill the Monkees, though they did eventually win those kids over. The only kid that liked them from the start was precocious and glib Junior Pinter, also from “Captain Crocodile.”

After Micky fails at a few yo-yo tricks, Davy decides to try conversation, asking Melvin if he’s excited to be away from home and staying with the guys. Melvin puts him down, “It would be a lot more exciting if everyone around here didn’t act like such…kids!” The Monkees are better at having fun than he is; that’s for sure. Davy is emotionally wounded and limps back to the bandstand. Mike mutters, “That kid’s cool like a machine, there’s something strange about him…” Melvin turns into the computer again for a moment. Unlike the computer from “Monkee vs. Machine,” Mike can’t break this one in just a few minutes; it takes him the entire episode.

Micky decides they should use “child psychology” Since he’s a rich kid, they’ll take him Christmas shopping. That’s not really psychology. Also, though he is obviously from a rich family, there’s been nothing about him that would signal to the Monkees that he’s spoiled or into shopping and material things. He hasn’t indicated that he wants anything at all other than to be left alone. The extroverted Monkees can’t fathom it.

They take him to the department store, actually that same “ballroom” set that they used and redecorated repeatedly since way back in the first episode, “Royal Flush” where it served as the embassy ballroom. Peter tries out a red bike with a motor and rides around the store, totally out of control. (The salesman is played by Larry Gelman, who was also in “I’ve Got a Little Song Here” as the Director and “Captain Crocodile” as the stage manager.) Peter crashes into the Christmas tree and winds up on a stretcher. The Salesman charges them $320 for damages. After all the property they’ve damaged in these episodes, this is the first time anyone has ever charged them. He adds another $20 for the stretcher. Mike sarcastically cracks that it’s a “carrying charge.”

Back at the pad, a doctor checks on Peter and pronounces him fine. He charges them another $20. The Doctor wishes everyone a merry Christmas, tries to offer Melvin a lollipop, but Melvin declines and the Doctor leaves. Melvin grumps to Mike, “How can anyone seriously discuss Christmas.” Mike doesn’t know how to answer. Melvin asks for “facts.” Peter gives the date, “Well, it’s on Dec. 25. And it’s full of cheer and good light and good will and friendship and fellowship…” Melvin’s not having it. Melvin claims he’s never seen the “Christmas spirit.” [Hard to get into the Christmas spirit when the doctor is charging you twenty bucks. – Editor’s Note] He’s expecting it to be tangible, but Mike describes it as “people walking around smiling to themselves.” Mike asks Melvin to try a smile; Melvin fails at the task. That’s really sad, since he’s just a kid, and we’d like to hope a kid’s life hasn’t been that full of disappointment just yet. He ends up snarling and shouting, “bah, humbug,” much to Mike’s dismay. In case you missed the subtle point the writers were trying to make, Peter and Mike tell the audience the obvious: Melvin needs lessons on Christmas.

The plucky Monkees take Melvin to buy a Christmas tree. Mike tells Melvin about the evergreen branches and their meaning. An old woman approaches and takes the small tree Mike was holding. Proving that Melvin is right about the lack of existing Christmas spirit, she hits Mike with a karate chop to snatch it from him. There are no small trees left, and they can’t afford a big tree, so Mike takes them to the woods to cut one down. He swings the ax at a tree and doesn’t get too far. He just starts convulsing and gets the axe stuck. Peter and Davy go off to buy a tree. Micky comes running, excited about finding “holly and mistletoe.” What he actually found was poison ivy. Forces certainly are conspiring to make the Monkees look like fools in front of Melvin. Even nature doesn’t want them to have a Merry Christmas.

The doctor returns and treats Micky for a $20 case of poison ivy; with that the Monkees are officially broke. Undaunted, Davy shows Melvin how to decorate the tree they bought. He tries to demonstrate that he’s no longer too short to put the star on top of the tree, but he doesn’t quite make it and falls off the ladder, knocking it over. The doctor comes back for Davy and “generously” says they can pay him after Christmas.

Melvin is unimpressed as usual and tells them they’re “killing themselves over something that doesn’t even exist.” Mike finally capitulates, “If you don’t believe in the spirit of Christmas, then it doesn’t exist.” Rather than continue to witness them injuring themselves, Melvin returns to his house, where he has a maid and a butler to watch him. As he leaves, everyone looks sad, especially Melvin. Melvin wants the Monkees to prove him wrong, if they could just figure out how. You’ve got to feel a little sad for both Melvin and the Monkees.

The Monkees are puzzled about how they failed, given the amount of time, energy and money they spent on games, toys, and so on but then Mike realizes that the missing piece was “love.” Which is a bit heavy-handed and sentimental, but it was a Christmas episode after all.

Melvin goes back to his house and finds the butler and maid about to go out for Christmas Eve dinner. He tells them he prefers to be alone and they leave. Melvin sits down and looks into a shiny plate and tries to smile at his reflection. The score is an instrumental version of “Ríu, Ríu, Chíu”. He thinks back on the Monkees smiling faces, takes off his glasses and cries [Yeah, ’cause that’s what everybody wants to see – a child crying. – Editor’s Note].

Melvin pictures himself at the department store again, but in his imagination he plays with the Monkees, dances and has a good time. The score is an instrumental montage of “We wish you a merry Christmas,””Deck the Halls,” “Pop Goes the Weasel,” “Days of Christmas,” and general “la-las” through the scene. Melvin imagines himself actually acting like a kid. He imagines himself back at the Monkees pad, playing by the tree. (The old woman from the tree shop is there for some reason.) Melvin imagines fun with the Monkees that never really happened and continues to cry.

Up on the roof, real fun is on the way! Micky is dressed as Santa, and Davy as his elf in one of Mike’s hats and a “Jolly Green Giant” outfit from “Captain Crocodile.” Micky is reluctant to go down the chimney, but Davy helps him out and they both go crashing down, to Melvin’s surprise. After a fun gag where Micky blows dust on Davy, they give a spirited performance of “Deck the Halls” (with a subversive emphasis on “gay apparel”). Peter and Mike come in the front door with the Christmas tree and join in on the singing. Melvin laughs and cries at the same time. My daughter walks in while I’m working on this and remarks, “They broke him.”

The Monkees brings Melvin’s Aunt back from the cruise somehow. Melvin and his Aunt admit they missed each other but never told each other. They have a tearful embrace. He tells her what a great time he had with the Monkees. Davy and Micky bring over presents for Melvin to open and sit down with them. Mike and Peter stand in the corner and pretend to cry.

The writers didn’t go into Melvin’s back-story at all. His goal is to have no need of anyone, and he respects only facts and figures. On the other hand, he was secretly hoping the Monkees could cheer him up, while at the same time getting all smug when they failed. I think we can guess something about him. He’s living with his aunt instead of his parents so it seems there was a tragedy, death or some other event that took them away from him. He’s afraid to have feelings for anyone or to have any joy in his life, because it will be taken away from him like his parents were. That’s my theory. Whatever it was, I’m glad the writers let the audience fill in the blanks.

Once the episode storyline is over, the Monkees are back at their pad where they perform an a capella version of the Spanish song from the 16 century, “Ríu, Ríu, Chíu.” The song wasn’t originally intended as a Christmas carol but the lyrics mention the nativity of Christ and the Immaculate Conception. (Este que es nascido es El Gran Monarca / Cristo Patriarca de carne vestido /: The one who is born is the Great Monarch/ Christ the Patriarch Clothed in flesh).

After the song, the Monkees bring out the crew to say hello, since some of them would not get home for the holiday season. They introduce cameraman Irving Lippman, wardrobe master Gene Ashman, Jack Williams, the prop-man, Les Fresholtz, the sound man, Monkees stand-ins Ric Klein, David Pearl, David Price, the Monkee Girls (who work in the office and “take care of everything for them”), Gerry Shepard, the editor, and director Jon Anderson, just to name a few. All of this is over the end credits instead of the usual closing theme.

With this version of the credits and the preceding performance, “The Monkees’ Christmas Show” ends with a live variety show feel. The performance of “Ríu, Ríu, Chíu” is the standout moment that made it memorable. I’m not that into sentimental Monkees episodes, but how can I say anything bad about an episode where the Monkees try to help out a lonely kid? That wouldn’t be showing much Christmas spirit (though I’m writing this in October).The Monkees have cheered me up so many times, I can appreciate this story. God rest you merry, gentlemen. (Despite what the butler said.)

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: “Everywhere a Sheik, Sheik”

“Strangeways, Here We Come”

“Everywhere a Sheik, Sheik,”  was directed by Alex Singer, written by Jack Winter, and aired September 25, 1967. Filming dates were April 25-27, the same week the Monkees began working on their fourth album Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones, Ltd. The episode is unfortunately, a recycled plot of a recycled plot. As with “The Prince and the Paupers” the Monkees are helping a young royal who is duty-bound to get married, and as with both that and “Royal Flush,” the Monkees are up against ambitious, evil adults in a fictional kingdom. The title tells us this Kingdom is modeled on a fictional Middle Eastern culture. I assumed the title was meant to rhyme with the line “everywhere a sheep, sheep” from the nursery rhyme “Old Macdonald Had a Farm,” which would mean they are using the obsolete pronunciation of “sheik.”

The story starts out with the Nehoudian King informing his daughter, Colette, that “the stars” say she must marry. His companion, Vidaru, tells her “the stars never fail.” [“The fault lies not in our stars, but in ourselves.” – Editor] The King and Vidaru are both dressed as made-for-television sheiks, complete with the headdress known as the keffiyeh. Vidaru is all in black, telegraphing that he must be the bad guy. Colette rolls her eyes at Viradu and protests to her father. I like Donna Loren as Colette; with her expressive face and playful line delivery, she gives a little spark to an otherwise boring role as another Davy girlfriend. The King is played by Monte Landis (then credited as Monty Landis) and this marks the first of his seven appearances on The Monkees.

The King is afraid he’ll die and no one will inherit the throne and he suggests she marry Vidaru. Colette is visibly repulsed at Vidaru, who turns to reveal he only has a beard on half of his chin. The King points out Colette has already turned down all the most eligible bachelors. She counters by selecting Davy Jones from a picture in a magazine.

Two of the King’s servants, Abdul the Strongman and Shazar, are at the Monkees pad, weighing Davy against bars of gold while the other Monkees make jokes. Abdul puts Davy in a bag and carries him off while Micky, Mike, and Peter passively allow this. Shazar hands Mike an invitation to the wedding of Colette and David Jones. Micky doesn’t have sunglasses on when they read the card in the close-up but for some reason he’s wearing them on the reaction shot when they all look at the camera in shock.

After the credits, Davy has arrived at the Nehoudian hotel. Shazar tells Davy that Colette wants to marry him. Davy wants to know why, and his reaction shots here are the ones used in the opening theme sequence. Shazar gives Davy a non-answer, “Do not question the strange ways of our people.” Because it’s an “exotic culture”, get it? Shazar implies the danger of rejecting Colette; she puts a wreath on the grave of the last boy that did so.

The three non-betrothed Monkees arrive in the classic individually styled gray suits. I like the way they choreographed their entrance: They march in a line in step with each other, and then Mike and Davy lean out from behind Micky as they ask the guard if they can see Davy. Abdul stops them by simply pushing back on Micky’s chest, knocking them all back like dominoes.

Davy is decked out in his own Nehoudian wardrobe when he meets the King and Viradu. Davy and the King do an awkward bumping bow. While the King goes to get his daughter, Viradu puts a dirty smock on Davy, again giving him the “Do not question the strange ways of our people.” He leaves Davy alone. Colette arrives wearing an outfit that resembles a bedlah, which is a belly dance costume, not hanging-around-the-hotel clothing. But unlike the other women in this episode, she has a westernized touch to her costume:

Davy and Colette look at each other and are instantly smitten. Middle Eastern-style string music plays as they begin complimenting each other’s features, cut together with dreamy footage of them dancing and almost kissing. So cheesy it actually becomes campy fun. Davy halts everything to tell her he’s not ready for marriage. She insists that it’s him or Vidaru. Speak of the devil, Vidaru comes in and drags Davy away, “our ancient laws do not permit further contact at the first meeting.” Oh boy, with the strange ways and ancient laws. [That’s a micro-aggression! I need a safe space! – Editor]

Now, for some real comedy. Mike, Micky, and Peter are back in the corridor. Mike and Micky have formal military dress costumes with fancy hats and Peter is dressed as a scientist and carries a Geiger counter. Micky has an over-the-top German accent and keeps knocking Mike’s hat off when he salutes. Their “con” is that they’re looking for a bomb, and they convince Abdul there’s one in the room where Davy is staying.

They do the three stooges gag where they all try to get through the door at once and get stuck. Davy pulls them in and updates them. The King walks in and the Monkees introduce themselves with a Three Stooges “Hello” harmony. Monte Landis gestures to cut them off; he’s good at playing off the Monkees. Davy confesses to the King that the marriage is “a little sudden.” The King tempts Davy with a fabulous mansion and his weight in diamonds. (They’re really into weighing people against precious gems and metals.) Davy confers with the others and they are still opposed to the marriage. The King lures them with the idea that his friends could all become cabinet ministers and each would have his choice of a dozen wives. He claps his hands and summons a group of pretty young women in belly dance outfits. The Monkees eagerly check them out, and naughty Micky makes me laugh with his air-humping gesture. Davy considers all this and decides marriage is better than being killed.

The Monkees are now all in sheik headdress and hanging out with the Harem of Hotties. Davy makes Micky Secretary of Defense. Peter snaps his fingers in disappointment. (This footage is used in the opening.) Mike is to be Secretary of State. Davy wants to make Peter Director of Forests, to which Peter (uncharacteristically) sarcastically, “you would.” Meanwhile, Viradu and his toady Curad plan to kill all the Monkees, but separately so no one will connect the murders. Hmm…I think there’s a hole in his theory. Also, the Curad character seems to have come out of nowhere.

Mike works out the wording for a peace treaty while a girl flirts with him and fondles his hair and his ears. He looks at the camera in disbelief. He decides he needs a paperweight. From above, Curad obliges him by dropping cement block on him. It misses and puts a hole through the apparently very thin table. Mike asks the audience, “What is this number with the concrete block?”

Peter is relaxing with his girl when Shazar brings them some food. Shazar insists he must taste the food first, to make sure it’s not poisoned. He takes a bite and collapses. Peter politely asks, “How is it?” Shazar gasps his last: “It’s poisoned! And a little rare.” Bye-bye Shazar, at least you got to go out on a funny line.

Micky discusses his military plans with his blonde date, going mad with power and a Napoleon impression. Between this and the earlier bomb scare, they are taking an subversive crack at the military and military leaders. They also do so in a way that’s not dated; the military is always a classic target for parody. These jokes aren’t specific to what was going on at the time, the cold war and Vietnam War and so on. Curad is terrible at murder; he throws a knife at Micky and misses.

Colette and Davy nearly kiss some more. Davy frets he’s not cut out to be a prince, just like he did in “Prince and the Paupers.” Colette sweetly gives him a large necklace for luck. Curad sends a blow dart at Davy, and the necklace blocks it. Colette figures out that someone’s trying to kill him.

The Monkees have reunited in the same room and rightly decide they need to split. Mike wants to create an escape plan but Micky thinks they can just walk right out. He hits Abdul on the head with a lamp. Abdul doesn’t feel it so Micky agrees they need a plan. Mike huddles them together for a plan that is never mentioned again. That certainly went nowhere.

Viradu’s new plan is to kill them at the banquet with wine glasses rigged to explode when they toast. He’s overheard by one of the harem girls, who in turn tells it to Colette. Colette’s not allowed to attend the banquet so she asks the girl to tell them, “Golden Grecian goblets guarantee graves,” which is a funnier way to say the glasses are booby-trapped.

At the banquet, the Monkees are seated at the table. There’s humorous stage business in which Micky keeps handing Peter banana peels and Peter hides them. The girl gives Peter the “Grecian Goblets” message before she is pulled off by a guard. Peter passes the message to Micky who thinks it’s a tongue twister: “rubber baby buggy bumpers.” Peter tries the message on Mike and Davy but they don’t pick up on it either. The King stands up to make his toast. Several false starts where the Monkees are about to clink glasses but the King keeps talking and talking. Finally just before they toast, Peter accidentally tosses his at the wall and it explodes. Davy catches on and asks Viradu to clink glasses with him. Viradu refuses. The King figures out that Viradu tried to kill his future son-in-law. In a pretty darn funny reveal, Viradu change his accent to Southwestern American and confesses he’s not a “Nehoudian”; he’s from Oklahoma and came to get their oil.

This launches the romp to “Love is Only Sleeping” (Mann/Weil). Scenes of the Monkees and the guards fighting are mixed with Rainbow Room footage. This one features Mike in his Paul Revere and the Raiders sleeves and blue jacket. I love the song. It’s the sexiest Monkees song; the arrangement and the lyrics. There’s also some of the Foreign Legion footage of the Monkees shot in the first season. The high-point of the mayhem is when the Monkees take turns sword fighting and cut in on each other to make out with the same girl. It gives the whole thing a weird orgy vibe, “wrong” but kinda sexy. The Monkees do that switcheroo thing again where Viradu somehow ends up huddling with them instead of his guards. There’s an explosion and the Monkees are sitting on Abdul.

In the aftermath, the King tells the Monkees he’s eternally grateful and he grants freedom for them all. Davy apologizes to Colette that he’s too young to get married, he’s sure she’ll find somebody else, etc. Donna Loren’s facial expressions are adorable as she explains that she already has found someone new: Peter! Abdul puts Peter on the scale. Peter doesn’t look too happy and I don’t blame him; there’s no reason for him to be second choice to Davy.

There’s a final performance to “Cuddly Toy” (Nilsson.) The songwriter, Harry Nilsson, was working at a bank and writing songs at night when he met the Monkees and played this song for them. Because it was a hit, he was able to quit the bank and become a singer. Nilsson’s career peaked in the 1970s, and he died in 1994. The title track of the Monkees newest record, Good Times! was also written by Nilsson, and a 1960s demo of him singing the song was used to create a “duet” with him and Micky Dolenz on the album.

The Monkees are on stage in Vaudeville-style striped jackets, canes and straw hats. Micky has the purple-tinted sunglasses that we see Mike wearing throughout the second season quite a bit. Micky and Davy compete to see who will dance with Anita Mann, but Davy settles it with a fake punch to Micky’s face. Good thing since Davy can really dance. The other three bounce gamely and goof around with their canes off to the side while Davy and Anita perform the dance she choreographed. Mann has many credits as a choreographer; the IMDB lists her as uncredited choreographer for all 58 Monkees episodes, and choreographer for 47 episodes of Solid Gold, as well as some Muppets TV specials and the film Mystery Men.

The episode closes with an interview from the Rainbow Room shoot on August 2. Micky, Peter, and Davy are in their psychedelic clothes while Mike wears the dull but timeless shirt and tie and red pants with the purple sunglasses. The best part of the interview is the mention of a girl who mailed herself to Davy with the punch line, “We shipped her to the Beatles.”

It’s hard for me to criticize this episode as much as I should. It’s a re-hashed and thin plot with yet another fictional kingdom. Compared to the previous two episodes, which were clearly well thought-out and put together, this one is sloppy. It’s in the same territory as “Prince and the Paupers,” but unlike that one, which I found really dull and drab, “Everywhere a Sheik, Sheik” has some entertaining comedy. The Monkees are funny in every scene they’re in, and for the most part they’re working together and playing off each other well. Some of the bits that didn’t feel scripted added some cheeky laughs, especially from Micky. The guest cast seems to have fun with their parts, which always helps the quality of the episode.

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.