I’ve had dozens of conversations with the boys about their film and they’ve told me about all sorts of incredible happenings, but I must confess that I still don’t really know what it’s all about!
Mike tried to explain the story to me: “There’s a kinda big black box, and we keep jumping out of it into the craziest situations. Well, not so crazy really. It’s all very logical.”
“Yes, of course”, I agreed.
“Well, it’s a kinda anti-the-establishment film. We’re all kicking at the guys in power and the things they do that bug us all.”
I understood what Mike was getting at but it still didn’t reveal much of what the actual story was about.
The boys have spent several days in the desert filming scenes. The rest of the film—with the exception of a few other short location scenes was all shot in the Hollywood studios.
I asked Davy what it was like on the desert location.
“Terrible!” he said, “we were filming in a place called Palm Desert. It’s about 130 miles east of Los Angeles. It’s the same spot they used to film that famous chase scene in ‘It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World’. We suddenly find ourselves in the desert when we pop out of the black box. Every-time we come out, we end up in a different place so there are all sorts of crazy scenes. In the desert we meet up with Arabs, Indians, factory workers and the Italian army.”
“The what?” I asked him, weakly.
“The Italian army”, Davy repeated. “Complete with uniforms, everything… just like they wore in the last war. We have a tremendous battle in the desert. Everyone’s tearing around. Grenades are going off and Micky blows up a coke machine with a tank.”
“How did he get a tank?”
“Oh, he captured it from the Italian army. Good job they were there…” Davy went on to describe the trials and tribulations they had filming in the desert. “It was terribly hot. The temperature went up to 105 degrees at times. On the third day, we had a sandstorm, which really caused a panic. Those desert storms can strip the paint off a new car within a few minutes.
“We were O.K. though as everyone put on goggles and face masks until it blew itself out.”
The boys told me that usually they started shooting between 5:30 and 6 in the morning which meant they had to get up an hour before that.
And they didn’t stop work most days until 6:30 in the evening. During their location work in Palm Desert they stayed at the Erawane Arden Hotel. “They” included the director, Bob Raphleson and the rest of the crew—about 110 in all. From what they told me, I think they enjoyed most of their location work. Peter, who doesn’t have to pretend he’s as dumb as he usually does in the television show, told me about a fantastic race that you’ll see in the film. Once again, it sounds crazy, but a giant Victor Mature 25 times as big as a normal man pursues four miniature Monkees. It’s all done by trick photography.
Most of the interior scenes were shot before the end of March in the studios. And this was when things got really mad.
They filmed lots of scenes with Davy, Micky, Mike and Peter popping out of the black box, plus a fantastic fight that Davy has with the ex-world heavyweight champion, Sonny Liston.
It sounds like a fantastic scene. There was lots of tomato ketchup all over the place as Davy was beaten to a pulp. (No need to feel sorry for him, all you Davy fans—the blood was all put on by the makeup boys.) In the film Sonny Liston keeps knocking Davy down and Micky keeps telling Davy to stay down. Then, apparently, things go completely wild and Micky jumps into the ring and knocks Davy over followed by Sonny Liston and the referee. Then, loads of policemen and fans appear and we have another marvellous Monkee chase. Then Dodo, the topless dancer from San Francisco gets knocked out. Finally, Peter comes in and says, “I’m the dummy.”
There is another incredible scene in which the Monkees have a run-in with a cop. Davy dives into a public restaurant and looks in the mirror in which he sees a chamber of horrors.
They haven’t changed their clothes a great deal for the film. Davy mostly wears a green velvet shirt with a mandarin collar. He seems to be particularly fond of this style nowadays and is often seen wearing it both on and off the set.
Peter, as you will all remember from his visit to London at the start of the year, is very fond of wildly coloured shirts. He’s also on the Eastern kick and, like Davy, doesn’t wear a tie except, of course, on the Monkees television show.
Mike has undergone a quiet revolution and doesn’t wear his green hat at all, which secretly makes me a bit sad, because I think I will always associate a green wool hat with Mike Nesmith. But, in the film it’s gone, so that’s that.
Micky is usually seen in his favourite garb of slacks or jeans, often white, with a pullover sweater.
As I already told you, they spent the first week in the desert, which was followed by three weeks solid slogging in the studio which ended on March 27th.
Then, everyone realised that the music and songs for the film were still not complete, so the boys stopped work on the actual filming for two weeks so that they could go into the recording studio.
They’ve had several short location scenes outside the studio. People in the Long Beach area were very startled one morning to see a nice American boy, who looked rather like Micky Dolenz of the Monkees, jumping off a bridge as though he was ending it all. But, when they got closer, they saw that there was a film crew there and that it really was Micky Dolenz of the Monkees jumping off a bridge—but, only for their film.
This scene is followed by some fantastic underwater photography, which shows Micky entering the water after jumping off the bridge and being greeted by mermaids.
The boys, the crew, director and everyone, also went off to the Paramount Studios to film a wild party scene, which sounds really daft when you think about it, because Screen Gems is owned by Columbia Pictures and Paramount is one of their big rivals.
But, the answer was easy to find. Paramount had completed a tremendously expensive set for Mia Farrow’s new film “Rosemary’s Baby”, and rather than build the whole thing again, Columbia asked Paramount if they could use their set. The answer was yes, so, the Monkees, all the crew, director, writer, cameramen, 100 extras, Keinholtz, a very well-known Californian pop artist, and dozens of others piled in. Keinholtz was there because he had shown an old car at an exhibition with a couple in the back seat smooching away, and the Monkees wanted the car for this party scene in their film.
The party is a psychedelic light show with all the walls acting as a sort of mirror. From then it’s chases, a crazy merry-go-round of tricks, with a noose round Mike’s head, Micky laughing, Peter running, Davy falling, until pandemonium reigns.
I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling exhausted just writing this. The Monkees’ first major film sounds as though it’s really going to be one of the gooniest and looniest ever.