Monkee vs. Machine
The Monkees need money, Peter has no training or experience, he answers the want ad for a job at the toy factory. The personnel director is a computer with a rat-trap mind, Peter is foiled. Foreknowledge is forearmament, Mike burns the computer out by the same token. “I am a DJ-61”, it says, correcting his mistake. “Oh, you’re a deejay!”
Stan Freberg has the run of the place as an executive whose plans for triple profits rely on computer design and planned obsolescence (Severn Darden is the bullied boss).
“Saturday’s Child” is filmed on the beach with playing children. Later, The Monkees try out new occupations suggested by a job computer (construction men, farmers, firemen) and play “Last Train to Clarksville”.
One of the executive’s toys is called Twenty Blackbirds Baked in a Plastic Pie. “See how nice that works, blackbird-wise?”
The Spy Who Came in from
A beautiful spy and her ursine associate attempt to pass microfilm in a pair of maracas, which are inadvertently acquired by Davy.
The Monkees are pursued to a gig, where they put the spies onstage as Bear & Honey, a folksinging duo. A Red anthem sung to the crowd meets with little favor.
The C.I.S. enlists the band to catch the spies. There is a 50% chance of survival, 75% at the outside. “We’ll form a trio,” they tell Peter. All are reluctantly dragooned.
“I grow impatient,” says the spy with the shapely agenda. “I grow daffodils,” Peter replies, watering them with a can.
“Somewhere in China”, Madame shows footage of “the secret weapon that will change warfare”, The Monkees in mock fisticuffs, charging a wave and retreating, climbing a fearsome precipice and falling a foot or so to the sandy beach. They rat-tat-tat her in trenchcoats and hats with violin cases, she’s gagged and bound to a chair beside the projector.
The Monkees on Tour
Fans, a fence, at night. Lear Jet, The Monkees, autographs. “Are you waiting for The Monkees?” (man at hotel) “I’m waiting for Elvis.”
A game swan won’t be chased. “It looked lonely.” Letter to the radio station. “Sir, your chickens are dead.” Horses, department store, motorcycles.
The actual performance, a merry amusement. Band, maracas, banjo, James Brown tottering off and dashing back. Next at the Arena, the Harlem Globetrotters.
The loneliness of road life, the din of the show. Thanks to colleagues and forebears.
The wide screen gives breadth to the rapid tempo of the series, which proceeds surrealistically.
The bridge dedication suggests Dr. Strangelove (and Rafelson’s film style), the ensuing plunge is the culmination of Dreams That Money Can Buy, the mermaids imply The Incredible Mr. Limpet (Lubin’s own remake of Impact). The equitably diffident girl at the pad provides the utz for the wartime parody. Kubrick’s Coke machine is also Mike Eisner’s, and now The Monkees dissolve into the studio, the enforced reality of which constitutes an introduction to the mysteries of art, with a final image very much like the end of The Last Tycoon.
Five Easy Pieces
A hopeless film, which definitely puts paid to Culture and Popular Culture (and Academia and Counterculture) in a way that brooks no response except that of Char’s poet, who must “press farther forward in his order.”
Robert Eroica Dupea asks Catherine Van Oost, “What else do you do?”, like Charles Foster Kane meeting Susan Alexander by the gutter. Rayette tells Eliza Doolittle’s family anecdote.
The end comes in a men’s room beside a highway, with Dupea between a urinal and a mirror “like a ripe stool in the world’s straining anus”.
The King of Marvin Gardens
A phony world of speculators without real cash from the mob or the Japanese, it’s only a pipe dream (and we know what it looks like when it’s built).
Odd echoes, principally of Laurel & Hardy in Utopia (Atoll K, Robinson Crusoeland), though it never leaves Philly and the Boardwalk in Atlantic City (also a significant anticipation of Kubrick’s The Shining).
New York and Hollywood thought it was “pretentious”, so it’s not a question of small-town sophisticates, merely.
As beautiful as cinematography can be, Laszlo Kovacs fills the bill. Scatman Crothers is the racketeer, John P. Ryan a hotelier, the two foreign investors are Conrad Yama and Jerry Fujikawa.
Bruce Dern is Mr. Hardy, with Jack Nicholson disguised as Wally Cox. The bimbos (stepmother and stepdaughter) are Ellen Burstyn and Julia Anne Robinson.
The Postman Always Rings Twice
A succession of images, pictures, rather than Garnett’s imperishable sequence of gags.
The plain reference is to Five Easy Pieces (the “other film” Madge comes from, as one reviewer queried).
A style of ellipsis, governed by the short take of action concluded.
Frank’s hat, Cora’s hand.
The foundation of Black Widow is the simplicity and frankness of the cinematography, which is first of all keyed to natural lighting. Rafelson does photographic studies of vast landscapes, or composes a scene with clouds and trees, or takes a snapshot. Coupled with this is the location sound, which records precise nuances of hotel rooms, apartments, etc. Added to these are first an ability to invent color arrangements on the set, and overall a color-thematic strand of organization running throughout the film.
With these, Rafelson undertakes to produce what that great cinephile Raymond St. Ives would call “a dream come to life,” the realization of certain earlier models with the most modern techniques of a capable filmmaker. Ultimately, Rafelson’s original is to be found among, say, the Monogram features of the Thirties, with a psychopathic killer trailed by an independent cop or reporter. Black Widow may be said to be such a film given its rightful measure of cinematographic justice and rescued from Gower Gulch (a much-mocked haven of artistry, later subsumed into television).
The comedy is mainly reserved for side scenes or asides, which provide relief to the essential thrust of the film. A refined, allusive technique brings up What A Way To Go!, A Clockwork Orange, Blow-Up, Five Easy Pieces, The Green Hornet, La Notte, and The Maltese Falcon.
Mountains of the Moon
Best BBC brummagem. An American production, nonetheless, and therefore a signal achievement.
Schlesinger makes a voyage to the headwaters in Cold Comfort Farm.
Blood and Wine
Alas, even a French critic speaks of “deficient execution”, we’ve come thus far. American critics were totally unable to follow the affair, too close to home.
It’s a simple tale really. A wine merchant lives beyond his means, the wife fades into oblivion, the stepson hates him. Gambling and mistresses are his passions, the end is obvious. But his latest mistress is a Latin nanny, he stumbles on a plan. With a safecracker as partner, he robs her employer of a million-dollar necklace.
The wife leaves him, taking the necklace unawares, and dies on the highway in a pursuit. The stepson survives to try and kill him in bed, but finds only the nanny. The two hole up until he displays the necklace on his boat. She telephones her lover, the two men fight, the stepson smashes the wine merchant’s legs with the stern of the boat.
That’s the essence of the whole image, a man brought down to nothing. Hearing an ambulance siren, he pitches the necklace into the water, where Rafelson films it sinking to the sandy bottom.
No Good Deed
A great satire of Hollywood going digital and Canadian, with suitably poor technique like the night for day in the bank robbed by wire, and a script from Dashiell Hammett.