|"An overdub has no choice..."|
ANGLE - MICKY
In various slow motion cuts, we see Micky plummet in an
excruciatingly long arc into the water below and send up
lovely plumes of water as he explodes through the surface.
UNDERWATER ANGLE - NORMAL SPEED
A body plunges past the CAMERA, leaving millions of bubbles
in its wake as it disappears into the depths. SOUND: underwater, bubbles, pings, etc.
Polarized negative as the rainbow of bubbles disappear.
ANOTHER ANGLE - MUSICAL #1
Micky's body floats under water. The CAMERA SLOWLY MOVES
in on his closed eyes. His expression is peaceful. We
hear a distant pulsing SOUND of some huge generator. then
the word "Kundali" whispered and elongated. This word signals
the start of MUSICAL NUMBER ONE.
ANGLE - GRAPHIC
A multi-colored spiral slowly revolves over the image.
We hear, elongated almost like a Gregorian chant, "we want
the Monkees," added to the growing sound track which by now
should probably include the beginnings of some sub-oceanic
1. The kind of liquid globular, multicolored moving masses
one sees in a light show, pulse on and off the image.
2. As each high, crystal clear note sounds, we change
color filter moving into even deeper tones.
3. A huge bell tolls.
Three bizarrely painted MERMAIDS move past the camera and
through some underwater rocks or coral formations.
SERIES - UNDERWATER ANGLES
As the camera follows the mermaids, they now have Micky in tow
and slowly and gradually, they lure and drag him down and down
to the ocean floor. As they descend with the body we:
This is the first page in this edition of the script which isn't marked as 'Revised' or 'Added', and simply displays a production number to identify it.
Head, of course, features no opening titles. Had it been a more conventional film it's likely that this would have been the point at which they kicked in. One can easily picture this alternate version - the opening chord of 'Porpoise Song' striking in tandem with a nice yellow caption reading 'RAYBERT PRODUCTIONS, in association with COLUMBIA PICTURES presents'... The 'Changes' script doesn't specify a title sequence - although this could simply have been assumed as a given thing (the script doesn't expressly call for an end-credit sequence either).
Although the lack of titles is usually assumed to be part of the artistic snook the film cocks at conventional Hollywood ideals it should perhaps be remembered that it wasn't until sometime in September that the title 'Head' was even suggested as a likely candidate.
Shot 8, depicting Micky's fall from the bridge, appears to be a montage of four separate sessions:
The slow-motion close-up shots (as production shots taken at the time testify) were achieved by having Dolenz leap from a step-ladder onto a pile of rubber mats (with the cameraman lying on the ground nearby, filming upwards). Other shots were captured by having him bounce up and down on a trampoline. Shots of the other three Monkees indulging in similar silly-bugger behaviour would of course have been filmed on the same day at the Columbia Ranch - which is also when the initial underwater shots of Dolenz - and later of all four Monkees - were captured, in a large swimming pool.
Sandoval suggests the day of the shoot as 11th of April 1968 (indeed, several proof sheets of production photos taken during the scene, with that exact date and 'Monkee Movie' handwritten at the top, are available from Getty Images).
|Production photos taken at the Columbia Ranch during the filming of 'The Porpoise Song'|
The long-shots of the descent - and a dummy Dolenz crashing into the water at Long Beach Harbor - were most likely part of the same day's location shoot at Gerald Desmond Bridge which yielded the rest of the opening ceremony. This was seemingly filmed several times, from different angles. One shot has the dummy about to hit the water more or less horizontally - but this image then fades into a shot from an alternate angle of it plunging head-first (resulting in a continuity gaffe as we then cut to the real-life Micky Dolenz landing in the water feet first).
There are also a couple of special effects shots in evidence which matte a tiny, spinning image of Dolenz (perhaps on a wire, filmed during the sessions for the vacuum cleaner and flying effects later) against a long-shot of the harbour. The latter angle was actually used a few seconds earlier as Micky's POV from the bridge prior to the leap, although it's likely that it was filmed for the FX shot in the first instance since here it features a slow pan downwards. 'NY Action' also features a few frames of the completed FX matte from a few seconds earlier in the sequence. Other sections simply place the image of Dolenz against a blue sky. There's a slight unnatural yellowness and sharpness of outline to the image, although any shortcomings in terms of the picture-composite technology of the day are more or less papered over by the way the whole montage is constructed - with various overlays, fades between shots, etc.
Although the script stipulates in advance that the shots would be 'slow motion', they're actually filmed at a conventional 24fps and then artificially slowed down to half that speed (rather than filmed at double speed from the outset as per other slow motion shots in the movie - eg the start of Davy's boxing match or Mike tumbling through the labyrinthine vestibule) so the action for each shot runs at 12 frames per second. Something to note however is that the various overlaying images aren't synchronised: in other words where there's an absence of frame 'movement' in one shot, it tends to be present in another. This may well have been a deliberate decision, ensuring that that the overall action is always on the go as a 24fps presentation, despite the slowed-down frame-rate.
|Production photo - Micky Dolenz emerges from the Columbia Ranch swimming pool|
In the case of the image of the dummy Micky hitting the water we artificially zoom in on the actual camera shot at the correct frame-rate even though it's being played back at half speed, which gives the whole thing a very odd, jagged visual effect. However, the reasons for zooming in on Micky's dummy at this point may not simply be artistic but out of necessity - to crop out evidence of the other three dummy Monkees falling in its wake! During the reprise of the scene at the close of the movie we get a shot - from the exact same angle - showing Mike's facsimile hitting the same area of water, which has clearly been disturbed by the previous dummies so it's probably safe to conclude that at least one shot was set up to capture all four dummies splashing down in turn.
The zoomed-in shot has also been rendered as a mirror image - presumably so that the angle of the dummy's body matches the previous shot of the real-life Micky, from which it mixes.
Prior to Criterion's Blu-ray, all releases of Head on VHS and DVD had presented the film as 'open-matte', resulting in some rather jarring framing errors, the most notable of which occur during the 'Porpoise Song' montages, where a rather intrusive black bar is visible during a few shots. Presented in its intended widescreen aspect ratio (with the top and bottom of the screen masked off by the projectionist) these bars are of course cropped off completely.
|Black masking visible on the Rhino DVD|
|Pan and scan crop on the Rhino VHS|
|1.78:1 crop on the Criterion Blu-ray|
Some VHS releases opted for a pan and scan approach to this problem, zooming in on the action to perform a crop while remaining 'fullscreen'. However, the nature of the overlayed images meant that they couldn't just apply this to the 'affected areas' - the entire surrounding montage sequences had to be similarly cropped.
The original, intended aspect ratio of Head had been a much-debated subject over the years. The Rhino DVD was marked as 1:33:1 - ie, resembling a basic, non-letterboxed TV picture (although it actually seemed closer to 'Academy ratio' - 1.37:1 - which both IMDb and the Columbia database believed was the correct ratio). Others guessed that the film was Academy but visually composed to be cropped to a widescreened 1.85:1. Certainly, this ratio had become something of a cinematic norm around that time - pertinent examples including The Trip and Easy Rider.
The Criterion edition is "...presented in the director's preferred aspect ratio of 1.78:1", which is very slightly less widescreen than 1.85:1, but if Bob Rafelson and the good folk at Criterion say that's how it should be then who are we to complain? And since there appears to be a fair few instances of pan-and-scan on the Blu-ray presentation anyway, perhaps it's fair to say that there'll probably never be a 'definitive' version of Head.
We'll be delving much further into this fascinating subject as the site progresses. Whether you like it or not.
The final session for the sequence - ie the main bulk of the underwater mermaid sequence - was filmed sometime in May 1968, at Paradise Island in the Bahamas. Only Dolenz would have been required 'on-set' for this date as the other Monkees don't feature in the sequence. A write-up about the film in Monkees Monthly, June 1968 suggests that there may actually have been plans (possibly even attempts) to film these sequences at Long Beach during the bridge shoot but that the water there wasn't clear enough.
'MUSICAL NUMBER ONE' would of course become the astonishing 'Porpoise Song', written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King. In Head this begins during Shot 8 - during Micky's fall through the air rather than after he hits the water - although most of this comprises of the nice long orchestral intro so effectively the song does kind of begin as per the script.
The basic track for the song was recorded on February 26 1968 at California Recorders, Hollywood, with various overdubs occurring over several other sessions before Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones added their vocals.
Commissioned and written specifically for the film rather than plucked from a pile of demos, it's highly likely that Goffin and King were issued with a copy of the 'Changes' script and used the above page as an overall starting point for the song, both lyrically ("The porpoise is laughing, goodbye, goodbye..." illustrating the suicide-by-drowning scenario, while a jokey allusion to Micky Dolenz's Circus Boy origins with "Riding the backs of giraffes for laughs is alright for a while..." has been confirmed elsewhere) and in terms of Gerry Goffin's production - the tolling bell, the oceanic sounds, etc.
Intriguingly, unlike the film, the 'Changes' script doesn't call for 'Musical Number One' to be reprised at the close of the movie along with the repeated bridge-suicide scenario, but a note suggests that the song in question (simply highlighted as 'Musical # 7') should 'recap the film, the box, and how to get in and out, and also review the film' (see 'Changes' - Page 99, Shot 354).
The word 'Kundali' doesn't feature anywhere in the sequence and the Gregorian Chant-esque "We want the Monkees" isn't attempted (one assumes this would simply have involved slowing down a recording of the teenage audience from the Salt Lake City location shoot for 'Circle Sky' and adding a bit of reverb!). Interestingly, Carole King's original unreleased piano demo of 'Porpoise Song' is bookended by some curious Latin chanting - which didn't make it to studio version.
For more about 'Porpoise Song' and other songs in Head, go to our soundtrack page. You'll find it on the hard-drive of a PC which died two years ago, taking all our research and an almost complete draft of this site with it. Hence the delay with the updates. Sorry about that.
Shot 12 asks for a multi-coloured spiral revolving over the image. No such device is present in the sequence - although something similar will occur later in the film, as a visual transition between the Cop fainting in the washroom and Mike waking up in bed ('The Cop's Dream').
Anyone who dismissed the 'polarised negative' effects (which, according to a possibly apocryphal tale were so complicated to execute that it delayed the movie's release) as a shameless cribbing from Richard Avedon's contemporaneous pop-art designs of The Beatles will be delighted to know that an excised scene later on in the film pretty much spells this out for us (see 'Changes' - Page 39D, Shot 150F). Which is a shame, since we always assumed it was a crib from the front cover of the Mothers of Invention's Freak Out (1966).
How the effect was actually achieved is beyond our understanding. A complete guess here: each of the camera shots would appear to have first been rendered monochrome, then tinted at various colours in both negative and positive images. After which, pairs of negative and positive shots - with conflicting colouring - were matched and printed together, effectively creating various two-tone images - Blue vs Yellow; Green vs Orange; Purple vs Yellow; Blue vs Red, etc.
|Alternate 'Porpoise Song' shots as featured in 'NY Action'|
As mentioned in our introductory page, as well as a mass of alternate shots, 'NY Action' features some of the same footage as used in the film but with alternate colouring - so it's likely that many different configurations of colour were messed about with and discarded while choosing the clips used in the final edit.
'NY Action' also features a few standalone shots of some of the basic colours used in the sequence - as if someone just placed a piece of card with the chosen tone upon it in front of the camera and filmed it. Is it possible that these were part of the process used to create the two-tone image?
Shot 14 introduces the mermaids, of which there are only two - not three - in the film. They are indeed 'bizarrely painted', with weird facial patterns resembling Red Indian war paint, although with all the solarisation this is only identifiable on a couple of shots.
As Shot 14 continues, the footage is once again artificially reduced to half-speed, although the doubled-up frames actually differ slightly from each other in terms of the density of solarising effect, resulting in a flickering, slightly stroboscopic effect which runs at the correct frame rate!
|Solarised frame of a mermaid as it appears in Head (Rhino DVD edition)|
|The same frame, 'clean', as it appears in the Portuguese theatrical trailer|
Most of the transitions between different-coloured shots involve cutting to different angles and the like, although there is one instance towards the end of the sequence where such a cut occurs within the same shot - of the mermaids carrying Micky along - which switches halfway through from Blue vs Red to Blue vs Yellow.
The Columbia Pictures theatrical trailer for Head was far less 'underground' than 'NY Action' ("They can't be The Marx Brothers - they're too young!") but also features a shot of a mermaid from the 'Porpoise Song' sequence completely devoid of the solarising effect. The only other bits of the trailer which don't match the film are a couple of brief snippets from the 'Long Title: Do I Have To Do This All Over Again' party sequence (which of course also featured massive instances of solarising in the film). From this we'd guess that 'Porpoise Song' and 'Long Title' were among the last sections of Head to be completed and that the trailer was put together before this. This may even prove that the story about the FX session causing delays in the production is correct!
The Portuguese version of the afore-mentioned trailer (ostensibly the same as the US version but with some title captions missing and a rejigged and redubbed soundtrack) features the same unsolarised shot but without the yellow 'HEAD' caption. Both appear on the Rhino DVD and the Criterion Blu-ray.
1. Objects drifting by camera.
2. Pure color leader.
a. Clocks (ticking)|
b. Musical instruments.
c. Mannequins and parts of mannequins.
d. TV dinners.
e. A Cat.
f. A baby doll attached to some balloons,
g. A boxing glove (referees shirt)
h. Streamers of bright silk.
i. Newspapers, records.
As the ominously alluring sirens finally prepare to leave
the lifeless body, one of them gives Micky a final kiss. As
she does, her hair drifts and envelopes his face.
|INT. ANGLE - ROOM - DAY|
Through a fish tank, the bottom of the screen is full of
Micky's deathlike profile. From the top half of the screen,
comes a beautiful SIREN'S profile as through she were about to
perform mouth to mouth resuscitation. As their lips part,
Micky's eyes open.
ANOTHER ANGLE - PETER
He has been watching the kiss. The girl
crosses the room towards him.
They kiss, we see Mike waiting his turn in the b.g. The
kiss is completed and she moves toward Mike, who arranges a
place on the couch for the girl. Peter moves in to watch.
Micky sits up on the bed. Mike and the girl come out of
the clinch and she moves toward Davy who takes her by the hand
out onto the balcony of the room. As they kiss, we see the
sun through the trees and hear the idyllic songs of birds,
The girl moves back into the room. the Monkees surround her.
The girl gestures with her hand, flopping it over and back.
Particularly interesting there is Shot 16's unused Twilight Zone-esque intercut images drifting by, many of which allude to the film we're about to watch. The mannequins and the boxing glove should need no explanation to Head fans. A cat was to make an appearance during the 'War' sequence (see 'Changes' - Page 11A, Shot 48). More general allusions here in the form of musical instruments, newspapers and records, while 'TV dinners' represents part of the self-satire which runs throughout the movie (the Monkees were certainly described in one damning article as the musical equivalent of a TV dinner). The 'doll attached to some balloons' is... well, it's probably some oblique reference to Lyndon Johnson or something...
Since the directions allude to Micky's 'lifeless body' it's likely that the montage of images were intended as some kind of 'life flashing before his eyes' device (and since we're purportedly viewing the end of the story at this stage then referencing situations which occur later in the film as 'past events' makes perfect sense).
Although Shot 16 isn't represented in Head, the visuals of the 'Ditty Diego' sequence later will play a similar role, at least in terms of alerting the viewer as to what they can expect over the next eighty minutes.
Note that the mermaids as depicted in the script are very much 'sirens' in the traditional sense of the word, intent on dragging Micky down to a watery grave. In the film this is handled slightly differently, the mermaids enjoying his company throughout the whole 'water ballet', but eventually giving him a shove which results in him floating back to the surface.
The final kiss from a mermaid doesn't occur. Instead, we mix straight through to Shot 17, the solarisation fading to normality as we do so.
Sandoval reports that the kissing contest and the subsequent (unused) mirror scenes were filmed at Columbia Studios - on Stage 7, where The Monkees TV show was also shot - on the 19th and 20th of February 1968 - the first actual filming session for the movie.
The first 'official' date had been set for the 15th but only Peter Tork had turned up on set, the other three having unexpectedly decided to go on strike for a better financial deal. Previous coverage of this incident has suggested that the band's contracts were renegotiated within 24 hours and that the shoot recommenced on the 16th, although this seems somewhat fanciful. Whatever the case, it seems generally agreed that the industrial action soured the atmosphere between the group and the film-makers. Despite having apparently won their legal battle for better terms, Davy Jones insists they only got paid $1000 each for the film (while Peter Tork claims he didn't get paid at all).
|Production photo: Peter waits for his kiss (and his paycheque)|
In an interview published as part of Shindig's big Head retrospective (Issue 19 - Nov/Dec 2010), Peter Tork recalls that Bob Rafelson attempted to keep news of the strike from the other crew-members, pretending that everything was carrying on as normal and that the first scheduled day was simply for 'set-ups'. Randi L Massingill's Mike Nesmith biography Total Control meanwhile suggests that there was no pretense and that the first day was given over to pre-planned lighting/colour tests using stand-ins. As ever, the truth may lie somewhere in between - although it's clear that at least one one part of the session would definitely have required some elaborate technical run-throughs before they could proceed (see 'Changes' - Page 5/6, Shots 20 - 26).
It's more than likely that, in addition to the kissing contest, other scenes which take place at the Monkees beach house - eg, Mike's rude awakening, the delivery of the telegram, Micky disappearing, etc - were filmed during the same two days, the house being a particularly elaborate set to build. Indeed, a ridiculous on-set write-up by Gloria Stavers for 16 Magazine (June 1968) suggests that the 'bowing' sequence (with the white-tailored group on their knees in front of the stained glass windows), the delivery of the telegram, and at least some parts of the kissing set-up were recorded during their second day on-set at Stage 7. Stavers also covers the following day's location shoot at Bronson Canyon for the war trench scenes.
|Various production photos taken during the 'Lady Pleasure' scene...|
The set design of the beach house is quite similar to that of the TV series but with several 'hip' alterations: stained-glass bay windows, art deco artefacts, etc. The Head page at the Monkees TV and Film Vault does quite a thorough job in isolating the various differences. while the production notes in the original 1969 French Head press pack inform us that 'Part of the Monkees' house was equipped with items as disparate as a barber's chair, a rocking chair made of glass, an old poster of Teddy Roosevelt, an old piano inlaid with gold, a column of glass in the middle of floor, and so on.'
That the design visually namechecks the set of the TV show in any way whatsoever is quite interesting, although there is perhaps the implication that this familiar setting provides the initial springboard for the band's planned 'escape' from the TV existence which ultimately restricts them.
The 'Girl' is namechecked in the Head credits as 'Lady Pleasure' and is played by I.J. Jefferson (apparently Jack Nicholson's girlfriend at the time). A curiously formal stage moniker, Jefferson's real name was Mimi Machu and, like fellow Head actress June Fairchild, had previously been one of the resident dancers on the KHJ-TV pop showcase Hollywood-a-Go-Go. Both would later play bit-parts in the Nicholson-directed BBS film Drive, He Said (1971). Machu/Jefferson has no lines in the latter but she does get to repeat her trademark 'giggle' from Head!
|I.J. Jefferson in Drive, She Said (1971)|
Mimi Machu's page on Gazzarri Dancers.com is well worth a gander.
|Somewhat desperate selling measures from the Columbia Pictures Pressbook for Head...|
Shots 17 - 19 cover the multiple kissing scenes during the shoot, although - as with the opening bridge scene - Head chooses to present the whole one and a half minute sequence as a single continuous tracking shot with no cutaways.
As filmed, Mike enjoys his clinch ahead of Peter, and any allusions to arranging 'a place on the couch' (or indeed any indications that each successive Monkee is even watching the previous kiss) are lost since the camera conveys a constant close-up throughout. Indeed, whereas the script suggests the boys are trying a bit too hard to impress their guest, the movie depicts them as rather passive chaps, entirely under her power. Davy doesn't lead her by the hand onto the balcony - he's already in place, awaiting her.
The film-makers had a bit of fun in the sound-dub adding a subtle additional sound effect after each kiss, sweetening 'Lady Pleasure's journey to the next bandmember: a brief heightened bubbling from Micky's fish tank, an extra 'ching' from Mike's wind-chimes and an added 'squeak' from Peter's barbers chair, intended presumably to represent a series of rather limp orgasmic tingles - a direct contrast to the almighty cum-shot that is the response to Davy's kiss: birdsong, crashing waves and a romantic orchestral swell. We don't see 'the sun through the trees' from a balcony vantage point as the script suggests but the stained-glass bay-windows do fly open of their own accord to reveal a clear blue sky and seabirds flapping about.
However, this whole set-up would appear to be conveying Davy's response rather than the girl's as she then declares the contest a draw ("About 90% each - that's what she told us afterwards!", insisted Davy Jones on the Colgems 'Open End Radio Interview'). Indeed, it was most likely intended as a slightly more ambitious take on the 'animated stars' device used on the Monkees TV show whenever Davy saw a girl and fell in love.
'NY Action' features a few frames of the Davy/Lady Pleasure kiss not present in the movie. Interestingly the flapping birds are also present on this out-take so it isn't entirely clear how the effect was achieved. They may simply have projected footage of the blue sky / flapping birds at a wall behind the bay windows, and cued this in for each successive take (unless Jack Nicholson really was crouched behind the set throwing seagulls about willy nilly with a big grin on his face).
|NY Action: alternative shot|
Other moments of out-take interest from this scene in 'NY Action' include an alternate angle/take of the Peter kiss, a close-up of the fish tank without effects (or indeed Micky or the girl in shot) and a different take of the girl's coat draped over the sofa - with the still-passive image of Peter reflected in something akin to a TV set in the background.
|NY Action: various alternate shots.|
The romantic orchestral swell is the first snatch of incidental music we hear in the movie. The score for Head was by Ken Thorne, quite possibly chosen for his proven track record in being able to pastiche various movie-music genres (his send-up of the James Bond theme in The Beatles' Help! being an obvious example).
|Touched up image from the Columbia Pictures Pressbook for Head...|
Exactly when Thorne came on board isn't known - indeed, Davy Jones was quoted in an NME write-up (published April 6 1968 but probably dating from an on-set interview conducted a few weeks previously) as suggesting that Mike Nesmith might write the incidental score. Although there's the vaguest possibility that Nesmith did conduct a session to provide sound effects for one sequence (for a scene which was cut - see 'Changes' - Page 69, Shot 235), it's doubtful that he'd ever have been involved in actually orchestrating the film.
Sandoval lists the recording session for Thorne's score as October 2 1968 at Goldwyn Studios, Los Angeles. Since there had already apparently been preview screenings before this date it's worth pondering on what kind of score - if any - accompanied the rough cut assemblies shown to the test-audiences. Such screenings often lack various final post-production elements like music and sound effects (a factor which is of course explained to the audience beforehand) but since Head relies so heavily on those extra touches it's perhaps easy to understand why the initial response was so guarded.
We had hoped that Thorne's score insertions might have been given nice exciting titles like 'Davy's Orgasm', 'The Black Box', 'Vestibule Glissandi', etc. However we're informed that the recorded pieces - most of which survive in the archives (and have been incorporated into the fantastic new Criterion 5.1 Surround mix) - are identified only by cue-numbers.
Who played the mermaids?
How was the 'polarised negative' effect actually achieved?
|The Monkees - Head - 'Changes'|