Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Monkees – Monstrous Monkee Mash – review (TV Episode)

dvd

Director: James Frawley

First aired: 1968

Contains spoilers

This was another episode mentioned in the Trash Aesthetics article Top 10 vampire babes of all time - listed as an honourable mention for Arlene Martel as Lorelei. (As an aside Martel would later appear in the very poor vampire flick Zoltan, Hound of Dracula.)

Now I am sure that I must have seen this episode – as a kid I loved the UK re-runs of the Monkees – but I really couldn’t remember it and it must have been some thirty years ago when I last saw any episode from the show. Thus I owe a debt to Nick for giving me opportunity to re-watch this and for also passing to me a very interesting article regarding the Monkees and the deconstruction of television realism by Laura Goostree.

Now, I really didn’t want to bring the issues debated in the article into this review. I wanted to sit down and describe something that was, and still is, good fun. You know what? I can’t ignore the very clever aspects of this show that were lost on me as a kid. You see (a bit like M.A.S.H., a show I adore) I laughed heartily to this as a child and still do as an adult but I am now struck with just how very clever it really was (in the same way M.A.S.H. revealed its political and pathos filled nature to my adult sensibilities).

the painting gagThe actual basic story, however, is a monster mash that owes a debt to Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein. Davy (Davy Jones) enters a room with Lorelei, in her uncle’s castle. He seems a little freaked; the painting moves (actually the painting is a frame with fabric behind and The Count (Ron Masak) is stood as though part of the painting – the gag is used a lot through the show, utilised by the Count, Lorelei and Mike (Michael Nesmith)) and the ornamental bat says “I vant to drink your blood”.

practicing with tomato juiceDavy tries to leave and she moves in for a kiss, slipping a necklace around his neck. There is a fantastic gag here. “What a kiss! I've never felt this way before.” exclaims Davy and a triumphant Lorelei retorts “You fool! It was not my kiss, it was the magic necklace!” To this Davy responds “What a necklace. I've never felt this way before.” This keys into the essence of catchphrase humour as two more Monkees are captured by the same method and the same dialogue is used – each time the sequence becomes funnier. The Count has decided that Davy will become Dracula reborn.

Mike, Peter and MickyThe rest of the gang, Mike, Micky (Micky Dolenz) and Peter (Peter Tork), phone Davy to see how he is. The Count answers and enters a perfect villain laughing fit. Realising something is wrong, and despite an outbreak of cowardice, the gang go to rescue Davy. Once at the castle it is decided by the villains that Peter’s brain will be swapped into the Frankenstein’s Monster (given that he is deemed not too bright) and Micky will be turned into a werewolf. It is up to Mike, wearing the Mummy’s bandages, to rescue the gang.

a stop for a smokeThe main rescue sequence is a chase round the castle dungeon whilst the obligatory Monkees’ song is played – in this case Goin’ Down. To be honest it is less a chase and more a saunter punctuated with off the wall comedic moments – but this works so very, very well. The Count rising, cloak open and lifted in a bat wing pose, behind Mike and then stopping to light a cigar from Mike’s torch is one such moment. The resolution to the episode is confused – we do not see the destruction of the monsters – but one feels purposefully so.

David Pearl as the wolfmanThe episode is wonderfully referential to the genre as a whole. At one point Davy is chained in the dungeon and the wolfman (David Pearl) is there. Davy laments the werewolf’s servitude and brings it into context with the movies, “what has Dracula ever done for you? All those pictures you've made together: 'Dracula Leaves', 'Dracula Returns'. You know, you've made over thirty movies with him, and you haven't even got second billing!” As in the aforementioned Abbott and Costello film the invisible man makes an ‘appearance’ – but, in true deconstructive style, the boys point out it is only special effects – a book on invisible wires that are then cut.

monsterised monkeesThe deconstructive element of the show cannot be under-estimated. In a sequence (that is mentioned in the article I referenced at the head of this) Micky and Davy enter a fantasy sequence where they have become a vampire and a werewolf. The Count enters the scene. They complain about the intrusion “Yeah, yeah, we're the Monkees, you see, in every show we do a fantasy sequence, where we romp around and jump and do funny things, and nobody interrupts us. Nobody!” The Count challenges them to remove their makeup (which they can’t and prompts a call for the makeup artist) and the camera pulls back to show the set and the Count in the director’s chair – TV reality has been suspended to reveal real reality which has been usurped by TV reality.

the Count in Lugosi modeThere isn’t much vampiric lore. Davy is fed tomato juice to get used to the colour, Mike researches vampires in a conveniently available book (as often happens in vampire films, something I have mentioned before). The Count has magical powers – he makes a string of sausages appear in order to distract wolfman. Masak actually does a very nice line in Bela Lugosi impersonation.

Arlene Martel as LoreleiAs for Martel, remembering that it was her presence that, ultimately, led to me re-watching this. Well, she deserves her mention on Chick Young’s list. It is not only her physical beauty, however. She has a presence that vacillates between flirtatious and icy, embodying, within her performance, the perfect vamp – undoubtedly the effect that was searched for – and one can’t help but draw a comparison to Fenella Fielding, at least to a small, vampish degree, in Carry on Screaming (released two years before).

This, as you can probably tell, was an absolute hoot. 8 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

6 comments:

Bill Courtney said...

Taliesin

I am back from my adventure in Si Chuan. I will do an essay with pics and post it on my wife's more normal website. You can check it out when i am done if you wish.

I see you cover anything and everything related to vampires. When ever I do a vamp style post I will beep you. I am thinking of posting some scans from the Vamprilla Warren comics soon, with some Frazetta art along with it.

I finished my Martin essay if you want to see it. I plug you a bit there since your site is all vampire related. I have a few more vampire flicks I want to review, Hammer style, but it will be a few days.

It seems you are a big fan of Asian films and Asain style horror/vampire stuff. I am trying to download some things now but forget the names, I got the titles from horrorphile.net, a good site on my blogroll. Thai films, amybe one is called the Unseeable, and another byt the same director? Familiar?

Take care and get the posts coming. you are a prodigious poster.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Bill, glad you're back safe and sound.

Yes - if it is vampire, as a rule of thumb, I'll cover it. The only thing I've avoided is delving into the murky world of vampire porn - not opposed to it per se, I just drew a line there!

I'll definitely check the Martin essay

I do like the Asian film scene - though a friend who occasionaly comments here, zombiepunk, is the expert, still trying to pursuade him to blog it - but I must admit I've not come across the Unseeable. It will now be added to the check it out list, lol

Chick Young said...

Taliesin,

I am so very happy that you enjoyed the episode. I watch my Monkees DVDs A LOT. It was and is such, as you so eloquently state, good fun. It was my pleasure to be able to assist you with accessing this particular show. Cheers.

Chick

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Chick, all the thanks to you my friend for alerting me to it, for helping me see it and for reigniting my love of the show

The Metal Misft said...

Good episode from a great show I remember watching on Nickelodeon when I was a kid. This is the first episode I've seen in a few years.

I just happened to be checking out On Demand and a number of Monkees episodes are being offered right now and this was one of them.

Definitely fits the month and my mood right now.

Mickey's over the top laugh as they went into the mansion was hilarious.

I was gonna do a post about this show on my own blog, but my research led me here and I see you've done a great job, so there's no need for my input. ;)

Taliesin_ttlg said...

cheers metal misfit - I'm going to have to have a good root through your blog real soon as well as it looks great