"Hey hey we are The Monkees/You know we love to please/A manufactured image with no philosophies." The deceptively amorphous structure, finally revealed as a solarized circle, gives the death of a lab-created kiddie show and its rebirth as short-circuiting hipsters crashing the Establishment (i.e., a procession of ludicrous sets, plus Victor Mature's good-humored bewilderment). A lampoon of a satire is the gambit, a busy day at the studio (Butler's That's Right—You're Wrong) belies the search for illumination. Micky Dolenz trudges through Lean's sands and blasts Kubrick's Coke machine with a tank, Davy Jones as Golden Boy takes a pounding from Sonny Liston while Annette Funicello weeps in the aisles. "Are you still playing tribute to Ringo Starr?" If for Lester The Beatles were housebroken Marx Brothers, The Monkees are here muggy Bowery Boys, a pop product rolling with its own vacuity in a hall of psychedelic mirrors. "Circle Sky" mingles newsreel footage of Vietnam atrocities with screeching young fans, who rush the stage and dismantle the singers like Vigo's dummies. A Western skit is curtailed when the bored star punches a hole in the cardboard vistas, Peter Tork snaps out of his melting ice-cream reverie to protest a scene, Bob Rafelson and Jack Nicholson step from behind the camera to reassure him. "We were talking about the nature of conceptual reality..." Brakhage flickers and Toni Basil kicks for "Daddy's Song," Mike Nesmith follows "Do I Have to Do This All Over Again?" by declaring his hatred of Christmas, Rita Hayworth and Bela Lugosi chime in via channel-surfing montages. Odalisques and swamis, "The Porpoise Song" and Timothy Carey's Quasimodo slurring, the New Wave as the dandruff in Old Hollywood's hair. Did the Sixties happen, or was it all a Marshall McLuhan lecture? "The youth of America depends on you to lead the way," declares Frank Zappa next to a cow with cartoon lips. With Dennis Hopper, Teri Garr, Logan Ramsey, Abraham Sofaer, Tor Johnson, Carol Doda, and T.C. Jones.
--- Fernando F. Croce