The Beatles phenomenon of the 1960s, especially the movie A Hard Day’s Night, led to the creation of a made-for-TV musical foursome to be known as The Monkees. The initial idea was to cast an existing group, but that fell through. Since Screen Gems already had a contract with Davy Jones for a television program, they held a casting call for three more young men to round out the quartet. As a result, Mike Nesmith, Peter Tork, and Mickey Dolenz joined the band. The premise of The Monkees was that the four young musicians were trying to make a name for themselves in the industry. Being set (and created) in the 1960s made for a lot of far out storylines throughout the show’s short run. For this Throwback Thursday Halloween edition, we’ll be focusing on a season two episode called “The Monstrous Monkee Mash.”
One of the main gags running through the show is how Davy’s attraction to beautiful women gets him into trouble. Of course his friends often save him, which is how this episode starts. Davy has given his friends the phone number and address of the home where he’ll be visiting his crush of the week, Lorelei, in case something happens. When Davy’s bandmates begin to worry about him, they call the number, only to hear maniacal laughter on the line. Turns out Lorelei’s uncle, Count Batula, has decided to turn Davy into a vampire apprentice.
When the rest of the group heads out to save Davy, they find themselves trapped in a spooky mansion with not only the vampire and his niece, but also the Wolfman, the Mummy, and the Monster (the foursome known as the Universal Classic Monsters due to a series of Universal Studios horror films based on the characters). The two quartets spend the episode interacting. Not only is Davy chained in the dungeon, but Peter is chosen to switch brains with the Monster, and Mickey becomes a Wolfman. Mike disguises himself as the Mummy in order to save the rest of the group. And, during what is another regular feature of each episode, the ensuing hilarity is accompanied by one of The Monkees songs; in this case, a ‘B side’ called “Goin Down.” For anyone unfamiliar with record terminology, the ‘B side’ is the song that gets less promotion and airplay than the more popular song on a record (or cassette).
A big part of my childhood television viewing revolved around the Saturday lineup. After the morning cartoons, I’d often settle in to watch old movies, so I was already familiar with the Universal Classic Monsters featured in this Monkees episode. The idea of the characters I admired so much (especially Davy) facing off with the monsters both scared and excited me. I loved the fact that the group never really seemed to be in actual danger and found that this, like most episodes of The Monkees, felt like playing make-believe with the neighborhood kids. Shows like this really helped to expand my imagination in strange ways, which has sometimes crept into my writing. The escapist landscape of fiction is often perfect for such shenanigans. The trick is to find a balance between surrealism and the more true-to-life elements of a story.
The Monkees is a fun show if you’re into 1960s music, fashion, and groovy good times. You may especially enjoy an episode like “The Monstrous Monkee Mash” if you’re also into classic horror monsters of the 1930s-1950s. Check it out and let me know what you think.