Head appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. Though a little erratic, the transfer usually looked solid.
Actually, the mix of visual techniques made it somewhat tough to grade Head. It used a variety of “psychedelic” impressions and also layered images on top of each other. This meant an inevitable degradation of the picture for thee sequences.
Nonetheless, those looked fine, and when the movie went with more traditional images, it tended to demonstrate nice visuals. Sharpness was usually quite solid, as most of the film boasted solid clarity and accuracy; a bit of softness affected some wide shots, but those weren’t frequent. No issues with jaggies, shimmering or edge haloes occurred, and noise reduction failed to mar the proceedings; the flick offered a good sense of grain.
Source flaws were minor; I noticed a speck or two at most. Due to the design, colors varied, but they often came across as pretty lively and full; some vivid hues came along for the ride at times. Blacks were dark and tight, and shadows seemed fine overall; a few slightly murky shots emerged, but these weren’t serious. Overall, the film looked good.
Along with the film’s original monaural audio, we got a remixed DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack. This was something of a mixed bag, but it certainly had some highs, most of which connected to the movie’s songs. The Monkees’ tunes demonstrated good usage of all the channels; the front speakers provided solid stereo spread and localization, while the surrounds contributed some unique musical elements of their own. All of these blended together in a smooth, enveloping fashion.
The occasional bits of score were less vivid, though they were still fine. They showed decent stereo presence but lacked the same dynamic appeal. Effects also broadened to the side and rear channels in with similar inconsistencies. Those elements used the various speakers in a fairly active manner, but they didn’t blend together terribly well. Still, I’d say they meshed acceptably given their mono roots; they managed to add some presence to the proceedings.
Like the soundscape, audio quality varied. Again, the Monkees songs fared best. They showed nice range and vivacity, as they demonstrated clear vocals and good reproduction of the various instruments. The score wasn’t quite as dynamic, but it still sounded fine.
Dialogue showed its age but not to a terrible degree. The lines could be somewhat reedy, but they remained intelligible and lacked notable flaws. Effects worked along the same lines; though they weren’t terribly vivid, they didn’t show problematic distortion, and they had a little punch at times. Given the film’s age, I felt pleased with this track.
In terms of extras, the main attraction comes from an audio commentary with actors Peter Tork, Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones and Michael Nesmith. Alas, they didn’t all sit together; instead, each provided individually recorded notes that got edited into this track. They discuss how they came to the Monkees, working with various cast and crew, locations and aspects of the shoot, social commentary and aspects of the era, music, and a few other film-related subjects.
Though it's too bad Criterion couldn't get all four Monkees to sit together at the same time, the quality of the commentary's content more than compensates. It moves at a nice pace and throws out a pretty terrific array of notes. We get a very good "Monkee-eye view" of the flick in this consistently informative and enjoyable piece.
Two featurettes follow. From The Monkees to Head goes for 28 minutes, 28 seconds and includes notes from director Bob Rafelson. He discusses the origins of the Monkees and casting the actors, the series’ development and cancellation, shifting to make the movie and writing the script, casting, aspects of the different sequences and visual choices, the flick’s title, its marketing and release, and its legacy. I guess Rafelson chose not to record a commentary, but I don’t mind since he musters a lot of good material here. Perhaps he only had about half an hour of notes, and he delivers quality thoughts in this honest, informative piece.
BBS: A Time for Change lasts 27 minutes, 38 seconds and offers statements from critic David Thomson and historian Douglas Brinkley. The show examines aspects of the era – both in terms of general society and the movie business - and the development of BBS as a film production company. Both men offer solid details and give us a useful overview of how BBS worked and what it meant to the era’s cinema.
Next we find some Screen Tests. We get these for all four Monkees’ TV auditions, and we also see “She’s a Groovy Kid” and “$13 Million”, two sequences that show auditions with various combinations of Monkees, including some who didn’t make the cut. All together, these run a total of 18 minutes, 47 seconds. These are fascinating to see and make a nice addition to the set.
For some archival material, we see The Monkees on The Hy Lit Show. This reel goes for five minutes, 31 seconds, and lets us hear all four Monkees – and DJ Long John Wade – promote Head. They don’t say anything especially substantial, but the clip is vaguely interesting for archival purposes. Plus, you gotta dig Tork’s hideous beard – it looks glued on!
Advertising wraps up the set. We find four Trailers, five TV Spots and nine Radio Spots. Ephemera provides a six-minute, 38-second reel that offers photos from the set and print ads along with an audio montage. The stills are generally good, so they make this a worthwhile compilation.
A big old 112-page booklet covers all seven films in the “America Lost and Found” boxed set. It includes essays on five of the seven flicks: Head, Easy Rider, The King of Marvin Gardens, Five Easy Pieces and The Last Picture Show. It also delivers an essay about BBS, credits and photos. Criterion usually produce excellent booklets, and this one delivers a terrific companion to the movies.
With 1968’s Head, the Monkees tried desperately to smash their public image. They succeeded, but not in a good way, as the film marked the beginning of the end for the band. I can’t find much to enjoy in this faux-anarchic protest against pop stardom. The Blu-ray provides pretty good picture and audio along with a fairly useful set of supplements. Head might now be something of a cult classic, I can’t figure out why; it feels too contrived and silly to have much merit.
Note that as of November 2010, this Blu-ray version of Head can be found only in a seven-movie boxed set called “America Lost and Found: The BBS Story”. This package also includes Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces, The King of Marvin Gardens, The Last Picture Show, Drive, He Said and A Safe Place.