Quote of the Week

‘Dernsie’ is, as we’ll shortly see, the character who eventually became known as ‘Lord High ‘n’ Low’ and played in Head by Timothy Carey. Carey was not, however the first choice for the role…

The Criterion subtitles transcribe ‘I’ll choke from excitement’ as ‘I’m too old for excitement’. While this may well have been true as far as Timothy Carey was concerned [Ed. note: HA HA HA!!!], it’s still incorrect. […]

Since these pages are additional it’s probably safe to assume that this initial scene with ‘Dernsie’/’Lord High ‘n’ Low’ didn’t form part of earlier drafts. The character’s later appearance in the story (in the infamous scene where his ‘cripple’ act at Mike’s birthday becomes a laughing matter) was present however – and the script descriptions for that scene provide a proper introduction, if not for the character then at least for the actor they had in mind for the role – Bruce Dern (see ‘Changes’ – Page 68, Shot 228). The character name ‘Dernsie’ being no more than a matey moniker for one of the film-makers’ friends. A year earlier, Dern had appeared alongside Peter Fonda in The Trip (1967), a film also scripted by Jack Nicholson, and would later play opposite Nicholson himself in The King of Marvin Gardens (1972), directed by Bob Rafelson.

Quite why Bruce Dern didn’t take the role written specifically for him in Head is unknown, but Timothy Carey handles it affably. To describe Carey’s contributions to the world of film-making as ‘underground’ probably doesn’t do him justice. His most notorious contribution to the genre being the self-written, self-financed and self-starring The World’s Greatest Sinner (1962), a low-budget (but some maintain genius) satire on religion – which also provided Head guest star Frank Zappa with one of his earliest music-scoring commissions. Carey’s twisted cinematic visions ensured that he never trod the path of Hollywood respectability, yet he was often spoken of in hushed tones as a pioneer by the likes of Jack Nicholson, Stanley Kubrick and Quentin Tarantino. Indeed, Carey was purportedly originally offered the role of the gang boss in Reservoir Dogs until Harvey Keitel, as executive producer, intervened (the film is dedicated to him all the same).

SOTCAA (Some of the corpses are amusing): EDIT NEWS: The Monkees – Head – ‘Changes’ – Page 10

HEAD production shot

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head_prodshot_lordhigh03

HEAD production shot

 

Pic of the Day: “Head” revisited

On this date in 1942, Peter Halsten Thorkelson was born in Washington, D.C. Twenty-six years later he was in a pop group known as The Monkees, had changed his name to Peter Tork, and was appearing with Timothy in a film called Head (1968). Today’s pic is from that very film. It’s a noteworthy one, showing Tim, as the mysterious Lord High ‘n’ Low, wearing a Pilgrim-style hat that ultimately did not appear in the finished film.

Head

Tork is thankfully still with us, making music, touring, and sharing his memories of being a part of the “Pre-Fab Four.” I highly recommend Eric Lefcowitz‘s eye-opening book Monkee Business: The Revolutionary Made-For-TV Band for an unprecedented look at the group’s adventures. Happy birthday, Peter! And “Atta boy, Mike!”

Quote of the Week

THE WORLD’S GREATEST SINNER (1963). Run, do not walk, to check out this movie! Timothy Carey, the character actor fave who appeared in everything from Kubrick‘s THE KILLING to The MonkeesHEAD, spent several years directing, writing and financing this below-low budget blast. One of the most bizarre movies ever made, and over three decades later, it’s STILL ahead of its time! A grotesque parable that’s as innovative and subversive as any film ever made. Carey sticks himself in the lead as Clarence Hilliard, a middle-aged insurance agent who goes nutzo and decides to become a rockabilly messiah. Abandoning his normal life, he changes his name to “God” and stands on street corners, handing out flyers, recruiting white-trash greasers to his fire ‘n’ brimstone “Life is Hell” doctrine. To raise money for his cause, he seduces old ladies for cash, and performs in an Elvis-like silver-lame suit. He even starts his own “Eternal Man” political party, which promises to make everyone a “superhuman being” (their motto: “There’s only one God, and that’s Man.”) This is seriously whacked stuff, folks, and Carey pulls off one of the most intense, overwrought performances of all time (putting novice scenery-chewers like Dennis Hopper to shame) – ranting, crying, dancing, and looking wasted, his eyelids at half-mast throughout. Eventually, Clarence’s followers begin rioting and vandalizing, but that type of social upheaval has to be expected when a new God emerges – especially one promising “No Death”. When the political machines get wind of his rock’n’roll charisma, they run him as an independent candidate for president, but Clarence is corrupted when his dogma takes on fascist overtones and he starts seducing cute, 14-year-old volunteers. Though lacking in little things like coherency, Carey packs this volatile tale with venom toward modern politics, the media, dried-up religion, and the entire sorry state of the human race. It’s even narrated by The Devil, represented by a snake! Carey is dead serious with all this craziness (even the heavily religious finale) and his outrageous direction is beyond belief! Most of the extras seem like they were simply pulled off the streets, and the score was provided by a young musician named Frank Zappa. Even its theme song is hilariously unforgettable: “As a sinner he’s a winner/Honey, he’s no beginner/He’s rotten to the core/Daddy, you can’t say no more/He’s the world’s greatest sinner.” This is a true work of warped genius.

– Steve Puchalski, Shock Cinema magazine #6 (1994)

The World's Greatest Sinner

Pic of the Day: “Cold Target” revisited

Oops, I forgot to post yesterday! Sorry about that. Let’s end the week by revisiting “Cold Target,” the second of two episodes of The New Mike Hammer in which Timothy portrays reformed criminal Kenny the Knife. It first aired on December 1, 1984. Hammer (Stacy Keach) discovers Kenny leading the hymn singing (yes, Tim sings in this episode, however briefly) at the local gospel mission and enlists his aid as his “man on the street.”

Cold Target - 1984

The first episode featuring Kenny was “Satan, Cyanide and Murder” (4.14.84). It’s unfortunate that he didn’t become more of a recurring character; he’s pretty darn funny. Directing this episode was Jon C. Andersen, assistant director of many television shows and feature films, including the MonkeesHead (1968), also featuring Tim.

Quote of the Week

HEAD

Those ingrates The Monkees bite the hand that feeds them in this ninety minute psychedelic romp that attacks the pop dominated music industry with the odd tune thrown in. Carey pops up from time to time as Lord High ‘N’ Low, to represent all things evil and malicious in the rock stars’ world. Why wouldn’t every director in Hollywood be clambering for Carey’s services after seeing him hand-crank himself into a room in a mechanical wheelchair with a noose around his neck and say “Atta boy Mike!” in a hundred different demented ways. I think that is genuine fear on the Monkees’ faces as Carey shuffles towards them while apparently having a rage-induced stroke. Good comedy cloak work also in a performance that never dips under ‘11’.

Dale Shaw, “Five Reasons to Love Timothy Carey”; Sabotage Times, 5 June 2012

Head

Quote of the Week

Timothy Agoglia Carey was born Timothy William Carey in 1924 [sic; actually 1929]. And it was all uphill from there. A hulk at 6-foot-4, the man was born to play every weird, menacing background figure any movie ever needed. Often, he was called upon to do just that. Carey’s anarchistic and sometimes violent sense of whimsy wouldn’t allow him to just stand there behind the big names and glower. Too much kinetic energy bound up; it got released. […]

A polarizing figure both onscreen and off, Carey could be intimidating by just saying “Hello.” His reputation for unpredictability kept him from being cast in big movies (Spartacus, The Grifters, Reservoir DogsTarantino dedicated the script to him) and got him into trouble with others – he and Elia Kazan almost came to blows on East of Eden (the actual fight is apocryphal); Richard Widmark and Karl Malden both did their own improvising during fight scenes with Carey in The Last Wagon and One-Eyed Jacks respectively, making sure that punches and kicks were not pulled. Also on One-Eyed Jacks, Brando got his revenge for the beer gag [in The Wild One] by stabbing Carey with a pen.

But those who were friends with him, good friends, were friends until the end. Longtime buddy John Cassavetes, who cast Carey in Minnie and Moskowitz and The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, considered him to be a genius on a par with Sergei Eisenstein. Carey’s loyalty to Cassavetes led him to turn down the role of Luca Brazzi in The Godfather. […]

In Head, he played Lord High ‘n’ Low, the representation of everything evil in marketing, who tried to get the Monkees to sell their sweat and nail clippings. In Fast-Walking, he played the towering lunatic inmate Bullet. And in Beach Blanket Bingo, he played South Dakota Slim, who straps Linda Evans to a buzzsaw. Maybe you don’t know the name (even I have to confess that for years I confused him with both Timothy Leary and Professor Irwin Corey), but you know who he is. The face’ll get ya every time.

Mike Watt, “The World’s Greatest Sinner (1962)”, Fervid Filmmaking: 66 Cult Pictures of Vision, Verve and No Self-Restraint (McFarland and Company, 2013; Kindle Edition)

Fast-Walking