|The Monkees First Season - Episode No. 7:
“THE MONKEES IN A GHOST TOWN”
The Monkeemobile runs out of gas in a ghost town, where the boys are
held prisoner by two bank robbers awaiting the arrival of their boss.
|Technical & Telecast Info:
Final Draft:June 14, 1966.
Second Revised Final Draft:July 8, 1966.
Filmed At:Screen Gems Studios, Hollywood, CA.
Filming Dates:July 11-15, 1966.
Background Cues Recorded:August 9, 1966, at RCA Studio C, Hollywood (from 2:00-6:00pm).
Original Air Date:October 24, 1966.
Ratings:17.1 rating/29.2 share (9,390,000 viewers)
© Raybert Productions; 10-24-66; LP38295
Sponsor This Week:Kellogg's
Rerun Dates: July 17, 1967 (NBC); January 19 and July 10, 1971, July 12, 1972 (CBS).
as The Big Man
Lon Chaney as Lenny
- The Monkees: The Collector's Edition - VHS Tape #7 (Columbia House #19946, May 22, 1995)
- The Monkees Deluxe Limited Edition Boxed Set - VHS Tape #19 (Rhino R3 2960, October 17, 1995)
- The Monkees - Season 1 DVD Boxed Set - Disc 2 (Rhino RetroVision DVD R2 976076, May 13, 2003)
- The Monkees - Season 1 DVD Boxed Set - Disc 2 (Eagle Rock Entertainment DVD EM351359, September 27, 2011)
- The Monkees - The Complete Series - Blu-Ray Disc 1 (Rhino BD2-552705, July 8, 2016)
The Monkees, tired and annoyed, drive hundreds of miles in The Monkeemobile from Clark(e)sville through the middle of nowhere to a gig they can’t find. After Micky’s navigational blunder results in a missed turn — about 150 miles ago — they predictably run out of gas and roll into an abandoned ghost town. There, the boys disembark and split into teams to find gas, and David’s imagination gets the better of him as he envisions Michael dueling against himself in a good-guy-vs.-bad-guy battle to the death in a Western fantasy scene (Michael plays double roles: Black Bart and Slade, David is Kincaid) though in the end, it’s David’s own character who’s shot by bad-guy-cowboy Michael. Meanwhile, Micky and Peter encounter a rusty old triangle used to call cowboys to supper. Since Peter played a triangle in high school, he happily rings it with a hammer; the noise attracts two hoods, George and Lenny, hiding out in the town’s local jail, who saunter outside to investigate.
Lenny and George find Michael and David, and George proceeds to shoot at their feet. Michael tells George, “You’re pretty tough with a gun in your hand.” George orders Lenny to use his famous line, “You ain’t goin’ no place!” He leaves to look for the others, telling Lenny to “keep these two on ice.” Lenny takes it literally, so David helpfully conjures a block of ice to offer to Lenny, which he shoves away. Lenny shows his softer side when Michael asks him, “What do you want?” but when Michael admit they can’t give him his idealized world of “a job and security, and a home…PTA meetings and cookouts on weekends,” Lenny gets fed up and marches Michael and David, towards the town jail, while George searches in vain for Micky and Peter, who are hiding in a stall just next door. Having observed all this from their hiding spot, Peter exposes everything that’s happened so far in typical television style. The camera shot then trucks in on Micky, who follows this up with: "That's for the benefit of any of you who've tuned in late. Now, back to our story!"
Back at the jail, George and Lenny fantasize about the treasures that await them “when The Big Man gets here” — their mysterious boss who promises them their cut but whom they have never seen in person. Just outside, Micky and Peter overhear and a lightbulb goes up over Micky’s head (held by Peter), as he hatches an elaborate Monkee scheme to spring their mates. Micky and Peter, disguised as gangsters The Big Man and Spider, respectively, try to overcome the hoods and rescue Michael and David, but the two crooks soon see through them when they stumble and they end up locked in the jail with the other Monkees. George warns them not to escape since "there's nothin’ around here but miles o'desert!" and The Monkees imagine having fun by the beach in bathing suits and romping around the desert dressed as Foreign Legionnaires over "Tomorrow's Gonna Be Another Day". When George steps out, Micky spots a shovel and hatches another plot to escape via tunneling out. Then they trick Lenny into giving them a shovel and ball claiming they’re going to play baseball for recreation. While covering up the sound of their digging by singing "Papa Gene's Blues", the quartet begin digging all sorts of escape tunnels to the beach, a jungle, a railroad track, the desert, an Egyptian Pyramid, and a baseball diamond (!), but Peter has only surfaced in a cell next door.
When the real Big Man arrives, the crooks are surprised to find their leader is The Big Man's wife: Bessie Kowalski, The Big Woman, who took over since her husband got too big! She orders The Monkees killed but is impressed when she learns that there are singers since she was once in show biz claiming that she once won the hearts of millions. Despite this, Bessie still orders The Monkees to be taken out and shot but Michael and Micky buys time by asking for a last request to sing one last song and for Bessie to join them. She acquiesces, and soon, with Michael on the piano, Bessie starts singing “Everybody Loves My Baby” and “Hi Neighbor” off key as Michael sends David to call for help on the phone. David's attempts to phone for help fail when his contact with a primitive Indian chief at his tent has him put on hold, and by a southerner from another town offers to contact Bob Dylan, since he can write a song about his problem. Michael tries to stall some more by having all of them sing the
"(theme from) THE MONKEES," and they ask George and Lenny to join in which Lenny ends up giving David his gun! The two frightened robbers
then dive behind an overturned table and The Monkees dodge behind the bar, but not before Michael sets the piano to player mode so Bessie can continue to sing, blissfully unaware of the escape taking place under her nose.
Thus is triggered (sorry!) a delightfully weird shootout sequence between gangsters and Monkees, chock full of carnival games, The Cavalry (which bugles a rendition of the "[theme from] THE MONKEES"!), a warship, and of course, Bessie continuing to sing along to
the Monkees’ theme song. David keeps right on firing at the two gunsels, saying the good guys never run out of bullets, right before he actually does! Figuring that they’re not so good after all, he tosses the gun over the bar, only to have a bullet discharge, ricochet and knock George's Tommygun out of his hand, forcing him and Lenny to surrender. Later, the police arrive to apprehend the three criminals and Bessie, newly brought out of retirement, announces that while she and the boys are in stir, they'll work up a new act as "Bessie & The Bullets”! One of the cops gives them a ticket for the reward for capturing the three and tells the guys to take it to the police station to collect the money. But as soon as they reach their car, the cop starts writing tickets for traffic violations and singing in a cabaret without a license--in a ghost town, yet! Michael unfortunately winds up returning the reward ticket to the cop to cover the fines ("Well, that's show business!"). Unscathed, The Monkees start on their merry way (in their newly-refueled Monkeemobile!) and on to their next misadventure.
During a chat, Michael Nesmith writes the name "Lauren St. David" on a piece of masking tape and tapes it onto his chair to avoid
being recognized; The Monkees monkee around with camera filters.
The ghost town and desert settings for “The Monkees In A Ghost Town” were previously filmed for the chase climax in Episode No. 4, “Your Friendly Neighborhood Kidnappers”, in the scene where David, Micky, Michael and Peter (wearing cowboy hats) face Horace (Louis Quinn) and George (Vic Tayback) in a showdown. These settings were both reused for the following Monkees TV episodes: No. 33, "It's A Nice Place To Visit...", No. 39, "Hillbilly Honeymoon" (a.k.a. "Double Barrell Shotgun Wedding"), No. 42, "The Wild Monkees", and No. 45, "The Monkees In Texas", and in The Monkees' 1968 feature film HEAD.
Take notice of a certain dragchute pack on The Monkeemobile's rear. The dragchute was seen only on a biweekly basis, in the Kellogg's sponsor billboard sequence after the show's opening titles; the famed Kellogg's insignia could be seen emblazoned on the chute.
"Tomorrow's Gonna Be Another Day" and "Papa Gene's Blues" appeared in "The Monkees In A Ghost Town" in the exact order they do as tracks 4 and 5 on Side 1 of the then-newly-minted LP The Monkees.
Boyce and Venet's "Tomorrow's Gonna Be Another Day" was replaced by a newly woodshedded remake of Boyce & Hart's "Words" when NBC reran "The Monkees In A Ghost Town" on July 17, 1967 (a full week after "Words" was issued on the B-side of the Colgems #1007 single).
For the first time in the series, the ever-present "Musical Numbers Produced by" credit in the end titles is not used.
Interview segments seen at the outset of this and Episode No. 4, “Your Friendly Neighborhood Kidnappers”, and the previous, “The Success Story”, were filmed back to back on the same backstage setting.
Pianist Joseph Weiss was employed to play tack piano for The Monkees' saloon scene.
Footage from this episode's "Tomorrow's Gonna Be Another Day" musical sequence featuring The Monkees playing by the beach and romping in the desert as Foreign Legionnaires was recycled in Episode No. 4, “Your Friendly Neighborhood Kidnappers”, No. 5, “The Spy Who Came In From The Cool” , No. 6, “The Success Story”, No. 31, “The Monkees At The Movies”, and No. 35, "Everywhere A Sheik Sheik". The second season opening titles of The Monkees also uses clips from this romp.
In the original script, George was originally named Jojo; an unused character in this episode was Abe Lincoln.
2 color production stills of The Monkees shot inbetween takes of “The Monkees In A Ghost Town” were used on the sleeves of foreign issues of The Monkees' third single “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You” b/w ”The Girl I Knew Somewhere” (RCA Victor #66-1004) in the following countries
(they can also can be seen in the 1994 Rhino rerelease of More Of The Monkees):
Monkees on barrels (Great Britain); this was also used on the Chile issue of the album The Monkees' Headquarters (RCA #CML-2509-X)
Monkees on a ladder (Australia)
At the beginning of the episode, The Monkees wear their traditional 8-button red shirts while driving in the car. After they drive past the Clarksville sign, they've changed shirts.
At the start of the episode, The Monkees get stranded in the ghost town because their car runs out of gas; however, at the end, they are able to easily start the car and drive off without filling the tank!
“The Monkees In A Ghost Town” is the first of 14 episodes of The Monkees to take place outside of The Monkees' ramshackle beach pad; others were No. 16, “The Son Of A Gypsy”, No. 17, “The Case Of The Missing Monkee”, No. 18, “I Was A Teenage Monster”, No. 22, “The Monkees At The Circus”, No. 23, “Captain Crocodile”, No. 33, "It's A Nice Place To Visit...", No. 39, "Hillbilly Honeymoon" (a.k.a. "Double Barrell Shotgun Wedding"), No. 40, "The
Monkees Marooned", No. 42, "The Wild Monkees", No. 44, "Hitting The High Seas", No. 45, "The Monkees In Texas", No. 46, "The Monkees On The Wheel", and No. 48, "Fairy
Voiceover maestro Mel Blanc provides the sputtering noises of the severely gas-depleted Monkeemobile. Blanc later voiced specific parts for one of his best-loved vocal creations, Bugs Bunny, for the latter's appearances with The Monkees (sans Peter Tork) in their 1969 commercials for Kool-Aid, which were seen during the CBS Saturday Afternoon run of The Monkees TV series.
“The Monkees In A Ghost Town” makes reference to two popular TV westerns: Gunsmoke (CBS, 1955-75) and The Lone Ranger (ABC, 1949-57). A musical
sting composed by Stu Phillips that is reminiscent of the theme from Gunsmoke (Rex Koury's "The Old Trail" aka "Boot Hill Theme"), heard in the scene where David puts through a phone call to a Chester Goode-like country bumpkin, is reheard in Episode No. 24, “The
Monkees A La Mode”, and No. 32, “The Monkees On Tour”. A different arrangement of "The Old Trail" will be recorded for No. 45, "The Monkees In Texas",
another Monkees installment to lampoon Gunsmoke and The Lone Ranger.
(The Chester Goode/Gunsmoke lampoon in this
episode was, however, an antithesis of the actual CBS-TV Western at that time, since Dennis Weaver, the actor who originated the role of Chester, had left the series 2
This is the first time Micky does his unprecedented James Cagney impression. Other episodes to feature Micky as Cagney were in No. 12, “I've Got A Little Song Here” (trying to cheer up Michael), No. 15, “Too Many Girls” (a.k.a. "Davy And Fern") (as comic-mimic Locksley Mendoza on Mr. Hack's "Amateur Hour" on KXIU-TV), and No. 46, "The Monkees On The Wheel" (as The Insidious Strangler). All of these other appearances found Micky doing his “Cagney” by saying the line, “You dirty rat---you’re the rat that killed my brother!” However, James Cagney himself never said that line using those exact words, a fact he told the audience upon accepting a Lifetime Achievement award in 1974 from the American Film Institute!
The Monkees repeat this episode's closing line, "Well, that's show business!", in No. 51, "The Monkee's Paw".
While pacing in their cell (in the beginning of Act III), The Monkees are heard singing The Song Of The Volga Boatmen, an old Russian ballad. They sing it again in Episode No. 34, "The Picture Frame" (a.k.a. "The Bank Robbery"), No. 44, "Hitting The High Seas", and No. 57, "The Monkees Blow Their Minds". The Monkees' nominal underscore writer Stu Phillips tendered his own composition of The Song Of The Volga Boatmen, which can be heard in the next episode, “Don't Look A Gift Horse In The Mouth”, Episode No. 36, "Monkee Mayor", and No. 41, "The Card-Carrying Red Shoes".
In this episode, The Monkees fall into the clutches of bank robbers; a future installment, "The Picture Frame" (a.k.a. "The Bank Robbery"), will see Micky, Michael and David being mistaken for bank robbers.
As The Monkees enter the ghost town, Michael says, "Well, it's a nice place to visit; I don't wanna live here!" Interestingly, the title of the very episode which kicked off The Monkees' TV series' second season was "It's A Nice Place To Visit... (a.k.a. "The Monkees In Mexico")" (its 33rd overall!)!
Micky is seen with a sextant (a tool used by sailors to measure the distance between the sun and the horizon) in the teaser of "The Monkees In A Ghost Town". Peter will be seen with the same sextant in the teaser of Episode No. 44, "Hitting The High Seas".
This is the second Monkee encounter with gangsters, the first being Episode No. 4, “Your Friendly Neighborhood Kidnappers”. A future episode, No. 11, “The
Monkees A La Carte”, would be The Monkees' first of many tangles with mobsters.
Here, in the "Papa Gene's Blues" number, The Monkees are seen engaging in a mock game of baseball. 9 episodes later, in No. 16, “The Son Of A Gypsy”, they will become embroiled in a mock football game against gypsies in the "I'm A Believer" number.
Michael Nesmith's disguise as Black Bart in the Western parody is the same one he wore in Episode No. 10, “Here Come The Monkees” (Original Pilot Film), as Jesse James.
The scene where Peter holds a lit lightbulb over Micky's head when he
declares he has an idea replicates a similar gimmick seen in “Your Friendly Neighborhood Kidnappers”.
Rose Marie is best known for her portrayal of Sally Rogers on The Dick Van Dyke Show (CBS, 1961-66) and was the only regular of Heatter-Quigley's The Hollywood Squares (NBC, 1966-80, which was in its second week at the time of this episode's telecast) aside from host Peter Marshall and announcer Kenny Williams to appear in the series premiere (Oct. 17, 1966) and finale (June 20, 1980) and in the original 1965 Bert Parks-hosted pilot (without Peter Marshall); she appears on
The Monkees again as Milly Rudnik in Episode No. 28, "Monkee Mother."
Prior to his demise in 1973, Lon Chaney Jr. was best known for following in his late father's footsteps in character and monster roles, including Larry Talbot, The Wolf Man in The Wolf Man (Universal, 1941) and Kharis, The Mummy in The Mummy's Tomb (Universal, 1942), The Mummy's Curse and The Mummy's Ghost (both Universal, 1944); his role of Lenny in this episode is a lampoon of his role of Lennie Small in the film Of Mice And Men (United Artists, 1939).
Twice throughout this episode, Chaney as Lennie, at the behest of George, gives his "famous line": "You ain't goin' no place!" This line references Chaney's appearances in 2 Universal Pictures: the 1942 gangster flick
Eyes Of The Underworld (as Benny) and the 1943 Western
Frontier Badman (as Chango), both of which he was also seen rendering the line.
Hollis Morrison (1st Cop) portrayed assorted roles in
McCloud (NBC, 1970-77),
How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (American International, 1965),
Bewitched (ABC, 1964-72) and
The Wackiest Ship in the Army (NBC, 1965-66); he also appeared with future Monkee guest star Billy Beck ("The Devil And Peter Tork") in a December 8, 1966 episode of Bewitched (ABC, 1964-72), "My Friend Ben," and in a November 16, 1967 episode of The Flying Nun (ABC, 1967-70), "It's An Ill Wind," with Monkee guest alumni Noam Pitlik ("Everywhere A Sheik Sheik", "Hitting The High Seas"), Pepper Davis ("The Monkees On The Wheel"), and Robert F. Lyons (“The Monkees In The Ring”).
Morrison also appears as the Tonto and Chester Goode-wannabe characters in this episode.
Burgess Meredith was to play George, which would've reteamed him with Lon Chaney Jr., his costar from Of Mice And Men. Burgess wanted to do it, but he had a contract with ABC for his work as The Penguin on
Batman. The network refused to allow him to appear on a rival network NBC, thus forcing Meredith to decline. He would, however, once his contract with ABC ended (with the cancellation of Batman), appear on the show in a Penguin-like costume during the second season in Episode No. 57, "The Monkees Blow Their Minds", in the Club Cassandra nightclub, though his scenes were filmed solo and he never worked with the cast. In any
case, it was the last performance Oliver Burgess Meredith ever gave as The Penguin.
|Original Screen Gems Promo & Photo:
Click on pic to view a larger size.