Tuesday, January 22, 2013

#35, Everywhere a Sheik Sheik

Title references "Old Macdonald" children's song, which epitomizes the idea of the American farm and is taught in every preschool in America, at least from the post war-period (think pre-Howdy Doody) to probably the modern day. It is the opposite of the Middle Eastern setting of this show, but consistency was never a main selling point.

We are introduced to Monty Landis, who brings in the idea of arranged marriages (also a common practice in the country of Harmonica and countries which have princes & paupers). The princess, who had raided the "I Dream of Jeannie" wardrobe closet, points to a "fan" magazine and picks Davy. (If the Monkees within the show are so poor, how come they are in fan magazines? And how did they work that camera technique where a static image suddenly comes to life?)

Note here Hollywood's version of the Middle East: bellydancing costumes for women (see also what the girls wore in the film, "Head") and Nehru jackets & headscarves (Keffiyeh, of the Lawrence of Arabia style)for men. Monty Landis doing an accent which seems to come from India and "strange customs", such as the villain wearing one half of a beard. There is so little consistency that the word "stereotype" doesn't even come to mind. "Do not question the strange ways of our people" because we can't be bothered to do real research or even get past the first of "1001 Nights".

"Why does the camel sleep with one eye toward the desert moon?"
"To keep his pants up?"

(Cf: Why does a fireman wear red suspenders?)

Pay special attention to the scene where Peter is dressed in a lab coat, supposedly holding a Geiger counter, which clicks when it approaches radiation. (Is he holding a microphone and some sort of primitive recording device?) He, of course, has a hand held clicker in his pocket. Listen as Mike gives the cue, "What's that I hear?", which P intentionally muffs up. Peter is directly quoting Harpo Marx (using a sound instead of voice). Mike was quoting Phil Ochs, a protest songwriter (whether he realized it or not).

Micky & Mike are dressed in button down uniforms. Mike with a Bicorne hat, with white feathers stapled to it. During WW1, this was a practice of indicating someone who had pleaded "Conscientious Objector" and didn't fight. In other words, a chicken. Here, perhaps, it was done as a protest against the war in Vietnam. Or just because it was a funny sight gag, like Micky's helmet which is so small, the chinstrap goes through his mouth like a horse's bit. It's also fun just to watch Micky knocking off Mike's hat every time he salutes.

"This king, he wants me to marry his daughter"
"Nice looking?"
"Well, he's not bad . . ."
(Vaudeville technique of using surprise and vague nominative referent (using Syntax to make a funny!) to turn it into a question about the attractiveness of the king, not the potential fiancee)

Note how the boys harmonize, like a barbershop quartet (on the "Hello/Hello/Hello" bit) and Monty Landis conducts. Compare this to Hans Conreid's reaction in a blooper off the "Monkee's Paw"

Pun: "Secretary of Defense. /I'll be sure to keep it mended." (The fence) Linguistically and for non-native speakers of English, [The] and [Da] and [De] are close enough phonetically to be mistaken for each other, and close enough to be misinterpreted, to rare comedic effect, as seen here. In songs, the mistaking of one word for another is called a "Mondegreen". In speech, it is just called a mistake.

"Peel me a grape!" This is a reference to a terrific jazz song, written by Dave Frishberg in 1962, recorded by Dusty Springfield, Anita O'Day, Blossom Dearie, and Diana Krall. ALL are recommended (Blossom is my favorite, in general, but Dusty's video was the best of this song)

Paperweight. Mike is actually terrific with predictable dialogue! "What is this number with the concrete block?" Breaking 4th wall!! He knows the dialogue and plot are silly, so he overacts. We know that he knows that it's all fake, and so he turns to us and breaks the illusion fully, essentially addressing the guys who put him up to it as an actor. He's talking to the camera, and the literal people behind the camera (director, writers, prop guys, etc) as well as the audience.

"Golden Grecian Goblets Guarantee Graves!" Refer back to the post about Danny Kaye and the "Pestle" routine

Suddenly, the villain rips off his half beard and claims he is American (much more evil) and is a wildcatter from Oklahoma, only there to steal the oil. Prescient, indeed, about America's greed for oil in other countries. Not that we go to war over it or anything.

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