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  Monitors, The We'll Take More Care Of You
Year: 1969
Director: Jack Shea
Stars: Guy Stockwell, Susan Oliver, Larry Storch, Avery Schreiber, Sherry Jackson, Shepherd Strudwick, Keenan Wynn, Ed Begley, J.J. Barry, Martin Harvey Friedberg, Sid Grossfeld, Burt Heyman, Helen Malone, Mike Nussbaum, Murphy Dunne, Peter Boyle, Alan Arkin
Genre: Comedy, Science Fiction, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: The Monitors have taken over, they are here to help, there is nothing to fear from them. Look at all the celebrity endorsements they have earned, all those people of note cannot be wrong, can they? But the Monitors, an alien race who arrived on Earth to make it a safer, more peaceful planet, are not as universally popular as may be initially supposed, as while they preach a message of benevolence, they are not above using force to get what they want and preserve that serenity they promote. When television actor and erstwhile pilot Harry Jordan (Guy Stockwell) becomes involved with a cell trying to gain their freedom from these mild invaders, he doesn't know what to think...

The Monitors was based on a science fiction novel by forgotten specialist in the genre Keith Laumer, and in turn the film was more or less forgotten as well. The tone was satirical, though its aim was off as while it seemed to be taking a potshot at totalitarian societies, it could just as well have been a send-up of the contemporary political situation in the United States of America, but its details were so vague or broad that it never committed itself to convincing us it was clear in its own mind what it was trying to do. Apart from one thing, which was to make the audience laugh, and while it was assuredly wacky and ker-ay-zee, one thing it was not was particularly side-splittlingly hilarious.

It was a project from Chicago's famed Second City comedy troupe, or at least used many of their alumni in its creative elements, but you had to say they did better work elsewhere. Yet while it failed as far as humour was concerned, where weirdness was concerned you were onto a winner, resembling what might have happened had an American watched the whole of the Patrick McGoohan cult classic television series The Prisoner and thought, "Call that an ending? I could rustle up something better than that!" With the results less Number 6 trying to escape The Village and more Maxwell Smart from sitcom Get Smart wrestling with living under a dictatorship.

Not that Stockwell was goofy, exactly, not as goofy as Don Adams anyway, but he did grow increasingly discombobulated as the plot progressed, if indeed you could describe this plot as progressing in any capacity. In that way he was perhaps more like a genuinely terrific movie that hit all the targets The Monitors missed, The President's Analyst, which managed to be just as weird as this while satisfying in a manner the confusion here moved against. But the cast was something to marvel at, if nothing else, as Jordan is stuck between two women played by Susan Oliver (best known from the Star Trek pilot) and former child star trying grown-up roles Sherry Jackson, a pair of attractive sixties actresses who appeared to be cast to make most of the men in the audience envious of Stockwell's good fortune.

But otherwise, you had stalwarts like Ed Begley and Keenan Wynn showing up in positions of Monitor-given power, comedy regulars like Avery Schreiber and Larry Storch as part of the right-wing insurgents, but bungling their would-be revolution, and brief bits for folks like Alan Arkin (and his young son, Adam Arkin) for sketchlike addresses to the camera about how great the rulers were. There did appear to be some money spent on this - they could afford a helicopter and control room set, at any rate - but the script was a morass of barbs and would-be knowing takes on the world of 1969, some of which was undeniably well-produced, the radio jingles we hear sounding like the real thing. The bad guys themselves all sported black overcoats and bowler hats, not needing any makeup too look otherworldly, but the message was obscure: do we accept peace at any cost to our liberty, or is that actually not much of a problem when you get down to it? You would not find an answer here, cutesy happy ending and all. Music by Fred Kaz.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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