The Monitors (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Jack Shea|
|Produced by||Bernard Sahlins|
|Screenplay by||Myron J. Gold|
|Based on||The Monitors
by Keith Laumer
|Music by||Fred Kaz|
|Distributed by||Commonwealth United Entertainment|
The Monitors is a 1969 U.S. satirical science fiction film. Shot in Chicago, it was the first film production of the city's Second City comedy troupe and was coproduced and financed by the Bell and Howell film-equipment manufacturing company (then based in nearby Skokie) in an effort to establish Chicago as a film production center. It is based on the novel of the same name by Keith Laumer.
Earth has been taken over by a benign group of aliens known as the Monitors, gentlemanly figures clad in black overcoats and bowler hats. They are dedicated to suppressing humanity's propensities for violence, sex, war, and trouble, enforcing their ethos with spray cans of a pacifying gas and with television ads praising the Monitors' rule—the latter featuring cameos by a variety of comedic actors, as well as bandleader Xavier Cugat and Illinois senator Everett Dirksen (who died before the film's release).
A conflict with the Monitors, inspired by the outrageous antics of a street preacher (Larry Storch), leads to the flight of movie actress Barbara (Susan Oliver), who is a somewhat reluctant collaborator with the Monitors, along with free-lance pilot Harry (Guy Stockwell) and Harry's brother Max (Avery Schreiber), and their spiriting away by the "preacher", who turns out to be a leader of S.C.R.A.G., or "Secret Counter Retalitorial Group", an anti-Monitor resistance group. After a series of vicissitudes, with Harry among the Monitors and Barbara and Max among the S.C.R.A.G. forces, the principals are reunited and, minus Barbara, fly off to Washington, D.C., in an attempt to foil a S.C.R.A.G. plot to bomb Monitor headquarters.
The Monitors, who have been aware of all these events, have decided that human beings are not worthy of their leadership, and they depart. Humanity is free to return to its violent and corrupt ways.
- Guy Stockwell as Harry
- Susan Oliver as Barbara
- Avery Schreiber as Max
- Sherry Jackson as Mona
- Shepperd Strudwick as Tersh Jeterax (Monitor leader)
- Keenan Wynn as The General
- Ed Begley as The President
- Larry Storch as Colonel Stutz
- Adam Arkin – cameo
- Alan Arkin – cameo
- Xavier Cugat – cameo
- Barbara Dana – cameo
- Everett Dirksen – cameo
- Stubby Kaye – cameo
- Jackie Vernon – cameo
The Monitors received mixed notices, with the New York Times reviewer Howard Thompson remarking that it "clips along with considerable verve" but that the "endless wisecracks seem none too wise or witty, or, for that matter, new". The entry on the film in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, on the other hand, calls it "an oddity, which flopped badly".
The film scholar Vivian Sobchack has noted that the "short and simple jingle dealing with the Monitors and their ability to bring happiness" used recurrently in the film serves to spoof "the incantations and sacred songs attendent to the selling of material goods and politicians".
- Thomas, Mike (2012). The Second City Unscripted: Revolution and Revelation at the World-Famous Comedy Theater. Evanston: Northwestern University Press. p. 34. ISBN 978-0-8101-2844-6. Retrieved January 22, 2014.
- "The Monitors: Review". TV Guide. CBS Interactive. Retrieved January 22, 2014.
- "3-The Monitors". Cult Films — Filmography and Scripting. Retrieved 7 December 2014.
- Thompson, Howard (October 9, 1969). " 'The Monitors' Opens". The New York Times. Retrieved January 22, 2014.
- Brosnan, John; Nicholls, Peter. "Monitors, The". The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. Retrieved January 22, 2014.
- Sobchack, Vivian (1997). Screening Space: The American Science Fiction Film (2nd ed.). New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. p. 198. ISBN 0-8135-2492-X. Retrieved January 22, 2014.