Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Amazing Screw-On Head – review

Director: Chris Prynoski

Release date: 2006

Contains spoilers

The Amazing Screw-On Head (asoh) was created by Mike Mignola, the man behind Hellboy. This was the pilot for an animated series that, alas, has yet to see the light of day and comes in at around 22 minutes. However there is more packed into those 22 minutes than many feature length animations.

Our hero asoh (Paul Giamatti) is indeed a screw-on head, with various metallic bodies at his disposal, who is President Lincoln’s (Corey Burton) main agent for dealing with the strange and unusual. We are in 1862 America and this is pure steam-punk/Vernian fantasy a secret history of America that is kept out of the standard history books.

There is a security breach in the Library of Dangerous Books and Papers and the guards realise they have a spy in their midst – who also happens to be a werewolf. Having taken out many guards and been faced with a flamethrower her backup arrives in the form of a machine gun wielding little old lady and a monkey. They kidnap Doctor Faust (also Corey Burton).

Lincoln contacts asoh as the professor was working on the fragment parchment of Gung –a despot from ages past. Both Lincoln and asoh realise that Emperor Zombie (David Hyde Pierce) is behind the kidnapping, trying to find Gung’s secrets. As asoh and Emperor Zombie have history Lincoln will not order him to go but asoh volunteers. Later we discover that Emperor Zombie was asoh’s butler until he went bad. Since then he has had a fetish about killing the subsequent butlers. Currently the butler is Mr Groin (Patton Oswalt). The butler set up was reminiscent of Alfred in Batman, but on a very cynical and ironic level.

It is of to Marrakech to see Lincoln’s informant but before they get there we see rats enter the mummy’s chamber and form a seat out of their bodies. Into the room, and onto the chair, comes Patience (Molly Shannon) – a vampire. She has been sent to despatch the informant by Emperor Zombie and has one of her rats knock a burning torch onto his wrappings.

Asoh enters the lair and we get a flashback to some 187 years earlier. Patience and asoh were in love but, before they could declare it to each other, she was carried off by a giant bat, under the orders of Emperor Zombie, bitten and turned into a vampire – something she blames asoh for. After an exchange, asoh fires a stake at her but she turns into a bat. She does not make good her escape, however, being caught in a bird cage by Mr Groin.

Back in Washington asoh is torturing Patience, by opening and shutting the curtains, in order to discover where the Professor is. Lincoln is concerned about how personal the mission has become but asoh’s zombie dog picks up a scent. Can asoh find Emperor Zombie in time to save the world?

The lore surrounding Patience seems fairly standard we have staking as a killing method, she can turn into a bat and commands rats. One wondered about the daylight affecting her as the bat that took and turned her was around in daylight – perhaps that would have been answered had the series followed this pilot.

This may be short but it is what animation should be. The actual artwork is very stylised but works fantastically well. The script is brilliant, as is the voice acting, with some fantastic exchanges and Emperor Zombie getting some marvellous lines.

There is little else to say, a show that packs in content, is fun and funny – if you haven’t experienced the Amazing Screw-On Head I recommend you do so. 8 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


Anonymous said...

I desperately wanted this to go to series, but there must have been some problem that prevented that. I also recommend the graphic novel. I actually like Screw-on better than Hellboy and I'm a pretty big Hellboy fan.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

cheers for the comment Mateo. I'd have loved this to go to series, the quirky humour is fantastic and the setting sublime.