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Thursday, June 06, 2019

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Amazing Screw-On Head

Here we go again on Fishing in the Discount Bin.  You know the routine, I watch a movie and blog about it.  This time out, we watch the forgotten animated pilot Amazing Screw-On Head.  This was originally in my notes at March 16, 2019.

After I finished perusing the Hellboy Animated movies, I saw this other bit of Mike Mingola animation sitting on my shelf, and though it was worth a re-visit, too.

As Mingola explains in the DVD liner notes, he got the idea for Screw-On Head after one too many merchandising meetings for Hellboy.  After a meeting about action figures, he started thinking, "They should make an action figure that's just a head.  Then you could sell all these interchangeable bodies as accessories."  He started sketching these idea, and before he knew it, he'd created the one-shot Amazing Screw-On Head

Enter the Sci-Fi Channel.  In the mid-2000s, with high-speed Internet becoming more and more affordable, and streaming video starting to become more and more of a thing, the Sci-Fi Channel wanted to conduct an experiment.  They were going to produce a pilot for a series, and then post it to their website.  If it got enough "likes" or "upvotes" or whatever metric they were using, they would greenlight it to series.  And the property they chose for this was an animated series based on Amazing Screw-On Head

They got some great talent, too.  To develop the series and write the pilot, they got Bryan Fuller, fresh off his cult classics Wonderfalls and The Good Season of Heroes, and right before he went on to his other cult classic, Pushing Daisies.  They also snagged a top-flight voice cast.  As our hero, the Amazing Screw-On Head, they got Paul Giammati.  As his manservant, Mr. Groin, Patton Oswalt, who was just starting to become super-famous.  As Head's arch-enemy, Emperor Zombie, David Hyde Pearce.  And as Patience, Head's one-time-love-turned Vampire, SNL alum Molly Shannon. 

The year is 1862.  A professor of arcane languages is abducted by Emperor Zombie to help translate the scroll containing the location of the tomb of Emperor Gung.  Gung had managed to enslave a demigod to help him rule the world, and now Zombie wants that demigod to do the same for him.  So President Lincoln calls on Screw-On Head to save the day. 

Needless to say, everyone has issues.  We find out that Emperor Zombie was Screw-On Head's original manservant, until he started dabbling in Screw-On Head's collection of occult artifacts and turned himself into a zombie.  As such, Screw-On Head keeps Mr. Groin at arm's length, for fear of creating another nemesis.  Also, Emperor Zombie has been known to kill Screw-On  Head's manservants in fits of jealous rage.  (Mr. Groin is Screw-On Head's seventh butler because of this.)  And then, there's Patience, Screw-On Head's one true love before she was abducted by Zombie and turned into his vampiric henchwoman. 

The end result is somewhat bizarre.  It all comes across as a campy, steampunk take on Hellboy.  That being said, there are quite a few laughs to be had.  The animation is pretty good, too.  This is a much more faithful interpretation of Mingola's style than Hellboy Animated, full of stylized angles and deep, dark shadows. 

I could see why it never went to series, though.  As clever and as funny as it is, it's also just a little too weird.  But still, when I saw that pilot episode for just $10 in HMV some 12 years ago, I figured it was worth picking up.  Check it out.  Like a lot of abandoned animation projects, I'm pretty sure it's available on YouTube.

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