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 V.15 No.30 | July 27 - August 2, 2006 

Idiot Box

Just Screw It!

“Amazing Screw-On Head”

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: See, there’s this artificially intelligent robot head who works as a top-secret super spy for Abraham Lincoln combating assorted supernatural and extraterrestrial threats to the nation, particularly those levied by his reanimated manservant-turned-archfiend Emperor Zombie. Helping our titular head are his new manservant Mr. Groin, a talking, three-legged dog named Mr. Dog and a collection of super-duper, steam-powered bodies onto which the Amazing Screw-On Head can, well, screw himself. ... No, I’m not making this up.

Cult comic book writer Mike Mignola, whose work formed the basis of the Hellboy movie, is actually the nutbag who made it all up. And God bless him for it. Now, Sci-Fi channel has taken Mignola’s lesser-known comic book creation and turned it into a reverent, if entirely off-kilter cartoon special.

The animated version of “Amazing Screw-On Head” employs a limited animation style, a little like the old Jack Kirby-influenced Marvel cartoons of the ’60s. (OK, not quite that crummy looking.) Although the animation isn’t 100-percent fluid, it recreates Mignola’s jagged, ink-heavy art style perfectly. Fans of Mignola’s justifiably famous style will be doubly pleased by Sci-Fi’s efforts.

Storywise, the series jumbles together at least a half-dozen different genres. H.P. Lovecraft meets H.G. Welles on the set of “The X-Files” covers most of it. The rollicking Civil War-set steampunk adventure is punctuated by a riotous sense of pop cultural parody that is rivaled only by (not to mention closely mirrored by) Cartoon Network’s “The Venture Brothers.” Paul Giamatti cuts a fine figure as the ever-sincere voice of our robotic hero. (“It’s like I’ve always said, all really intelligent people should be cremated for reasons of national security.”) David Hyde Pierce seems to be having even more fun here than he did voicing Abe Sapien in the Hellboy movie. Pierce contributes the voice of Screw-On Head’s nemesis, the guy with the self-described “petty vengeance fetish,” Emperor Zombie. (“I’m so excited, I just made water in my pantaloons!”) Rounding out the rather impressive voice cast is comedian Patton Oswalt as Mr. Groin and Molly Shannon of “Saturday Night Live” as Screw-On Head’s former lover-turned-vampire, Patience.

In the first (and let’s hope not only) episode, Head is recruited by President Lincoln to stop Emperor Zombie from acquiring an ancient artifact capable of destroying the world. ... Which turns out to be a turnip. Did I mention the monkey with a machine gun?

While it sounds like “Amazing Screw-On Head” is just a series of non sequiturs, the story carries its own madcap internal logic. By the end of the first episode, you’ll be hooked and begging for more. More head-screwing action, please!

“Amazing Screw-On Head” airs Thursday, July 27, at 8:30 p.m. on Sci-Fi. You can also watch it online on Sci-Fi’s Pulse

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