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Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Here's the bottom line--if you have the same sense of humor that I do, you'll love SNUFF BOX: THE COMPLETE SERIES, the six-episode sketch comedy series starring British comedian Matt Berry and American comedian Rich Fulcher.  However, if you don't have the same sense of humor that I do, then this review is probably the closest you'll ever want to ever get to it, ever ever ever.

Another condition--it will help if you're a fan of things like "Monty Python's Flying Circus", "Mr. Show", "Kids in the Hall", and various other showcases for surrealistic silliness and illogical irreverence.  But since this show isn't taped in front of a live audience and uses cinema-style photography and editing, Berry and Fulcher are able to let their imaginations drift through the same kind of demented mental landscape from which things like "Alice in Wonderland" emerge.

As a framing device, the boys live in a posh gentlemen's club started by Matt's great-uncle Sir Charles Berry and carry on his family business of hanging people at the local prison.  Most episodes, in fact, begin with a humorous hanging (Condition #3: must enjoy humorous hangings, Russian roulette, and other lighthearted but graphic violence) after which we join Matt and Rich in the club's lounge, establishing the storyline from which the various comedy sketches are, if you'll pardon the expression, hung.

Matt's character is a pompous, conceited womanizer who always steals Rich's girlfriends away from him and cheats him out of his royalty checks from the estate of his late mother, Mama Cass Elliott.  Rich is a naive, Stimpy-like fall guy for the most part, although he can revert into a sadistic tormenter who shares Matt's personal diary confessions with the world and ruins all of his attempts at public speaking by blurting out all his punchlines.  Because of this, Matt often vows to kill Rich, even purchasing several books on the subject such as "How to Kill Rich Fulcher With Poison Darts." 

In the tradition of such shows, the two stars play most of the other characters themselves thanks to clever use of editing and green-screen.  These include a nerd (Fulcher) with an intense sexual fixation toward various objects such as lollipops, teddy bears, and his own arm, and Sir Charles (Berry), whom Rich visits in 1888 via a magic doorway next to the club's restroom.  One of the best episodes features a visit from Matt and Rich's brothers--naturally, Rich's obnoxious redneck brother wants to kill him, while Rich's "specially challenged" brother James makes a screamingly funny appearance on a British pop music show.

Other noteworthy stand-alone bits: Rich takes center stage in the delightful "Rapper With a Baby" music video; Matt is a video guitar teacher with a grotesquely long ring finger; Rich plays a stern art museum guide in "Full Metal Jacket" drill-sergeant mode; and Matt's solemn musical tribute to a deceased brother suddenly turns into a cheesy Edgar Winter spoof complete with strap-on keyboard.

My favorite running gags, however, are those which involve Matt and Rich as themselves and are part of the overall storyline that (sort of) links the six episodes together.  Matt's attempts to purchase a pair of silver cowboy boots from a chic store results in him being savagely beaten by a succession of surprisingly violent salespersons.  He also displays dashingly chivalrous behavior towards a number of attractive women until their mention of the word "boyfriend" brings out his violent streak.  Rich's problems getting girls to like him also result in several funny bits, culminating in his engagement to an ape woman with whom Rich is caught having public intercourse during the wedding reception.

While watching the show I kept detecting a nagging similarity to something else besides other sketch comedy shows I'd seen before.  When Rich steps through a doorway and plummets into a swimming pool, it finally hit me--in addition to being like "Monty Python", "Mr. Show", et al, SNUFF BOX's surrealistic style is strongly akin to the mindblowing 1968 Monkees' film, HEAD.  Adding to this is Matt Berry's cool score, which revolves around a single reoccuring song and ties the series together musically while frequently erupting into full-blown production numbers.  This surprisingly lush score, along with the show's mid-budget feature film look, gives it the feel of an extended movie that should be watched in one sitting to be fully appreciated. 

The DVD from Severin Films is in 1.78:1 widescreen with Dolby Digital sound.  No subtitles.  Extras include featurettes "Taking Control of Your Body" with testimonials from the likes of Simon Pegg and "Weird Al" Yankovic, "Locations Walking Tour", "The Score", "Inside the Snuff Box", more testimonials, outtakes, and commentaries by Matt and Rich for episodes 1, 2, and 6.  Best of all is a bonus CD containing 36 minutes of music and songs from the soundtrack.

With its weird blend of sex, violence, profanity, and just plain strangeness, SNUFF BOX: THE COMPLETE SERIES is the kind of entertainment that will appeal to a small but devoted audience, as evidenced by its initial failure on BBC 3 (it was only shown once in 2006) and subsequent cult popularity.  If this sounds good to you, then you owe it to yourself to have a go at this obscure comedy gem.

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