Color, 2006, 168m.
Directed by Michael Cumming
Starring Matt Bery, Rich Fulcher
Severub (DVD) (US R0 NTSC), BBC (UK R2 PAL), Force (Australia R4 PAL) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9) / DD2.0

Snuff Box

British TV has produced some genuinely groundbreaking, genre-smashing comedy programs in recent years, though viewers in other countries have had to do a little legwork to see some of the results. Two stalwarts of the latest wave, Matt Berry (also a regular on The IT Crowd and the magnificent, sadly underseen horror spoof Garth Marenghi's Darkplace) and Rich Fulcher, first teamed up in supporting roles on the surreal cult favorite The Mighty Boosh and a one-shot, insane parody of '70s rock musicals, AD/BC: A Rock Opera. It was inevitable that they would headline their own short-lived series, of course, and the six-episode result is Snuff Box. Any description beyond that is tricky, but let's give it a shot...Snuff Box

In a white deco building, professional hangman and scheming layabout Berry and high-strung American assistant Fulcher do their jobs with cheerful nonchalance and spend their off time in an upper crust gentlemen's club for their profession. A delusional girl chaser with flawed social skills, Berry has no problem luring Fulcher into various schemes even when they're disrupted by casual betrayals like reading a diary and blasting its contents to all their friends. That's just the basic framework though as the show careens through a wide variety of side alleys including a fashion ad for "Le Piss" and musical numbers including the funniest rap song you'll ever hear and some brain-damaging variations on the catchy, retro-style theme song performed a la the Mamas and the Papas. When you aren't too busy laughing, you'll start to wonder exactly what the hell you've stumbled into and where all the random, surreal silliness might be going before the next comedic bombshell hits.

Though it never achieved the crossover appeal of some of the BBC's more longstanding recent shows and understandably alienated many viewers with its extremely skewed humor, Snuff Box is certainly worth exploring for fans willing to dive into something a bit sicker and dirtier than usual. (One of the song titles can't even be reproduced on the music publication credits without a Snuff Boxcensorship asterisk.) At least it's certainly more accessible than the wildly experimental tangents of Boosh, and the compact number of half-hour episodes means you can fly through the entire thing in barely more than the length of an average feature film.

The BBC first released their own Region 2 DVD in 2008, featuring a decent anamorphic transfer (about on par with TV broadcast quality) and a small batch of extras including a 20-minute "Inside the Snuff Box" featurette (mostly a puff piece with some nice bits about the creation of the music), a batch of outtakes, some very random commentaries for half of the episodes (with Berry, Fulcer, and director Cumming) that range from hilarious true anecdotes to completely insane nonsense, and a soundtrack jukebox option Snuff Boxfeaturing ten cuts of music from the show. An Australian release followed shortly thereafter, splitting the show onto two discs for no particular reason.

It took long enough, but America finally got its own edition of the show courtesy of Severin, making its first dive into British TV series. This one features far more extras than before and goes back to one disc again; the episodes themselves look about the same as before, with that bright but slightly fuzzy look common to shows shot on widescreen video but without the slick jump to 1080p. The Severin release moves the soundtrack option to a separate audio CD with an additional seven tracks added for good measure, and apart from the optional English subs of the BBC disc and a disposable image gallery, everything's been ported over. The biggest new extra is "Taking Control of Your Body," a fun half-hour testimonial piece (similar to the one created from the American release of Spaced) with both of the stars talking about the show's origins and creation along with more substantial input from fans including Paul Rudd, Simon Pegg, Boosh co-star Noel Fielding, Rob Coddry, "Weird Al" Yankovic, Rob Scrab and Paul Scheer; it's a lot to cram into a fairly short amount of time, but the entire piece is constructed well and makes a good case for the show's importance among overlooked cult gems. "Locations Walking Tour" features Berry and Fulcher again doing a 12-minute video walk through the areas in which the show was filmed (and surprising some fans with an autograph, plus a climactic visit to the sidewalk of the unforgettable dog-walking rejection moment), while Berry goes solo for a five-minute "The Score" snippet at the piano talking about creating the great music for the show. Last of the new extras is a 15-minute "Testimonials" reel with some of the participants from the "Taking Control" featurette adding more observations, plus new input from Steve Agee and over half the running time with a lengthy, digressive, but amusing bit by a very ink-covered Janeane Garofolo. If a sketch comedy laced with musical numbers, a little filth, and a lot of insanity sounds like welcome tonic from the wasteland of bad comedy shows on TV, this sharp and nasty little puppy should be just the ticket.

Buy from Diabolik DVD.

Reviewed on 10/2/11.