The Friday Afternoon Movie: The Devil’s Backbone

Today The FAM presents 2001’s The Devil’s Backbone (El espinazo del diablo), directed by Guillermo del Toro and produced by Pedro Almodóvar. Set in 1939, during the Spanish Civil War, it tells the story of Carlos, a young boy recently deposited at an orphanage until, he is told, his father, a Republican war hero, returns. Unbeknownst to young Carlos, Franco’s Nationalists have a distinct upper-hand and his father is dead, making his stay permanent. The orphanage is run by the kindly Dr. Casares and and a curt headmistress, Carmen.

Carlos doesn’t take to the orphanage particularly well and while he makes a few friends — not the least of which is Jaime, the orphanage’s bully — all is not well. There is still the matter of Jacinto, the groundskeeper, I violent, brooding man who was an orphan himself, who is intent on stealing the gold rumored to be stored somewhere in the complex. Of course, there is also the ghost of the boy Santi, who disappeared mysteriously on the night the orphanage was bombed, and now haunts the orphanage and who tells Carlos “Many of you will die”. What happened to him and how is it connected to the cistern in the cellar?

His third film, The Devil’s Backbone features the same juxtaposition of childish innocence and dread found in his other non-Hollywood efforts: 1993’s Cronos and 2006’s Pan’s Labyrinth; that latter film continuing the exploration of many of the themes found here. It’s a look at how the unblemished mind confronts the horrors of both reality and the supernatural — a Kids Save the Day movie in the Spielberg vein, forced through a horror movie meat grinder, though del Toro perhaps treats his young characters with a bit more respect.

The horror here is handled deftly as well, the ghost is more often heard than seen outright, softly, mournfully moaning its discontent, keeping it from veering into the territory of silliness that many films in the genre are wont to do. And war, always war. Its looming specter, too, haunts this film as well as Pan’s Labyrinth. War is the real evil in these films, man the main antagonist. Even the depths of del Toro’s imagination cannot eclipse their evil.

Cats: A Film By John Campbell

From John Campbell, creator of the amazing/depressing/hilarious comic Pictures For Sad Children, comes “Cats”, a short film about Shannon Driscoll — screenprinter, teacher, cat enthusiast. The film explores Shannon’s love of felines and how they influence her art and, in doing so, hold up a mirror to her strained relationship with her father. A relationship in which the truly innocent suffer the most.

A Stop Motion Introduction To Krazy Kat

In 2005, Banana Park produced this Oscar nominated short, based on George Herriman’s seminal comic strip, Krazy Kat. It is the perfect primer for the strip, should you ever consider diving into the collected series, giving a brief and concise look at the bizarre love triangle at its center. Banana Park did a fantastic job of capturing the look of both the characters — Krazy Kat, Ignatz Mouse, and Offissa Pupp — the strange, otherworldly version of Coconino County, Arizona.

(It should be noted that, even though Krazy is referred to as “he” here — as, indeed, was the case in the comic — it is gender neutral, Herriman refusing to ever give a definitive answer as to Krazy’s gender.)

Via Drawn

BTC: Gunther von Häagen-Dazs

From the profoundly sick ‘n’ twisted punsters innovative educators behind Art of Bleeding comes this morning’s “anatomy lesson” in the form of a extended satirical mashup that riffs off the name of Body Worlds creator Gunter von Haagens and the moniker of a certain time-honored, faux-Scandinavian brand of ice cream.

This video is not safe for work, nor the squeamish, nor the lactose intolerant. TASTE DEATH.

Thanks, as ever, for keepin’ it real strange, Al.

Crackpot Visionaries of the Month: Various Concerned Citizens of Santa Cruz, CA.

A brilliantly edited montage of public statements by a motley assortment of local denizens, no rx documented at fairly recent meetings of the Santa Cruz City Council/County Board of Supervisors:

Via Fitz, with thanks.

1965 British Pathe Film Tour of the Walter Potter Collection

Eeee! More Walter Potter goodies!

Via Morbid Anatomy/BoingBoing/Jessica Joslin, here’s the British Pathe‘s splendid ’65 tour of the now sadly defunct Walter Potter Museum in Bramber, UK, which, until recently, housed all of the famed anthropomorphizing taxidermist’s weird and whimsical work.

If you have a moment to explore, the British Pathe account on YouTube is entirely rife with ridiculous, charming, and occasionally sobering snippets of Ye Olde Infotainment. Pekingnese puppies dressed up as a wedding party; Mick the Mongrel climbing a ladder; “NO MORE BABIES“; flailing zombie-like Girl Water Diviner; “Buried Alive” Stunt Goes Badly, and many more!

Behold! Zello, The Nasenformer

How many of us are truly happy with the shape of our noses? Judging by the number of rhinoplasty procedures performed in this country every year, not many. Fixing your abominable proboscis with surgery can be expensive, and in an economy like this, most people don’t have that kind of money. Instead, I say we bring back the Zello, a wondrous piece of medical equipment/fetish gear/torture paraphernalia designed to sculpt your unsightly schnoz into shape. At only 20 marks it helps you avoid the long recovery from surgery, but does make you look as though you’re on your way to a midnight screening of the newest installment in the Hellraiser franchise. Such is the cost of convenience.

Via Vintage Ads

“God’s Away On Business” By Cookie Monster

I don’t know who is behind YouTube username cookiewaits but he/she realized at some point, something that had never occurred to me: Tom Waits really sounds like Cookie Monster sometimes. Almost to the point that, while watching this video, I though it was someone doing Waits’s song “God’s Away On Business” in a Cookie Monster voice. Turns out that, no, that’s Tom. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to listen to this song the same way again.

Via Cynical-C

Paul Williams in “His Planet of the Apes” Costume on “The Tonight Show”, 1973

Warren Ellis showed me this earlier today and I can’t stop thinking about it and now you won’t be able to, either.

Um. You’re… welcome?


It’s the gloriously controversial and demented kiddie cartoon’s 20th birthday today! Hard to believe, ain’t it? Feliz cumpleaños, and many happy returns.

“I dont think your happy enough! That’s right! I’ll teach you to be happy! I’ll teach your grandmother to suck eggs!”