tek's rating: ½

Under the Hood (PG; 37:32)
DC Comics; IMDb

This is the secondary short film on a DVD that was released as a supplement to the movie Watchmen (even though it's about twelve minutes longer than the main one, Tales of the Black Freighter). I guess I was looking forward to watching it, but I didn't really know quite what it would be like, and I'm not sure whether I would have bothered buying a DVD just for this. So I'm glad it was included on the "Black Freighter" DVD, because I ended up enjoying it more than that film. Anyway, in the comics, there are some excerpts from "Under the Hood," the autobiography of Hollis Mason, who had been the first Nite Owl, a superhero active in the late 50s and early 60s. It was hard for me to imagine how that could be made into an entertaining film, but the way they did it was clever. They made this fake newsmagazine TV show called "The Culpeper Minute," hosted by Larry Culpeper. (I googled that just now, and discovered the Culpeper Minutemen, a Revolutionary War-era militia group that I don't recall having heard of before- though I suppose I might have when I was in grade school. Anyway, I think that's a clever play on words that I never would have gotten, so thanks, Google.) The live-action short film features appearances by several actors reprising their roles from the "Watchmen" movie, which is pretty cool. Anyway, the short is an episode of the Culpeper Minute that's set in 1985, but revisits an episode of the show from 1975 (two years before the Keene Act was passed), in which Culpeper interviewed Hollis Mason (Stephen McHattie), and other characters from the comics such as Sally Juspeczyk (Carla Gugino), Moloch (Matt Frewer), Big Figure (Danny Woodburn), et al. (Oh, and the news vendor... has a sort of catch phrase in the comics that I don't remember if it was in the movie or not, but he says it in Culpeper's interview with him, so that was neat.)

So... the film is fairly amusing, in a kitschy sort of way (or at least the framework is; it kind of reminded me of Garth Marenghi's Darkplace). But the actual interviews are more serious, and interesting, and give a really good sense of who the characters are and what the world they live in is (and was) like. Plus, near the end, Mason has a line I really liked about Nite Owl and Silk Spectre, something that can be interpreted in a couple of different ways... and I'm not sure which one he meant. Either way... it was prescient. (Oh, and the show has commercial breaks. One is for Nostalgia by Veidt, a reference to one of the characters in the comics. Others are for actual 1980s products. I thought that was a nice touch.)

Story Within a Story: The Books of Watchmen (24:59)

The DVD has a few bonus features, besides the two short films. One is the first installment of the "Watchmen" motion comic. (The whole thing can be obtained on a DVD of its own, which I don't plan to do, and I think it's also available on a special edition DVD or Blu-ray of the Watchmen movie.) But the bonus feature that interested me more was this straightforward documentary about "Tales of the Black Freighter" and "Under the Hood," and their importance to the overall worldbuilding of the Watchmen comics. It was definitely interesting, but I don't really know how to rate it. I will say that it ends with Larry Culpeper asking Sally Juspeczyk a question, which she refuses to answer, and she ends the interview. (That interview was in "Under the Hood," but we never saw that part of it, in the actual short. So it seems to be an outtake from The Culpeper Minute, and it's a really good one, which I'm very glad to have seen, here.)

comic book shorts index
mockumentary shorts index