Before J.K. Rowling exploded onto the scene, the best selling British
author was Terry Pratchett. He has penned a wonderfully hilarious
novel with Neil Gaiman, Good Omens, and has a trio of young adult
novels about Nomes (Truckers, Diggers, and Wings which
are highly recommended to young and old children alike), among many other
works. It's not these books that have made him such a popular scribe;
it's the Discworld. An on-going series of humorous fantasy books,
the Discworld now encompasses 36 novels and several short stories.
The books have been turned into video games, comic books, radio shows,
animated TV adventures and, in 2006, the first live action film:
Hogfather. Originally broadcast on the British network Sky
One, this two-part adaptation of one of the Discworld novel was originally
released in the US exclusively through Borders Books. Now in general
release this is a wonderfully entertaining and delightful story that is
bound to become a Christmas favorite in many households.
The Discworld is just like it sounds; a flat, giant disc that travels
through space on the backs of four mighty elephants who in turn are standing
on a giant turtle, the Great A'Tuin. On it's surface humans, dwarves,
elves, and other creatures go about the business of keeping body and soul
As this story opens, it is Hogswatch Night, the evening before the midwinter
festival of Hogswatch. It is also the night where the Hogfather,
riding in his sled pulled by magical flying hogs, sneaks down the chimneys
of good boys and girls and leaves them presents.
Not everyone loves the Hogfather however. A group of mysterious
powerful beings, The Auditors, wants him dead and dead by sunrise.
So they contact the head of the Assassin's guild and take out a contract
on his life.
Now killing a mythical creature that most adults don't believe in sounds
like an impossible job, but the Assassin's Guild is known for taking on
tough jobs. The contract is given to Mr. Teatime (pronounced "Teh-ah-tim-eh",
at least that's what Teatime says) a rather psychotic individual who actually
has a plan for killing the Hogfather.
Things like killing the spirit of a midwinter festival has repercussions
however, and when Death discovers that the hourglass of an immortal is
running low, he takes extreme measures: the least of which is taking
over the role of Hogsfather himself, at least for the night.
Miss Susan, Death's mostly human granddaughter, also senses that something
is amiss especially when she finds her grandfather in a red suit with a
fake beard and a pillow to make him look fat and jolly. Flying off
to Death's castle she decides to investigate herself before something awful
happens, as she soon discovers it will if the Hogfather dies.
This is a faithful adaptation of the book, which is nice to see.
The book had a bit more humor, but this is a very funny (though mostly
dry humor) film. To see Death which his black shroud, skull-face
and bone hands dressing up and Santa, ummm, I mean the Hogsfather and trying
to give a convincing Ho-Ho-Ho is a riot. His appearance at a department
store is equally enjoyable especially when he starts giving away the store's
merchandise. When the manager finds out he screams that you can't
just give things away just because it's Hogswatch. When it's pointed
out that giving gifts is the whole idea, he tries to get the town guard
to arrest him.
The acting was excellent all around. Michelle Dockery, who played
Susan had just the right amount of pluck for the role and played it wonderfully.
She even made her Bride of Frankenstein hair style look rather sexy.
Ian Richardson easily got the most laughs as the voice of Death.
His dry reading was wonderful and he perfectly captured Death's total ignorance
of how humans act. Marc Warren was wonderfully creepy as Mr. Teatime,
with one glass eye and a quite, psychotic manner. The only problem
I had was I couldn't stand his high-pitched whiney voice. Though
I could see where it was supposed to be scary, I wanted to plug my ears
every time he opened his mouth.
The only flaw with the production is that the plot is a little convoluted,
and some minor plot points are easy to miss. The actual reason that
the Auditors wanted the Hogsfather dead isn't revealed till near the end,
and my 11 year old was confused by it. There are also a few parts
that fans of the books will easily pick up though viewers might wonder
what's going on. The mouse version of death is one, and HEX, the
magical version of a computer, is another. (Though I loved the way
HEX was portrayed...just wonderful.) Still, even without any prior
experience with the series viewers won't be too lost and those that are
willing to invest a little time in the show will be richly rewarded.
This film, which consists of two one and a half hour segments, comes
on one DVD in a white standard keepcase. There is no insert.
The 5.1 English soundtrack was clean and clear. The soundstage
was used a bit and some of the effects, throwing the sound of falling teeth
to the rear during the raid on the tooth fairy's castle for example, were
very effective. For the most part the action was centered on the
screen, but there were enough panning and audio effects to make the show
Filmed (and broadcast) in HD, it's too bad that this wasn't released
on Blu-ray. In any case the 1.78:1 anamorphic picture looked wonderful
with a very good level of detail and nice strong colors. The blacks
were spot-on and the whole image just looked wonderful. A nice looking
Unfortunately the ample extras from the Region 2 release have not been
ported over. The only extras are the original trailer and an interview
with author Terry Pratchett. Missing are the deleted scenes, making-of
documentary, and Death's Guide to Discworld. It's a shame those were
This was a funny, touching, and all around clever adaptation of a great
book. This first live-action Discworld movie might have some viewers
scratching their heads in a few places, but not enough to ruin the experience.
It's only too bad that this great Christmas story wasn't released through
regular channels a bit earlier. It would make great viewing around
the holidays. Highly recommended.