Weird Al Yankovic’s UHF Blu-ray

Monday, 27 July 2015 23:00 Written by 

Weird Al Yankovic movie UHF comes to Blu-rayWeird Al Yankovic was, for a time in the 1980s and 1990s, the go-to guy for the parody record. Inheriting the crown once worn so merrily by The Barron Knights in the UK, he would take hit songs and re-word them, making mirth from songs which in the main were originally a little too pompous for their own good. Michael Jackson’s “Beat it” and “Bad” became “Eat it” and “Fat” respectively, Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” became “Another One Rides the Bus”, Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” became “Like a Surgeon”, Richard Harris and Donna Summer’s “MacArthur Park” became “Jurassic Park”, and so on.

Weird Al did attempt to conquer visual media too, and the finest of these efforts is without doubt the 1989 movie “UHF”. Featuring some song parodies in amongst the story of a local TV station in America taking on Channel 8, the corporate ‘big gun’ broadcaster just down the road from it, those of a certain age will get most of the references, making this very much a lost comedy gem. Thanks to Fabulous Films and Fremantle Media Enterprises you had the chance to win one of three copies of the brand new UK Blu-ray release in our prize competition!

Weird Al Yankovic has sold more than 12 million albums and won four Grammy Awards. But his success isn’t just from decades ago, though. His latest album, “Mandatory Fun”, from 2014, made its debut at Number 1 in America – the first time a comedy album has topped the charts since 1963.

But we digress. Back to “UHF”. The strapline for the movie was “A lot of TV stations have forgotten what ‘quality’ means. But not Channel 62. They never knew what it meant.”

Weird Al’s George Newman character, previously someone who struggles to even hold down a job in a Burger bar, is brought in when the TV station is about to go out of business. George’s Uncle Harvey has won the deeds to it when gambling.

He inherits the mysterious station engineer Philo with the station (Anthony Geary, known in the USA for his 800+ episodes as Luke Spencer on General Hospital). The clue to Philo’s importance to the plot is that he has an ‘Interocitor’, and fans of the 1955 movie “This Island Earth” will have a hint as to what might be coming up in this regard!

Hardly anyone advertises with Channel 62 anymore, and the bills have just been mounting up. So, George looks to bring his own ideas into the schedule, creating entertainment via people he bumps into along the way. These include Stanley Spadowski the Janitor (played by Michael Richards, who played Cosmo Kramer in Seinfeld) who becomes a smash on their kids’ show format, and Kuni, the local martial arts trainer (Gedde Watanabe – Mr Katsuji in “Gremlins 2”) who storms it with the game show “Wheel of Fish”.

Yes, long before Alan Partridge’s “Monkey Tennis”, “UHF” brought us “Raul’s Wild Kingdom”, “Stay Fit With Mike and Spike”, “Celebrity Mud Wrestling”, “Beastiality Today”, “Beat the Loan Shark”, “Dog Racing from Rio de Janeiro”, “Name that Stain”, “Underwater Bingo for Teens”, “Volcano Worshiper's Hour”, “Wide World of Tractor Pulls”, “Bowling for Burgers” and “Strip Solitaire”.

Other characters help keep up the momentum of the story. Bob is George’s right-hand man, keeping an eye on the income expenditure, and played by David Bowe (Dr Ling in “The Rock”). There’s a keen local reporter in Pamela Finklestein (Fran Drescher, long before she starred in The Nanny). Teri is George’s love interest, frustrated as to how much time he is spending on the Channel 62 project, and is played by Victoria Jackson (a stalwart of Saturday Night Live from 1986 to 1992). And RJ Fletcher (note it’s RJ rather than JR!) is the evil boss of Channel 8, with designs on buying Channel 62 when it becomes successful so her can bulldoze the premises and turn it into a parking lot – played by Kevin McCarthy (Claude Weldon in Flamingo Road).

Throughout the film, there are cutaway scenes that are comic homages to popular shows. A dream sequence includes a music video for Yankovic's version of the Dire Straits hit “Money for Nothing”, which becomes a lament to the classic television series The Beverly Hillbillies. So much was the popular support amongst celebrities for Weird Al that Mark Knopfler himself insisted on playing guitar on the track, and Gordon ‘Sting’ Sumner is there on backing vocals!

You also get some fake film adverts, for the likes of “Gandhi II” and “Conan the Librarian”, as well bizarre outlet promos for “Spatula City”, and “Plots R Us” (a mortuary service). There’s also a reference to “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” involving a pile of mashed potato. Also look out for actual clips from “Mars Needs Women” and Mister Ed!

The film wasn’t a box office hit due to it coming up against such blockbusters as “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” (“UHF” actually starts with an “Indiana” spoof!), “Ghostbusters II”, “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids”, “Lethal Weapon 2”, “Batman”, “Licence to Kill”, and “When Harry Met Sally”. Orion Pictures went bust as the film came out, which as a later consequence meant it didn’t get a DVD release until 2002. On its debut that week, it became a top ten bestseller in the ‘Variety’ charts.

During a VH-1 Behind The Music edition about Weird Al Yankovic, Emo Philips, who has a cameo in the film, shows his actual Screen Actors Guild residual cheque earned for the film. It was for just 30 cents.

There’s also a bizarre sport which has grown up around “UHF”. During filming, Weird Al had some of the moles on his face removed. This means that in some scenes they are present, while in others they are not. “Spot Al’s Moles” became a cult college drinking game in the USA.

Throughout, you are reminded that ‘professional’ is a state of mind, and is not dependent on budget. Indeed, be careful of what you think has little value, as you may be surprised.

All in all, if you are a fan of movies like “Airplane” and “The Naked Gun”, then you need to put “UHF” on your viewing list. It has the same daft humour, spoofs of movie clichés, and an endearing plot - which ends up with a feel-good ending which doesn’t need you to reach for a sick-bag.

“UHF” is out now from Fabulous Films / Fremantle Media Enterprises. It has a ‘PG’ certificate, a running time of 95 minutes approx, and a RRP of £14.99 – or get it for less at www.culttvstore.com

Thanks to Fabulous Films, you hadthe opportunity to win one of three copies of the “UHF” to put on to your mantelpiece, in our prize competition. All you had to do was tell us the answer to the following question: Which Seinfeld actor played janitor Stanley Spadowski in “UHF”? The answer was MICHAEL RICHARDS, and the three lucky winners were Zoe Somerfield of Walsall, Amy Jo McLellan of Hove, and Melanie Pennie of Bradford. Thanks to everyone who entered.

 

 

Last modified on Friday, 07 August 2015 04:41

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