UHF finally came home in a great new blu ray package this week. We review the film as well as the technical aspects of this new packaging.
|"It's not as bad as it looks, kid."|
“Weird Al” Yankovic is one of the great musical comedians of our time. His spot on parodies of popular music videos and hit songs are as hilarious as they are timeless. In 1989, the idea came about to turn his penchant for satirizing popular musicians and MTV culture into a feature length film, with Al Yankovic as the star. In what would become UHF, Yankovic plays a dreamer wandering from job to job before finding success in managing a low end UHF television station. Here, Yankovic had a large arena to parody major movies, television shows, and of course, music videos. Enlisting music video collaborator Jay Levey as the film’s co-writer and director, and featuring a star studded cast of comedians, UHF was both Al Yankovic’s big break into movies and after a positive test screening, was touted by Orion Pictures executives as the film destined to save the studio from bankruptcy. Unfortunately, the film tanked with critics and audiences and died a quiet death in theaters before becoming a cult classic on tape and laserdisc. This week, marking the film’s 25th Anniversary, Shout Factory has put together a lavish special edition Blu-Ray. The question for fans like myself who already own and have spun to death the DVD MGM released in 2002 is whether or not it’s worth the upgrade. Let’s find out!
In retrospect, UHF is what most critics often refer to as a ‘guilty pleasure’. Seriously, this is one completely unrestrained Gonzo comedy, filming whatever came to mind before editors would sift through hours of sight gags to find which ones they could stick in a 2 hour movie. Al Yankovic said of his own free admission of the hours of terrible deleted scenes (and they are terrible) “look at the junk that actually wound up in the movie, well this stuff is even worse than that!” Al Yankovic himself isn’t much of an actor, but being a fan of his videos already it’s something to gloss over. That’s not to say UHF doesn’t have numerous moments of comic brilliance. Michael Richards’ Stanley Spadowski may in fact be Richards’ finest hour, going for belly laughs in every scene. Emo Phillips’ cameo as a slow table saw operator remains a gory sight gag Monty Python would be proud of. The late Trinidad Silva’s skit Raul’s Wild Kingdom is one of the funniest scenes ever put in a movie, of any kind. Still, as a 2 hour cult movie, it manages to be a cut above most of the Ernest P. Worrell movies of the late 80s. Still a great thing to put on at beer filled parties though.
UHF gets a new high-definition transfer courtesy of Shout Factory and the results are pretty impressive. The print appears to be the same one used to make the 2002 MGM DVD, just scanned at a higher level. Colors and sharpness are vibrant and strong with better grain levels than the DVD. Reds don’t bleed in the way they did on the DVD edition. There are a few scenes that do show the limitations inherent in the original source, notably the scenes with Trinidad Silva. Not a huge improvement over the DVD but there’s less pixilation and a noticeably cleaner image. The ‘televised’ scenes still intentionally look like crap when they need to. Shout Factory has yet to disappoint.
Those expecting a new DTS-HD 5.1 surround track will be in for something of a disappointment, as Shout Factory instead opted to utilize the same 2.0 surround mix on the laserdisc and DVD. Unlike the DVD however, the audio was transferred in linear PCM, identical to the laserdisc. Audio is crisp and sharp with no dropouts or loss of clarity. Your surround system will still give a pleasing sonic presentation and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles composer John Du Prez’ score sounds better than ever here. While a new surround mix would have been welcome given the format and usual bumps Shout Factory provide to audio, UHF sounds fine.
|"This human growth hormone is|
really making my face kinda droopy."
As expected, the extras on the excellent DVD edition have been duplicated here, including an audio commentary with Yankovic and crew, some really terrible deleted scenes with some snarky self-deprecation provided by Yankovic, behind-the-scenes footage, an official music video and some trailers. What’s new here is a 1 hour Comic-Con interview with Yankovic conducted in 2014 shortly after his latest album Mandatory Fun topped the Billboard charts. Shot in high-definition exclusively for this release, it’s a candid and fun listen. I will say I miss the menus on the MGM DVD, which included newly shot video footage of Yankovic trying to assist navigating the menus, where Shout Factory’s menu is simply a montage of scenes from the movie. Too bad they couldn’t find a way to transpose the work done on MGM’s DVD, but it’s a minor quibble. As with all of Shout Factory’s releases, the disc sleeve features reversible cover art.
Fans of UHF should be elated either way, but at the same time if you already have the DVD, you’re really buying the same thing twice. Beyond a marginal video upgrade and the new 2014 interview, you get the same audio and extras as before sans those hilarious menus featuring Yankovic. Those who already own the DVD might be encouraged to stick with what they have. But if you don’t own UHF and are thinking of getting it, the Shout Factory disc is the way to go.