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UHF (Shout! Studios) UHD/Blu-ray Review

    Ian Jane

  • UHF (Shout! Studios) UHD/Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Shout! Studios
    Released on: July 2nd, 2024.
    Director: Jay Levey
    Cast: Weird Al Yankovic, Victoria Jackson, Kevin McCarthy, Michael Richards
    Year: 1989
    Purchase From Amazon

    UHF – Movie Review:

    The feature film debut of the mighty Weird Al Yankovic, the criminally underrated UHF celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary with a special edition Blu-ray debut from Shout! Factory. In the film, directed by Jay Levey who co-wrote the script with Yankovic, Weird Al plays a loveable loser named George Newman. He's a nice guy and he means well but his overactive imagination sees him having trouble holding onto a job. When he's let go from the fast food joint he's been working at, his girlfriend Teri (Victoria Jackson) is disappointed but does her best to stand by him even if he doesn't know what he's going to do.

    George's luck changes when his Uncle Harvey (Stanley Brock), wins a money losing UHF station, Channel 62, in a poker game. His wife, George's Aunt Esther (Sue Ane Langdon) insists he let George be the new station manager and with nothing to lose. Harvey agrees. So George and his pal Bob (David Bowe) head out to the rundown station to meet some of the employees like the eccentric technician Philo (Anthony Geary), the secretary/would-be news lady Pamela Finkelstein (Fran Drescher) and the pint-sized cameraman Noodles McIntosh (Billy Barty). Despite the fact that the station is on its last legs, George is excited about the position and as a gesture of goodwill pays a visit to Channel 8, a big time network affiliate that has been number one in the ratings for as long as anyone can remember. Here he meets Channel 8's director, R. J. Fletcher (Kevin McCarthy) just as he fires well-meaning but goofy custodian Stanley Spadowski (Michael Richards). Big hearted George gives Stanley a new job as the custodian at his station and, out of desperation, also gives him a shot hosting a kids show. When the show, now titled Stanley Spadowski's Clubhouse, proves a hit and makes George's station the new number one channel, their erratic programming style becomes a hit but Fletcher isn't going to go down without a fight, all while Teri has to come to terms with the fact that maybe George isn't the right guy for her after all…

    UHF takes Weird Al's amazing ability to parody pop music and gives him the chance to do what he did to the music industry to the television and film industry. As such, we wind up with plenty of genuinely funny (and often times very clever) jabs at everything from kids shows to game shows to news reporting to movie of the week style entertainment. This lets Al and company riff on big budget blockbusters like Rambo and Raiders Of The Lost Ark while taking on shows like Wheel Of Fortune and, well, pretty much everything else you can think of. Because of this the movie is all over the place in terms of its humor but that doesn't mean it isn't funny. Sure the actual story behind UHF is a 'been there, done that' as they come what with the romantic subplot and the underdog wins the day style finale but that doesn't matter when you've got Kramer blasting little kids in the face with a firehouse and Fran Drescher delivering the news with the help of a midget behind the camera.

    Is the movie a dated product of the late eighties? Yes, and that just sort of adds to the film's stupid charm. The performances are as hammy and overdone as they can get but somehow manage to work perfectly in the context of the bizarre universe and imagined scenarios Al as George comes up with while the low-fi effects suit all of this perfectly. The movie is really just one gag after another but it comes at you quickly and if one doesn't work for you, the next one is along momentarily. It's a whole lot of good natured, goofy fun and while it will certainly appeal to those who grew up in or at least paid attention to pop culture in the eighties more than a younger generation, but Al's warm turn as George is hard not to love and the supporting cast all do such enjoyable work here that, yeah, UHF remains a cult comedy classic, just as it should.

    UHF – UHD/Blu-ray Review:

    Shout! Studios brings UHF to UHD framed at 1.85.1 in an HVEC encoded 2160p transfer with HDR10 and it looks really nice. Taken from a new 4k scan of the original 35mm negative, detail is quite noticeably improved over the previous Blu-ray release and the colors really look fantastic here (this is an extremely colorful movie so the HDR really helps here). Texture is frequently very impressive and there’s nice depth to the image as well. Skin tones look lifelike and natural throughout and black levels are nice and deep. There isn’t really much in the way of print damage here, though natural film grain is preserved, and all and the transfer is free of any noise reduction, edge enhancement or compression artifact related issues.

    Audio chores are handled by an LPCM 2.0 English language stereo track with optional subtitles provided in English only. Clarity and quality is fine here. Dialogue is always easy to understand and the movie's use of music gets a nice boost from better depth offered here than on the DVD's Dolby Digital lossy track. There aren't any problems with any hiss or distortion and the levels are properly balanced from start to finish. Again, this isn't a reference quality mix but it suits the film, which was originally released in stereo, just fine.

    The extras on the UHD are limited to the audio commentary that was originally included on MGM's DVD release years ago. Those who haven't heard it should get a kick out of this as Al, accompanied by Levey, talks not only about where some of the ideas and inspiration came from for the various bits that make up the movie but also about working with some of his co-stars, difficulties he had with Orion Pictures over financial woes, bringing the movie in on a pretty low budget and quite a bit more. As you'd expect, there's a good sense of humor behind all of this but the track is also quite informative.

    The included Blu-ray disc features that same commentary as well as a few other extras, starting with a Retrospective Panel From San Diego Comic-Con 2014 that is quite lengthy and fun. The fifty-one minute piece, hosted by Jonah Ray, sees Weird Al fielding questions from a pretty enthusiastic audience and discussing plenty of different aspects of his lengthy and impressive career. Also carried over from the past DVD release are a host of deleted scenes hosted by Al as well as collection of vintage Behind The Scenes footage that includes some EPK style promotional interviews.

    Rounding out the extras is a music video for the title track, a gallery of production stills and promotional materials, a trailer and a teaser trailer, menus and chapter selection. There’s also at least one Easter Egg on the disc. The first pressing of this release comes with a limited edition slipcover.

    UHF - The Final Word:

    UHF is funny stuff, plain and simple. Weird Al's charisma carries the film while the different set pieces provide plenty of laughs from start to finish. Throw in a quirky and fun supporting cast and some bits of parody that occasionally flirt with brilliance and it's easy to see why it has remained a cult classic over the years. The UHD/Blu-ray reissue offers a nice 4k upgrade for the feature and while it doesn’t throw any new extra into the mix, it does carry over everything from the previous special edition release.

    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized UHF Blu-ray screen caps!

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