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Weird Al Yankovic: now there’s a household name for you. I myself have only come across the self-labelled eccentric in the opening credits of spoof Spy Hard and in a rather amusing spoof song, entitled Amish Paradise - which, as you may have guessed, is a line-by-line reworking of Coolio’s smash hit, Gangster Paradise.

But the thing that he is best known for, his foray into the entertainment industry that actually has what could be dubbed a fan-base, is his 1989 film UHF. But had I heard of it before the test disc popped through my letterbox? No. Were my expectations high? Not really…

UHF
Movie
The worthless daydreaming slob George Newman can't keep a job for more than a few days at a time before he gets fired. Fortunately, his uncle wins a UHF television station in a poker-game (it was almost bankrupt), which George Newman is put in charge of. But, with ruthless executives circling like vultures around the TV station, wanting to shut it down so they are the only competition in the community, can George and his newfound buddies create a station so great that the local populace will demand it continues to operate? Well, with innovative shows such as the quirky ‘Wheel of Fish’, it certainly isn’t skimping on the originality scale…

The plot is a very simple tool used to have some semblance of pacing and meaning, so that the rest of the running time can be frequented by rip-offs (aka spoofs) of famous films. An example of this can be found in the opening credits, when Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark is shoved onto the screen exactly how it was in the early ‘80s: albeit with Yankovic replacing the swashbuckling Harrison Ford. Oh, and the treasure at the end has been replaced by an Oscar statuette; but apart from that, a carbon copy.

But are these carbon copies funny? Will audiences want to see sequences again, even if they are tweaked to comedic effect? Well, yes and no. Some of the spoofs fall flat on their faces as cheap and tacky parodies, other are slightly more successful. The best comedic moments in the film actually comes from the original and quirky stuff – such as the variety of TV shows put out by the station, and some of the characters’ actions.

And when I say quirky, I do indeed use the word as it has been defined. For example, there is a janitor throughout the film obsessed with being reunited with his beloved broom, as well as driving around in a little yellow car in front of numerous screaming children. God – entertainment has changed.

UHF
Although the running time may be a little sparse (93 minutes), I was thankful when the end credits rolled. UHF was no doubt given the green light on the back of commercial Hollywood successes, as a means of making money by showing audiences how those successes could be turned into comedy: yet in most respects, that doesn’t succeed. I can’t think of many other films with such a premise, but in the end it all culminates in a clichéd finale with a ‘tense’ battle between the good guys and the bad guys. Guess who wins?

There may have been potential – from the actors at least, who give it their best shots at creating obviously dim-witted humorous characters – but the script is lacking and the direction hardly worth writing about. No doubt some people like this film, probably due to suffering from a bout of nostalgia, as honestly watching this film again will only expose its flaws even more.

Video
Some recent films, or bigger older ones, don’t even get a proper anamorphic widescreen transfer, so it is good to see that this still gets presented in 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen. And for the most part it is an accomplished print, transferred satisfactorily into the digital age. Any gripes? Well, yeah, a couple. There is the odd blemish now and again, combined with a slight hint of dust and grain – but really, considering the film is practically 15 years old (and a low budget one at that), leverage must be awarded.

UHF
Audio
MGM back catalogue titles are always graced with a diverse language choice, but normally those languages are presented in measly mono or sometimes, if we’re lucky, stereo. So will there be a change this time around? Of course not…UHF comes equipped with Dolby Digital 2.0 (English, French, German, Italian & Spanish) – forgive me for not jumping for joy. The soundstage is pretty limp and placid, with little definition, and although the dialogue may be clear it certainly isn’t revolutionary. In fact, it is passable at best.

Extras
The only extra on offer is a measly theatrical trailer, a pretty short affair, in which the spoof nature of the film is clearly emphasised.

The menus are static, but easy to navigate.

UHF
Overall
The film is not that good, and really smacks of ‘80s filmmaking. By that I mean the way the film is made, the way the humour (when it comes, rarely) is presented, and how the overall feel of the film is just like a bunch of half-arsed sketched strung together to ride the wake of other films’ success.

The disc itself is another shallow effort: quite good video, but only OK-ish audio and non-existent extras. Overall, it has its odd moment, thankfully, hence my ratings below, but really I cannot even recommend this as a rental…catch the film on TV if you have to.


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