UHF (film): Wikis

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UHF

UHF theatrical poster
Directed by Jay Levey
Produced by John W. Hyde
Gene Kirkwood
Written by "Weird Al" Yankovic &
Jay Levey
Starring "Weird Al" Yankovic
David Bowe
Fran Drescher
Victoria Jackson
Kevin McCarthy
Michael Richards
Anthony Geary
Billy Barty
Trinidad Silva
Music by John Du Prez
Cinematography David Lewis
Editing by Dennis M. O'Connor
Distributed by Orion Pictures
Release date(s) July 21, 1989 (USA)
Running time 97 min.
Language English
Budget $5,000,000 (estimated)
Gross revenue $6,157,157
Preceded by The Compleat Al (1985)
Followed by The "Weird Al" Yankovic Video Library (1992)

UHF is a comedy film made in 1989, starring "Weird Al" Yankovic, Michael Richards, David Bowe, Fran Drescher, Victoria Jackson, Kevin McCarthy, Gedde Watanabe, Billy Barty, Anthony Geary, Emo Phillips and Trinidad Silva, in whose memory the film is dedicated.

The film was directed by Jay Levey, Yankovic's then-manager, who also co-wrote the screenplay with him. It was produced by Cinecorp Productions in association with Yankovic and Levey's then production company, Imaginary Entertainment, and released by Orion Pictures Corporation.

The film was distributed as The Vidiot from UHF in Australia, New Zealand and parts of Europe, Los Telelocos in Mexico, and Canal U-62 in Argentina and Uruguay.

Contents

Plot

The film plays on a characteristic of the American television industry of the 1980s through the time that the film was made. During this period, there was a notable division between programming in the American VHF and UHF television bands. Typically, UHF stations were low-budget operations, with corresponding low broadcast and programming quality, and generally poor reputations to match. Most UHF transmitters were actually translators, used to rebroadcast network stations into rural areas. The remainder were generally LPTV or local stations with limited range and viewers, often carrying PBS, religious, or foreign-language programming. Once relaxed broadcasting regulations allowed them to do so, many would go on to run inordinate amounts of infomercials or other paid programming.

George Newman (Yankovic) is a daydreamer whose hyperactive imagination keeps him from holding a steady job. After his latest firing from "Big Edna's Burger World," his uncle Harvey Bilchik (Stanley Brock) wins the deed to Channel 62, a faltering UHF television station, in a poker game. ("With a pair of sevens; I was bluffing.") Harvey decides to give control of Channel 62 to the unemployed George.

George and his best friend Bob (David Bowe) meet the Channel 62 staff, including receptionist and wannabe reporter Pamela Finklestein (Fran Drescher), midget photojournalist and cameraman Noodles MacIntosh (Billy Barty), eccentric engineer Philo (Anthony Geary), and new janitor Stanley Spadowski (Michael Richards), who was recently fired from rival VHF station Channel 8. Though George creates new shows, including the kid-friendly "Uncle Nutzy's Clubhouse" which he hosts, the workload and bad debt of the station get to him. Amid the stress, he forgets his girlfriend Teri's (Victoria Jackson) birthday, who breaks up with him over the incident. Despondent, George turns "Uncle Nutzy's Clubhouse" over to Stanley so he and Bob can go out for a drink. Arriving at the bar, they find that all the patrons are excitedly watching Stanley's antics on Channel 62. Realizing they have a hit on their hands, George and Bob are revived and inspired. They come up with ideas for more original shows in Channel 62's line up, such as Fun With Dirt, and game shows like Wheel of Fish, Bowling for Burgers, and Strip Solitaire, all spearheaded by the newly retitled "Stanley Spadowski's Clubhouse."

As Channel 62's popularity grows, tyrannical Channel 8 owner R. J. Fletcher (Kevin McCarthy) becomes furious that a UHF station is getting better ratings than his network's programming. He learns that Harvey is the owner of the station and has just gambled away a large sum of money. Fletcher makes Harvey the offer of covering his debt in return for ownership of Channel 62, which he would then happily shut down because legally he cannot own two stations in the same town. George learns of the deal and calls his aunt, who forces her husband to hold off, allowing George time to raise the money Harvey owes by selling investment stock in Channel 62 through a telethon.

The telethon starts off successfully, led by Stanley's boundless energy, but Fletcher sends his goons to kidnap Stanley. Without Stanley, the telethon grinds to a halt. George then leads a group to infiltrate Channel 8 and rescue Stanley. They return in time to successfully finish the telethon just before Harvey's debt comes due, saving the station and making it a publicly-owned company. Fletcher, on the other hand, finds out that a small bit of charity earlier in the film resulted in Channel 62 making its goal. He also discovers that a slanderous conversation of his regarding the population of the city was secretly recorded and rebroadcasted by Philo and that Channel 8 failed to file paperwork to renew its broadcast license with the FCC, which orders the station off the air. As the film ends, George and Teri rekindle their relationship, while the rest of the employees and fans of Channel 62 celebrate.

Throughout the film, there are cutaway scenes that are comic homages to popular shows of the time, through either George's imagination or shows specifically for Channel 62. For example, a dream sequence includes a music video for Yankovic's "Money for Nothing/Beverly Hillbillies*" in both the audio and visual style of the Dire Straits' "Money For Nothing", and fake commercials for Gandhi 2 and Spatula City are shown throughout the film.

Cast

Reception

According to Yankovic's Behind the Music episode, UHF enjoyed one of the most successful test screenings in Orion's history. Orion Pictures released UHF on July 21, 1989 as a hopeful summer blockbuster, hoping that Yankovic would pull them out of the water. However, critical response was negative, and UHF was overshadowed in the theaters by much larger films such as Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Lethal Weapon 2, Batman, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The movie received a very poor rating and was out of the theaters by the end of the month. Yankovic has stated that it wasn't a "critic movie". As "Weird Al" states in his commentary of the movie, UHF was thought to be the movie that would "save the studio" for Orion. He was treated very well because of this. He states in the commentary: "Every morning I would wake up to fresh strawberries next to my bed. Then, when the movie bombed, I woke up and...no more strawberries!"

Overcoming theatrical failure, UHF has since become a cult classic, becoming very popular on cable and home video. After much pleading from fans, the movie was rereleased in Europe and North America on DVD in 2002 by MGM, and in its debut week it became a top ten bestseller in Variety. Although not officially marketed as a "special edition", the North American DVD contains numerous extras including a music video of the movie's theme song, a commentary track featuring director Jay Levey and Yankovic himself (with a surprise guest appearance by costar Michael Richards), and a deleted scenes reel with Yankovic's commentary.

Soundtrack

Yankovic also released a quasi-soundtrack for the film in late 1989, entitled UHF - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack And Other Stuff, which featured songs (and commercials) from the movie as well as new unrelated studio material from Yankovic.

Deleted scenes

The DVD release includes a selection of deleted footage from the film, obtained from a VHS tape Yankovic claims was lying around his house for thirteen years. Some of the unused footage includes:

  • A very brief scene of Raul being attacked by his poodles during the telethon that was presumably unfinished due to the actor's death.
  • A Channel 62 show promo for "Those Darn Homos", which featured two men in tight-fitting clothing chasing each other with fly swatters.
  • A scene from the telethon involving Dr. Leon Zemlich offering medical incentives for buying U-62 stock; a free chest X-ray and a free enema. (Followed by Al's comment, "With friends like this, who needs enemas?")
  • Two longer sequences of "Town Talk" with guest Joe Early the shop teacher, after Joe accidentally razed his thumb on the table saw, both of which then have him showing off a drill press.
  • A scene in which Stanley Spadowski grinds his hand in a meat grinder.
  • A series of scenes depicting a receptionist named Elaine, who worked with Teri. Yankovic mentions on the commentary that the actress was never informed her scenes were removed until after the movie was released, which he still regrets.
  • A scene in which Richard Fletcher further taunts Noodles Macintosh.
  • A scene in which R.J. is practicing additional slander to be used against George during his news broadcast.
  • A scene in which Stanley Spadowski offers whipped cream to his audience. (A part of this scene, however, was included in the movie, toward the end of the U-62 promo sequence, just before Stanley says "Be There!")
  • A longer sequence of Philo's show, "Secrets of the Universe", in which his recipe for homemade plutonium calls for ingredients at hand: an egg beater, a car battery and a bowl of strawberry Jell-O, put in a microwave for twelve minutes at 8000 degrees, and "leave your house for several hours". Yankovic said that the scene was cut because "the pacing...just...wasn't...quite...slow...enough".
  • A subplot in which the head thug is revealed to have an intense phobia of insects. This culminates in a scene in which the thugs attempt to steal the suitcase filled with the money raised from the Channel 62 telethon, but instead steal a suitcase filled with Philo's live insect collection. The suitcase is opened in the car and the head thug panics so badly that he drives the car over a cliff, which, according to Yankovic, explodes and kills the occupants of the car.
  • George being turned down for a loan, with the banker being revealed as a stooge for R.J.
  • A "romantic" scene with George and Teri.
  • A longer sequence with George and Teri exploring the station for the first time.
  • A longer sequence with the performance by the Kipper Kids (the men with the large chins) during the telethon.
  • Kuni revealing how he and the other martial artists knew where to rescue George in time.

Some of the footage which was mentioned in the commentary but not shown on the DVD (or possibly even filmed) included Kuni being established as George's landlord and a scene in the opening Indiana Jones parody with George answering a payphone and a voice on the other end begging him not to enter (although production stills also on the DVD seem to confirm that the latter scene was in fact filmed). Another scene that was cut out was a part of the Plots 'Я Us scene, in which a crane operator is lowering a casket and the body falls out with a thud. The announcer says, "Has this ever happened to you?". There was also another scene cut out for its similarity to another movie: Fletcher and his son fighting over the suitcase full of money, but they accidentally open the suitcase and the money would fly into the crowd. The scene was cut for being "too It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World".

Locations

Most of the individual locations used during the creation of the film are in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a city also used by Francis Ford Coppola to film "The Outsiders".

The Burger World location was Hardee's (6835 E. 15th) and Bowling for Burgers was filmed at Rose Bowl Lanes (East 11th Street). The bar was Joey's House of the Blues (2222 E. 61st St). The Kuni's Karate School building belongs to the Tulsa Pump Company (114 W. Archer) and Crazy Eddie's Used Car Emporium was filmed on the lot of Ernie Miller Pontiac (4700 S. Memorial).[1] Raul's apartment ("Badgers? Badgers? We don't need no stinkin' badgers!") is located at 330 E. 11th Street; City Hall's steps are actually those of First Christian Science Church (10th & Boulder).

Plots 'Я Us locations were Oaklawn Cemetery (11th and Peoria) and the Moore Funeral Home (2570 S Harvard Ave).

The Spatula City sign was placed on a real billboard which could be seen from eastbound SH-51 at Memorial Drive for several months after shooting was over. According to the DVD commentary, tourists would exit the freeway and drive for long periods looking unsuccessfully for Spatula City. The store itself is the Warehouse Market (62nd and S. Peoria).[2]

Indoor scenes for both Channels 8 and 62 were filmed on a sound stage in a new shopping mall (Kensington Galleria, at 71st and Lewis) still under construction at the time. The dead fish in the Wheel of Fish game show were real, obtained from the White River Fish Market. The news desk was located at OETA, a local PBS member station.

Channel 8's exterior is an office block (6655 South Lewis Building) occupied by Hewlett-Packard. The "U-62" building was constructed around KGTO 1050's AM radio transmitter site (5400 West Edison Street); the real KGTO studios had been moved elsewhere in 1975. Just the tower itself remains at this location today.[3]

The airport scenes were taken at Tulsa International Airport.

Miscellaneous

Most of these items are addressed on the DVD's commentary track.

  • The station engineer is named Philo in an homage to Philo Farnsworth, inventor of television and the tevision camera tube.
  • The opening sequence references Raiders of the Lost Ark.
  • In the scene where Raul receives his animal delivery, he says "Badgers? We don't need no stinking badgers!", referencing to Mel Brooks's Blazing Saddles, in the line-up to Hedley Lamarr's army scene (Badges? We don't need no stinking badges!) which was itself an homage the line "Badges? We ain't got no badges. We don't need no badges. I don't have to show you any stinking badges!" from the 1948 film The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.
  • Stanley's rant about dirty floors was based on the "mad as hell" speech in the 1976 film Network.
  • Comedian Emo Philips made a small appearance in George's "Town Talk" show.
  • Stanley was originally intended to sing "Helter Skelter" while being held hostage, but this was changed to the theme song from Bonanza because Richards did not know the words.
  • Because Trinidad Silva died during the film's production, parts of the film had to be rewritten to make up for the loss of Raul. The missing scenes supposedly involved Raul being the mailman who delivered the package to the wrong station, and the poodles seeking revenge for throwing them out of the window. As noted, the film is dedicated to Silva.
  • During the commentary, Al says that Mike Judge was a big fan of UHF, and that "Burger World" in Beavis and Butt-head was a homage to the movie.
  • Yankovic mentions in the commentary that the role of Philo was originally written for Joel Hodgson.
  • According to Yankovic on the commentary, Ginger Baker of the '60s supergroup Cream came in and auditioned for the part of the bum, played in the movie by Vance Colvig Jr. He also made mention that actor Crispin Glover showed interest in playing the role of Crazy Ernie, the used car salesman glimpsed briefly on TV (who threatens to club a baby seal if he doesn't sell enough cars) but that he and director Jay Levey passed on him because they could not see him in that role.
  • According to the commentary track, Orion Pictures wanted to change the name of the movie for international release because they felt the title UHF would have no meaning in other countries, whose television bands have different designations. Yankovic suggested the name The Vidiot. Orion decided that they needed to connect the international release to the original, so as Yankovic says: "I went from having a really bad movie title, to having the worst movie title EVER." This refers to the final international title, The Vidiot from UHF. However, the original title is kept on UK prints, and the film is called Los Telelocos (roughly, "The TV Crazies") in Mexico.
  • During the filming of the movie, Yankovic had some of the moles on his face removed. This means that in some scenes they are present, while in others they are not.
  • Unable to obtain the rights to use "Kung Fu Fighting", their original choice, for the scene in which Uncle Harvey receives a threatening phone call while relaxing in his pool, Yankovic wrote a brief rock song entitled "Let Me Be Your Hog".[1]
  • Dr. Demento made a cameo appearance as the "Whipped Cream Eater" during a "Stanley Spadowski's Clubhouse" segment.

References to songs

See also

References

External links

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