Blu-ray Review: UHF & The Compleat Al

Do you think Weird Al Yankovic’s mom would have thought that 25 years later, her son would still be cranking out the hits? Weird Al’s career has outlasted a majority of the people he spoofed. He’s outlived Michael Jackson. Now two of his biggest early projects are getting re-issued with the Blu-ray of UHF: 25th Anniversary Edition and the DVD of The Compleat Al.

After years of creating catchy videos for MTV, Hollywood begged Weird Al to bring his comic genius to the big screen. Instead of doing his own version of 8 Mile, Al wanted to play a character that wasn’t an accordion loving goofball who mocked the pop songs of the day. UHF has him playing the unmusical George Newman. This character is a loser slowly working his way down the food chain because he’s just not made for fast food. He and his pal Bob (David Bowe) get tossed out of Edna’s Burger World. This turns out to be their lucky break. Through a family connection, Al finds himself as the station manager of a low rated UHF channel in Tulsa. What does Al know about TV? Probably more than he does about cooking burgers. Working at the station gets to be a drag since nothing he does seems to inspire viewers or ratings. In the midst of a crisis, he does the unthinkable and lets the goofy janitor (Seinfeld‘s Michael Richards) take over the afternoon cartoon show that has kids in the studio audience. The janitor becomes a sensation with his antics including letting kids drink from a firehose. After this success, Al launches more new shows including Wheel of Fish and a violent talkshow. The ratings go through the roof. This drives Kevin McCarthy (Invasion of the Body Snatchers) nuts. He owns the prestigious network station. He can’t afford to lose in the ratings. He sends his goons out to smash the will of the plucky upstart UHF channel. Can Al come up with a scheme to save his dream job?

UHF wasn’t a hit in the theater, but found a long life in home video. This makes sense since who needs to go to the movies to watch TV? Al did the mistake of letting Michael Richards completely steal the film from him. Richards had come off the insanity of Fridays so having fun in front of TV cameras was second nature to him. He goes deep into the character of Stanley Spadwski. Al has his moments, but his character just can’t top the janitor who becomes the center of attention. Kevin McCarthy is perfect at blowharding in the heavy role. The film is so good that Fran Drescher seems non-annoying as a station employee. Victoria Jackson does seem like the kinda woman who would date Al. Gedde Watanbe (Sixteen Candles) is a master at spinning the wheel of fish. Even after 25 years, UHF has a fresh insanity to the action.

The Compleat Al was a slightly fictional autobiography that originally aired as a Showtime special back in 1985. It quickly became a beloved VHS tape afterward. Basically it was a great way to collect all of Al’s eight videos that dominated MTV in the early years. Instead of just putting out a VHS tape with the videos, Al got to expand his mythology in a semi-spoof of The Compleat Beatles that had previously flooded videostores. There are a few truths about Al between the flights of fancy. He really did earn a degree in architecture from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He really did get discovered by Dr. Demento. He really did take over MTV with his ALTV specials. The best bits from his ALTV moments were included in the special. There’s a lot of great lies including his account of what it took to get Michael Jackson to sign off on turning “Beat It” into “Eat It.” This is a lot more fun than the VH1 Behind the Music on Al.

UHF and The Compleat Al are just a hint at the legacy of Weird Al. Three decades later and Al is still on top. He just had his first #1 album with Mandatory Fun. His concerts feature new hits that excite fans. He might get put in the novelty section, but he’s far from a novelty act. Why isn’t he in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? He’s been around a lot longer than Green Day. Here are two films that could easily have vanished into the dust that claimed Yahoo Serious’ career. These could have been the peak of Al’s career. But instead these two re-issues are merely the foundation of a career that’s had the staying power of The Rolling Stones. Ultimately the weirdest thing about Weird Al is that he’s still a powerhouse of entertainment.

The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic for UHF. The Compleat Al is 1.33:1 full frame. The Blu-ray of UHF just looks so much better than the VHS. You’ll get a lot of details on Wheel of Fish. The Compleat Al looks nice enough. The audio for UHF is DTS-HD Stereo. The movie is subtitled. The Compleat Al is Dolby Digital stereo.

Commentary Track with Weird Al and director Jay Levey. Al has a great new song for Orion films. Jay is also Al’s manager so the due have seen each other since the film was made. Al jokes about how Jay somehow didn’t find any other directors to do justice to the film. Al points out the gaffes. Jay calls him “One Take Al.”

The Wonderful World of “Weird Al” panel (51:06) is from this year’s Comic-Con in San Diego. Al riffs on his career with Jonah Ray hosting. Al is in prime form since his record had just got the #1 slot.

Deleted Scenes (19:12) is Al guiding us through the deleted scenes that were worth digging out of the cut bin. You get to see his love scene with Victoria Jackson.

Behind-the-Scenes Footage (3:39) is a little view behind Wheel of Fish from the electronic media kit.

Music Video (4:30) is for the theme song. Al spoofs MTV between clips from the film.

Production Stills of all the action.

Easter Eggs are promised.

Promotional Materials include the teaser trailer, the full trailer, posters, VHS cover and more.

UHF: The 25th Anniversary Edition & The Compleat Al sums up the early years of Weird Al. Both are essential for those who just can’t get enough of Weird Al.

Shout! Factory presents UHF: The 25th Anniversary Edition & The Compleat Al. Directed by: Jay Levey. Screenplay by: Jay Levey & “Weird Al” Yankovic. Starring: Weird Al Yankovic, Michael Richards, Billy Barty, Doctor Demento and Victoria Jackson. Rated: PG-13. Running time: UHF is 97 minutes & The Compleat Al is 102 minutes. Released: November 11, 2014.

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