Archive | Classics

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UHF At 25

Posted on 21 July 2014 by William Gatevackes

uhf weird al oscarIn a perfect world, UHF would have been a hit. It starred and was co-written by Weird Al Yankovic, who was coming off one of his many “comeback” albums, Even Worse and was well on his way to becoming a pop culture icon. It featured an eclectic cast full of recognizable faces: Michael Richards, Victoria Jackson, Kevin McCarthy, Fran Drescher, Billy Barty, Gedde Watanabe and John Paragon. And the film tested higher than any Orion Pictures release since the original RoboCop.

UHF dreisher and alUnfortunately, the film opened in the same summer as Batman. And Lethal Weapon 2. And When Harry Met Sally. And Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. And License to Kill. And Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. And Weekend at Bernie’s. And Ghostbusters 2.

Yankovic started talking over the idea of doing a feature film with his manager Jay Levey not long after his breakthrough album, In 3-D, made Weird Al a household name. The pair would work on the script for the planned film over the next couple years before joining up with producers John Hyde and Gene Kirkwood, who in turn brought it to Orion Pictures.

michael richards uhfGiven a budget of $5 million dollars, Yankovic and Levey, who stepped in to direct the film, started shooting the film in Tulsa, Oklahoma with interiors shot on soundstages in Los Angeles. Yankovic would play George Newman, a daydreaming fast food worker who is given the deed to a run down UHF station under heavy debt. All attempts to run it as a conventional television station fail until one day, in desperation, he allows the station janitor Stanley Spudowski (Michael Richards) take over the reins of a flailing kid’s show he was starring in himself. Audiences respond to Spudowski’s weird and unusual antics, so Newman builds an entire line-up of weird and off-center shows in the mold of that show, including game shows such as Wheel of Fish and low rent animal shows such as Raul’s Wild Kingdom, done out of the host’s apartment. The station becomes so much of a success that the competing network affiliate’s owner R.J. Fletcher (Kevin McCarthy) aims to put Newman out of business at any cost.

uhf03Victoria Jackson was cast as George’s long-suffering girlfriend, Teri. Fran Drescher and Billy Barty played the station’s unlikely news team. Gedde Watanabe portrayed the karate-teacher/host of Wheel of Fish. Trinidad Silva was cast as Raul or Raul’s Wild Kingdom, but tragically was killed by a drunk driver with only a few scenes filmed. The film is dedicated to his honor.

The film was released 25 years ago today and died about as painful a death a film can at the theaters. Even though it was the week’s  biggest release in terms of theater count (1,295 to Shag: The Movie‘s 850), it’s opening weekend gross was only $2,251,831, good enough for only 11th place on its opening weekend. Although the film made $6,157, 157 at the box office, more than $1 million over its budget, it was deemed a disappointment by an Orion Pictures who was expecting–and needing–a big hit.

uhfThe film started a lull in Yankovic’s recording career and also, it would turnout,  provide him with the way to climb out of it. The film’s soundtrack peaked at #146 on the album charts, only his disappointing 1986 Polka Party album would peak lower. It would take Yankovic, who was averaging an album a year, three years to make his next album.

By that time, Grunge had taken hold and Yankovic had found the perfect song to parody–Nirvana’s breakout hit, “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” The only problem is that Yankovic’s manager could not get Nirvana’s approval for a parody. Here’s where Yankovic’s UHF co-star Victoria Jackson enters.

121010-weird-al-2Yankovic contacted Jackson, who was in the cast of Saturday Night Live when Nirvana was the musical guest on the show, and implored her to put him in contact with someone from the band. Jackson complied, putting Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain on the phone. After a phone call that lasted only several minutes, Yankovic got Cobain’s permission to parody the song. That parody, “Smells Like Nirvana” appeared on Yankovic’s 1992 album Off the Deep End, an album that kickstarted Yankovic’s career renaissance. That album peaked at #17 on the album charts. No Weird Al Yankovic album from that point on would peak any lower that #46 on those charts, and that album, 1993’s Alapalooza,  was the only album of this period to peak outside of the of the top 20.

UHF-3During this time, Yankovic toured extensively. As part of his live shows, he underwent numerous costume changes, and during these changes, he would often play clips from UHF for the audience. The film also became a staple of cable television, airing numerous times on channels across the country.

This increased exposure corresponded with a rise of dumb and silly fun movies such as 1994’s Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and Dumb and Dumber proved there was an audience for UHF‘s silly comedy, it just came around five years too late.

The result is that film has become somewhat of a cult classic. And as  the audience for Yankovic’s music grows (his last two albums, Straight Outta Lynwood and Alpocalypse both debuted in the top ten and his most recent album, Mandatory Fun, released just last week, is being predicted to be the first Weird Al Yankovic album to debut at #1 on the album charts), more people are discovering UHF. And while Yankovic is experiencing his greatest chart success 31 years after his first album was released, Maybe UHF is finally getting the respect it deserves 25 years after it hit theaters.

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FERRIS BUELLER House Sells For $1.06 Million

Posted on 04 June 2014 by Rich Drees

One of the most iconic homes from 1980s cinema has finally sold. The home featuring a steel and glass pavilion that featured prominently in the 1986 comedy classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off has finally sold after several years of being on and off the Chicago area real estate market.

The home sold for $1.06 million dollars, nearly a third of its asking price when it was relisted at $1.5 million last October.

FerrisBuellerRoseHouseLocated in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park, the home is known as the Rose House and Pavilon and was used in the film as the home of Ferris’s best friend Cameron. It was featured in a memorable scene involving a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California, a glass wall and a drop into a wooded ravine. The Rose House was designed by A. James Speyer and built in 1953 for textile designer Frances Rose. A steel and glass pavilion that was built over a sloping ravine was added onto the property in 1974 to house Rose’s classic car collection.

The property was first listed back in 2009 for $2.3 million and at the time there was also some talk of possibly demolishing the structure. The price on the home was dropped twice to $1.65 until the Rose Family took it off the market in 2011 to perform some minor renovations.

Via Variety.

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New “Redux Cut” Of Leone’s ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA To Premier At Cannes

Posted on 18 April 2012 by Rich Drees

Director Sergio Leone is best known for his westerns and unfortunately that means that most people disregard his epic gangster tale Once Upon A Time In America. Of course, the fact that his original 269-minute cut of the film has never been seen. Under pressure from distributors, Leone trimmed 40 minutes out for the film’s 1984 premier at the Cannes Film Festival. The film’s US distributor slashed the film down to a paltry 139 minutes version which was panned by critics though a home video release of the 229-minute cut has helped restore the film’s reputation somewhat.

Now, 28 years after it was originally supposed to screen, a restored 269-minute version of Once Upon A Time In America will unspool at Cannes. News of the restoration had been circulating for over a year now, and as a fan of the film it is nice to hear that a premier has finally been announced.

Leone’s film follows three friends from a Jewish ghetto rise to become powerful figures in New York City’s organized crime world. While the bastardized 139-minute version went without Academy Awards recognition, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards voted it a Best Picture runner-up in their annual poll, while both BAFTA and the Golden Globes nominated Leone’s direction.

Although there is no word yet as to what future there is in store for this new restored version, I suspect that it will see a few more festival screenings and perhaps a limited theatrical release before making its way to home video.

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Previously Unknown CLOCKWORK ORANGE Script Discovered

Posted on 12 May 2011 by Rich Drees

Researchers combing through the volumes of papers of novelist Anthony Burgess have discovered a screenplay he had written adapting his most famous novel, A Clockwork Orange. The 1962 novel was turned into a movie by the legendary director Stanley Kubrick, but it appears as if the newly discovered script is from an early part of the development of that project.

Burgess and Kubrick had collaborated on the film project, though Kubrick is the one who received screen credit for the screenplay about a teenage gang leader in a lawless society.

According to Dr Andrew Biswell, the author’s biographer and the director of the International Anthony Burgess Foundation, Burgess’ screenplay is noteworthy as it is –

- very different from the novel… It’s actually quite a bit more violent than the novel. There’s a scene early on where Alex opens his bedroom cupboard and it’s full of drugs, hypodermic needles and a child’s skull.

Apparently Kubrick rejected Burgess’ script and proceeded to pen one of his own. The irony here is that the final film was loudly criticized for its violent content at the time of its release, leading Kubrick to withdraw the film after just a few weeks.

The Burgess Foundation is hoping to publish the screenplay at some point.

Other scripts discovered in the archives include a previously unknown draft for Kubrick’s long in-development Napoleon bio-pic and a portion of a stage show about Harry Houdini that Burgess was developing with Orson Welles.

Via BBC.

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Eisner Laments Loss Of CREATURE

Posted on 28 June 2010 by Rich Drees

Last year, commercial director Carl Rinsch became the latest in a long line of directors stretching back to the ’80s to attempt a remake of Universal Studio’s classic Creature From The Black Lagoon. He replaced Breck Eisner on the project, who walked away from the project after spending nearly four years trying to get it in front of cameras.

Eisner recently talked to Shock Till You Drop and spoke candidly on the factors that killed his version – “It suffered from the realities of development hell and a writers strike.”

Understandably disappointed after putting so much work in to the project, Eisner was enthusiastic about what his version of the film could have been. “It would have been risky and amazing,” he stated. “The design of the Creature by Mark ‘Crash’ McCreery was awesome. True to the original, yet obviously updated for today’s technology. The journey on the Rita, the boat design, it was ready to go.”

Eisner got as far as scouting South American jungles for location shooting. “Scouting Peru, Brazil, Columbia. We went into the jungle of mirrors. It was an amazing experience. I didn’t come out of it empty-handed but I didn’t come out with a movie, which is what I would have wanted.”

And though the project now has a new director, Eisner is skeptical of The Creature From The Black Lagoon‘s chances of ever reaching cinemas. That isn’t a slam against Rinsch, though. Eisnerplaces the blame on two things – The amount of money spent on development over the years and the poor critical and box office reception for another Universal Studios monster remake, The Wolfman, earlier this year.

Between [the Wolfman failing] and spending a lot of money in development, it’s money against the movie. When a movie is that close to happening, it takes a long time for people to forget about spending that money and to be re-engaged in it. I’d love for somebody to make that movie. It won’t be me.

As a first time feature director, Rinsch has a difficult task ahead of him in finally getting Creature to the screen. Rinsch is also hard at work for Warner Brothers on their similarly long-in-development redo of Logan’s Run. He’s ambitious, I’ll give him that. Let’s see if that ambition can actually get either of these two projects on the screen.

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BLUES BROTHERS Wins Vatican Approval

Posted on 18 June 2010 by Rich Drees

As The Blues Brothers celebrated the 30th anniversary of its release this week, it received a rather unexpected accolade when the Vatican’s official newspaper L’Osservatore Romano named the film as a “Catholic classic,” recommending it for viewing by Catholics everywhere.

Being raised Catholic myself, I have a built-in hesitancy when it comes to questioning what the Vatican states, but I have to wonder how the John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd-starring film wound up on a list of films good for Catholics with the likes of Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life, Zeffirelli’s Jesus Of Nazareth, DeMille’s The Ten Commandments, Flemming’s Joan Of Arc and Gibson’s The Passion Of The Christ. I guess if you’re raising money to help keep an orphanage open you can cause millions of dollars in property damages, numerous multiple vehicle car accidents and break dozens of laws as long as you can claim you’re on a “mission from God.”

Via Hollywood Reporter.

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CONFIRMED! GHOSTBUSTERS III Script Is In, Reitman Will Direct.

Posted on 14 January 2010 by William Gatevackes

Fans of the Ghostbusters franchise, either rejoice or curse the fates, depending on what your opinion on a second sequel is. The first draft of the script for the proposed sequel is in, the writers are working on the second draft, and Ivan Reitman has announced that he will direct.

This all comes from Reitman himself, who was interviewed by MTV’s Josh Horowitz at the National Board of Review’s Award Ceremony last night.

Whether this will be a reunion of the original cast, a passing of the guard, a mixture of both, or any of the myriad of other rumors floating around is still a mystery. But Reitman stated that he plans to start shooting this year, making a 2011 release very likely.

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AFRICAN QUEEN Finally Coming To DVD

Posted on 12 January 2010 by Rich Drees

In the over ten years that DVD has been with us, one title has continued to not make the transition to the digital format, much to the consternation of film fans- The African Queen. But now, the romantic adventure story starring Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart is finally making its way to DVD and Blu-Ray on March 23rd.

As if to make up for the incredibly long wait for John Huston’s classic film, Paramount is kicking out with a 4K HD transfer from the film’s original three-strip Technicolor negatives, restored in a process similar to the one Warner Brothers used for their Wizard Of Oz and Gone With The Wind restorations. The studio’s press release further elaborates-

To ensure that the restored picture matched the filmmakers’ original vision, Paramount arranged a screening of an MPAA archive print for the film’s original cinematographer, Academy Award winner Jack Cardiff*, whose comments were recorded live during the screening.  That same archival print was later screened alongside the newly restored version so that the restoration team could ensure that all of Cardiff’s notes had been addressed.

The DVD and Blu-Ray versions will both be available in a standard, single disc edition or a limited edition box set. Both editions will contain the new documentary Embracing Chaos: Making The African Queen, while the box set will include an “audio disc recording of the original Lux Radio Theater broadcast of The African Queen, a reproduction of Katharine Hepburn’s out-of-print memoir The Making of The African Queen or How I Went to Africa with Bogart, Bacall and Huston and Almost Lost My Mind, a Senitype film frame reproduction and postcard reproductions” of images from the film.

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Latest PLANET OF THE APES Reboot Dead

Posted on 11 January 2010 by Rich Drees

Back in November 2008, we told you about a plan at 20th Century Fox to reboot their Planet Of The Apes franchise that sounded very intriguing. Titled Caesar, writer /director Scott Frank was working on the project for Fox, which would have relaunched the series starting from the original series’ fourth film, Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes. The idea was originally brought to the studio by writers Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver under the title Genesis: Apes.

Unfortunately, CHUD is now reporting that Frank is now off the film and it looks like the project is dead.

Back when we first reported on the project, I felt that the concept was a bit edgy for Fox executives’ tastes. In this proposed story, a scientist meddling with chimpanzee DNA accidentally creates a chimpanzee with human livels of intelligence. Once he discovers that the chimp can talk, he takes him home to be raised by his wife, who is unable to bare children of her own. Several years later, his adoptive mother is attacked and in the act of protecting her, accidentally kills her assailant. He is then taken to labs where, although he is as sentient as a human, he is tortured and experimented on. Although initially rejected by the other apes at the laboratory, he eventually inspires them to revolt and overthrow human society. Where the original Conquest had a two decade gap separating its 1971 audience from the film’s fascist government of the future year 1991, this version was set in the present and it may have presented some themes that might be a little hard to take without the fictional setting.

It’s not surprising that the film is dead at Fox. Even though risk aversion seems to be the watchword for all the studios, Fox practices it as a religion. While relaunching a classic series is typically seen as a safe move, such a radical reinterpretation of the Planet Of The Apes concept probably outweighed the easy sell of a new Apes film in the minds of the studio brass at Fox.

Will the studio continue to look for a way to bring a new Planet Of The Apes film to the big screen. My guess is very probably. Unfortunately, it will probably not be as interesting as this version promised to be.

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Another Director For BLACK LAGOON Remake

Posted on 16 December 2009 by Rich Drees

CreatureFromTheBlackLagoon1You have to give Universal credit for tenacity. They want their Creature From The Black Lagoon remake and they’re going to get no matter how many creative types they have to go through. Commercial director Carl Rinsch is the latest to be brought through the project’s revolving door. Rinsch replaces Breck Eisner who left the project last year. Rinsch is also signed with Universal for 47 Ronin, a film based on a Japanese legend which has been filmed many times in Japan, including a version starring Toshiro Mifune. The script for the project made last year‘s Black List of hot, unproduced screenplays.

Attempts by Universal to revive the Gill Man date all the way back to 1982, when John Landis was looking to have the original film’s director helm a remake with a script by Quatermass creator Nigel Kneale. The plan to shoot the film in 3D was scuttled as Universal was already shooting the third Jaws movie in the format. In the mid 90s, Universal approached Peter Jackson, who declined in favor of doing a King Kong remake. Gary Ross, whose father Arthur A. Ross was one of the writers on the original film, and Guillermo Del Toro were also tied to the project at various times.

Throughout its long development process, numerous scripts have been written for this new take on Creature. But according to the LA Times, Rinsch will be starting over from scratch with a new screenplay.

Eisner, in the meantime, hasn’t strayed far from monster movie remake territory. He has recently finished shooting a remake of George Romero’s The Crazies which is due next February and is attached to a remake of John Carpenter’s The Brood.

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