Archive | Cult 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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Broken Lizard Film Update

Posted on 10 December 2009 by Rich Drees

BrokenLizardGroupShotEarlier today, I sat down and chatted with Broken Lizard’s Kevin Heffernan and Steve Lemme about the comedy troupe’s latest film, The Slammin’ Salmon, hitting theaters tomorrow. I’ll have the majority of the discussion for you then, but in the meantime, I thought I’d share what was discussed about some of the other projects they have in the pipeline, including their newest project, Rogue Scholars.

Rogue Scholars– “The new one we’re writing [for Universal] is called Rogue Scholars, where we play college professors. We’re the authority figures and our nemesis are the students, who attack us. We get into a little tit-for-tat with them. You could say that it is Super Troopers on a college campus.” – Lemme

“Or a reverse Animal House.”- Heffernan

Nutcracker– “We just gave [Slammin’ Salmon co-star Michael Clark Duncan] a script that we wrote for a big menacing linebacker at the end of his career, called Nutcracker. We were doing some interviews in New York last week for our live show and Michael was telling us he used to be a dancer. I don’t mean at strip clubs. But he used to take ballet. We were like ‘We have a script called Nutcracker’ and he didn’t believe us. We didn’t believe him that he did ballet. But we gave him the script and he loved it. So we’re going to figure out what to do with that.”- Lemme

Freeloaders– A group of friends who live for free in a rock star’s house suddenly find themselves scrambling when the singer decides to sell the home.

“That’s a movie we’ve produced. It’s done and they’re submitting it to film festivals now. Adam Duritz, the lead singer from Counting Crows, is a fan of our films and he had some guys that he worked on a script with, somewhat autobiographical, and they wanted to make a movie in the same way that we made Super Troopers. They used our infrastructure and our crew. We helped with the script and have little cameos.”- Heffernan

The Babymaker– Heffernan would star in this story of a man who finds that he has become infertile and must retrieve the last remaining vial of sperm he donated in his younger, more viral days so he and his wife can have a baby.

“That was a project at Warner Brothers. I think its still there, possibly we could make it. It got eclipsed by a few things like Rogue Scholars.”- Heffernan.

“That would be Broken Lizard creative producing.”- Lemme

“And [Broken Lizard cast mate] Jay [Chandrasekhar] would direct.”- Heffernan

Pot Quest– As promised at the end of Beer Fest.

“While it well not be a direct sequel to Beer Fest, it will be a Broken Lizard, high concept –“ – Lemme

“- pot adventure”- Heffernan

The Greek Road– Heffernan and Lemme as Greek philosophers Plato and Socrates on a road trip being interfered with by the Gods, portrayed by the other three members of the group.

“We’ve come so close so many times to getting it greenlit. When we got our deal at Warner Brothers they said we’ll greenlight any movie you want. We said ‘Here it is! We’ve been dying to make this movie.’ We were talking about shooting it in Bulgaria, shooting it in India. We just couldn’t get there and we had [the less costly] Beer Fest so that was an easy decision [for the executives].- Lemme

“Sword and sandal epics are making a come back. Because of 300 there are other ways to shoot it now from when we were trying to get it made.”- Heffernan

Super Troopers 2– “Over the course of the last few years, whenever we get some free time we go back and work on a script. So we’ve been writing the script over the course of a couple of years. We just want to get it right. We’re about four drafts in now.”- Heffernan

“Next week we’re sitting down to start work on the new draft.”- Lemme

On the film being a prequel to the original-

“That was something that happened in one interview where we joked about it and were like ‘oh that would be pretty cool. The 70s and we could play our dads and drive our hot rods…’ But actually, with that one we’re going to pick up right where the story left off.”- Lemme

“I think people want to see what happens next. Pure sequel. There was a push to do a sequel very quickly after the first movie came out, but we wanted to make some other movies to do some other things. It’s a blast when we sit down to write it. When you write a script from scratch, you have to make up the characters and the way they talk. But when you revisit somebody, you’ve already established that so it’s a very simple writing process. ‘Mac would say that… Farva would say that… That’s hysterical.’”- Heffernan

“I’m 50 pages in to the new draft and just nice seeing those guys and how O’Hagan is reprimanding everybody and the obnoxious things Farva is saying. It’s going to be fun, but we want to be careful with that.”- Lemme

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First Batch Of EVIL DEAD Midnight Screening Dates

Posted on 01 December 2009 by Rich Drees

EvilDeadRereleasePosterIn October, we told you that Sam Raimi’s classic horror film Evil Dead was returning to theaters for a limited run of midnight screenings. Now we’ve got the first set of dates for the revival. If you don’t see a location near you don’t worry, Grindhouse Releasing is promising more dates to come.

January 8-9:
Uptown Theatre, Minneapolis

January 15-16:
Esquire Theatre, Denver

January 29-30:
Sunshine Cinema, New York

February 5-6:
Egyptian Theatre, Seattle

February 19-20:
River Oaks Theatre, Houston

February 26-27:
Inwood, Dallas

March 5: Nuart Theatre,
Los Angeles

May 22
Hudson Horrorshow
Poughkipsie, NY

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HIGHLANDER Remake Gets A Director

Posted on 23 September 2009 by Rich Drees

highlanderJustin Lin, director of the recent Fast & Furious,has been picked my Summit Entertainment to helm their in development remake of Highlander. As of yet, the studio has no cast attached to the project and no set start date. Lin will be bringing along his Fast And Furious producer Neal H. Moritz along with him.

The film’s screenplay by IRON MAN screenwriters Art Marcum and Matt Holloway combines elements of the original film along with some ideas from the franchise’s spinoff television series. But the basic story of a group of immortals battling each other down through the ages for a vaguely defined prize.

While the original film earned itself a cult fanbase largely on the strength of its high concept, Highlander is also remembered for its exciting visual look courtesy of director Russell Mulcahy. I’ve never been that impressed with Lin’s directorial work, so I have to admit that the news doesn’t really give me much confidence in the project. Of course, reading a copy of the script might put my mind at ease.

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Rob Zombie To Remake THE BLOB …Kind Of

Posted on 29 August 2009 by Rich Drees

RobZombieRocker-turned-writer/director Rob Zombie is moving on from his revitalization of the Halloween horror franchise to remake another classic film, 1958’s The Blob. Variety has reported that Zombie has signed a deal to write, direct and produce a remake of the film, with production slated to start as early as next spring.

A remake of The Blob has been in development almost since the last remake of the film hit theaters in 1988. Most recently, Carey W. and Chad Hayes, the scripters behind the lackluster 2005 remake House Of Wax, took a crack at the screenplay. Jack Harris, producer of the original 1958 film is on board as one the project’s producers. The film is projected to have a $30 million budget and is shooting for an R rating.

Zombie certainly seems to have found a, shall we say, unique vision for the movie. He’s not that interested in having the creature we have come to know as the Blob actually in the film.

My intention is not to have a big red blobby thing — that’s the first thing I want to change. That gigantic Jello-looking thing might have been scary to audiences in the 1950s, but people would laugh now… I’d been looking to break out of the horror genre, and this really is a science fiction movie about a thing from outer space. I intend to make it scary, and the great thing is I have the freedom once again to take it in any crazy direction I want to.

Now, I have to admit that I flew in the face of conventional wisdom in regards to Zombie’s remake of John Carpenter’s classic slasher Halloween. In Zombie’s 2007 remake he explored the tragic, abusive childhood that lead Michael Myers to become a mask-clad killer who slashed his way across the unsuspecting town of Haddonfield, Illinois. This realistic approach unfortunately didn’t gel well with the movie’s second half where Zombie recreated many scenes from the original film that feature a Michael Myers as a seemingly unstoppable, supernatural force. Many horror fans felt that Zombie’s attempt to plumb Myers’s psychology was antithetical to what Carpenter originally created.

Now I know that my stating that I think what Zombie is doing wrong here by abandoned the most core aspect of the original Blob movie will seem hypocritical. However, I think that the psychological examination of Michael Myers is a completely valid approach to the movie. It still left him a killer, it just tried to examine why he became what he was. However, how can you take “red blobby thing” out of The Blob and still have a movie you can call The Blob!??!

I’m not adverse to the idea of a remake of The Blob.  There are enough stories and ideas in the concept that a new film has a good chance of being interesting in its own right. And it is not like film studio goons are going to come to our homes and remove the nice Criterion Collection DVDs of the original film from our book shelves. And while I will very likely go to a theater and see what Zombie’s vision for The Blob will be.

He just isn’t instilling much confidence for the project in me right now.

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Run, Don’t Walk, To BlobFest!

Posted on 08 July 2009 by Rich Drees

blobfestrunoutOne of the best fan run movie events of the summer is coming up in just a few days- BlobFest!

Held at the very movie theater in the Philadelphia suburb of Phoenixville that was attacked by the gelatinous monster in the 1958 classic, BlobFest is a celebration of the film and all things great from the 1950s. The Fest kicks off Friday night with its annual Running Out Re-enactment, in which you can run for your life from the Blob, just like theater patrons did 1958! Plus, there’s costume and trivia contests, rockabilly music and classic cars at the day long street fair on Saturday. There’ll be four screenings of The Blob over the weekend, three of them paired up as double-features with Invasion Of The Saucer Men and 13 Ghosts. (And we’ll be tweeting the event as well…)

For more information, check out FilmBuffOnLine’s The Blob Site.

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BUFFY Heading To Big Screen Without Joss Whedon

Posted on 26 May 2009 by Rich Drees

buffymovieposter2Buffy The Vampire Slayer is heading back to the big screen, but without the involvement of her creator Joss Whedon.

There will be a brief pause while everyone asks themselves “What’s the point in that?”

The 1992 film’s original directors Fran Rubel Kuzui and Kaz Kuzui are looking at bringing the cult movie-turned-hit television series back to the big screen. But their new version will be a remake of the film, without any of the large supporting cast of characters from the television series or its spin-off, Angel, according to a story in the Hollywood Reporter.

While disappointing that Whedon won’t be involved, the Kuzuis are within their rights here. They are the owners of the Buffy film property, having purchased it when they bought the original feature film script from Whedon for their own production company. Although the resultant 1992 film was not a box office success, the couple were also instrumental in making the business deal to get Buffy launched as a series on the fledgling WB network. Although by all accounts, the Kuzuis had no further involvement with the series except to cash their paychecks for serving as executive producers.

If you think that the exclusion of the film’s original writer is no big deal, then you just aren’t familiar with the circumstances surrounding Buffy The Vampire Slayer. If you have ever read Whedon’s version of the feature film script or seen the resultant television series, you get a much truer idea of what Whedon had in mind for the character than if you have just seen the film version. Whedon mixed horror and comedy, where the Kuzui’s direction on the film missed the mark on both. For fans, Whedon’s distinct writing voice is as much an integral part of the franchise as any singular character.

Here’s hoping someone puts a stake through the heart of this idea before it progresses too much further.

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HEATHERS Heads To The Stage

Posted on 12 March 2009 by Rich Drees

heathersNow here’s a high school musical I’m interested in.

Heathers, the 1988 dark comedy about high school social clicks, is being transformed into a stage bound musical by Andy Fickman. Previously, Fickman directed the stage production of Reefer Madness, based on the 1936 campy, cautionary film, before moving on to helm the upcoming Race To Witch Mountain film. Fickman is working on the project with his Reefer partner Kevin Murphy (not the MST3K Kevin Murphy), who is writing the lyrics and book for the new project, and composer Larry O’Keefe.

Evidently, the three have been quietly working on the project for a while and just held some table readings of the script earlier this week, with Kristen Bell playing the role of Veronica, originated by Winona Ryder in the film. Christian Campbell stepped into original film star Christian Slater’s role of J. D., while reading the parts of the terrible titular trio of girls were Corri English, lead singer of BrokeDown Cadillac, Jenna Leigh Green and Christine Lakin. Participation in the table read is no guarantee though that these particular actors will be the ones who appear on stage when the production finally opens.

Fickman is hoping to have the show open regionally next year, followed by a Broadway run. If it proves popular, a film adaptation of the musical would be considered.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Fickman has talked with Heathers original screenwriter Daniel Waters, who has given his blessing to the show.

“‘I love my dead gay son,'” Fickman states in the Reporter story. “If you can get that into a song, then that is just perfect.”

Personally, I’m holding out for the “F**k Me Slowly With A Chainsaw Interpretive Ballet.”

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Rob Zombie’s HALLOWEEN 2 Teaser Poster

Posted on 11 February 2009 by Rich Drees

halloween2teaserposterWell, he hasn’t started filming yet, and Malcolm MacDowell is not signed on to reprise his role as Dr. Loomis, but Rob Zombie already has a release date and a teaser poster (click for larger version) for his sequel to his 2007 remake of the horror classic Halloween. While he is reportedly set to start rolling cameras in just a few weeks, Zombie is cutting things alwfully close. And that’s not even factoring in any delay in getting MacDowell back or possibly recasting the role.

While I’m not a big slasher movie fan, I am interested in what Zombie will do with this film. I found his take on John Carpenter’s classic a bit mixed. On one hand, he wanted to admirably strike out in his own direction, analyzing the forces that created the Michael Myers we know from the film series. But that material didn’t sit well next to his numerous homages to Carpenter’s original film.

So the question is whether Zombie will be striking out on his own direction completely, or will he still feel beholden to deliver winks and nods to what has gone before?

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7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD Producer Charles Schneer Has Died

Posted on 24 January 2009 by Rich Drees

7thvoyageofsinbadCharles Schneer, the producer who collaborated with special effects giant Ray Harryhausen on the classics The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad and Jason And The Argonauts, has passed away this past Wednesday, January 21 in Boca Raton, Florida. He was 88.

Schneer’s partnership with Harryhausen stretched for a majority of both their careers. They were introduced to each other by a mutual friend who served with Schneer in the Army during World War II. Schneer had served an Army unit producing training films. After the war, he worked briefly at Universal Pictures before moving on to Columbia Pictures to work at the studio’s low-budget division with producer Sam Katzman. It was here that Schneer pitched Harryhausen the idea of a movie about a giant octopus that attacks the Golden Gate Bridge. The end result was the classic It Came From Beneath The Sea (1955), Schneer’s first producing credit.

The pair quickly followed their success up with Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers (1956) and 20 Million Miles To Earth (1957). They also collaborated on The 3 Worlds Of Gulliver (1960), Mysterious Island (1961), The Valley Gwangi (1969), The Golden Voyage Of Sinbad (1974), Sinbad And The Eye Of The Tiger (1977) and 1981’s Clash Of The Titans, the film which would be both their professional swansongs.

In addition to his films with Harryhausen, Schneer produced Hellcats Of The Navy, which starred Ronald Reagan and his future wife Nancy Davis.

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