We Want It ALL On UHF

Region 4 info - Region 2 info - Region 1 info


I know there was a big grassroots campaign among the fans to get this movie on DVD. It's really got a cult-like following, so I think MGM may have been badgered into finally putting this thing out.

MGM will have a new owner, but it is not who everyone thought it was going to be! Warner Bros. dropped its $4.5 billion bid to acquire the studio, allowing Sony to come in and strike a deal. The announcement was made in mid-September, yet details on when ownership will transfer over have yet to be revealed. Of course as with any media merger, this all could fall apart in a few months, but it does look very much like UHF will have a new home. It is unknown yet how the purchase will affect MGM's current home video catalog, but it may be a very good idea to pick up UHF on DVD now if you have yet to do so! We'll keep reporting on this story (and its effect on UHF) whenever anything new comes up!


Although there are as yet no plans for a Region 4 DVD for Australia, there is some good news. After years of depending on Twentieth Century Fox for Australian distribution, MGM has just launched their own Aussie home-entertainment division and has already started releasing a number of newer hits and catalog titles on DVD.

If any Australian Al fans out there would like to write to MGM's new division to plead that they release a Region 4 UHF DVD, then by all means use the following address:

MGM Home Entertainment Group
Level 25
Angel Place 123 Pitt St.
Sydney, New South Wales 2000

Be sure to mention that Al now has a huge following in Australia, that he recently completed his first tour of the country, and how Australia saw a DVD release of Al's new music-video collection before the United States did!

As always, be sure to keep checking back for news on UHF and its travels around the world!


Region 2 cover

Updated 9/11

After over a year of waiting, most Region 2 Al fans can finally enjoy UHF on DVD. MGM released the Region 2 edition on July 14, 2003. DVD menu

The word "most" is used because Region 2 is kinda tricky. It predominately covers both Europe and Japan, but the two areas use different television color systems. Europe uses the PAL system, while Japan uses NTSC (as does North America). To further complicate things, France also uses the SECAM system. So, a Region 2 DVD does not necessarily mean everyone in all of Region 2 will be able to play it.

The DVD MGM has released is the PAL version. So far there is no word on either NTSC or SECAM Region 2 discs.

Now, here's the really bad news: the Region 2 DVD is the accursed "bare bones" disc that U.S. fans were originally afraid of. The menus aren't even interactive, as they feature static Al images from the UHF theatrical posters.

But, the Region 2 disc does include the trailer, not to mention a slew of spoken and subtitled languages, so at least that's something.

There is at least one cover variation. A German issue has a German approximation of the title printed underneath the UHF logo.

For you other Region 2 fans (and fans of other Regions, as well!), keep checking here for the latest UHF DVD news!


The cover art!

3rd Place - Best DVD: Psychotronic
in the 4th Annual Digital Bits Bitsy Awards

The History

UHF was originally released on home video by Orion Home Video in January 1990 on VHS, Beta (remember those?), and laserdisc. While the last two editions went out of print as their respective formats died out, Orion continued printing the VHS release of the film. It is the home video that helped UHF gain an audience that understood the film and enjoyed it for what it was.

It shows real class that Orion stuck by the film and kept releasing it, considering other films in its library included blockbusters such as Robocop, The Silence of the Lambs, and Speed Zone! (hee hee) Orion made a budget version of UHF available on home video in 1994, duplicating it onto tapes in the faster EP/SLP speed rather than the industry-standard SP speed.

When Orion started losing money in the mid-1990s, it slowly began to discontinue titles in its home-video catalog. By 1996 the entire VHS library was out of print, and remaining copies of UHF lingered on video-store shelves for a short time thereafter. In early 2001, the retail web site Movies Unlimited purchased a warehouse-load of remaining Orion backstock, making new (albeit out-of-print) Orion copies of UHF available once again. The web site put a limit of one copy to a customer (due to a mix of supply and demand, no doubt), and the film was the headlining title when they advertised the Orion surplus via their newsletter (while an image of the video box even topped the site's Orion page).

Anyway, with Orion completely bankrupt and out of business by 1998, legendary movie studio MGM opted to purchase the studio's entire catalog that year. This means MGM obtained UHF and every other film released through Orion (not counting Orion films released through other studios such as Arthur, Caddyshack, and Three Amigos!).

The purchase was a blessing for MGM, which just the year before lost the bulk of its own films (including classics such as The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind, and its animated shorts library) to Warner Bros. Warner Bros. had merged with Turner Entertainment, which previously purchased MGM's back catalog in 1985. Although Turner released the MGM films through MGM/UA Home Entertainment, the Warner merger meant the films were now fully in the Warner Bros. library. This left MGM with only the films it acquired from United Artists in 1981 (such as the Rocky, Pink Panther, and James Bond series) and films the studio itself produced after Turner purchased the back catalog (such as Spaceballs and Get Shorty).

In addition to the Orion Pictures catalog, MGM also purchased Polygram's film library in 1998, thus giving MGM the largest movie library ever. However, the studio's home-video division was still contractually linked to Warner Home Video through a previous distribution deal. MGM was able to prematurely end its contract with Warner in the spring of 1999, but ending the contract early meant that MGM could not release its Orion titles onto home video until early 2000. The new year came without a reissue of the cult film, and for many fans it looked like UHF was going to be permanently out of print.

MGM Home Entertainment was contacted by this web site in January 2000, asking about its plans for UHF. A letter was sent back, stating that UHF wasn't even an MGM-owned title! Obviously, this was just the cluelessness of some letter-answering MGM intern.

The Campaign

On March 3, 2000, Weird Al fan Adam Tyner reported on alt.music.weird-al of a rumor floating around that MGM was preparing to release a "bare bones" DVD of UHF in 2001!

The dream of seeing UHF on DVD was more or less just that, as the likelihood of seeing a VHS rerelease always seemed greater in the days of the then-bipartisan home-video market. But just the chance of a DVD release of the film was at the very least a pleasant surprise of a rumor.

However, a "bare bones" DVD means a disc that will simply include the movie (no trailers, commentary, etc.). This meant that if the rumor was in fact true, then there would be no behind-the-scenes material; no bonus stuff at all, in fact. Now while any release of UHF would have been great at this point, it seemed like such a waste of an ample medium to just feature the movie...especially when Al had said to be more than ready to assist with extra material (including having access to deleted scenes such as a U62 sitcom segment titled "Those Darn Homos!").

To make matters worse, Al reported in an Ask Al column that MGM sent him a cease-and-desist order to remove clips of UHF from the video screen shown at his concerts. This had been a highlight for fans of both Weird Al and UHF since clips were incorporated into the live shows in 1992. It had become almost a tradition for audience members to chant along with lines such as "WE DON'T NEED NO STINKIN' BADGERS!" (giving UHF almost a Rocky Horror Picture Show quality). Al complied with the order and replaced the clips with other segments from specials he has done on MTV and MuchMusic, but it was definitely not the same.

At the time MGM was trying to retain all broadcasting and distribution rights to the movies in its library. The studio was gearing up to launch its own international movie cable channel and to become the sole television distributor of its films (it had just inked an exclusive premiere-cable-network deal with Showtime). It's possible that MGM was just trying to control any and all showings of UHF, but it was still a rotten thing to demand on Al, sever ties with a movie that is unquestionably his creation.

It would seem that MGM is now aware that they own the film, huh?

It was around that time that this web page was put up, urging fans of Weird Al, of UHF, of comedy, of film, of DVD, and of life in general to write to MGM. The studio needed to be convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that they had a cult classic on their hands, and we were not going to let them give us anything less than it deserves!

The Updates (2000-2002)

On November 11, the DVD File web site reported that MGM had announced some of the titles it will release on DVD in 2001...and UHF was on the list!

Unfortunately though, by March 2001 MGM had announced its release schedule through June, and UHF had yet to show up.

On March 6, the Home Theater Forum web site hosted an online chat with MGM Home Entertainment representatives Alyssa Moore and Blake Thomas. In addition to some very curious comments made by MGM regarding aspect ratios for certain DVDs and their recent inconsistencies among subtitles and closed captions, someone asked the inevitable question about when UHF would be released and with what extras.

The bad news: UHF would not see the light of day on DVD until 2002.

The good news: They were looking into possible supplemental material and even touched upon working with Al on the extras!

You can read the entire chat transcript at The Digital Bits web site. UHF is mentioned at about the mid-way point.

In August, a new Weird Al web site called Wayuhf.com put up an online petition to get MGM to release UHF in any format. On other online DVD message boards, support was growing for a special-edition DVD. UHF was suddenly becoming a standard on everyone's "must have" lists.

On August 24 Weirdal.com confirmed that Al and MGM were finally negotiating on the DVD for UHF, planned for a summer 2002 release!!!!

According to the blurb, at that time MGM was still considering a "Collector's Edition," so seemingly it wasn't set in stone just yet. This page kept requesting letters be sent to MGM to support such a release.

On September 29, MGM made its first official announcement regarding the UHF DVD at the Studio Day DVD consumer-and-industry conference in Studio City, California.

An MGM representative said that the studio's most requested title was none other than UHF! They also confirmed that Al was helping them put together a "Special Edition" for next summerish.

You can read the whole MGM report at DVD File.

In January Bermuda mentioned on the World of Weird Al Yankovic Forums that UHF would probably not be released on VHS along with the DVD.

This was after a good month of fans answering Bermuda's request to post their ideas for features on the DVD. Soon after, the disc's production was well under way!

February 25 brought the news that every fan had been waiting for, as Weirdal.com announced that UHF would be released on DVD June 4!

In late April, what better place was there for Al to premiere the UHF DVD than at the ALCON III fan convention in suburban Chicago?

And simple-minded fan gushing aside, the DVD totally freakin' ROCKED! The menus alone (featuring new footage of Al posing and playing around with the graphics on the screen) looked to be worth the price of the disc. Al even demonstarted what happens when one keeps trying to play a special feature that's on the other side of the disc!

On the disc Al hosts the reel of deleted scenes, explaining exactly why they were cut from the movie (there's one overall general reason...take a wild guess what it is!).

And the commentary just had to be heard (and seen) to be believed! From little-known tidbits about all aspects of production (he knew the addresses of the filming locations, fer cryin' out loud!) to playfully going into Mystery Science Theater 3000 mode, what could possibly top this?? Well, maybe if some wiry cole slaw-loving comedian or a neighbor from a show about "nothing" also showed up....

On June 4, UHF was finally released on DVD. Although some stores around the country snuck the disc out onto the shelves a day or two early, a number of fans had surprising trouble finding the film.

Online, however, was a completely different story. UHF was seen on many online retailer's top-20 lists for well over a month before the release, indicating that a lot of folks were taking no chances and pre-ordering their copies early.

For the week and a half following the DVD release, one would think this wasn't just a low-budget theatrical bomb from 1989. Numerous DVD info web sites praised the disc, with some such as DVD File even giving it "Editor's Pick" designations.

The biggest surprise came on June 16, when Weirdal.com broke the news that UHF debuted on Variety magazine's Top Ten DVD sales chart!

Premiering at #10, UHF was in the company of recent hit movies such as Harry Potter, Ocean's Eleven, and Vanilla Sky, and the runaway hit HBO series Sex and the City. The only other two DVDs debuting in the Top Ten were the recent flick The Mothman Prophecies and the zany drug-induced series boxed set Mr. Show: The Complete First and Second Seasons. UHF had the distinction of being the only pre-1990 production in the Top Ten.

Variety also reported how UHF ranked at some of the major online retailers in its first week. Out of the five stores to list how well UHF had sold, Best Buy was the only one where the title did not crack the Top Ten (although #17 was nothing to sneeze at). Amazon had UHF at #9, Buy.com listed it at #8, Tower Records had it at #5, and Express.com reported a head-shaking, eye-rubbing rank of #4.

However, one web site Variety didn't report on, Deep Discount DVD, had UHF at the friggin' top of its chart! The web site claimed it sold over 8,500 copies since the release date!

Finally, after thirteen years, this box office disappointment from Orion has become one of the most popular movies in stores today!

On June 24, in what was perhaps even more surprising than last week's news, Variety reported that UHF had only dropped one rank to #11 in its second week!

UHF had better chart progress than the other two new releases that debuted in the Top Ten last week. The Mothman Prophecies dropped down from #2 to #5, while the Mr. Show boxed set dropped from #7 to #15.

UHF's new rank was only more impressive when one looked at the big titles that premiered in this week's Top Ten. Black Hawk Down, Monster's Ball, Kate & Leopold, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Complete Second Season's combined strengths only bumped this little cult comedy down one notch.

Meanwhile on the individual retailers' sales front, only two web sites reported that UHF stayed in their Top Ten lists. Amazon ranked UHF at #9 again, while Buy.com saw it rise to #5. DVD.com had it at #25, Best Buy at #15, and both Tower Records and DVD Empire listed UHF at #11. Not too shabby, eh?

The last bit of domestic-sales news came on July 1 with another Variety DVD sales chart, in which UHF was still doing pretty well! UHF dropped down from #11 to #14. Still, quite a feat for a 13-year-old comedy!

Like the previous week, UHF slipped on the chart only slightly in the face of quite a number of new releases. Orange County, Rollerball, I Am Sam (isn't that based on a book about green eggs?), and The Majestic all entered the chart higher than UHF, while UHF ranked higher than another new release, The Shipping News!

As far as individual retailers go, UHF was in only one store's Top Ten, that of Buy.com...but it had risen to #4! Amazon had it at #16, both DVD.com and DVD Empire at #15, and Tower Records' chart saw it at #11.

If you would still like to write to MGM to urge them to rerelease UHF on VHS, or to simply thank them for producing this awesome DVD, you can do so at....

MGM Home Entertainment
Attn: DVD Marketing
2500 Broadway Street
Santa Monica, CA 90404-3061


UHF ©1989 Orion Pictures/MGM. Thanks to Chris and Kelly!