We’re still fighting for $2,000, so as you wake up on the East Coast, please donate what you can to Doctors Without Borders.
At 6 am EST/3 am PST we watch William Bendix in Kill the Umpire, about a man forced, against his will, to become an umpire. I quake at the thought.
3:07 - Well, the opening credits are amazing. Excellent and expressive cartooning of umpire fights. Maybe this will be better than I’m expecting. Hell, I don’t even know what I’m expecting.
3:08 - The Earl Weaver story?
3:10 - Bill, our umpire hating main character has had to give up baseball. There’s another young whipper snapper who is a hopeful ballplayer and then we’ve got our older umpire who is Bill’s father-in-law.. Now then, with that terrible introduction out of the way, here we go.
3:11 - And we have our title.
3:12 - “Boy, this making a living is sure interfering with baseball.” Sing it, sister.
3:13 - So, Bill Johnson may not be so lovable anymore. You know, after he sprinted out of the stands and threatened to beat the umpire over the head with a beer bottle. Of course, he ran into his boss and has now lost his job. The pieces are now in place.
3:15 - Bill’s daughter is reading a Captain Marvel comic. A woman reading a comic book? It’s the exact demo that Marvel and DC have never bothered with.
3:19 - Yeah, but who doesn’t?
3:21 - A great piece of classic comedy. Bill gets a new job working on a telephone line. He goes to head down a manhole, but his head pops up everytime the radio announces a hit. This is actually quite good, so far.
3:23 - Oops. After getting drunk and watching the game, Bill has crossed up the phone lines. Oh, no!
As someone who has written about baseball for the last 19 hours, maybe this would be a good thing.
3:28 - We’re at the concept of the film. After losing another job, Bill’s father in law proposes that he becomes an umpire. Which is worst job a man can have, obviously.
3:32 - Hey, we’ve got Fred from “I Love Lucy”!
3:32 - And another solid bit. Bill walks in, putting on a fake pair of glasses and stumbling all over the room, hoping to be cut from umpiring school. This movie is chock full of solid bits.
3:33 - Bill Johnson will be now be rooming with Roscoe Snooker. Which is a hell of a name. Is there anything not great abou this movie?
3:35 - Roscoe Snooker and Bill meet and Roscoe can’t stop blinking because he’s still “excited” after being on the “porch swing” with his sweetheart. Yikes. I don’t think anyone wants to hang around then.
3:40 - More classic slapstick as Bill struggles with his new umpire’s gear. If you like people falling down a lot, these last five minutes were made for you.
3:44 - Naturally, Bill gets kicked out of the school, but while waiting for his train back home, there just happens to be a pickup game happening in desperate need for an umpire. I think this movie is about anarchy and the need for rules in modern society.
3:50 - Oh no, again! Bill overslept and accidentally used the wrong eyedrops, the ones that make you not be able to see! What hi-jinx!
3:53 - But what’s this, the eyedrops gave him double vision, so Bill called every pitch twice. But lo and behold, the minor league umpire scouts loved his unique style! Soooooo wacky.
4:01 - Oh no, one of the Longhorns players is going to try and bribe Bill. What wacky thing will happen next?
4:05 - Oh gee. A gunfight. We’re taking this “Kill the Umpire” thing really seriously. And now Bill’s fallen from the train. Could things get any more dire?
4:09 - Bill, while umpiring is beaten by the Texas fans before calling the game a forfeit. This is what I imagine it’s like in Texas everyday.
4:12 - Oh, how I wish this is what a real newspaper looked like.
4:13 - The Texas fans are literally planning to tar and feather Bill. This movie is a hoot. I tell you, it’s a real hoot.
4:18 - With the Texas fans prepared to storm the outside of the hotel, Bill and his family are setting fires around the hotel. Either because it’s a good way to sneak out in the rush or because they love setting fires, that question hasn’t been answered yet.
4:21 - Johnson had to leap from the window in a dress (natch) and now we’ve got a race against the mob. You know, a common occurrence in the minor leagues.
4:24 - With the gamblers in pursuit, guns blazing, Bill has to jet ski over concrete while riding a broken piece of a white picket fence. You don’t believe me, but again, an everyday occurrence in the minor leagues.
4:27 - They broke the injured catcher out of the hospital who announces to the crowd that Bill Johnson is A-OK. And everything’s better.
So what did we learn:
- Robot Umps? Never.
- Anger is one letter away from danger.
- We need rules and order in organized society.
And really, it turns out that “Kill the Umpire” is pretty good. I’d say it dips in quality after the first act, relying more on sight gags and slapstick than the first act so it gets a little tiresome, but it’s paced reasonably well and takes some interesting turns along the way. Especially for a movie from 1950. Unfortunately, these qualities are exactly what made this one not so great to live blog.