Plot: Bill (William Bendix) has a passion for baseball, as he used to play the game and knows it inside and out. While a lot of people enjoy sports as a hobby, baseball is life for Bill and he has some problems on his hands, between his red hot temper and his inability to miss games. This has impacted is life in numerous ways, but he has the most issues with his work life, as his obsession with baseball has landed him trouble more times than he could count. He has called off work to attend games and is easily distracted when a game is on, which is how he was fired from his telephone linesman job. But his loving wife has had enough of his antics and if he doesn’t straighten up, he could lose a lot more than a baseball game. He is given the chance to train to be an umpire, which drives him nuts, as he hates umpires with a passion, but can he make it work and save his marriage?
Entertainment Value: I don’t think Kill the Umpire will go down as a comedy classic, but it is a brisk, enjoyable watch if you like old school comedies and William Bendix gives a memorable lead performance. The narrative is a fun one, as a lifelong baseball fanatic has to take on the role of his arch nemesis, the pesky umpire. The movie runs a fairly predictable path, but the story is fine and while Bendix’s Bill can be gruff, I think he is a good source of laughs. I do think perhaps some might not appreciate how mean spirited he can be at times, so if you need your leads to be likable all the time, Kill the Umpire isn’t going to deliver on that front. The humor is also never subtle, so expect a lot of sight gags and loudly delivered jokes, with most of the cast going over the top, to add extra punch to the lines. Not all of the humor lands of course, but I think enough does to make this worth a look. I also think it helps that Kill the Umpire clocks in at under 80 minutes, so the movie never feels drawn out. I wasn’t dazzled here, but I had a few laughs with Kill the Umpire.
I talked about this above, but the material here isn’t the best, so it was a wise choice to have a lead that could try to make the best of the situation. William Bendix does just that and while his performance is anything but subtle, his over the top antics can be fun and without question, improve the rather generic material involved here. He is loud, brash, and obnoxious, so his character might not resonate with everyone, but I found him to be humorous more often than not. But I can see how some might not appreciate the general nature of his character, especially in regard to letting his wife down time and again, so it is something to mention, I think. I always like to see Una Merkel in movies and I think she was fun to watch in Kill the Umpire, even if she didn’t get a wealth of screen time. A decent ensemble backs up Bendix, including Merkel, but the focus stays on him for most of the film’s duration. The cast also includes Gloria Henry, Connie Marshall, and Ray Collins, while Lloyd Bacon serves as director.