The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai
by W.D. Richter (Dir.)
Review by Ernest Lilley
MGM (Video & DVD) VHS Tape ISBN/ITEM#: B000050NS2
Date: 06 February, 2001 List Price $4.94 Amazon US / Amazon UK /
Runtime: USA:116 (uncut director's print)
Cast: Peter Weller (Buckaroo Banzai), John Lithgow (Doctor Emilio Lizardo/Lord John Whorfin), Ellen Barkin (Penny Priddy), Jeff Goldblum (New Jersey), Christopher Lloyd (John Bigboote), Lewis Smith (Perfect Tommy), Rosalind Cash (John Emdall), Robert Ito (Professor Hikita), Pepe Serna (Reno Nevada), Ronald Lacey (President Widmark), Matt Clark (I) (Secretary of Defense), Clancy Brown (Rawhide), William Traylor (General Catburd), Carl Lumbly (John Parker) Directed by W.D. Richter, Writing credits Earl Mac Rauch Buckaroo Banzai is a movie that set out to be a cult film, or at most a B genre movie--and succeeded admirably. It's a silly movie, I admit, but Peter Weller was a great choice for the hero and John Lithgow was an equally good choice for an alien villain. If fact, if you watch his performance today on Third Rock, you can almost see the Crazed and Alien possessed Dr. Lizardo trying to get his stranded crew of alien bad guys off this rock.
For an intentionally B movie the cast is incredible, though many of the actors were in earlier stages of their careers. There's also Christopher Lloyd, and Jeff Goldblum, Ellen Barkin as Buckaroo's love interest and a score of lesser knowns that keep popping up in Sci-Fi flicks.
The story is very campy-Sci-fi, and starts back in the 50s when Buckaroo Banzai's physicist father breaks through into another dimension and the alien criminal's imprisoned there take over John Lithgow and others.
Fast forward to Peter Weller as Buckaroo Banzai. Young, good looking, a charismatic natural leader -- with his team of colorful characters he battles everything from disease to dastardly villains and finds time to market his operation as a rock group and comic franchise. All out of his base in New Jersey.
New Jersey happens to be the same state where Orson Wells did a radio show about an alien invasion years ago--an invasion that actually happened according to the movie, when Lizardo sprang his buddies out of the dimensional lockup. Since then the aliens have been hiding out selling alien based technology to the military from their cover, Yo-Yo-Dyne Propulsion while waiting for a chance to escape from earth.
By the way, references to YoYoDyne keep springing up in SF, including, and I should be embarrassed to know this, a plaque in the engine room of the Next Generation's Enterprise.
Along the way we meet members of Buckaroo's organization, as colorful a lot of action heroes as one is likely to encounter in the Garden State, and we even see a few members of the far flung Blue Blaze Irregulars, volunteers pledged to help their hero in time of need. This is a frivolous movie, but I have to admit that part of me really wishes there were a Buckaroo Bonzai, I could promise to drop everything and help save the world for.
The film pretends to be one in a series of adventures by the daring Buckaroo. Though it's the only piece of the entire faux marketing dynasty it's supposed to represent that actually exists. Well, almost. The novelization for the movie, which came out in paper back has been know to sell for more than $50, as have copies of the original VHS. Also, there's a script for Buckaroo Banzai Veresus The World Crime League rumored to exist, though it's probably better if it never sees production.
The value of the original should still be safe, because the current VHS release is the Directors' cut, which is new. This is a movie begging for a DVD edition, complete with interviews and commentary. Unfortunately, they probably couldn't afford the cast at this point. Buckaroo Banzai may be cheesier than the the composition of the moon, but it deserves its cult status as a great piece of Sci-Fi camp.