Saturday, January 10, 2015

SW Watches: The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimenstion

We have a fairly recently instated rule at League HQ that Friday movies must be "fun".  It's the end of the work week for me, and Jamie's usually worn out by this point - so it's the kind of night when we'll put on something with more than two Amigos, but fewer than four.

But we've also run through the pile of lightweight comedies of late, and I dusted off a DVD I'd purchased probably ten years ago and put it in, and when the DVD menu came up, I learned:  Jamie had never seen The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension.  Or, as most folks call it, Buckaroo Banzai.  

yes, all of these people are in this movie, and more...
I first saw the movie during its theatrical run.  The Admiral, being no dummy, drove us all the way across town to the one cinema showing the film.  As I recall, Steanso and I loved the thing, totally and with no hint of irony.  I had no idea it was a throwback to the Doc Savage concept of the super-human leader with his trusty band of do-gooders.  I just knew it had everything I wanted in a movie at the time.  A brilliant neurosurgeon/ particle physicist/ martial artist/ rock star hero (and what right thinking kid didn't want to be that in the mid-80's?).  Aliens.  Other Dimensions.  Space Ships.  Ellen Barkin.

I liked the movie a lot as a kid, and it was one we watched pretty often.  Not Ghostbusters often, but it cycled through once a year or so.  Every year as I got older, I realized more and more that it wasn't so much an action movie with a sense of humor as a really brilliantly cobbled together movie where all of the gags were delivered in this weird, understated way that didn't draw attention to itself, sometimes hiding behind bigger gags.  I mean, it's a movie where the president delivers lines like "Buckaroo, I don't know what to say. Lectroids? Planet 10? Nuclear extortion? A girl named 'John'?"

Back in the 90's when I was in film school we had a production management class that asked that we put together a prospectus for a movie, including similar films to show an investor the potential return on investment.   I figured my concept for a film was - of all films - sort of the in the same spiritual vein as Buckaroo Banzai, and so I looked it up.  And that's when I found out - the reason my dad drove us all the way across town to see this movie wasn't because it was an arthouse movie or because he just wanted to spend time with us en route to the movie - damn well nobody saw this thing during its initial run.  I grossed something like $6 million against a $17 million budget.  

Again, this movie stars Peter Weller, Ellen Barkin, Christopher Lloyd, Jeff Goldblum and is a sci-fi sort of thing you'd think would have done well, but nobody out there seemed to want to see this thing.
According to a pal of mine who read the novelization, there was all kinds of backstory and an arch villain we would have seen in the promised "World Crime League" sequel**, all of which was cut from this film.  Of course, I don't think the studio probably knew what to do with the movie, if the cuts that took place are any indication.  Including am opening starring Jamie Lee Curtis.  And I cannot fundamentally agree with cutting Jamie Lee Curtis out of anything.  I'm not sure all what was left out, but what's on the screen works as a modern (for the 80's) nod to that past era while making it something new (and awesome).

I'll assume that, unlike Jamie, you've all seen the movie.  So I won't bother with details.  But I will encourage all of you to give the movie another viewing.  It had been maybe ten years since I'd watched it straight through, and held up even better than I'd remembered.  And I liked this movie the first time.  

It seems that the DVD has a lot of extras I didn't dig into 10 years ago, but I'll be taking a look at them over the next few days.  I'm pretty stoked.

Watched at:  League HQ on DVD
Watched with:  Jamie

*This led directly to me realizing I was going to be terrible at movies and to begin to question my whole "I'm gonna be a millionaire movie maker" plan.
**that explains why Hong Kong Cavalier "Pecos" is in Nepal at the time of this story


Paul Toohey said...

I'd recommend you check out Tapeheads if you haven't seen it, or watch it again if you have. It's great.

The League said...

We love The Swanky Modes!

"Tapeheads" was one of my favorite movies in high school, but it's been years since I've seen it. I'll see if I can get my hands on it. But, yeah, I still use the term "production value" when I watch certain movies.

JAL said...


The League said...

I often felt like the Ivan to JAL's Josh.

Jake Shore said...

Ashamed to say, I've still never seen this. Landed on while channel-surfing several times, but never could commit.