The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai:
Across The Eight Dimension!

Title: The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai
Rating: PG
Release Date: January 4, 2002
Running Time: approximately 102 minutes
Ten-second Rundown: A new wave renaissance man and his back-up band save the world from alien invasion and total destruction.
Version: Special Edition

  • Commentary by director W.D. Richter and Hong Kong Cavalier Reno

  • Pinky Carruther's Unknown Facts subtitles

  • Alternate Opening featuring Jamie Lee Curtis

  • "Buckaroo Banzai Declassified" documentary

  • 14 deleted scenes

  • Photo gallery

  • Theatrical teaser trailer

  • Teaser for television pilot

  • Banzai Institute Archives

  • "Jet Car All Access" schematics

  • Character Profiles
  • Choice Scene: Alien dictator John Whorfin rallies his Lectroid troops: "Where are we going?" "Planet 10!" "When are we going?" "REAL SOON!"

    Tech Specs: Widescreen, aspect ratio 16:9, English 5.1 surround sound, French mono, subtitles in French and Spanish.

    As director W.D. Richter admits in his commentary, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai pretty much defied description when first released. Not really funny enough to be labeled a comedy, and too weird to be action, this cult movie died a quick but undeserved mainstream death.

    Once you watch the included theatrical trailer, you'll understand why. Relying heavily on the closing title footage of Buckaroo and his Hong Kong Cavaliers marching around an aqueduct, it had to leave audiences scratching their heads and longing for the simplicity of Flashdance. Especially when Jeff Goldblum appears in his cowboy outfit.

    In a nutshell, Buckaroo Banzai (Peter Weller) excels at a variety of disciplines, martial, musical, and scientific. The film opens as he performs delicate neurosurgery on an Eskimo, then recruits his fellow surgeon (Jeff Goldblum) to join The Banzai Institute. But to be a member of the elite known as the Hong Kong Cavaliers, you can't just be brilliant; you also have to be able to rock.

    From the surgery Buckaroo heads to the desert where he tests his jet car, designed by sidekick (and engineering whiz) Perfect Tommy (Lewis Smith). At least, that's what the government thinks is happening. In actuality, Buckaroo intends to complete the work of his father, killed under mysterious circumstance thirty years earlier. Using his father's oscillation overthruster, Buckaroo drives his jet car straight into a mountain, traveling through the eighth dimension and attracting the interest of Dr. Emilio Lizardo (John Lithgow), a pioneer in the same field now possessed by an evil alien overlord, John Whorfin.

    And that's all just the first ten minutes. Definitely a movie that inspires either love or hate, its central joke presumes that a viewer has more than a passing familiarity with the characters, even though they had never appeared before. Some dismiss it as being like a comic book, but the film borrows from the older tradition of the pulps and their later deconstruction by science fiction writer Philip Jose Farmer. In a way, it echoes Spinal Tap, except that Banzai would never take things so lightly. The filmmakers would have you believe that it is a docu-drama, purposely fictionalized but approved of by the real Dr. Buckaroo Banzai.

    If it weren't so much fun, you might call it performance art disguised as a franchise. The novelization, by screenwriter Earl Mac Rauch, carried the conceit more effectively, as it filled in a few more details. MGM's new DVD release piles on even more detail in the extras, to the point of exhaustion. The world of Buckaroo Banzai has been better thought out than you know.

    Fans will absolutely go bug-nuts over it, which is convenient, since most of the extras are aimed at die-hard fans. You do not actually have to have membership in the Blue Blaze Irregulars, but you should know what that means to get into the stuff here. (Don't tell my wife I actually have a membership card.)

    Rauch and Richter provide plenty of background information on both the film and the outside lives of their creations. In a documentary exclusive to the DVD, Richter purports to be interviewed at The Banzai Institute, discussing the difficulties in making the film, especially since Banzai would not give them any photographic reference for the actual events.

    The Institute Archives, opened here for the first time, give a lot of insight into the psyche of Buckaroo Banzai. Among the documents to be found are the album covers and song lists for the Hong Kong Cavaliers discography ("very popular in East Texas"). If you have the patience, you can even slog through a print interview with Banzai himself, conducted by Cavalier wordsmith Reno, played in the film by Pepe Serna.

    Rauch also wrote as Reno for the novelization (recently reprinted) and most likely poses as him for the commentary, though in speech "Reno" is not nearly as articulate as the reputation the two creators have built for him.

    All this makes the extras a bit alienating. If you like behind-the-scenes stuff because you want to know how a movie was put together, what kinds of real challenges were faced, this DVD will not satisfy. Though Richter comments as himself, he maintains the fiction of sitting in the studio with Reno, and acts wary of spilling secrets or displeasing Banzai. Occasionally you can cut through the art and see the real reasons why things were dropped. Numerous references to Hanoi Xan, Buckaroo Banzai's archenemy, had to be excised - Richter says because Banzai felt that Xan should not be made light of, but really, leaving them in would have been even more confusing to the average viewer. But most of the time it just feels like the joke's on us.

    Leaving out most of the extras, the real question is whether or not the film is worth it. The answer is yes. The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai remains a goofy, quirky, and interesting film worth its reputation, and MGM has treated it so.

    Though the film was low-budget, it was meant to be seen in a wide-screen format, and this DVD is the only way you'll get that. Subtleties to the score have been restored (though sadly, according to Richter, the score has never been released as an album). Plus you have the option of watching the film with the long lost opening sequence with Buckaroo's parents. Not crucial to the film, it nevertheless does a clever job of providing background without being too geeky.

    The commentary hints that this may not be the last assault from the world of Buckaroo Banzai. Richter and Rauch shopped around a pilot a couple of years ago, the test film from which gets included on this disc. MGM now has the rights to pursue that idea, and may be testing the waters with this release.

    Let them know that they've got the right idea.

    Derek McCaw


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