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Buckaroo Banzai (1984)


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This is a film you will either love or hate, but it has a deserved cult reputation, with all the hallmarks you would expect of such a movie. The plot is erratic, the acting variable and the effects passable, but for all the faults, it has a verve and wit that elevates it to the sublime. This is especially in regard to the superior production designs. The spacecraft and aliens are truly out of this world, the cast (and crew) are clearly having a crazy time and the lunacy of the situation ensures a wild ride for the viewer.

So why does it deserve a mention on this page? Simply because it has a wonderful reference to the Orson Welles War of the Worlds broadcast, and specifically to Grover's Mill.

Peter Weller plays Buckaroo Banzai, a multi talented scientist, rock star and brain surgeon, to name just a few of his many occupations. After completing a hazardous trip into the Eighth Dimension using his "Oscillation Overthruster" to flip his jetcar across the dimensional barrier, Banzai becomes mixed up in a plot by Eighth Dimensional "Red Lectoids" to overthrow a world known as "Planet 10". The Red Lectoids have been banished to the Eighth Dimension by their more enlightened brothers, the "Black Lectoids", but human meddling has allowed them to penetrate into our dimension. This meddling began long before Banzai's trip, and formed the backdrop to the "historical" events at Grover's Mill. We learn in fact that the Welles' broadcast was a cover for the first intrusion into our dimension by the Red Lectoids, and that the town of Grover's Mill is now home to "Yoyodyne Systems", a front company for the Red Lectoid Plot.

John Lithgow leads the Lectoids at Yoyodyne.The movie is a truly strange experience, populated by bizarrely named characters. For instance, all the Lectoids at Yoyodyne are named John and have surnames such as "Bigboote", betraying the total ignorance of the aliens and their attempt to blend in with human society. The cast is fantastic. John Lithgow turns in a trademark stellar performance as the insane Red Lectoid Buckaroo Banzai and the Hong Kong Cavaliers.leader, Lord John Whorfin. Ellen Barkin, Jeff Goldblum and Christopher Lloyd lend ample support and Peter Weller does a great job with the character of Banzai, playing him totally straight, yet with tongue clearly firmly in cheek. The movie cleverly borrows and subverts many sources, not least of which is the 1930's pulp and radio crime fighter "Doc Savage." For instance, Savage had his team of helpers "Renny, Johnny, Long Tom, Ham and Monk", all with specialist skills and knowledge, and Banzai has his "Hong Kong Cavaliers".

Various attempts have been made to revive the character, and in fact the end of the movie tantalizingly (and in a very pulp magazine style manner) alludes to a sequel, but despite some recent hope for an all computer animated Television series, it looks like The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai have come to a permanent end.

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See also in:

Comics

1974
Now Age Illustrated: War of the Worlds

Now Age Illustrated: War of the Worlds. A very obscure comic book version with art by renowned artist Alex Nino.

1976
Marvel Classics: The War of the Worlds

Marvel Classic Comics: The War of the Worlds. The novel gets a more extreme and faithful comic book makeover from Marvel.

2005
Best Sellers Illustrated: The War of the Worlds

Best Sellers Illustrated. The Martians invade in the early years of the 21st century in this post 9-11 re-imagining of The War of the Worlds.

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