Buckaroo Banzai (1984)
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
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.
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
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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