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HTF REVIEW: "The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai across the Eighth Dimension!

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#1 of 35 ONLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted December 13 2001 - 11:57 AM

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The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai........

I can tell you right now that my personal opinions

of this movie are not going to be a popular amongst

members of this forum. I didn't get Buckaroo Banzai

when it was released by Vestron Video back in the

eighties, and I still don't quite get it today.

Yet, this piece of low-budget shlock has found a

cult following amongst people that have been

demanding for its release.

As far as I can place it, Buckaroo Banzai (Peter

Weller) is a gifted brain surgeon by day, a

nobel prize winning scientist by night, and a

rock guitarist on top of it all. He is the first

man to travel into the Eighth Dimension, a world

that makes sane men INSANE. Thus is the case with

the demented Dr. Lizardo (John Lithgow) who is after

Buckaroo's overthruster contraption that will enable

him to go back to the world he once penetrated.

Those of you that somehow view this movie as

some sort of cult masterpiece are going to be

extremely happy about the effort MGM has put into

this Special Edition release. This is one of

those releases that makes you shake your head and

say, "this came from MGM?!".

Frankly, I have seen MGM come a long way in a

short year. This Special Edition ranks right up

there with some of the better releases this year.

To begin with, the film sports an all-new anamorphic

2.35:1 widescreen transfer that is incredible. Picture

is very clean and the colors...oh the colors....so

vividly bright they are! There's a scene where

Banzai visits Penny (Ellen Barkin) in jail. To see

how natural her flesh tones look show that the

accuracy in transfer was given much consideration.

In another scene, we first meet New Jersey (Jeff

Goldblum) who is standing in front of the tour bus.

His rodeo shirt is vivid red. The character standing

next to him is wearing a tie that literally glows

neon blue. In another scene, a simple color of

a yellow telephone vividly jumps off the screen.

This transfer looks exceptional for a catalog title.

The audio is also something to rave about. With

a newly mastered 5.1 Audio Track, this soundtrack

packs a lot of punch. Though the rear soundstage

is reserved for music ambiance and occasional spaceship

and helicopter flyovers, it is the front soundstage

that packs the power. Sound is very bright with

terrific stereo separation. Even my SV SUBWOOFER

was extremely active throughout the film providing

rumbling bass throughout.

Once you pop the disc in, you are greeted with

an elaborate menu system that mimics the cockpit

of an alien craft with colliding asteroids outside

the window. When selecting PLAY MOVIE you are

presented with the choice of watching either the

Theatrical Version or Extended Version.

What I am unclear about is how much additional

footage has been added to the EXTENDED VERSION.

From what I could see in comparing, the EXTENDED

version has an alternate opening that gives a

clever background of Buckaroo's childhood and his

first encounter with Professor Hikita (Robert Ito).

This footage is just a tad rough around the edges

and I did notice a brief picture freeze as the

new footage switched back to the original (or vice


Looking at the back of the DVD box you would

be amazed at the list of extra material that

makes up the Special Features of this DVD.

To begin, there is commentary with Director

W.D. Richter and writer Earl Mac Rauch.

I was very upset to learn there were no English

subtitles included on this disc. Shame on MGM!

What has replaced the subtitles is an option that

can be turned on or off called Pinky Carruther's

Unknown Facts
. Totally in character as if part

of the entire organization, Pinky gives us facts

about each scene via text outside the widescreen

borders. Want to know how fast the jet car really

went? Want to know about Einstein's attempt to

break the time barrier? There's a lot of interesting

trivia that is presented to the viewer, but perhaps

not best to watch during initial viewing as it is


In case you choose not to watch the EXTENDED VERSION,

you can simply watch the added Alternate Opening

from the Supplemental area. As I noted, I am

guessing this is the only added footage to the film.

Buckaroo Banzai declassified is an elaborate,

newly created documentary that uses original interview

footage of all the major cast members from 1984 to

give an overview of the film. The funny thing about

it all is even the cast members have no idea what

this film is about or what genre it should be placed

in. Back in the year 2001, Director W.D. Richter

talks to us from a production mixing room. Dwelling

into archives, he picks out what he believes to be

original props and designs from the film including

what could be the original oscillating overthruster.

We see some interesting footage of make-up artist

Tom Burman explaining the mold process of creating

foam rubber masks that were worn by the alien

characters including John Lithgow. Careful attention

was given to keeping the actor's own facial features

intact through the masks so that they could easily

be identified on screen. We get a look at the clay

modeling of the Yoyodyne fathership and the smaller

escape pod. Richter talks about how much Jamie Lee

Curtis loved the concept of the movie and wanted a

role in it. The end result is her appearance in the

added opening sequence. You'll also find out why the

decision went down to remove that opening. The

documentary winds up with a look at the special

effects work that went into the film -- especially

all the jet car effects.

There are 14 Deleted Scenes that are rough

image workprints. They range from backstage with

the Cavaliers to Buckaroo telling Penny how her

sister was killed by Hanoi Xan. Fortunately, the

raw footage is shown inbetween the scene that

precedes it and follows it (in many cases) so that

you know exactly where that deleted sequence would

be placed.

A 3-minute promotional trailer, JET CAR TRAILER,

was originally produced in 1988 to promote a Buckaroo

Banzai television series. This digitally created

trailer seems a bit dated over 20 years later, but is

still interesting to watch. For fans, this must be

a real treat as this trailer could only be previously

seen at select science fiction conventions.

A creative Character Profile feature gives

us a multi-window look at the many characters of

the film. Click on any of the more than a dozen

character names and get a text profile that gives

the complete background history of that individual


Jet Car All Access shows us and tells us

everything we wanted to know about Buckaroo's

jet car. Supported with video, drawings and

mathematical schemes this seems to be a very

thorough overview of the car's design.

There is a Photo Gallery with dozens

upon dozens of publicity stills broken down by

the film's timeline as well as individual characters.

You'll also find many behind-the-scenes shots

of the cast behind the camera as well as the aliens

hanging out with Director W.D. Richter.

Banzai Institute Archives is a whole mess

of material thrown into one area including

technical schematics on the tour bus; publicity

material including radio and media interviews;

movie reviews; photos of access badges and even

Hikita's Diary written from the perspective of his


The film's TEASER TRAILER is also included.

To sum it all up....

It's bad enough when I have to sit for hours

going through the material found on Special

Edition discs from Fox, Dreamworks and Universal.

Now, MGM is putting out these elaborate DVD

Special Editions that take forever to wade through.

Not that I am really complaining -- actually, it's

amazing to see what a fantastic job MGM has done

with this DVD and it's great to see that the studio

is finally putting this kind of effort into their


I wish this had been a movie that I would have

personally enjoyed. I didn't. The film is just

way too out there for my tastes. Still, I understand

the impact this film has amongst many, and the

need for MGM to do something special for that fan base.

This is truly one of the very best discs to

come out of the MGM camp, and it is my hope that

MGM continues to put this kind of effort into future


Release Date: January 1, 2002


Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner


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#2 of 35 OFFLINE   Steve Tannehill

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Posted December 13 2001 - 12:10 PM

"No matter where you go, there you are." Count me as a member of the cult. I'll be in line January to pick this one up. Now if MGM can only apply the same attention to REMO WILLIAMS: THE ADVENTURE BEGINS. - Steve

#3 of 35 OFFLINE   Jack Briggs

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Posted December 13 2001 - 12:20 PM

Can't wait for this disc. Love the film! Part of its appeal lies in the deadpan, almost Mad magazine-like humor/satire. Some would call it "absurdist" humor. Here, it's cool that this polymorph of a talent is a test pilot, neurosurgeon, rock star, and comic-book hero--and still seems to take everything in stride. And those good-ol'-boy cronies of his add to the hilariousness of it all. Contrast that with Lithgow's over-the-top performance as Lizardo: While the Buck' and his pals act as if they encounter these sorts of situations every day, Lizardo is manic. "Real soon!"

#4 of 35 OFFLINE   Albert M

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Posted December 13 2001 - 12:30 PM

Thanks for the review. Add me to the BB cult list.

#5 of 35 OFFLINE   SteveGon


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Posted December 13 2001 - 12:33 PM

Finally! With the release of this dvd, I will gain access to all of Buckaroo's secrets! This will allow me to defeat him after which my evil minions from the Eighth Dimension will invade and conquer the Earth! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!!!! MGM, you are fools to release such information! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!!!!

#6 of 35 OFFLINE   Bill Buklis

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Posted December 13 2001 - 12:50 PM

Yeah, I know this movie is corny and cheasy as hell. But, I definitely have a soft spot [and an open slot on my shelf] for this movie. Great to here this is such a great disc. This bodes well for future cult/catalog titles like the upcoming UHF I've been anxiously waiting for.


Picture is very clean and the colors...oh the colors....so vividly bright they are!

[quote]This is great news indeed. I've only seen this film on TV and/or videotape and I always thought the colours were kind of muddy.
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#7 of 35 OFFLINE   David Lambert

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Posted December 13 2001 - 01:25 PM

I'm just wondering if I can time it somehow so that this one ends up as disc #1000 in my collection. A film I've enjoyed as much as this, deserves such a special place of honor. "Bigboote! My overthruster!"
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#8 of 35 OFFLINE   Alex Spindler

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Posted December 13 2001 - 03:32 PM

"Laugh while you can, Monkey-boy!"

I'm so completely there. I'll give you a brief overview of my feel for this movie. For about three months, I would go into video stores looking for used copies of this film. I would try to buy them off of the owner wherever possible. I finally got the movie while on business travel to South Carolina, in some place an hour from my hotel.

This is stupendous, and thanks for the news. I can finally retire my tape version and see it in all of it's widescreen glory.

In some ways, I think I might just have to play this anamorphic in a 4:3 mode just so the credit sequence looks familiar Posted Image

#9 of 35 OFFLINE   SpenceJT


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Posted December 14 2001 - 05:13 AM

This "Hong Kong Cavalier" will be first in line when it hits the shelves!Posted Image

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#10 of 35 OFFLINE   Mike Voigt

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Posted December 14 2001 - 05:49 AM

It has been ordered... Posted Image Can't wait...

I have searched for a long time for this title. I wanted the tape pretty bad, but even it was impossible to find for a decent price. Now, it finally arrives - and in a fantastic package to boot! Many thanks, MGM!

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#11 of 35 OFFLINE   Butch C

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Posted December 14 2001 - 05:52 AM

I cannot for the life of me figure out exactly what makes this movie watchable. Kinda wish they took the time to make other DVD's that impressive however.

#12 of 35 OFFLINE   Rob Scott

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Posted December 14 2001 - 07:14 AM


I cannot for the life of me figure out exactly what makes this movie watchable

BB seems to be a "love it or hate it" movie. It's easy to come up with reasons to hate movies, but can be hard to explain why you love them. I happen to love this one and I am really glad they sprang for the special edition treatment.

#13 of 35 OFFLINE   Jack Briggs

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Posted December 14 2001 - 09:43 AM

I wouldn't call this film "corny and cheesy." It's a very smart film; the humor shows genuine wit. "Someone in here is feeling sad."

#14 of 35 OFFLINE   Mike Russell

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Posted December 14 2001 - 09:49 AM

Count me in. This is defenitely one of my all time fav sci-fi cult films. Consider it purchased on release day. "It flys like a truck" "good, what is a truck?"
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#15 of 35 OFFLINE   MichaelG


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Posted December 14 2001 - 09:52 AM

I am in agreement for the most part. I saw it once years ago in college and didn't think it was nearly as good as my friends back then. I have no idea if I would like it now, but nothing great is burned in my memory.

But, this made me laugh!


this piece of low-budget shlock


Epstein's mother's Doctor!

#16 of 35 OFFLINE   LarryDavenport



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Posted December 14 2001 - 11:11 AM

Hoorah, I can now finally ditch my 15 year old, 10th generation dub of the BB work print for this brand spankin new DVD! Too bad it won't be in stores before Xmas.

#17 of 35 OFFLINE   Ron Shaw

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Posted December 14 2001 - 12:51 PM

Whatever happened to the sequel that was supposed to come out? I was told by an author friend (Kevin J. Anderson) who is pretty well plugged in that Peter Weller only agreed to do Robocop 2 if they would allow him to do the Buckaroo Banzai sequel. I guess not, huh?Posted Image

#18 of 35 OFFLINE   Richard Slay

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Posted December 14 2001 - 08:46 PM

I like this movie, but I can appreciate that it's very subjective. Thanks to Ronald Epstein for sitting through the vast supply of special features so we know what we're ordering. The movie came out here not long before Repo Man, and I will always remember local film critic Jeff Millar saying that Repo Man's budget must have been about the same as the catering bill for Buckaroo Banzai. I am glad these movies, so overlooked at the time, both have such great special edition packages. I also have a soft spot for Buckaroo Banzai because I sold two of the rare laserdiscs on E-bay for a total of about $150. They paid for many DVDs. Actually, I'm glad the DVD took so long to come out because I didn't want the guys who spent so much for my laserdiscs to feel bad. Favorite line: "It's not my god damned planet, monkey boy!"

#19 of 35 OFFLINE   David Lambert

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Posted December 15 2001 - 03:50 AM


Whatever happened to the sequel that was supposed to come out?


You mean Buckaroo Banzai vs. The World Crime League? It obviously never got off the ground.

But they are trying to get a weekly TV series launched in syndication. Check out The Banzai Institute.
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#20 of 35 OFFLINE   Dave Poehlman

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Posted December 17 2001 - 07:35 AM

Whats not to like in this movie? You have a galaxy of stars (Lithgow, Goldblum, etc...). Great comedy ("It's big boote' not big bootie!") Sci fi gadgets, aliens... a super intelligent, multi talented, hero.. who is part samurai. I can't imagine how you could not run out and buy this movie!?

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