The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension stars Peter Weller – later to become the original and best RoboCop – in the titular role as the brain surgeon, rock musician and alien-battler, he’s got more strings to his bow than John Barrowman! (albeit without once being an annoying fuckwit)
Yes, I swore. But I swore positively. If Kevin Smith can swear in the Q&A on this disc, then so can I.
The film became a cult hit and is also another in the long line of Arrow Blu-ray premieres which I never saw first time round. In this case, it’s probably because while it looked cool on the video cover, I knew it would be cropped to 4:3, and thus wouldn’t be worth a look-in. I fucking hate pan-and-scan. Sorry, I’ll control my potty mouth now, but in the mid-90s I even went to the trouble of creating a full list of every widescreen video available, such was my passion for films in their original aspect ratio, and it also got printed in the fantastic Home Cinema Choice, as they shared my passion for this.
Sadly, when it comes to getting aspect ratios wrong, ITV, Channel 5 and even the BBC still retain this on occasion. In fact, after prolonged recent discussions with ITV, they maintain everyone loves 16:9 as it’s ‘family friendly’, and were proud of the fact that Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – a delight in 3D IMAX with 48fps – was perfectly okay when cropped to 16:9. And ITV wonder why their viewing figures are in the toilet.
Anyhoo, despite wishing I had seen this before, on the plus side fans can be proud that this Blu-ray is a version which does it justice. It’s in the original widescreen aspect ratio. The picture looks fantastic. It has a new DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio soundtrack. And it’s got a ton of extras.
Banzai is a man of many talents, but the only thing he can’t do is add to the meagre 12 chapters on this disc, or vapourise Mondays out of existence. I hate Mondays.
However, what he can do is drive his jet car through a wall of rock, coming out the other side, clearly having gone through to another dimension. The Eighth Dimension, in fact, and when he exits, he finds a mysterious brain-like item stuck to the underside of his car. This is all thanks to the oscillating overthruster inside. I think.
The accompanying cast is largely a cast to die for.
John Lithgow perfects with his split-personality character – Lord John Whorfin and Dr Emilio Lizardo, the latter of which is portrayed as an impression of Italian madman Mussolini, and he escapes from the clutches of the mental health service and into society, in search of the oscillating overthruster. He has nefarious uses for it, but I forget exactly what. This is a film that doesn’t always make a great deal of sense, but that doesn’t stop it from being entertaining.
Then there’s Ellen Barkin as Penny Priddy, who looks absolutely stunning in this film, but for a love interest she’s not in it half as much as I expected her to be. Banzai used to be married to her twin sister, Peggy, of which Penny seems to have no recollection. Why? Who knows. It doesn’t matter. Just enjoy.
There’s Christopher Lloyd, from Back To The Future, as chief alien John Bigboote (pronounced boot-ay)!
There’s Jeff Goldblum from everything!
There’s Clancy Brown – the sadistic prison officer in The Shawshank Redemption
There’s Vincent Schiavelli from Ghost! (who speaks the film’s sole f-word)
There’s Dan Hedaya from Joe Versus The Volcano!
There’s John Ashton from Beverly Hills Cop and Midnight Run!
And then there’s Jonathan Banks! From 48 Hours! Beverly Hills Cop! Under Siege 2! Simon & Simon! Cagney & Lacey! TJ Hooker! and one of my all-time favourites, Freejack*!
What *hasn’t* this guy done?
And I know he’s been in Breaking Bad, but I just haven’t had chance to get round to watching that beyond the pilot. At least I know, from that series, and Better Call Saul, that lots of people have seen his greatness.
(*Arrow, please do a special edition of this. It has never been released on Blu-ray either in the UK or US. It’s a cult favourite)
Some additional observations about The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension…
- In this film, their way of travelling through dimensions is very similar to that later used by Jean-Claude Van Damme in Timecop for time travel, which basically involves driving a vehicle very fast into a wall. How that ever passed health and safety, I’ll never know.
- The credits also suggest a sequel – Buckaroo Banzai Against the World Crime League. According to Wikipedia, the film would have focused on the League and its leader, Hanoi Xan. However, MGM now own the rights, having been passed on from the now-defunct Sherwood Productions and its successors, so any sequel is at their discretion. Personally, I can’t see it happening any time soon, but then Vin Diesel got 2013’s Riddick made after sorting out the financial backing on his own, since the studio weren’t bothered, so never say never. There’s also a fair bit of talk about the proposed sequel in the extras.
- Like I said, this is the first time in 31 years that I have seen The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension… and it’ll be another 31 years before the theme tune leaves my head 🙂
- And I know the first part of the theme has a nod to Star Wars in there, but part of it also reminds me of the ’80s TV quizshow Blockbusters!
- There’s also a machine powered by a watermelon, which sounds way offbeat, but then again, you can power a clock with an apple or other pieces of fruit, so maybe it’s ahead of its time?
- And with the end credits for this film, I can see where Wes Anderson got his inspiration for The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou.
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension is presented in its original 2.35:1 theatrical ratio and in 1080p high definition, and was created from a 35mm Interpositive on a Spirit DataCine at Ascent Media in Burbank, California. Additional clean-up was performed at Deluxe Restoration, and good God, it’s gorgeous. Arrow have knocked the ball out of the park with a number of recent transfers including The Long Good Friday and Society, and this is no exception. It looks fantastic on my Panasonic 50″ Plasma TV with a Samsung BD-P1500 Blu-ray player.
As for the audio, this DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio soundtrack was created at P.O.P Sound by MGM, and while I can’t remember a great deal going on in the split-surround department, there’s still a lot going on to keep up with the madcap visuals and plot, so no-one’s going to feel short-changed.
The extras are as follows, all recent ones (since 2011) are in HD, and Americans pronounce ‘Banzai’ as ‘Bonsai’. Maybe they’re fans of the popular Japanese brand of trees? We weren’t told:
- The Tao of Buckaroo (16:36): Peter Weller interviewed about his role in the film, plus his own musical talents – which he displays early on in this film, and he also talks about how the character of Buckaroo Banzai is like a combination of Adam Ant, Jacques Cousteau and the director Elia Kazan, as well as problems during the shoot such as replacing the cinematographer.
Both this and the next piece were shot in April 2015, exclusively for this Blu-ray release.
- Lord John (13:39): Now it’s the turn of John Lithgow, an actor who’s made for one of my favourite TV and movie baddies over the years, whether it’s hamming it up in this, or Cliffhanger, Ricochet, or Season 4 of Dexter, easily the best season out of the eight (to date) – although Weller also popped up in Season 5 as corrupt cop Stan Liddy. Here, amongst other things, he talks about how he’s rarely had as much fun making a production as he has with this one.
- Buckaroo Banzai Declassified (22:51): Made in 2002, this is the original making-of featurette for this movie featuring Weller, Lithgow, plus Ellen Barkin and director WD Richter, to name just four. It mixes clips from the film with chat from many cast and crew members.
- Lincoln Center Q&A (43:57): Filmed on October 15th 2011 at the 49th New York Film Festival (the intro caption states 48th, but the backdrop to the Q&A says 49th), this one does exactly what it says on the tin and features Weller and Lithgow being interviewed by the one and only, and big Buckaroo Banzai fan, Kevin Smith. So big a fan that he now owns a bus!
- Visual Essay by Mark Zoller Seitz (18:08): Clips from the film mixed with chat from Mr Seitz as he discusses various scenes and aspects of the film, nailing it on every occasion. A great companion piece to the film, but obviously, make sure you’ve watched the film first!
- Alternate Opening (7:14): It features Jamie Lee Curtis, but I’ll say no more. I’ll leave you to discover this for yourself. It’s viewable on its own or merged into the film. I will say that it uses the originally planned title of, simply, “Buckaroo Bonzai”.
- Closing Sequence (4:03): The ending without onscreen text. This will make more sense when you’ve seen the film. But then if you haven’t seen the film, why are you reading this in-depth extras when they might contain spoilers?
And I love it when Weller ‘skips’/turns around 🙂
- Deleted and Extended Scenes (14:17): 14 of them here. Nothing that needs to be put back in, but worth a look for all fans, for sure.
- Teaser Trailer (1:17): I love this. It’s a clip from the film interspersed not only with shots of the closing sequence, but also alternate shots/takes of that seuqence which didn’t make it into the final closing sequence. It’s brief, but it’s one of those great extras that make Blu-ray Special Editions like this so wonderful.
- Jet Car (2:26): A CGI piece put together in advance of a proposed Buckaroo Banzai TV series, back in 1988.
- Gallery: 166 images! Just a few, then 😉
- Banzai Radio (10:02): Terry Erdman, unit publicist for 20th Century Fox, interviewed in 1984 by Denise Okuda, talking about the film’s extensive promotion and the fans’ reaction to this. This segment first appeared on the US DVD release.
- Audio commentary: from director WD Richter, plus Reno of Memphis – aka Reno Nevada – from the Banzai Institute.
- Booklet: A great 12-page booklet with stills from the film and new writing on the film by critic James Oliver, “The Last Cult Movie?”
Subtitles are in English, and as you put the disc in, you get the closing scene walk with the theme that you’ll never get out of your head 🙂
They do, however, go completely off-script for a moment, around 38 mins into the film, including a line about smelling electricity, which comes spoken about two minutes later into the film. In fact, there are occasionally whole missed lines of dialogue, including a tannoy message while a helicopter lets down a rope ladder to Banzai.
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension is out now on Blu-ray and check out the full-size cover by clicking on the packshot.
Running time: 103 minutes
Distributor: Arrow Films
Released: July 20th 2015
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio
Disc Format: BD50
Director: WD Richter
Producers: WD Richter and Neil Canton
Screenplay: Earl Mac Rauch
Music: Michael Boddicker
Buckaroo Banzai: Peter Weller
Lord John Whorfin / Dr. Emilio Lizardo: John Lithgow
Penny Priddy: Ellen Barkin
New Jersey: Jeff Goldblum
John Bigboote: Christopher Lloyd
Perfect Tommy: Lewis Smith
John Emdall: Rosalind Cash
Professor Hikita: Robert Ito
Reno Nevada: Pepe Serna
President Widmark: Ronald Lacey
Secretary of Defense: Matt Clark
Rawhide: Clancy Brown
General Catburd: William Traylor
John Parker: Carl Lumbly
John O’Connor: Vincent Schiavelli
John Gomez: Dan Hedaya
Senator Cunningham: Mariclare Costello
Casper Lindley: Bill Henderson
Scooter Lindley: Damon Hines
Pinky Carruthers: Billy Vera
Mrs Johnson: Laura Harrington
Billy Travers: Michael Santoro
Lizardo Hospital Guard: Jonathan Banks
Radar Blazer: Robert Gray
Radar Blazer: Gary Bisig
Mission Control: Kent Perkins
Highway Patrolman: John Ashton
Duck Hunter Burt: Ken Magee
Duck Hunter Bubba: James Keane
National Security Advisor: Yakov Smirnoff
Artie Duncan: Leonard Gaines
TV Anchorwoman: Francine Lembi
Star Surgeon: John Walter Davis
Exhibitor: Read Morgan
John Yaya: James Rosin
Reporter: Raye Birk
Reporter: Jane Marla Robbins
John Gant: Kevin Rodney Sullivan
Black Lectroid Commander: Jessie Lawrence Ferguson
Marine Lt.: Radford Polinsky
Kolodny Brother: Sam Minsky
Kolodny Brother: Robert Hummer
Rug Sucker: Gerald Peterson
Sandra Banzai – Buckaroo’s Mother: Jamie Lee Curtis (scenes deleted)
Masado Banzai – Buckaroo’s Father – James Saito (scenes deleted)
Young Buckaroo: Greg Mires (uncredited)
Young Buckaroo: Matthew Mires (uncredited)
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.