It's a typical day in the life of Dr. Buckaroo Banzai; having completed a particularly tricky brain surgery and successfully piloted his Jetcar to test the "Oscillation Overthruster", a device he designed that allows objects to pass through solid matter, he finds himself drawn into an intergalactic conflict between warring alien species, the Red and Black Lectroids. With his nemesis Dr Emilio Lizardo having broken free from the Trenton Home for the Criminally Insane hellbent on securing the Overthruster for himself and the world on the brink of nuclear war, Banzai and his band The Hong Kong Cavaliers must uncover the truth behind what happened in Grover's Mill, New Jersey on October 30, 1938 whilst also protecting the suicidal identical twin sister of his late wife.
A 1984 B-movie homage starring a relatively unknown Peter Weller, narratively this is a mess and its hyper nerdiness means it could only ever have a niche following despite its towering $17m budget. And where exactly did all that money go? It certainly wasn't on the sets, lighting, camera, special effects or audio, though Sidey does have a theory. Barely establishing a cultural footprint despite the array of top 80's talent involved including John Lithgow, Christopher Lloyd, Ellen Barkin, Jeff Goldblum, Clancy Brown and Vincent Schiavelli, this is a real curio. Hard to recommend exactly but worth checking out if you're a fan of cult cinema.
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension
Sidey: Long movie title week for the midweek, or we've gone for the adventures of Buckaroo Banzai across the eighth dimension, even reading it. I get to start with that. Which you chose for reasons.
Reegs: Well, A few weeks ago, we did the room episode and we talked about Voltron, legendary defender, and a friend of mine he was the guy who liked legendary defender. He was big into cult movies, and I've watched this with him. And well, here we are.
Sidey: it's got a hell of a cost. Yes.
Reegs: It is a real who's who of like eighties means you've got Peter Weller, but he was an, an unknown we've got Christopher Lloyd. We've got,
Sidey: John earth go and embark in Jeff Goldblum. And that gays a from breaking bad.
It also makes an appearance,
Reegs: yes. Jonathan Banks.
Reegs: Oh, Banksy.
Sidey: But I must admit. that I Just didn't know anything about this had never heard of it didn't know existed. So this was completely fresh even though it's a 1984.
Reegs: as was that comment the first time around we've
Cause this isn't the first time we've tried to do
Reegs: no. So that was a genuine surprise to me.
The first time you told me that you'd not seen this, but maybe it hasn't had a cultural footprint. I don't know.
Sidey: Yeah, I dunno. I mean, we get onto it later, but you know, now it would be described as a cult classic. the reason things are called a cult classic is because they don't have, you know, an enormous wide reaching success. anyway.
Reegs: And this is an extremely ambitious, very plot, heavy exposition, heavy movie huge scope. But scenes of it made almost by like, I would expect the art ninjas movie to look better than some of this stuff. Because
Sidey: if you think of the eighties as the decade of excess, this movie is like that there's just too much Going on There's a lot of access
Reegs: where every idea under the
Sidey: not necessarily on screen, but there's certainly too many ideas possibly, but we're going through it because we're going to talk about what happens in the movie itself. Peter Weller people out there may or may not know who that is. He was Robocop, but in this is I guess a breakout role for him.
He plays the titular Buckaroo band. And I read him described as a polymath today, which I had to look up and that means. that He's a kind of expert in many different fields. So in this he's a neurosurgeon
Reegs: particle physicist.
Sidey: is in a band. He can do music
Sidey: yeah. He's he's got it all going on.
Reegs: you. Can you name it? And he's half Japanese as well.
Sidey: but they don't, they don't do that. So a dreadful makeup style thing. I think it's just, that was because that was the light martial arts side of it.
Reegs: maybe. Yes, maybe. So yeah, there's a load of technobabble now. And we see a car a 1982 Ford, F three 50 pickup with a jet engine
Sidey: It's been modified with a jet engine on it, which was a real thing that they Nick from the army.
Reegs: And there's a load of dialogue from like mission control. It's been actually borrowed from real sequences of launch, launching shuttles. It's just, technobabble over this jet car being prepared. Meanwhile Dr. Banzai Buckaroo Banzai, he's doing a brain operation with Jeff Goldblum. And he asks that he's so impressed with his assistance. He asks him whether he can sing, cause he wants him to join the band, which is called the Hong Kong Cavaliers. Yeah. And then Banzai having successfully completed the brain operation gets into his driver's gear and gets behind the wheel of the jet car.
Sidey: Yeah. It's, It's not just a kind of land speed record. They're going for There's something else going on because he attaches something into the car, which possibly has some significance, even though potentially quite budget. do we want to give the game away right out of the gate?
He basically he's an he's attached an oscillation. over thruster,
Reegs: And I know, you know, what that means Sidey and I'm sure most of the listeners will do as well, but for anybody who doesn't know the oscillation over thruster, it folds space to allow things to face, to pass through solid matter. And he tests it by driving his jet car through a mountain.
Sidey: It looks
the flux capacitor from back to future which isn't the only connections about the future. in this movie? It also Was a thing that was used five years later, five years down the line in star Trek, the next generation, the episode was called pen pals, It's where data breaks the what do they call it in their world?
We not allowed to interfere the first That's it? The project, if he breaks. I know. No, but So does happened, but it is essentially just Pipes with some LEDs on it, Yeah. But it does, it enables them to do this thing. And he,
Reegs: I love the idea of it though. Sitting as a prop in a warehouse somewhere and somebody
Sidey: like the arc, the arc of the covenant warehouse. Yeah. Yeah, he kind of, when he's doing this jet car thing, which. I Did most of them think it was just a speed thing.
Reegs: It seems to be that way because he sort of, at the last minute he looks to be sort of, he should be slowing down and then he just like, there's off.
Sidey: Yeah. Comically like 90 degrees into this mountain and just go through it where you then get some great eighties graphic VFX.
Reegs: Really top-notch going through
Sidey: Yeah. You see some creatures, sort of phasing in and out and stuff.
And there's some great synth work going on and it's all pretty cool. And so it works. They're able to go to the eighth dimension, but on his return, something has come back with him. some sort of alien creature with him.
Reegs: Well, he rolls out the car. Is it still moving? Did you notice that it was brilliant and and then yeah, he goes underneath it and there's this sort of brain thing just attached to the underside of the code.
meanwhile at the Trenton home for the criminally insane John Lithgo is watching on tele the stories of bands, eyes great achievements, and it prompts him to have a flashback to when he worked with professor Hickey, to who we haven't mentioned yet, but was a conspicuous character in the opening scenes.
Sidey: Yeah. I guess he's sort of like a partner slash mentor of. a Buckaroo. But many years prior he was working on the similar experiment, but with John Lithgo who at that point was slightly gung ho, but still, relatively normal looking where we're seeing. him, he's got some kind of crazy makeup going on.
Reegs: all blasted back.
Sidey: yeah, and I kind of fucking weird. accident
Reegs: Yeah, which changes throughout the movie, because later on, for some reason, he's, miscellany right near the end, he's got all metals on his thing and he's got long hair flopped over. It's amazing. But yeah, so basically it turns out the Lithgo sort of did this experiment.
He shouldn't have done it, testing his oscillation over thruster. It wasn't right. And he gets comically stuck between two dimensions
Sidey: which they illustrate. by having. Upper
through a, basically a cardboard wall and his legs dangling on the other side. And so he he is sort of half stuck in his other dimension. So the experiment sort of works, but not as well as Buckaroo.
And also when he comes back, he's been possessed by the evil leader of the whatever alien clan, the red lake droids.
Sidey: the accent.
Reegs: Yeah. So anyway, because he seen this all happened on TV. So that was a flashback now, Dr. Emilio Elizondo, John Lithgo. He wants to escape the hospital. He does it by knocking out, breaking bad Jonathan Banks in a moment where you go, oh yeah.
As soon as soon as he says anything, you know, oh, I know exactly who that is. And then there's a sequence in the night.
Sidey: Yeah, it's the, this is the Hong Kong Cavaliers gig.
Reegs: Yeah. And they're playing sort of bluesy synthy stuff and buckaroos on the lead guitar. He's got flip, flamboyant clothes on. He's absolutely amazing at guitar,
Sidey: but he can kind of sense that there's someone upset someone depressed.
uh In, in the audience.
Reegs: there in the darkness,
Sidey: what does he say?
Reegs: Where he says, he says don't be mean because the audience attention. And he's fishing everyone. We don't have to be mean. Remember, no matter where you go there you are, you know, there's sort of mindfulness expression about taking yourself with you wherever you go.
You'll find yourself there. That fans of the movie have latched onto as being quite profound about it. I'm not so sure, but it's a good little bit of philosophy anyway,
Sidey: Yeah. And they, they do a song, especially for her, but she Still, maybe this shouldn't like the song cause she attempted suicide and that is mistaken for an assassination attempt on Banzai, bizarrely.
Reegs: Yeah. But anyway, she gets into, she ends up in jail because Banzai staring at he's fascinated by her. And it becomes clear. The reason he's fascinated her is because she.
Exact double the twin, if you have his, of his late wife's yeah, she is his late wife long lost identical sister.
Sidey: Yeah. Yes, exactly.
Reegs: Yeah. So anyway, they have a press conference to talk about the rocket car and all that stuff. And you know, she's there for some reason and she explains it. And then he T he shows the horrible creature. He bought back from the eighth dimension with him. And then the president phones for him, Buckaroo the president's on the phone.
He's on a.
Sidey: Yeah, He goes off to the phone And is electrocuted through the telephone, which is unfortunate. And at that
Reegs: It makes him convulse. And then after he's finished convulsing, he writes on his hand. Did he notice that straight away? Right? It's on his hand. And then he shouts conference.
Sidey: room. Well, some guys come along and kidnap her Kita.
Reegs: Well, no. Cause when he gets back to the conference room, so he just, right. So he's been zapped by this electricity is written on his hand. He shouts conference room. They all run in there and when he gets back there, he can now see aliens.
Sidey: That's right. Yeah.
Reegs: They live style.
Sidey: it's very John Carpenter.
Reegs: Yeah. And cause he points and he shouts evil, pure and simple from the eighth dimension.
It's this brilliant like mega. Moment. Anyway, Christopher Lloyd is a bad guy. He's called gin big bootay. He's a red lecturer that now Buckaroo Banzai can see after being zapped by the VA. The, the electricity, there's a cool chase scene with a van that Peter Weller nearly gets killed by. Then right.
When we flummoxed our way through this, the first time this got really complicated, there's a lot of plot happens basically to the way that it comes about is that there's red electroids and black lectern. It's fighting. They came through the eighth dimension in 1938, and Austin Wells turned it into this story for war of the worlds, which was actually true and described how these aliens then came to live amongst us.
Sidey: and then they forced him to say that it was Fictional.
Reegs: And the alien set up this company called Yoyodyne propulsion systems because they want to make their own oscillation over thruster to get back to the eighth dimension to fight the other electrodes. So that's basically it
Sidey: that's right. Yeah. penny, who is played by Ellen Barkin. She has it, she has this oscillation thing It would bother me. that The MacGuffin,
Reegs: McGuffin. Yep. She got it in. I
Sidey: they don't know that. Yeah, that's weird. They don't, th the lecturers don't know that, but they have kidnapped her
Reegs: and they've taken her back to yo-yo
Sidey: Yeah. and they're torturing her to get this thing. Yeah. So Banzai then has to go and perform Some kind of rescue mission
Reegs: and the whole band storm, the the conclave.
Is that a word conclave? Yeah, it's an enclave. It's some sort of claim.
Sidey: I like conclave, It sounds like it should be right? Let's leave it in.
Reegs: They store met, but you're used to seeing an action movies these days. Like even like non, even non-actors looking sort of half competent militarily on screen, but these guys it's just like people wandering around with a garden light it's really budget.
And anyway, the whole, all of the electrodes end up going with Banzai back into space
Sidey: Yeah. There's all sorts of like pods. and spacecraft of various different guises. going on.
Reegs: I did actually think this bit at the end with the spaceships was quite good, but bands, I am one of the Rasta guys that we haven't even mentioned, the black LeCroy's they end up in a smaller fighter thing and this bit was okay.
They looked like a bit of money had been spent on it and they blow up the other one. And it's all hunky-dory well done. Banzai parachutes, back to earth.
Oh and then when he gets back a penny, that her name? She's dead.
Sidey: come to her presumably torturing injuries. So she's, she's a gunner, but he, he gives her a kiss and the electricity that he has presumably
Reegs: some reason from the phone call or yeah.
Sidey: Is able to bring her. back.
So That's good, isn't it?
Reegs: Yeah. And then, yeah, so they live happily ever after presumably and then the last shot of the first before the credits is a black lecturer saying, so what big deal at the camera?
And then some closing texts telling us to watch out for the next adventure of Buckaroo Banzai in Buckaroo Banzai against the world crime league.
Sidey: Which sounds quite entertaining. Then and this is my favorite part of the movie, the entire. cast, Just March up and down. One of those, what was it like an aqueduct, kind of thing, like a canal, like an empty canal, you know, like you see in terminal two with a big check and they just March up and down and just change direction really sharply.
And that goes on for the entirety of, the
Reegs: yeah. Which is good. Six or seven minutes. And,
Sidey: when they were doing it, When they were actually filmed with That it was two. Uptown girl by Billy Joel. And so. They had to do the score at exactly the same tempo. So that was quite nice. It's it looks almost like it could have been lifted out of and command
Reegs: Yeah. Yeah. It really is like so big. Yeah. So big and ridiculous that it looks like parody, but it, yeah, it kind of wasn't wasn't
Sidey: Do you know how much this cost to make.
Reegs: I don't,
Sidey: because we haven't probably got it across enough in our. discussion. It does look quite budget a lot of the time. Like really, quite budget
Reegs: because this story is huge as well. It spans, you know,
Sidey: idea after idea after idea. Yeah.
Reegs: everything is thrown at the screen.
I wouldn't have, I couldn't even guess a million dollars,
Sidey: $17 million. Wow. You just wonder where, the fuck did that guy? I think quite a lot of that went up people's nose probably. Do you think it made money or lost money? This one,
Reegs: Well, probably over time it might have made a bit of money, but not at the
Sidey: the statistic I have for it is that it made 6.3 million, which I thought actually was quite good considering because 6.3 million. I'm surprised it made that much. Gotta be honest with you.
Reegs: This is hyper hyper niche. This, this is like really nerdy Saifai comic booky. Galactica
Sidey: And there were comments, then there was a Marvel tie-in and there were some comments. Yeah.
Reegs: but this was way before any of this stuff had the kind of broad appeal that it has now. And it was so nerdy
Sidey: it's I would say it's one of those things that put people probably like it in the sort of mold of it's so bad.
It's good. But I don't know if, when they were making it, they were like, let's make a really funnily like shit movie. I think they thought this was good. I didn't like.
Reegs: And he didn't like it.
Sidey: No, not I thought I was really gonna, like it said, we didn't mention it this time round, but there's a, there's like the text crawl at the beginning of the movie that gives you a load of expedition has some like banging kind of synth music.
And I was like, oh, this is cool. You know, and it's got that. It feels like it's going to be fun. And it's got that throwback feel to it when you're watching it now, obviously, but then there's just so much going on.
Sidey: And you just feel like if we just carved some of this stuff out, it could've made a really good.
Reegs: Yeah, there is a lot of, like you said, ideas being thrown at the screen here.
Sidey: I didn't have as much. I thought it was going to really enjoy it. I just didn't have as much fun with it as I thought it was going to have.
Reegs: Yeah, that's probably fair. This was probably bad the second time round. Maybe it's a one to watch a few times when you know, a few moments in it that you can laugh at to anchor around the experience.
Yeah. This is not going to be for everyone.
The director was a guy WD Richter, and he definitely has a thing for big trouble in little China. Because he's adapted it more than once and did the screenplay for the video game. And he's got a TV series, I think about it. And he also did. He wrote the Jamie Foxx Jessica Biel, AI drone, movie thing.
Stealth. it? No. Peter Ray, well, it wouldn't be Robocop for another three years.
Sidey: But that's probably gotten the job, I guess
Reegs: Another connection in this movie was that the guy who did the music was called, did he see this? His name is Michael Boddicker.
Sidey: Yes, I did see that. Yeah. Another radical thing.
Reegs: Peter Willis still seems to be busy.
He does a lot of TV work and he was the voice of Robocop in mortal Kombat 11, the video game.
You still dining out on that.
Why not? Yoyodyne.com is a website. You can go on it and it's still, it's pretty basic, but it is still something that I think fans have latched onto and kept going. And at the bottom it says that their lawyers are Wolf from heart. it says, please refer to our lawyers will from heart, which the lawyers, lawyers from angel, from the Buffy universe So there's this like, or more nerdy stuff going on in there.
Reegs: Thing that struck me watching it this week that you can't. You know, see as being sort of Related to what's going on in the world because the aliens are kind of fighting a proxy war, using the Russians to nuke the Americans basically. And so that's the threat that's in the movie. And so you have got that cold war thing going on.
You have got this thing about what can happen if the wrong people get access to nuclear weapons. And then you've got another thing about. The unchecked power of greedy corporations engaged in like shady business while the government turns a blind eye, you've got some of that stuff going on. So
Sidey: yeah, a lot of eighties kind of classic themes, I suppose.
Yeah, there was some good stuff in this. It just wished I got some of the other stuff out and just focused on the good bits because I think there was a good movie, a really good movie to be had in there.
Reegs: This is where that cost. It's just amazing that I think not many people have heard of it.
Sidey: No, I was completely in RD drawing a blank. And it was, the title gives you the right feeling of what the movie is going to be like, I would say it
Reegs: difficult to recommend, isn't it?
Sidey: Yeah. I mean, there's sort of examples of this kind of movie, I suppose, but. I did, I did enjoy it. I wished on Friday night it was like a good Friday night movie to watch sit down and sort of Vedge out to but yeah, it's, it's like a five, six out of 10.
Reegs: I think what's hard when you've got do it for podcasts. And you think you've got to try and explain the general plot of a movie to people like that is quite hard with a movie like
Sidey: this. Yeah, definitely.
yeah, Should just watch it and see what you think
Reegs: it. Don't do a podcast about it.
Sidey: Yeah, Definitely