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W.D. Richter's "The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension"
August 19, 2012 3:11 PM   Subscribe

... Buckaroo Banzai is paradoxically decades ahead of its time and yet completely of its time; it’s profoundly a movie by, for, and of geeks and nerds at a time before geek/nerd culture was mainstreamed, and a movie whose pre-CG special effects and pre-Computer Age production design were an essential part of its good-natured enthusiasm. What at the time was a hip, modern take on classic SF is now, almost thirty years later, almost indistinguishable from the SF cinema that inspired it in terms of the appeal to modern viewers: the charmingly old-fashioned special effects, and the comparatively innocent earnestness of its tone. - Danny Bowes

The "expanded universe" begins with the novelization by screenwriter Earl Mac Rauch and continues with a series of graphic novels by Moonstone Books.

Until the RPG ships, you can pass the time with the Scott Adams interactive fiction game.
posted by Egg Shen (119 comments total) 79 users marked this as a favorite

 
Until the RPG ships, you can pass the time with the Scott Adams interactive fiction game.

> TUG
Don't tug on that, you never know what it might be attached to.

> _

posted by George_Spiggott at 3:16 PM on August 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


I have seen the film three times, though not in many years now. Each time, it struck me that this *should* have been an amazing film franchise, right up there with, say, the Indy movies. The concept is just that awesome. It didn't happen, but I don't buy that the audience at the time just wasn't ready for it; the film itself is just poorly executed enough to be a near-miss. If it had fallen into the hands of a more talented director, we probably would have more than one Buckaroo film to look back on.
posted by /\/\/\/ at 3:21 PM on August 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


I first saw this film at the Lawrence Hall of Science, with a lecture. I then saw it many, many times as a double feature with Repo Man at the UC Theater on Thursday nights.


Big Boot-AY!
posted by chavenet at 3:25 PM on August 19, 2012 [9 favorites]


"Wherever ya grow, there ya are."

-- Buckaroo Bonsai
posted by Malor at 3:25 PM on August 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


For the record, this Scott Adams isn't, uh, Mefi's Own Scott Adams. But, in an odd twist, it is the same Scott Adams who created that bizarre Hulk text game featured yesterday on the blue.
posted by Ian A.T. at 3:29 PM on August 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


It is, and always will be vastly underrated as a film. Unfortunate as it has a sense of chaotic fun that is hard to bottle. It's also a good Geek litmus test. For me at any rate it has never failed to see if someone is on the same humour 'wavelength' as me.
posted by Faintdreams at 3:31 PM on August 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


I saw it again earlier this year at the Alamo in one of their revival film series, and I was afraid it wouldn't stand up to my memories of it. I was surprised at how well it did.
posted by immlass at 3:34 PM on August 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Had a film professor at NYU who described the movie as "the only movie I have ever seen that categorically defies description."
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 3:40 PM on August 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


Had a film professor at NYU who described the movie as "the only movie I have ever seen that categorically defies description."

Really? I just describe it as "Totally awesome."
posted by Tomorrowful at 3:42 PM on August 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


My love for this film has continued, pretty much unabated, since I saw it during it's initial release. Straight to Hell is, perhaps, more quotable, but more of an acquired taste.

Buckaroo Banzai is not an acquired taste; it is a taste that acquires you.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:49 PM on August 19, 2012 [9 favorites]


What Buckaroo Banzai does best is realize its own world. This is an amazing world where of course a man can be a superscientist and a brain surgeon and a rock star, and of course such a person would be a beloved celebrity with his own comic book and nationwide youth organization, and a band of assorted companions who...

...oh my god. Nevermind Doc Savage; take out the rock star part and Buckaroo Banzai is Jonas Venture.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:52 PM on August 19, 2012 [20 favorites]


"Laugh-a while you can-a, Monkey Boy. I'm-a goin' home!"

Also, "I'll explain later," , a la the watermelon scene, is used pretty regularly around here. This was, and continues to be, a stupendously awesome movie.

(spoiler: nobody ever explains why there was a watermelon on the table)
posted by jquinby at 3:53 PM on August 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


Terrific ending sequence.
posted by steinsaltz at 3:54 PM on August 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


Along with WarGames and Real Genius, the first DVDs (and Blu-Rays) I ever bought.
The DVD special features were very well done.
posted by mrbill at 4:01 PM on August 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


nobody ever explains why there was a watermelon on the table

DVD special features. 8-)
posted by mrbill at 4:07 PM on August 19, 2012


I mean, Weller...Barkin...Lithgow...Goldblum...Lloyd...Smirnoff...Schiavelli

HOW COULD THIS NOT BE CLASSIC
posted by chavenet at 4:15 PM on August 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Picking up on something related to what Pope Guilty said, one of the things I especially like about this movie is that, unlike most other superhero films, it's not an origin story.

The viewer is thrown into the action with the assumption that you'll pick up on the details of Buckaroo's back story as needed. However, all the jumping around from operating room to desert proving grounds to the 8th dimension to rock club to Lizardo's flashback sequence does make the first third of the movie kind of confusing for the first-time viewer. Maybe that's one reason why it didn't do better at the box office.

Still, I wouldn't mind living in a world where I could be a Blue Blaze Irregular, monitoring my shortwave radio so that I'd be ready to aid Buckaroo and the Hong Kong Cavaliers at a moment's notice. Look out, World Crime League!

(On a related note, it's kind of weird to think that Damon Hines, the actor who played the Cavaliers' young friend Scooter Lindley, must be in his 40s now...)
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 4:15 PM on August 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


(On a related note, it's kind of weird to think that Damon Hines, the actor who played the Cavaliers' young friend Scooter Lindley, must be in his 40s now...)

And was in every Lethal Weapon movie...
posted by chavenet at 4:19 PM on August 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


About ten years ago, I started doing some freelance design and UI work for a work acquaintance. As we got into the thick of things, I needed to populate screens of user data with fake information, so I did what I usually do–a list of names starting with John Ya Ya, John Bigbootee, John Smallberries, John ManyJohns, etc.

When he pulled up my comps and we looked things over, he (quite uncharacteristically) became animated, pointed at the screent, and yelled out, "BUCKAROO BANZAI!!!" The next hour was wasted with a detailed discussion of the movie. It was the beginning of a long and fruitful friendship.
posted by idiotking at 4:20 PM on August 19, 2012 [14 favorites]


Somewhere around here I still have my Yo-Yo Dyne Propulsion Systems T-shirt. It's a growing, exciting place to work!
posted by dobbs at 4:24 PM on August 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


That's right, chavenet, I'd forgotten that Hines played one of Danny Glover/Roger Murtaugh's kids, too. Hines' imdb listing is reasonably full through the 80s and 90s, and then it looks like he didn't do much acting for a while before turning up in a small part on a sitcom this year.

I dug the characters of Scooter and his helicopter-piloting dad, who was played by Bill Henderson, the jazz singer and actor who also had roles in several of Clint Eastwood's films, and in tons of other stuff too.
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 4:27 PM on August 19, 2012


I wish that movies nowadays had that sort of glee. Now it's all cynicism and self-referential-ness to the goddamn nth degree.

One of my favorite exchanges:

Buckaroo: Don't worry, it drives like a truck.
Alien: Good. What's a truck?

Is John Smallberries taken for a username?
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 4:35 PM on August 19, 2012 [9 favorites]


I've read that during the process of writing it, rauch wrote like a dozen unfinished screenplays, I wish somebody would go back and develop them.
posted by empath at 4:37 PM on August 19, 2012


LIKE LIKE LIKE

YES YES YES

The sweetest part of all of Buckaroo Banzai, is that there was only one, so it was never ruined. That reminds me, the kids and I need to watch this again.
posted by roboton666 at 4:55 PM on August 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


My Junior High best friend and I were actually supposed to be seeing Starman the day we saw this; we got to the theater too late and it was sold out, so we studied the box office, saw Buckaroo Banzai was about to start and shrugged and got tickets.

When we walked out after the film, I think we actually made it all the way out through the lobby and out to the sidewalk before either of us spoke; we were too busy processing it. When we got outside, we stopped, turned to each other, and grinned and shrieked "that was AWESOME!" We spent the whole rest of eighth grade baffling everyone we knew by asking about why that watermelon was there and dropping "Laugh-a while you can, monkey boy!" into conversation at odd moments.

I've since shown it to adult friends when they say they hadn't seen it; and I'm talking full-on nerd friends. But strangely, none of them seemed to be as taken as I thought they'd be. I think that it's the kind of film that you have to see when you are twelve or thirteen or fourteen; when you're still open to that kind of twisted mayhem.

Two last anecdotes - a friend of mine once ran into John Lithgow here in New York, and after the stammering "wait - you're..." thing, the only thing she could think to say was "I just re-watched Buckaroo Banzai and you were great?" John Lithgow reportedly laughed and asked, "were you sober?" And in my case, I once had Jeff Goldblum accidentally blunder his way into a rehearsal hall I was in, and someone asked me to show him the somewhat byzantine way to the stairs and out to the street. I was in work-mode, so I was warning myself the whole time that I Had To Stay Professional; so I just followed orders, showing him to the stairs and telling him to turn left at the top of the stairs and he'd be out on the street.

I am still kicking myself for not stopping him as he was turning to go and asking "I'm sorry, Mr. Golblum, but I just need to know - what was that watermelon doing there?"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:03 PM on August 19, 2012 [11 favorites]


This is incredibly timely, as I am at this moment stuck in an airport reading the novelization. This is my very favorite movie and I had no idea the RPG was coming. Preordered. When I was 8, the Last Starfighter was everything I wanted my life to be. At 10, Buckaroo Banzai took over and hasn't let go since.
posted by adamdschneider at 5:06 PM on August 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


(On a related note, it's kind of weird to think that Damon Hines, the actor who played the Cavaliers' young friend Scooter Lindley, must be in his 40s now...)

Say what?!
posted by adamdschneider at 5:07 PM on August 19, 2012


The closest thing to a sequel that Buckaroo Banzai has is Big Trouble in Little China.
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:11 PM on August 19, 2012 [15 favorites]


Hey man, nice jacket! What's in the big pink box?
posted by Auden at 5:19 PM on August 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


I have fond memories of my Blue Blaze Irregulars fan club membership. I think I still have some oid the zines stored away somewhere, along with my Blue Blaze Irregular t-shirt and that absolutely brilliant novelization.
posted by happyroach at 5:21 PM on August 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


computech_apolloniajames: "I wish that movies nowadays had that sort of glee. Now it's all cynicism and self-referential-ness to the goddamn nth degree.

One of my favorite exchanges:

Buckaroo: Don't worry, it drives like a truck.
Alien: Good. What's a truck?

Is John Smallberries taken for a username?"



It is indeed taken.

This would have been a perfect movie if it wasn't for the damned monkeyboys winning out at the end. I always cry at that part.
posted by John Smallberries at 5:22 PM on August 19, 2012 [47 favorites]


This was the first time I had seen a film that seemed to lift directly from the pulp conventions of 1930s and 40s movie and book serials -- a sort of new wave, grown up boy detective story, like I Love a Mystery with sci fi trappings. And the thing about those old serials is that they would run for years, and there was no expectation that they would ever be repeated, and so there was absolutely no continuity. And so the character might be a skilled surgeon one episode and a year later never have been a doctor but was a trained pilot instead.

And Buckaroo Banzai is like that story, but they never forgot any of the skills the gave him out of plot needs. And so he is a surgeon and a pilot. And a rock star. And a and a and a. And all his gang were likewise skilled at a preposterous number of things, because none of their plot-needed character traits had ever been dumped.

We should be in a world filled with Hong Kong Cavaliers.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 5:28 PM on August 19, 2012 [19 favorites]


In the novelization, there is a crap-ton of off the main topic side plots and enough of them refer to something written in the 30's or 40's to make me believe that the novel is like a more rarefied "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" (The comic, not the movie.) Anyone know of a good annotation site?
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:31 PM on August 19, 2012


Also, a friend of mine describes entering the theater late and missing the lump of exposition text at the end of the opening credits. He says that makes the movie about 100 times better since there isn't a long boring lift hill at the beginning. You just strap yourself in and start on the first drop.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:34 PM on August 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hell, even the closing credits are awesome. (Rumor has it that when they were filming it, they of course didn't have the music ready, so they had everyone walk around that empty reservoir to the tune of Billy Joel's "Uptown Girl.")

Also - is it just me or does Buckaroo's outfit in the credits look a lot like Matt Smith as The Doctor?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:36 PM on August 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Earl Mac Rauch also wrote Scorsese's New York, New York. Weird.
posted by cazoo at 5:39 PM on August 19, 2012


I find it appropriate that Egg Shen did a post about Buckaroo Bonzai.
posted by K0dama at 5:41 PM on August 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


beedle deep, deedle deep.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:41 PM on August 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Almost nobody I know understands when I say "home is where you wear your hat."

I need new friends.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:43 PM on August 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


This is why, on my first trip to LA as I was contemplating a whole new life, when my then it's-complicated and his friends asked me what I wanted to see first, I said "Ooh, ooh—Sepulveda Dam!"

None of these longtime Angelenos had a clue as to how to get there, so we went to Florence and Normandy and reenacted the Reginald Denny beating instead. That's neither here nor there, but you always need a backup plan.

Now, as for me, I'm glad there were no sequels, which would have gone nowhere good and just sullied the original. Instead, we're left with the sort of suggested volume of work that could have been, and that's a great thing that, say, George Lucas might have considered. The question left unanswered can be a very good thing.
posted by sonascope at 5:44 PM on August 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


I had no idea the RPG was coming. Preordered.

The "coming summer 2012" used to be "coming spring 2012" and might better be stated as "it'll be ready when it's ready and you really shouldn't hold your breath."
posted by Zed at 5:45 PM on August 19, 2012


I love that movie but if Michael Moorcock were Harlan Ellison, he would have sued for plagiarism. Banzai was so an American Jerry Cornelius.
posted by octothorpe at 5:48 PM on August 19, 2012


I find it appropriate that Egg Shen did a post about Buckaroo Bonzai.

I was going to mention that as well. Apparently, there is not much truth to the rumor that Big Trouble in Little China is a rewritten sequel to Banzai, but I'm going to go ahead and believe it anyway, because that's a story from a better world.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 5:49 PM on August 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


I love that movie but if Michael Moorcock were Harlan Ellison, he would have sued for plagiarism. Banzai was so an American Jerry Cornelius.

I bet there is not a day go by that Moorcock does not express gratitude that he is not Harlan Ellison.

I mean, mad respect to Ellison, but he's the sort of crank that I get the feeling is made deeply unhappy by his crankiness.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 5:51 PM on August 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


the film itself is just poorly executed enough to be a near-miss. If it had fallen into the hands of a more talented director, we probably would have more than one Buckaroo film to look back on.

The film is/was perfect as-is(was). Trust me. I was there. Opening night. Thwacked on very good, clean acid. As I recall, we hadn't intended on seeing a movie that evening. It just sort of happened. We were downtown anyway. It started raining hard ...

The turning point was that moment where they get around to the big reveal
(*SPOILER ALERT*)
that Orson Welles' War of the World had not been a fake, had in fact been a real alien invasion, but then the aliens got to him and forced him to declare it a fake.
I recall starting to laugh. It was one of those slow rising things that come from very deep, like a volcano. I'd never encountered humor like this before. My whole life had been building toward encountering humor such as this.

I still haven't stopped laughing really.
posted by philip-random at 5:55 PM on August 19, 2012 [14 favorites]


Buckaroo Banzai is a bit like the Velvet Underground, not a lot of people saw it or dug it but the people who did got switched on and went "Okay yeah I want stuff like this."

Thus we end up with the Venture Brothers, the comic-tragic version AFTER all the adventures are over.
posted by The Whelk at 6:00 PM on August 19, 2012 [9 favorites]


Somewhere I heard the story behind the watermelon. It's there for two reasons. The fictional reason was that it was a R&D project in feeding the hungry in remote (conflict?) zones. A little hazy on this, but I think they were vitamin enriched and could be dropped from airplanes. It fits in well with the opening scene where Buckaroo is performing brain surgery to help an Eskimo boy throw a harpoon again. And how he stops the show in the middle of a ripping pocket trumpet solo because he notices Penny Priddy crying.

The production reason was something to the effect that they planted that scene to see if the people holding the purse strings were still paying attention - apparently there was some flack from the suits early on in production. When no one bothered them about it, they knew they could finish the film with free reign.

Perhaps it goes without saying, but the chemistry between the actors as well as individual performances is the key to the charm of this movie. Easy to imagine one or more sequels, but not with a much different cast. That was awesome.
posted by AppleSeed at 6:07 PM on August 19, 2012 [10 favorites]


Mission Control: Buckaroo, The White House wants to know is everything OK with the alien space craft from Planet 10 or should we just go ahead and destroy Russia?
Buckaroo Banzai: Tell him yes on one and no on two.
Mission Control: Which one was yes, go ahead and destroy Russia... or number 2?
posted by kirkaracha at 6:15 PM on August 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


Ghostbusters 2 did not sully the original. All that noise is just that.
posted by Brocktoon at 6:17 PM on August 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


something to the effect that they planted that scene to see if the people holding the purse strings were still paying attention

It's a good thing they didn't spook the money people, because then they'd never have been able to shoot that amazing scene in which Dr. Lizardo cops a Maserati Bora and cracks it up two blocks away, and we would have had to settle for hearing Rawhide or somebody describe it. And somebody else -- Perfect Tommy, maybe -- repeating "Maserati Bora" just to help that detail stick.
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:19 PM on August 19, 2012


It was on Fox, back when that network was nothing but old reruns and syndication, constantly. They used to run Saturday afternoon movies, meaning that my Saturday was always shot. I had cartoons in the morning, and then movies all afternoon. I must have seen it five or six times that way. And I yearned, yearned for Buckaroo Bonzai vs. The World Crime League. It was one of the most painful realizations of my childhood that it would never come out.

And then, one day, I kind of got it. Indiana Jones is a loving homage to all of the adventure serials of the 20's and 30's. Buckaroo Bonzai is the exact same thing, just to a different genre. The legions of adoring (and well-armed) fans with decoder rings? The wacky, yet deadly efficient band of associates and sidekicks (not that Clancy Brown would ever be considered so lowly as a sidekick. While clearly Buckaroo's equal, he follows Buckaroo because he knows the man is right)? The movie starting without so much as an introduction, then ending with the promise of the next movie?

Buckaroo Bonzai is a pastiche of all of the serials from back in the day, where kids save cereal box tops and drank their ovaltine, got their decoder rings and followed along. But this decoder ring, it never told them to drink their ovaltine (after they'd already had bucketsful). This hero is the guy who actually enlisted their help. There's no introduction because, as loyal fans, we'd all already seen the series, and had waited eagerly for the next installment. Not just that, we've seen all of the installments since then.

Once I realized all of that, I smiled even more the next time I saw it. And trust me, Buckaroo vs. the Crime League was amazing.

Almost as amazing as that odd foot thing he does in the closing credits.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:22 PM on August 19, 2012 [9 favorites]


As a concept, it had merit.

As to how well said concept was executed, ah, well.....
posted by y2karl at 6:34 PM on August 19, 2012


This thread makes me almost as happy as the film does.
posted by mistersquid at 6:52 PM on August 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


The truth is I wish I was Buckaroo Banzai.
posted by hanoixan at 7:05 PM on August 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


The 80s were sort of golden era for science fiction movies, right? I turned 12 in 1980 and my mom started giving me permission to go to the movies with my friends. I saw this in the theater, as well as (during the decade) The Last Starfighter, Blade Runner, Repo Man, Return of the Jedi, They Live, Back to the Future, Space Hunter, The Road Warrior, Aliens...

These movies fired my imagination. They set up shop in my head. I read and re-read the Buckaroo Banzai novelization.

Man, I loved movies back then. I miss those days.
posted by Squeak Attack at 7:25 PM on August 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


While, okay, realistically, any followup would never have been nearly as good .... I'm still disappointed that the TV series, rumored to star Jeffrey Falcon from Six-String Samurai, never ended up happening.
posted by webmutant at 7:33 PM on August 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


What Buckaroo Banzai does best is realize its own world. This is an amazing world where of course a man can be a superscientist and a brain surgeon and a rock star, and of course such a person would be a beloved celebrity with his own comic book and nationwide youth organization, and a band of assorted companions who...


but the world is entirely ludicrous, yet every single aspect of it is treated completely seriously. the reason why the movie works is that it is so deadpan that it can't have been conceived as satire. it's a true B-movie pretending to be a movie paying homage to B-movies. It's one of those movies, like the original Conan, that could never be repeated without the swimming pools full of hard drugs of early 80's California...
posted by ennui.bz at 7:37 PM on August 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


There are two little details about this film that resonate really strongly with me for some reason:

First, the license plate on his oscilation overthruster jet-powered pickup truck is "ROKIT 88", which has so many layers of references: the pun of rocket/rock it because he's a rocket scientist and a rock star, and because of the etherial "coolness" around the number 88 in Japanese culture, a kinship with the Oldsmobile Rocket 88, a hot rod of the 1950s, and finally because the song about that car, Ike Turner's 1951 hit "Rocket 88" was the first record ever to use distortion guitar, and arguably the first rock 'n' roll record ever made. Those guys knew their shit, and they didn't even have Wikipedia.

The second thing is the following exchange:
John Whorfin: "Where are we going?"
Red Lectroids: "Planet 10!"
John Whorfin: "When?"
Red Lectroids: "Real soon!"
posted by Jon_Evil at 7:39 PM on August 19, 2012 [12 favorites]


I love the sined/sealed/delivered readouts of the Oscillation Overthruster.

Alternate opening with Jamie Lee Curtis as Buckaroo's mom.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:40 PM on August 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Let us not forget the great Dan Hedaya. The Mount Rushmore of crazy (Hedeya, Schiavelli, Lloyd) at the back of the press conference is one of my favorite movie images.

Yes, you can trace the DNA of modern smart group interaction to this movie, as well as the nobudget for effects esthetic. Goldblum's double take at the "most-expensive-looking-thing-in-the-film" Lectroid mask is classic, in a film full of little classic scenes.

Also, the lines :" History is made at night, Character is what you are in the darkness "

Finally, friggin Jonathan Banks is the orderly at the beginning of the film, What a career arc, eh?

"So what. Big Deal."
posted by djrock3k at 7:47 PM on August 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'd really like to think that a big part of why this movie got made (not to belittle the role of those swimming pools full of drugs, rest assured) was that many of the studio execs who greenlit this project were in late-middle age in 1981, and had grown up watching the plup adventure serials Buckaroo Banzai paid tribute to. And perhaps some of the oldest echelon of studio executives (or maybe the ones under whose tutelage the current batch rose to their positions) were folks who had made those same pulp serials when they were young.
posted by Jon_Evil at 7:55 PM on August 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Since one of the actors playing a Hong Kong Cavalier went to my high school, he arranged for a screening there when I was a new-ish student. I have no idea how he pitched this to our faculty, some of whom instructed him in Shakespeare, Chaucer, Homer, etc. Perhaps he convinced his former teachers this was his big break in Hollywood. However he managed it, I'm incredibly grateful for the surprise that the assembly turned out to be. Although I was still finding my feet at the school, after cheering on Buckaroo's destruction of Yoyodyne Propulsion Systems' anemone-like alien spaceship, I decided that if this was the sort of project alumni were involved in after graduation, I would probably fit in relatively well.

Earl Mac Rauch also wrote Scorsese's New York, New York. Weird.

Weirder yet, he also wrote the screenplay adaption of Bob Woodward's biography of John Belushi, Wired.

In any case, Buckaroo is available on Netflix Streaming, so I'm going to re-watch a bit now.

"Live like you're gonna die tomorrow and study like you're gonna live forever."
posted by Doktor Zed at 7:57 PM on August 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


webmutant, I'd never heard of the possible TV series before, yet, Six-String Samurai? Buckaroo Banzai? I'd never really thought of it before, but that might be one of the best back-to-back viewing choices ever.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:11 PM on August 19, 2012


I think one thing that stands out for me is that the inter-dimensional spacecraft was patched with duct-tape. You don't see that every day.
posted by ovvl at 8:18 PM on August 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


When this film came out, I saw it, went home, got a portable recording pro-Walkman I was lucky enough to have, bought a high-end Maxell 120-minute cassette tape, and caught the next earliest showing to record the entire movie on audio.

That's right. I audio pirated Buckaroo Banzai. Because I had to. Because so now I could say I did. I went out and bought the novelization (that really fills things out—that's where we learn of the Five Stresses, the Four Beauties and the Three Loves).

No movie has had as great an impact on my real life—other than, say, Caddyshack, Time Bandits, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Lawrence of Arabia.

When life gets anywhere remotely anywhere close to less great than BB, I drive through a mountain. It's why I became an astronaut teacher.
posted by Mike Mongo at 8:53 PM on August 19, 2012 [12 favorites]


Hah! I happen to be re-reading Pynchon's V. at the moment. Coincidence? I think not. Here's a relevant passage:
Early in May Eigenvalue [that's a guy's name] introduced Stencil [so's that] to Bloody Chiclitz, [ditto] president of Yoyodyne, Inc., a company with factories scattered careless about the country and more government contracts than it really knew what to do with. In the late 1940's Yoyodyne had been breezing along comfortably as the Chiclitz Toy Company, with one tiny independent-making shop on the outskirts of Nutley, New Jersey***. For some reason the children of America conceived around this time a simultaneous and psychopathic craving for simple gyroscopes, the kind of which are set in motion by a string wound around the rotating shaft, something like a top. Chiclitz, recognizing a market potential there, decided to expand. He was well on the way to cornering the toy gyroscope market when along came a group of school kids on tour to point that these toys worked on the same principle as a gyrocompass. ``As wha,'' said Chiclitz. They explained gyrocompasses to him, also rate and free gyros. Chiclitz remembered vaguely from a trade magazine that the government was always in the market for these. They used them on ships, airplanes, more lately, missiles. ``Well,'' figured Chiclitz, ``why not.'' Small-business opportunities in the field at the time were being described as abundant. Chiclitz started making gyros for the government. Before he knew it he was also in telemeter instrumentation, test-set components, small communications equipment. He kept expanding, buying, merging. Now less than ten years later he had built up an interlocking kingdom responsible for systems management, airframes, propulsion, command systems, ground support equipment. Dyne, one newly hired engineer had told him, was a unit of force. So to symbolise the humble beginnings of the Chiclitz empire and to get the idea of force, enterprise, engineering skill and rugged individualism in there too, Chiclitz christened the company Yoyodyne.
*** Unfortunately for literary conspiracy freaks, that's like fifty miles away from 'Grovers Mill'.
posted by Herodios at 9:09 PM on August 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Just got done. It's almost like a live action anime... i think... especially the ending scene.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 9:21 PM on August 19, 2012


And somebody else -- Perfect Tommy, maybe -- repeating "Maserati Bora" just to help that detail stick.

It's Buckaroo who says it, and I always thought that line was perfectly emblematic of the film's sense of humor, as though out of all the information Rawhide had just conveyed, the model of car Lizardo had crashed was particularly salient.
posted by adamdschneider at 9:55 PM on August 19, 2012


I love the end credit sequence of Buckaroo Banzai so much that I use that song as my ringtone. It's a sad commentary on the company I keep that no one has ever recognized it.

Nerd Alert: the end credit sequence of The Life Aquatic is an homage to the end credits of Buckaroo Banzai.
posted by The Tensor at 9:55 PM on August 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


The tensor: I was just sitting here thinking to myself how the life aquatic is a bit of a riff on what would happen to a buckaroo banzai character in the later stage of life, and wondered if there was any connection...and there it is.
posted by roboton666 at 10:23 PM on August 19, 2012


Yeah, I've said on MeFi before that part of the reason I love Life Aquatic so much is because it sort of answers the question, "What if Buckaroo Banzai was kind of a loser?"

Also, because it wasn't mentioned in the great comment above on Rocket 88, that is of course the song the HKCs are playing in Artie's Artery before Buckaroo hears Penny crying.
posted by adamdschneider at 10:32 PM on August 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I really enjoyed Life Aquatic, but man, what an ill-paced movie! It takes absurdly long to set things up, but then once it does, and stuff starts happening, it's beautiful ... but it doesn't go on long enough. High point: Devo's Gut Feeling as onward-to-war theme.

Of course, what Buckaroo Bonzai does so well is NEVER STOP HAPPENING. It's already happening before it even begins, all kinds of back story and then IMMEDIATELY about five things going on at once.

reminds me of life in general
posted by philip-random at 10:53 PM on August 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


also, David Bowie

(found on the Youtube page as Gut Feeling)
posted by philip-random at 10:59 PM on August 19, 2012


This movie was something my son turned me on to, and I still get this happy feeling even thinking of all the Geeky Goodness my kids threw my way.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 2:19 AM on August 20, 2012


In the early 2000s it was impossible to find in video stores around here. Luckily, I knew someone who knew someone who had it on VHS. Apparently there was a small group of fans who passed it around amongst themselves and I got to join in.

That one of The Hong Kong Cavaliers is named Perfect Tommy is just coincidence.
posted by tommasz at 5:31 AM on August 20, 2012


"Wherever ya grow, there ya are."

Close, very close. Here's the actual quote:

No matter where you go, there you are

I had to check this 4 times before I got it tattooed on my forearm.
posted by edmcbride at 5:33 AM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]




I think the "whereever you grow, there you are" is a pun Malor was making on the original (note that the source of that credit is "Buckaroo Bonsai").
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:48 AM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ahhh excuse me, I guess I need more coffee.

:)
posted by edmcbride at 5:55 AM on August 20, 2012


I actually, shamefully, only saw this for the first time about a month ago, at about 4am. And oh my word. I wish I'd seen it when I was a kid, for exactly the same reasons that Big Trouble in Little China was both hilarious and an incredibly rich world for building adventures in to a child.

But why is Perfect Tommy perfect?
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:10 AM on August 20, 2012


Damn you Metafilter! I'm trying, seriously trying, just for once, to be productive here at my job. And now, because I gave in and took a peek, now I'm cursed with hearing the closing theme over and over until I can go home and watch the whole movie again properly.

Because I want to live in that movie. Seriously.
posted by kinnakeet at 6:22 AM on August 20, 2012


"Why do *I* have to?"

"Because you're perfect."
posted by eoden at 6:35 AM on August 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Break the window!"

"Why me, John Bigboote?"

"It might be booby-trapped."
posted by Zed at 6:56 AM on August 20, 2012


now I'm cursed with hearing the closing theme over and over until I can go home and watch the whole movie again properly.

Ahahahahaha! Me too!
posted by aramaic at 6:59 AM on August 20, 2012


The quote that gets me everytime:

Perfect Tommy: Pictures don't lie.
Reno: The hell they don't. I met my first wife that way.


Had a film professor at NYU who described the movie as "the only movie I have ever seen that categorically defies description."

posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:40 PM on August 19


Nonsense. It's modern-day pulp. That is, the pulp film sensibility transferred to the modern (well, '80s) era, as opposed to a modern-day pulp movie that has a story set during the classic pulp era (such as The Rocketeer, the Indiana Jones films, the Mummy films, etc.). I argue The Ghostbusters movies are modern pulp, too, as is of course Big Trouble in Little China (which was re-written from a western to contemporary period by W D Richter).

It is both a crime and a tragedy that Buckaroo Banzai Against The World Crime League has not been made (and may never be made, because the producer was apparently insane). I would kill my whole family to see Daniel Dae Kim play Hanoi Xan.

Dream-Cast-For-the-Sequel Time!

Buckaroo Banzai - James Marters
Rawhide - Adam Baldwin
Reno - Nestor Carbonell
Perfect Tommy - Tahmoh Penikett
New Jersey - Joshua Malina
Pecos - Brenda Strong
Penny Priddy - Judy Greer
Dr. Hikita - George Takei

Lead Screenwriter - Ben Edlund
posted by magstheaxe at 9:58 AM on August 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Somewhere in my parent's house there is a free standing, almost life size, cardboard cut out of Peter Weller as Buckaroo Banzai (obtained from a video rental store) that was the envy of my high school social circle. We were all huge geeks.
posted by Gwynarra at 10:05 AM on August 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Perfect Tommy: Emilio Lizardo. Wasn't he on TV once?
Buckaroo Banzai: You're thinking of Mr. Wizard.
Reno: Emilio Lizardo is a top scientist, dummkopf.
Perfect Tommy: So was Mr. Wizard.
posted by eoden at 10:10 AM on August 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


Lead Screenwriter - Ben Edlund

Music by Daft Punk and Dan The Automator
posted by jquinby at 10:25 AM on August 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Somewhere in my parent's house there is a free standing, almost life size, cardboard cut out of Peter Weller as Buckaroo Banzai (obtained from a video rental store) that was the envy of my high school social circle.

And now the envy of myself, as well.

Ever since that RoboCop statue project got going, I've wanted to get a statue of Buckaroo put up in Holland Township, NJ. Maybe I should do a Kickstarter...hmm...
posted by adamdschneider at 10:34 AM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Years ago my old business partner and I nearly named our plumbing company:
"You And The Horse You Rode In On Plumbing And Heating". Well, we didn't...
but it was the best name we came up with. Love the movie, and it works so well in part, as someone mentioned, it's completely deadpan. "It's not my godammned planet, Monkey Boy!"
posted by eggtooth at 10:47 AM on August 20, 2012


Will somebody turn off that gosh-darn klaxon?
posted by eoden at 10:53 AM on August 20, 2012


So, I was in bed with Mr. Jadepearl and asked him, "So, how do you feel about Buckaroo Banzai?" He answered correctly, I decided to keep him.
posted by jadepearl at 12:46 PM on August 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


Love, love, love that movie. Nearly every scene is quote worthy and awesome.
posted by cavalier at 1:18 PM on August 20, 2012


Oh yeah, from one of my old comments here, the complete line that has anchored my life:

Buckaroo Banzai: Hey, hey, hey. Don't be mean. We don't have to be mean because, remember, no matter where you go, there you are.
posted by cavalier at 1:21 PM on August 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I just love the idea of a volunteer shadow army like the Blue Blaze Irregulars, let alone the Rug Suckers; the latter being a distributed armed task force operating under the cover of a carpet cleaning chain. God, that's beautiful. For one thing it explains the vans.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:39 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ed: President's calling, Buckaroo.
Buckaroo Banzai: The president of what?
Ed: The President of The United States.
Buckaroo Banzai: Oh.
posted by eoden at 1:45 PM on August 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am a filmmaker, albeit a small-timer, and whenever anyone asks me what my dream project would be, I always say Buckaroo Banzai Vs. The World Crime League. 90% of people have no idea what I am talking about, but the other 10% just nod knowingly.

And no, I wouldn't re-cast. I would do it with as much of the original cast as possible and add George Takei as Hanoi Xan. And I would set it in the present day, although Buck and the crew would retain some 80s signifiers. But not too many. Buckaroo would always be on the cutting edge of technology, of course.
posted by vibrotronica at 2:07 PM on August 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


I love it when anyone uses the word "albeit" thanks.
posted by eggtooth at 2:12 PM on August 20, 2012


George Takei as Hanoi Xan

D:

D: D:

Totally. Fucking. Brilliant.
posted by adamdschneider at 2:50 PM on August 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I always thought the end credits were pretty much a curtain call. I restrain myself from clapping, but it's difficult.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 4:56 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oooh, can I post this here; something I threw together three years ago?

I remember reading the manuals for the TGV Multinet TCP/IP stack for OpenVMS back in college and realizing with glee that all of the examples given in the book were @yoyodyne.com: bigbootie@yoyodyne.com, smallberries@yoyodyne.com and so forth.
posted by mrbill at 7:08 PM on August 20, 2012


I'm thrilled to see this thread go on so long. Buckaroo Banzai is, as far as I'm concerned, the Citizen Kane of movies.
posted by uosuaq at 7:17 PM on August 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


uosuaq, I have to ask: then what's Citizen Kane the Citizen Kane of?

(Films?)
posted by McCoy Pauley at 6:58 AM on August 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Cinnamon Kane!
posted by eoden at 7:06 AM on August 21, 2012


Also - is it just me or does Buckaroo's outfit in the credits look a lot like Matt Smith as The Doctor?

Not just the outfit—the hair, too! (Not identical but close enough.) Maybe that's why I like Matt Smith's Doctor so much.
posted by ocherdraco at 9:16 AM on August 21, 2012


....Something has only now just occurred to me, after watching the closing credits over and over --

Jeff Goldblum's character's nickname is "New Jersey." But with that cowboy outfit - why didn't he go with something like "Texas" or "Arizona"?

But maybe examining that is missing the point.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:28 PM on August 21, 2012


Because he was from New Jersey.
posted by eoden at 1:32 PM on August 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


Cinnamon Kane!

Worst. C&C. Mod. Ever.
posted by McCoy Pauley at 1:34 PM on August 21, 2012


Yeah, he was New Jersey because he was from there. I doubt any HKC picked their own nickname, and he certainly did not.
posted by adamdschneider at 1:40 PM on August 21, 2012


They always got *one detail* wrong -- the broadcast of "War of the Worlds" wasn't on Hallowe'en; it was on October 30, 1938. That New jersey says otherwise has always bothered me.
posted by eoden at 1:45 PM on August 21, 2012


I'm changing my name to Pinky Caruthers right now....or, maybe John Many Johns
posted by eggtooth at 1:55 PM on August 21, 2012


"Destroy yourself, John Candy." (B.B.)
posted by eggtooth at 2:57 PM on August 21, 2012


Citizen Kane is, obviously, the Citizen Kane of Citizen Kanes.
posted by aramaic at 3:25 PM on August 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Penny: "Bukaroo, you forgot your thruster!"

Bukaroo; "You hold on to it for me for a while."
posted by eggtooth at 5:05 PM on August 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Anytime.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:42 PM on August 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Jeff Goldblum's character's nickname is "New Jersey." But with that cowboy outfit - why didn't he go with something like "Texas" or "Arizona"?

But maybe examining that is missing the point.


Empress, in keeping with the film's kitchen-sink style, here's a brain-dump (smak!):
  • Yeah, Sid gets nicknamed "New Jersey" cuz that's where he's from, but -- a little lower level, says Starbuck. Everyone else on the team has either Western or West Coast (or Japanese) connections.
  • The plot needs Sid to be from New Jersey to be the "odd man" character -- the newcomer who doesn't quite fit in but has special knowledge that advances the plot. It is Sid who makes the connection between New Jersey's Yoyodyne Propulsion and "Grovers Mill", New Jersey, site of the 1938 War of the Worlds invasion.
  • Sid wears a cowboy outfit for two reasons:
    1. Buckaroo invited him to ride with them.
    2. It throws his outsider status into sharp relief. The one Eastern urban dude (hah!) is the only one who dresses like a movie cowboy. The real movie cowboys all dress like real real cowboys (or jazz musicians or samarai. . . )
    3. The DVD extras state that the suit was inherited from his grandfather, a one-time silent film cowboy star.
  • Ok, that was three reasons . . . I'll explain later.
posted by Herodios at 3:24 PM on August 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


Buckaroo Banzai is not an acquired taste; it is a taste that acquires you.

This. So much this. Man I wish I came up with this line. I think it perfectly encapsulates everything about this film and why I love it so much, and also why I place it in my favorite films alongside even art house heavyweights.
posted by theartandsound at 12:29 PM on August 24, 2012


And regarding World Crime League: I may be in the minority on this one, but I think it should be left alone. Any film, no matter how good it would be, could never live up to the one in everyone's heads, percolating since 1984. And I think it befits a film as strange and offbeat as this one that another chapter is announced and yet never realized in any form, adding to the mythos.
posted by theartandsound at 12:36 PM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


John Valuk is dead. He fell on this thread.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:35 PM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


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