Tuesday, November 14, 2017

A Good Buckaroo

Remember, no matter where you go, there you are.




During the Holiday Season I revisit old favorites, one of which is The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. That's a mouthful, isn't it? What a cast, too. Weller, before RoboCop and not long after Of Unknown Origin (a killer rat monster movie favorite of mine), is the stoic jack-of-all-trades with skills like surgery, physics, rock-'n'-roll, and even a pilot. His collection of eccentrics complete him. Clancy Brown, his second in command, is the responsible sub-leader who keeps the wheels turning when Buckaroo is busy performing his various duties. With Pepe Serna, Lewis Smith (in blonde coif, nicknamed Perfect Tommy), Jeff Goldblum (looking like a cowboy from PeeWee's Playhouse), and Billy Vera as Buckaroo's trusted and multi-talented, multi-tasking team accompanying him in traveling bus [with all the sci-fi luxuries, like computers and monitors and suitable amenities], they encounter alien invaders from a different dimension, looking to secure a device located by happy accident thanks to a speed-of-light test drive that has Buckaroo driving through a rock. Even an egg is found attached to Buckaroo's car.


Besides just Buckaroo and his team, you have his love interest in Ellen Barkin (playing twin sister to his lost love), nearly killing herself which is falsely considered an attempt on his life (!) but not before he sonnets her with a song (during a rock show with his boys). He eventually bails her out of jail and comes to her rescue later in the film when the film’s main villain (Lithgow, more on him in a moment) kidnaps her (narrowly missing out on the “overthruster”). The overthruster would allow Lithgow’s “alien possessor” [once a scientist, Dr. Emilio Lizardo, conducting experiments involving dimensional travel, he’s overcome by alien leader of the Red Lectroids] to return to his home world (where he and his “kind” were like a Nazi race before) to return home to once again rule over those with no interest in his presence. Opposing the Red Lectroids are from “Planet 10” led by “John Parker” (Carl Lumbly), at the command of Rosalind Cash’s “John Emdall”. Parker joins forces with Bonzai’s team to stop “Dr. Whorfin” and his Red Lectroids (which includes Christopher Lloyd and Vincent Schiavelli) who are holed up in a factory with the cover of Yoyokine Propulsion Systems (Whorfin working on a ship and hoping to the overthruster will take him back to his world). The synopsis is really pure comic book sci-fi paced breathlessly with little lingering fat. I feel a review for it will never be fitting as there is just so much coming at you that it takes multiple viewings to enjoy all its pleasures. The cast has such energy and even as the special effects (the alien masks/makeup, lighting laser effects, dimension itself even) might be noticeably of their time, I think the direction loves its material and condones the campy nature applied accordingly. Of course at that time, the effects were to that audience a big wow. As a kid I can remember thinking the film was cool. Of course its road movie, apocalyptic story (if Banzai and his team doesn’t keep Whorfin from leaving the planet, John Emdall’s alien race would initiate nuclear war through an attack on Russia, with blame on the United States resulting…) was appealing to me because that cold war era history found its way many times in films in the 80s and I have always been attracted to that cross country jaunt to stop villainy.


Well, just all the different genres crossing in this film just attached itself to me as a kid. And this is one of those films that I watch every four or so years, reliving the joys of my youth which are renewed by its charms. Just a kid of the sci-fi action film alone was conducive to this film’s target demographic…this film was meant for kids like me. And even as a 40 year old man, totally still in love with its charms, I continue to realize why it will retain its magic. Those involved in the film—from Lloyd and his BigBooTAY not BigBooTEE alien to Lithgow with his ghastly teeth and unhinged Italian accent—give it 100%. The direction, music, editing, characterization, genre hybridization, action heroics, and effects are all like this blitz that doesn’t let up. The very definition of the cult classic that didn’t hit at first, developing its following over time. I was among those VHS renters, too. And later cable kept the film alive. And again I watched it off of EncoreAction, so the film hasn’t been abandoned by the passage of time. Maybe you are the next kid to jive to its spell…I hope so. The film included a kid and his helicopter dad joining the good fight, with Banzai allowing them to follow along with his team. For kids like me, that was quite neat. So be a good Buckaroo and support his cause!

--

Even after such length, I feel as if so much was left on the cutting room floor. As if I could go on and on considering Robert Ito isn’t mentioned (tied to both Lizardo and later Banzai, with the overthruster dimensional travel being the device highly desired) much at all, to my shame, and I failed to even mention the name of Banzai’s gang: the Hong Kong Cavaliers. There is back story about how Banzai is American/Asian interracial and Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds radio broadcast being realized as real not fantasy. There is the spiders that poison and electric shock that allows Banzai to see the  aliens "unmasked". There is this junkyard electric torture  device attached to Banzai's head. But that is my whole point on this film: it is jammed full of content that defies one single write-up. Which is why this isn’t an official review. To do one would forever be difficult for me…

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