Release Date(s)1984 (July 20, 2015)
Studio(s)20th Century Fox/MGM (Arrow Video UK)
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: A
[Editor’s Note: This is a REGION B Blu-ray release.]
Audiences weren’t ready for a movie called The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension when it was first released in 1984. It only managed to rake in about a third of its budget and received a lot of mixed reviews from critics. It was a living, breathing, sci-fi/pulp novel with a complicated narrative, tonal issues, and a cadre of acting talent. In today’s world, it would be tagged under several genres and descriptions: science fiction, comedy, post-apocalypse, romance, satire, musical, action, adventure, and probably one or two more that I’m forgetting. Consequently, it was a film that was impossible to market, and became a cult film almost instantly upon release. Years later, that cult following is still going strong, with newer audiences still seeing the movie for the first time.
The story of Buckaroo Banzai is relatively straightforward as far as a synopsis is concerned. The film takes place in the future wherein Buckaroo Banzai, a jack of all trades (neurosurgeon, musician, scientist), must stop an invading alien race known as the Red Lectroids from dominating their home planet with the aid of an highly-secret, experimental overthruster. Meanwhile, physicist Emilio Lizardo, whose body was taken over by the leader of the Red Lectroids during an experiment fifty years prior, is also out to find the overthruster, get back to his home planet, and put a stop to Buckaroo Banzai’s meddling. Ok, maybe that’s not quite as straightforward as I thought it would be, but can you blame me? This is a movie with plot to spare, and then some.
Buckaroo Banzai was written and developed by Earl Mac Rauch at the insistence of producer W.D. Richter. The script languished for many years through many different drafts while Rauch and Richter took on other projects. The script finally found a home at 20th Century Fox who decided to take a chance on it with Richter in the director’s chair. The cast of the movie turned out to be an embarrassment of riches, as many up and coming actors who worked on the movie went on to bigger successes later. Included are Peter Weller as Buckaroo Banzai, Ellen Barkin, John Lithgow, Clancy Brown, Jeff Goldblum, Christopher Lloyd, Rosalind Cash, Dan Hedaya, Ronald Lacey, and many more. Even Jamie Lee Curtis was originally cast in the movie, but her opening scene wound up hitting the cutting room floor.
Thankfully, time has been very kind to Buckaroo Banzai. It seems to still be one of the best kept secrets amongst cult film lovers. It was never really a movie that somehow escaped from a different timeframe and was misunderstood but later embraced. It was always embraced, but not by the general movie-going public. It has its fan base, all of whom are very loyal to it, but it’s also still that weird movie that people from many different walks of life support. And much like Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze, it would have been wonderful to have seen it be successful enough to have sequels. The tease of a forthcoming Buckaroo Banzai Against the World Crime League at the end of the movie never came into being, certainly making one salivate over the thought of what might have been.
On the other hand, I’m also keenly aware that Buckaroo Banzai just isn’t a movie for everyone, yet it should be. It’s got a little something that everyone can at least appreciate, and it definitely should have made more money at the box office than it did. Because it was such an impossible movie to market, it was barely marketed at all, coming and going with little to no fanfare. There was the usual: a trailer, some TV spots, and magazine ads (as well as some promotion at a Star Trek convention), but unfortunately, it just didn’t strike as strong a cord as the people behind it hoped that it would. Yet, here we are all these years later and it’s still a movie that has a strong fan base. Thankfully, the good folks at Arrow Video are well aware of that.
It should be duly noted that Arrow Video’s release of Buckaroo Banzai is Region B locked, meaning you need a native or Region Free player in order to watch it. And you should really consider it because this is a beautiful transfer. It is, hands down, the best this movie has ever looked on home video. It’s a very organic presentation with very-well resolved grain. Detail is eminent in both the foreground and the background, as well as during close-ups and in the shadows. Color reproduction is excellent with very natural skin tones (human and alien alike). Black levels are quite deep, and both contrast and brightness levels are perfect. There are no apparent signs of digital augmentation, but there is some minor film debris left behind, but not much more than some minor instances of dirt. Between the two soundtracks that are included (English 5.1 DTS-HD and English 2.0 LPCM), I found the stereo track to be the most impressive, as well as the most appropriate for the presentation. It’s a very well-balanced presentation with crisp, clean dialogue and lively sound effects. I also can’t live without Michael Boddicker’s terrific score, and it’s spaced out beautifully. As a side note (and as of this writing), this movie still hasn’t had a proper soundtrack release in any form, so someone get on that please. Overall, this is a near-perfect presentation. There are also subtitles in English SDH for those who might need them.
Arrow Video’s supplemental section is also fantastic, but not complete. New to this release is The Tao of Buckaroo, an interview with Peter Weller; Lord John, an interview with John Lithgow; a Lincoln Center Q&A with Kevin Smith, Peter Weller, and John Lithgow, filmed as part of the 2011 New York Film Festival and released as a podcast on Smodcast.com; Adventures in the 8th Dimension, a visual essay on the film by critic and author Matt Zoller Seitz; the film’s closing sequence presented without credits over it; and an insert booklet with an essay on the film by critic James Oliver. Carried over from MGM’s terrific Special Edition DVD release is an audio commentary with director W.D. Richter and writer Earl Mac Rauch; the Buckaroo Banzai Declassified documentary; the alternate Jamie Lee Curtis prologue; 14 deleted scenes taken from the film’s workprint; the New Jet Car trailer reel; the film’s original teaser trailer; an image gallery; and the Banzai Radio promotion segment.
Now that’s a heck of a lot of special features that are well worth digging into. Unfortunately, not everything has been carried over from that aforementioned MGM DVD release. The following got left behind: a set of five Easter eggs (alternative DVD menu designs, movie quotes, alternative DVD cover designs, a “Food From the Skies?” newspaper article, and the Why? interview clip with W.D. Richter); the Pinky Carruther’s Unknown Facts subtitle track; the Buckaroo Banzai Personal Profiles; the Buckaroo Banzai Character Profiles; the Jet Car All Access section; and probably the most important leftover set of extras, the Banzai Institute Archives (Schematics of Tour Bus, Schematics of Complex 88, Movie Tie-Ins, Film Locations, Movie Reviews, Hong Kong Cavaliers CD Covers, Buckaroo Banzai interview, Institute History, Badges, and Hikita’s Diary). There was also the unusual Enhanced NUON Features, which I believe allowed you to mess around with the special features in different ways, such as zooming, panning, etc, if you had a DVD player capable of NUON playback. Only four DVDs were ever released with this now long-defunct technology and what these features were exactly is a mystery to me... and believe me, Google wasn’t any help.
At long last, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension comes to Blu-ray... at least if you live in the U.K. I predict that it will soon make an appearance here in the U.S. at some point in the future, regardless if it’s through Arrow Video or not – that all remains to be seen. But I can say for sure that Arrow Video’s Region B release of the film will be incredibly hard to top. It may not be a 100% complete package, but what is present is stellar... interstellar one might say. This is one of my favorite films and I’m stoked that I can pop in a proper high definition presentation of it now. Highly recommended.
And remember: “No matter where you go, there you are.”
- Tim Salmons