The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension Review
Buckaroo Banzai is an internationally famous neurosurgeon, scientist, rock star and adventurer. Along with his team of scientists and musicians the Hong Kong Cavaliers, Buckaroo has invented the oscillation overthruster, a device that allows travel into the 8th dimension. However, the device inadvertently draws Buckaroo and Team Banzai into a war between the Black Lectroids and Red Lectroids, aliens from Planet Ten who are able to disguise themselves as humans and are all, for reasons know only to themselves, named John.
There are two tried-and-tested techniques that filmmakers with a low budget can use to bring attention to their projects. The first is to include graphic and shocking scenes in an attempt to generate media controversy and the other is to deliberately aim at achieving cult status. The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, with its knowing humour and self-consciously off-the-wall concepts, takes the latter approach.
However, a film manufactured with the intention of achieving cult status is likely to prove more interesting than a film manufactured to achieve mainstream success and Buckaroo Banzai is no exception.
Whether creating a cult film was a cynical ploy for financial gain or not, it is obvious that writer Earl Mac Rauch and director W D Richter had fun creating the film and this sense of enjoyment extends to the cast as well. Peter Weller gives his standard po-faced performance but definitely has a twinkle in his eye, while John Lithgow is clearly having a ball giving a fantastically over-the-top performance as the villainous Lord John Whorfin. Jeff Goldblum is perhaps the only cast member not enjoying himself, lumbered as he is with a ludicrous cowboy outfit that Woody from Toy Story would be proud of. Not that Jeff Goldblum is the only cast member with cause for sartorial embarrassment, as the film is very much a product of the 80s with the clothing and haircuts to prove it.
The cast and crew enjoying themselves is both one of the film's strengths and one if its weaknesses; while it is entertaining to see people having a good time, you can't help but feel that the film must have been more fun to make than it is to watch, unless you are one of the happy minority who find themselves completely in tune with the film's sense of humour.
The disc is dual encoded for regions 2 and 4.
Considering this is a low budget film that is nearly twenty years old, the anamorphic transfer is not too bad at all. The source print is mostly free of flecks and scratches and the colours are suitably strong and garish. On the negative side, there is mild film grain throughout much of the film and the blacks are closer to dark grey. There is also noticeable blooming around areas of extreme bright red, though possibly this was unavoidable.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack has been unimaginatively remixed from the original Dolby Stereo. Despite the possibilities afforded by the special effects scenes in the film, the rears are used more or less exclusively for the music. While this means the soundtrack is not too far removed from the original theatrical experience, this does seem a wasted opportunity.
The only extra included on the UK release is the theatrical trailer. This is particularly galling in the face of the US edition, which is loaded to the brim with extra features including an audio commentary, documentary, deleted scenes and more.
It is possible that the extras were excluded from this edition to make room for the multiple audio and subtitle options, but it is a shame that MGM did not consider the possibility of providing the extras on a second disc, or at least including the audio commentary.
Apart from the fact that fans of cult films understandably want as much extra material about their favourite films as they can get, many cult films on DVD sell purely on the strength of their extras, which in some cases can be more entertaining than the films themselves. This is a lesson learned by labels such as Anchor Bay, Blue Underground and Something Weird that sadly seems to have been lost on MGM UK.
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension is only truly treasured by an enthusiastic minority, others may find it dated and ridiculous or be put off by the film’s self-consciously offbeat nature. For this reason, anybody who has not already seen the film is advised to try renting it first. Existing fans that wish to buy the film should avoid this barebones edition and buy the extras-packed US release instead.