Written by: Earl Mac Rauch
Directed by: W.D. Richter
Starring: Peter Weller, John Lithgow, Ellen Barkin, Jeff Goldblum, Christopher Lloyd
- Audio commentary with Richter and Rauch (as “Reno”)
- Alternate opening
- “Buckaroo Banzai Declassified” documentary
- Deleted scenes
- Character profiles
- Schematics of the Hong Kong Cavaliers’ tour bus and Complex 88
- Movie tie-in gallery
- List of film locations
- Movie reviews
- Gallery of CD covers and discography for the Hong Kong Cavaliers
- Interview with Buckaroo Banzai conducted by Reno
- Banzai Radio episode
- History of the Banzai Institute
- Banzai badge gallery
- Hikita’s Diary
- Photo gallery
- “Jet Car All Access”: Schematics and statistics about Banzai’s Jet Car
- Subtitled commentary consisting of Pinky Carruther’s Unknown Facts
- Teaser trailer
- Enhanced Nuon features
- Jet Car trailer to promote possible Banzai TV series
Released by: MGM (Video & DVD)
My Advice: Own It.
Buckaroo Banzai (Weller) is the man. He is El Hombre Mejor. Neurosurgeon, theoretical physicist, and hard-rocker–he and his group Team Banzai double as The Hong Kong Cavaliers, one of the best bar bands in Texas. Oh, and by the way, he’s recently become the first human to travel through a large chunk of solid matter without losing his sanity or a limb. But although this sounds like an interesting thing, the truth is it’s clued him into a vast conspiracy by a race of Red Lectroids from Planet 10 who have escaped from their prison in the 8th Dimension and plan on returning to conquer their home planet. Got all that?
Banzai has been one of those cult films which, until recently, has been something you prayed to find a tattered copy of sitting somewhere on a video rental store shelf. Or maybe you had your own copy tucked away somewhere. But regardless, it was always worth tuning into Banzai’s world, because the quirky sci-fi canon that it created is essentially a cosmic game of Calvinball played by Richter and Rauch. It also had a veritable who’s who of name actors who seemed to be having a great time making their way through the sometimes indecipherable world laid out for them. And now that it’s out on DVD, you can have fun checking it out in a glorious new edition–I especially recommend frame-forwarding through Lithgow‘s Mussolini-esque speech in the Lectroid factory. Every frame is a different weird wild pose from the actor in rare form.
Luckily, the Banzai fanatic will have plenty to chew on in this special edition, though not all of the items are as choice as they could or possibly should have been. Before we begin to dissect this thing, I must point out the overall conceit of this edition: that Banzai and his team and the story unfolded in the film are real; the film is merely a “docu-drama” version of the events that actually took place.
First and foremost is the audio commentary by director Richter and writer Rauch, who for the duration plays the part of the actual “Reno”, upon whom the character of the same name in the film is based upon. Sadly, the commentary is…well, frankly, quit boring. There are long stretches of silence, and Richter gives a lot less technical and backstory information than I would have liked. Mostly, it seemed to be dealing with bits from the Banzai canon that seemed, perhaps unintentionally, to exist only to further the fanbase’s clamor for more Banzai adventures. More amusing is the subtitle commentary from the character Pinky Carruthers (played in the film by Billy Vera–yes, that Billy Vera), where he imparts info about the film and also from his cache of 47,000 Unknown Facts. The subtitles come steadily and are more consistently funny and informative than its audio cousin.
Also disappointing is the set of fourteen deleted scenes, which for the most of them are simply a line or two struck from the middle of some speech. Most feel no more than thirty seconds in length, and they seldom add much of anything to the scenes they were taken from.
There are some bits that are interesting, such as the extended opening sequence which gives the viewer more information about the death of Buckaroo’s parents (mother portrayed by Jamie Lee Curtis). Also, the Declassified documentary gives not only some of the usual featurette comments by the cast on the set at the time was being film, but it also has the present day Richter discussing the film and showing off some “items” from the Banzai Institute Archives. Also a source of guffaws is the discography of the Cavaliers’ albums.
The hardcore Banzai fan will enjoy the slew of other features–which includes schematics, more information on the Jet Car and Buckaroo’s stats, and a bit of the diary kept by Banzai’s scientific partner, Hikita. These will probably be considered a bit on the tedious side by the casual fan, however.
Most frustrating about the disc is probably the fact that, despite the rich universe in which Buckaroo runs around, there’s only this film (and the accompanying book with its expanded tale) to give us a glimpse into what stories there are. A followup book I understand is coming, but I wish Richter and Rauch would get their heads on straight and deliver some more of this quirked up mania.
This is a fairly decent special edition, certainly better than what MGM originally had planned to release. Fans of the film will definitely want to plonk down the coin, but those uncertain as to whether or not they’re a Blue Blaze Irregular might want to go the rental route initially at least.