First up in this summer’s pre-scheduled semi hiatus posting endeavor is “Buckaroo Banzai.” I’d summarize the plot of “Buckaroo Banzai” but I don’t have a clue what the plot is about, Phil. Not a fucking clue. I have a shell the size of a fist in my head.
Guys, I’m serious. I paused probably a dozen times through this movie to figure things out — and this wasn’t even my first viewing! Of course, the only thing I remembered about the movie was this, which I could only get a pretty cruddy screencap of, sorry:
Also that Peter Weller is so fucking hot I could just die, I mean goddamn. I rarely care what people look like, it’s a strange quirk and it gets a bit awkward when people talk about the latest sexy celebrity and I’m all “Brad Pitt is cute? Since when?” — you get the side-eye and the slow backing away when you say that, by the way — but with Peter Weller, man, I dunno. It’s insane. Any movie, any interview, any era, no matter what he’s wearing or how he looks. If I was within 20 miles of the man I would fall to pieces. Pieces.
The set is crammed to the ceiling with lots of hose, wires, neon and the occasional Sterno can. It’s glorious. I could look at this movie all day.
And yet, there are so many questions. Why do outfits change in the middle of scenes? Why is Buckaroo out of breath after what moments earlier looked like a leisurely motorcycle ride? And why isn’t Yakov Smirnoff’s flubbed line redubbed to correct it? See, Yakov plays an aide to the president and stumbles on a line. They didn’t bother to dub in a correction, even though he’s facing away from the camera and the president’s voice in the scene is already dubbed in.
Yeah, you’ll notice I’m not talking about the film. I don’t know what to say! I don’t even know what happened! But I will try to explain: Buckaroo is a physicist, surgeon, and rock star who finds himself fighting creatures from the 8th dimension. Apparently these creatures are Red Lectroids, defeated by the good guys on their planet, the Black Lectroids, and banished to Earth’s 8th dimension. Back in the 1930s, Dr. Lizardo (Lithgow) tried to go into the 8th dimension and schmutzed it up, only succeeding in getting one of these Red Lectroids inhabiting his body. I assume other Red Lectroids escaped at the time as well. People see the Lectroids as humans, so no one realized he was possessed but rather assumed Lizardo had simply gone off his chum. He was institutionalized. Fifty years later, he escapes the institution when he hears Buckaroo has gone into the 8th dimension successfully. Other Red Lectroids (Christopher Lloyd, Vincent Sciavelli, and Dan Hedaya) sort of assist Lizardo but basically wander around doing things that I don’t understand, like breaking car windows and killing people with their spit.
OK, at this point, things are hazy. I don’t know what those Red Lectroids have been doing since the 1930s. I think trying to build a spaceship, but that’s pretty sad if they’ve been doing it for 50 years and still haven’t finished. A Black Lectroid named John Emdall tells Buckaroo through interstellar message that if he doesn’t stop the Red Lectroids in 27 minutes or something, the Black Lectroids will trick the US and USSR (1980s!) into nuking each other into oblivion. Sure, makes sense. Buckaroo and his sidekicks-slash-bandmates warn the president, who is supposed to be a disabled Orson Welles, but he’s ineffectual and just wants to nuke Russia even after being told that’s the exact wrong thing to do. Buckaroo et al. go on their own to the Red Lectroids’ hideout to stop them, thus saving the world. Also, Buckaroo’s late wife — formerly the Queen of the Netherlands — had a long lost twin sister who Buckaroo finds through crazy coincidence and who gets kidnapped, as dames are wont to do, and must be rescued from the hideout. Because romance or something, I dunno.
The thing is, I like this movie. Lord help me, I like it, and I don’t know why. And no, not just because of Peter Weller. P.S. Sorry about the screencaps, they turned out grainy because I saved them as gifs. Let this be a lesson to you all.
Actually, Wikipedia has a fairly lucid explanation of the plot. It’s a one-of-a-kind film, and way ahead of it’s time, in a graphic novel looking film that wouldn’t look out of place if it was released this year. I’m sure it influenced the look and style of a lot of comics more than almost any other film. I love it.
How did any of us enjoy movies before Wikipedia?
There is no shame in loving Buckaroo Bonzai.
“Laugh awhile you can a-monkey boy!” Ah, I love this film as well. I saw it an impressionable age when it first came out and it was my fave film for a long time… er, well, at least until BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA came out – an equally eccentric film to say the least! But I love BUCKAROO BANZAI because you can tell that they worked hard to build up this whole mythos around all the characters and went to great lengths to create this world and yet it was a little too weird and hard to follow for most audiences and you really only are able to soak it all in fully upon repeated viewings. Instant cult film!
And what a cast: Jeff Goldblum, Ellen Barkin (she looks so cute!), John Lithgow (an absolute delight as he gleefully chews up the scenery), Dan Hedaya, etc. Alto, I’m always bummed when they kill off Clancy Brown’s character way too soon. The guy is always playing heavies in movies and one of the rare times he gets to play a decent guy they kill him off! Oh well…
And yeah, Weller is awesome in this film. When I lived in NYC, I used to go to this restaurant and it had a cigar bar upstairs and every once in awhile I would see Weller going up or coming down from the place with some leggy supermodel types. He looks even more amazing in person!
Thanks so much for blogging about this – someone put it on my facebook wall, and I’m glad they did. I loved this movie when it first came out (like J.D.), and was always disappointed that the sequel never appeared. Anyway, I watched it tonight, inspired by this blog. I’d say it’s aged a bit. but I still like the end where they’re all marching together.
I think the plot is pretty clear; if you don’t understand what the woman in the hologram is saying in the middle, it doesn’t make much sense. Yeah, they’ve been building this spaceship for 50 years or so, but they need the overthruster technology, and the one Lizardo has was never quite right (it was the one that got him inhabited in the first place). So when Buckaroo finally cracks it, now he knows he can get home with Buckaroo’s. The Black Lectroids are trying to stop them, but the Red Lectroids (aside from being incredibly dumb and easily killed) apparently are so bad that they (the Black Lectroids) can’t take a chance on letting them loose so they have to blow up the planet to stop the Reds before they get away. Anyone would in their position (not! – these are supposed to be the good guys? And they can launch nuclear weapons but they can’t fight 40 Red Lectroids by themselves?). Ok, so, the plot has some holes, but the concept of a neurosurgeon/physicist/rock star/comic book icon whose band is always armed to the teeth and goes from brain surgery to penetrating matter in minutes is still pretty powerful..I really wanted to see more back then.
Hi Gary – I do think the plot mostly makes sense, and you can at least let it just wash over you and enjoy it. But the Lectroids are just a little confusing, partly because they seem either slightly malevolent or, in the case of the Red Lectroids, really dumb.
You’re right that this post is a few years old. It’s time for a repeat viewing of Buckaroo Banzai, methinks.
wow, didn’t realize this blog was three years old! Isn’t the web wonderful?
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