Buckaroo Banzai : The Resurrection of an American Hero by Sean Murphy

Editor's note : This is the article I wrote for Video Watchdog long before the Buckaroo Banzai DVD was even a possibility. I had hoped to use the article to raise awareness about getting the film released on DVD but, as it turned out, the article was printed after the DVD became a reality and came into existance. I'm just glad it finally saw the light of day. For more information about the film, check out the Buckaroo Banzai FAQ.

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984). Released on laserdisc by Vestron Video, part # VL5056 in 1985. The laserdisc is panned and scanned and runs 102m 10s. The same print of the film was also released on videotape by Vestron Video, part # VA5056. Both laserdisc and video are out of print.

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension workprint (1984). This videotape of the workprint is 114m 1s even though it is missing end credits. If you add the time for the end credits found in the release version, the workprint would run 115m 36s.


Who, Exactly, Is Buckaroo Banzai?

The intrepid adventurer himself, Buckaroo Banzai.
Photo by Bruce McBroom. © Sherwood Productions, Inc. 1983

Where do fantasy and reality collide in relationship to Buckaroo Banzai and his on-screen exploits? According to the liner notes on the laserdisc, Buckaroo Banzai is a "top neurosurgeon, race car driver, rock star and comic book hero" and that only begins to cover the many aspects of his personality.

The line is blurred even for the film's director, W. D. "Rick" Richter. Richter was kind enough to answer some questions about the film for this article and he explained that he is a very big Buckaroo Banzai fan himself. "To Mac (screenwriter Earl Mac Rauch) and me, Buckaroo Banzai is a real person and we are lucky enough to be allowed to share some of his adventures with the public at large. Using that as a jumping off point, the Buckaroo Banzai feature film we shot would actually be a docudrama."

For those who haven't seen the docudrama, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension tells the story of a man named Buckaroo Banzai (played by Peter Weller) who successfully travels through solid matter and into the 8th Dimension with his super-fast Jet Car.

"Get me the President."
Photo by Bruce McBroom. © Sherwood Productions, Inc. 1983

This amazing feat is noticed by the alien Red Lectroids that are unhappily trapped on Earth. They are led by Emilio Lizardo, a human possessed by the Red Lectroid leader John Whorfin (played by John Lithgow in a great split personality role), and his right-hand alien named John Bigboote (Christopher Lloyd). The Red Lectroids want Buckaroo's Oscillation Overthruster (the piece of equipment that opens a passageway into the 8th Dimension) so they can use it in their own ship to return to their homeworld, Planet 10.

Not everyone, however, wants the Red Lectroids back on Planet 10. The Black Lectroids, including their leader John Emdall (Rosalind Cash) and John Parker (Carl Lumbly), will blow up the Earth if Buckaroo fails to stop John Whorfin before he escapes.

Buckaroo is assisted by a group of friends and band-mates called the Hong Kong Cavaliers. This team consists of Penny Priddy (Ellen Barkin), Rawhide (Clancy Brown), New Jersey (Jeff Goldblum), Professor Toichi Hikita (Robert Ito), Reno (Pepe Serna), Perfect Tommy (Lewis Smith), Pinky Carruthers (Billy Vera) and several others.

New Jersey and Reno, ready to rock.
Photo by Bruce McBroom. © Sherwood Productions, Inc. 1983

As you can probably tell from this synopsis, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (referred to as Buckaroo Banzai from here on) is a very dense film that immerses you in a richly detailed world populated with eccentric characters. Since Buckaroo Banzai's theatrical release there have been rumors of unseen extra footage, including scenes with Jamie Lee Curtis playing Buckaroo Banzai's mother, as found in several versions of the script. These rumors proven true with the discovery of the bootlegged workprint video of Buckaroo Banzai.

Richter made it clear that the version of the film released to theaters in 1984 was the version he wanted to be seen at that time. The cut footage was eliminated in order to streamline the multilayered story for easier audience consumption. Richter explained, "The workprint videotape was made at the point in the editing process when we were at a happy medium with the film. The effects and soundtrack people where desperate for something to start working on and we decided to commit that version of the film to videotape so that they could use it. I still have my copy of the workprint on video."

The workprint contains a prologue about the death of Buckaroo's mother (played by Jamie Lee Curtis) and father (James Saito) along with several references to Buckaroo's lifelong nemesis, the scourge of Burma, Hanoi Xan (pronounced Shan) who was responsible for his parents' untimely demise twenty-nine years earlier. Since his character is not central to the plot of this film, Xan is never physically seen at any point in the workprint even though he is obviously a tremendously important factor in Buckaroo's life. The majority of the remaining extra footage consists of scene extensions and short sequences that help to develop the characters and their relationships. According to Richter, "In the time since the film's release, its become obvious that this type of extra information is exactly the kind of thing a Buckaroo Banzai fan would like to see." A director's cut at this point in time, using the workprint as a starting point, would allow him the opportunity to restore footage and expand the storyline and scope of the film.

When asked about his desire to do a director's cut, Richter replied, "I'd have to review all the outtakes...the way to do it is to look at the rough cut [the workprint] and see what you really did take out and see whether you want some of that stuff back in, because it's not automatically worthy just because we shot it. I would welcome an opportunity to review the material and say, in hindsight, I wish I'd left that in, but I'm sure that it wouldn't be that everything I took out I'd want to put back in. Part of the editing process is totally valid." Richter also noted that he had "verified that the extra footage and trims still exist and [that] they are in great condition."


Finding The Docudrama On Video

Where is that blasted director's cut?
Photo by Bruce McBroom. © Sherwood Productions, Inc. 1983

Currently when it comes to finding Buckaroo Banzai on video and laserdisc your chances are appallingly small unless (1) a video store has it for rent or (2) you are lucky enough to catch the far superior print sometimes shown on cable. There have been a total of three releases of the film on video since 1985 and only the first Vestron Video release was official. The other resources for finding the film are the cable TV version and the workprint video outlined as follows.


Video / Laserdisc

The Vestron videotape and laserdisc releases from 1985 contain the same washed out image and lousy panning and scanning. This same print was released on videotape by Video Treasures (in even poorer condition) in 1990 and Unique Films in 1995. All of these releases are out of print.


Cable TV

In contrast, one version of Buckaroo Banzai shown on cable TV has a much more vibrant image, different panning and scanning, and the opening and closing credits are letterboxed. Although it is a shame that the letterboxing is not a feature of the entire film, this cable version is the best viewing experience for Buckaroo Banzai. Unfortunately, there is also a totally panned and scanned version of Buckaroo Banzai shown on the Sci-Fi channel which is cut for time and therefore not recommended viewing.


Workprint Video

Presently the only way to see the completely letterboxed (1:85) image is on the bootleg workprint video of Buckaroo Banzai. The image quality of the videotape is very poor as it's a dub many generations away from the source. The workprint has virtually no music soundtrack except during the nightclub scene (the song played is the same as in the release version although the performance is different) and during the end credits footage where the characters march together (this is the same as in the release print). There are virtually no sound effects and many of the special effects are half done, i.e. bluescreen elements are visible where special effects shots would be matted in later. At least one special effect is not there at all, instead replaced by a card that reads "Optical Effect Missing." What the film does offer however is a correctly letterboxed image and approximately 13 minutes and 26 seconds of extra footage.


Examining The Workprint
The Death Of Buckaroo's Parents (The Missing Prologue)

The original prologue of the film is the most significant addition found in the workprint. The prologue shows us a young Buckaroo Banzai when his mother and father are killed in an explosion of the prototype Jet Car. In the December 1984 issue of Starlog, Richter had the following to say about the Jet Car explosion : "We learned in previews that while I might know everything about the [death of Buckaroo Banzai's parents] scene, the audience found it hard to meet all those characters."(1) When discussing this same sequence today, Richter acknowledges that this opening scene is exactly the type of extra information that fans of the film enjoy. When asked if there were any scenes he would like the chance to put back into the film he replied, "Well, definitely the prologue, there's no doubt about that."

The prologue footage was shot in 16mm to make to look just like a home movie and is entirely silent except for Rawhide's narration. The home movie look was achieved by having the image fill the center of the frame with black space on either side. This prologue runs for 2m 39s and contains a substantial amount of information. Buckaroo Banzai is seen as a young boy (played by Greg Mires) along with his father Masado (James Saito) and mother Sandra (Jamie Lee Curtis).

Sandra Banzai (Jamie Lee Curtis), Masado Banzai (James Saito) and
young Buckaroo Banzai (Greg Mires) during the first jet car experiments of 1955.
Photo by Bruce McBroom. © Sherwood Productions, Inc. 1983

"When we were casting the prologue," explained Richter, "Jamie Lee Curtis was dating one of the members on the crew. I didn't approach her for the part because I didn't think she would be interested. I was very surprised when she said 'I'll do it' and so she became Buckaroo's Mom."


The footage begins with Rawhide's voice-over narration and the young Buckaroo filming his own feet. He then pans up to everyone standing together at the Jet Car test site until Professor Hikita approaches and takes over the camera. Buckaroo is shown receiving a birthday cake from his parents. We see everyone preparing for the experiment with the Jet Car. When something goes wrong, Sandra Banzai rushes towards the Jet Car while Hikita grabs Buckaroo and runs to safety. The explosion occurs off-screen and Hikita protects Buckaroo from the blast debris.


Rawhide's Narration :

"The following unedited footage has been declassified by the Banzai Institute for Biomedical Engineering and Strategic Information.

1955. The American Southwest. The United States enters the rapid race to develop ever-more sophisticated weapons, resurrecting maverick Professor Toichi Hikita's work in electromagnetic particle acceleration, despite the dismal record of failure that stalled the project since the late 1930's.

Dr. Masado Banzai, pre-eminent Japanese quantum theorist, joins Professor Hikita and declares himself anxious to work for the forces of freedom. Dr. Banzai sires a precocious son. Enamored of the Great American West, he tags the tiny child Buckaroo, a tribute to his adopted homeland.

Dr. Sandra Banzai, Texas-born pioneer in negative mass propulsion, wife of Masado Banzai. Loves Buckaroo. Though racially-mixed, a boy like any other, possessing what all children most require; a pair of loving parents.

Given a second chance after his secret pre-war laboratory disaster at Princeton, Professor Hikita finds new life at the Texas School of Mines, assembling a team of crack scientists willing to gamble he's right in the daring assertion that man can, indeed, pass unharmed through solid matter.

Sir Godwin Lloyd Jones of Cambridge, a brainy, affable limey, co-developer with Whitehead and Lord Russell of the world's most advanced theoretical gravity catapult, travels to Texas to join Masado Banzai for the first test of a radically-redesigned Oscillation Overthruster.

[The Jet Car experiment begins off-screen.]

A sudden precipitous rise in cockpit temperature...

[Sandra Banzai runs towards the smoking Jet Car and the vehicle explodes off-screen.]

...later traced to a crude incendiary device planted in the two-man speed vehicle by none other than Hanoi Xan. Tragically, three lives are lost."

The information revealed in the prologue is important on several levels. We learn the fate of Buckaroo's parents. We discover Buckaroo's connection with Professor Hikita, who becomes the new father figure in his life. We also learn that this Jet Car experiment is the second of its kind. The first Jet Car experiment is revisited by Professor Hikita's former partner, Emilio Lizardo, during a flashback found later in the film (and the third jet car experiment is seen in the opening of the released version). Finally, Buckaroo's arch-nemesis, the evil Hanoi Xan, is mentioned here for the first time.

When it was decided that this prologue asked the audience to assimilate too much information too quickly the prologue was dropped in favor of scrolling text. The released version of the film now begins with the following text, not found in the shooting script, which quickly brings the audience up to speed with an abbreviated history of the main character.


Buckaroo Banzai, born to an American mother and a Japanese father, thus began life as he was destined to live it...going in several directions at once. A brilliant neurosurgeon, this restless young man grew quickly dissatisfied with a life devoted solely to medicine. He roamed the planet studying martial arts and particle physics, collecting around him a most eccentric group of friends, those hard-rocking scientists The Hong Kong Cavaliers.

And now, with his astounding Jet Car ready for a bold assault on the dimension barrier, Buckaroo Banzai faces the greatest challenge of his turbulent life...

...while high above Earth, an alien spacecraft keeps a nervous watch on Team Banzai's every move...


Buckaroo's Arch-Nemesis : The Evil Hanoi Xan

"I'm not Xan, and I don't play him in the film."
Photo by Bruce McBroom. © Sherwood Productions, Inc. 1983

One result of losing the original opening sequence was the subsequent removal of all references to Hanoi Xan. This included two additional places in the workprint that are extensions of scenes existing in the release print.

"I was under enormous pressure to simplify this movie," explained Richter, "and that's not to say there was a director's cut. But little things like [all references to Hanoi Xan's character being removed] were concessions I made because, I thought, I don't want to fight for... [Richter paused for a moment to consider what he was saying and then continued] It's big in the sense that Hanoi Xan is a huge element in the Buckaroo saga [or] legend, but at that time your goal is to protect this movie as much as you can and if you get some guy saying "'This is one more complicated, ridiculous [story element], we never see the guy!' then [by removing references to Hanoi Xan] I can keep so much other stuff in. I can win so many other battles by throwing him [David Begelman, head of Sherwood Productions] those little bones that you say, 'O.K., take them out for God's sakes.' You know, I want the whole movie to be out there."

The first Hanoi Xan reference after the prologue occurs in Buckaroo's bedroom. Penny Priddy has found a picture of Buckaroo with a woman that closely resembles herself. She questions Buckaroo about the woman and discovers that she is his dead wife Peggy. The reason that Penny and Peggy look alike is that they were sisters, separated at birth, who never knew the other existed. This scene falls after the footage of Professor Hikita being attacked in his laboratory by a Red Lectroid. (From here on, all new footage will be in italics.)


Penny : "Where is she?"

Buckaroo Banzai : "She's dead. Murdered. A Present from Hanoi Xan."

Penny : "Hanoi Xan. The Boss of the World Crime League. The guy in the comic books."

Buckaroo Banzai : "No, not the guy in the comic books. The guy out there."

The second reference comes later when Penny is captured by Emilio Lizardo. He orders his Lectroids to torture her in order to discover what she knows about Buckaroo's Oscillation Overthruster. As she is forced from the room she cries out the following lines, "Not on your life! You think you're gonna destroy me like you did my sister! You think I don't know who you are, Hanoi Xan!" Lizardo looks perplexed by this comment, as well he should since he is not Hanoi Xan, and says, "Hanoi Xan? Who's that?"

In the same Starlog interview mentioned earlier, Richter explained why all references to Hanoi Xan were cut from the release print : "It doesn't benefit the film to refer to two villains [Emilio Lizardo and Hanoi Xan] and only ask the audience to learn about one of them [Lizardo]."(2) When asked today, Richter notes that he would restore the references in a director's cut to add another story layer to the film.

As for the importance of Hanoi Xan, Richter said, "Hanoi Xan is a central, central image [to the world of Buckaroo Banzai]. I mean, to us [screenwriter Earl Mac Rauch and Richter] Xan's a much more powerful force than Lizardo. Lizardo is just a crazy fluke from another part of the universe. Xan is Moriarty [i.e. Sherlock Holmes' arch-nemesis]."


No Matter Where You Go, Some Minor Footage Was Cut

A devastating moment for Rawhide fans everywhere.
Photo by Bruce McBroom. © Sherwood Productions, Inc. 1983

The workprint is full of scene additions and extensions, including those mentioned earlier. "Why was some of this extra footage cut?," muses Richter, "I'd have to look at it all again and see if the quality was up to the rest of the film. Does the acting and action and story told pass the test that would get the footage back into the film? Do the individual moments that were cut play well on their own and would they work within the flow of the film if they were restored? Would adding the footage give a director's cut a different rhythm? The key is finding a balance between restoring footage and keeping the rhythm."

When asked about specific footage that Richter might want to restore in a director's cut, he said "...There are shots that come to mind and there are moments really, [such as] in Yoyodyne [that I might like to restore]. I'd have to look at the material because some of it might have led me into moments that were dull. So, while I don't think of 'Oh, there's that amazing sequence I wish I had left in', I just think that there were probably little sweeteners that we were trimming that make the thing move faster. You know, scenes that would have one or two more lines, it might be fun to hear [them again]."

Not all of these scene extensions can be detailed thoroughly here although a few examples are in order. Most of the footage helps to give the story a little more atmosphere and adds more depth to the characters.


Getting To Know The Hong Kong Cavaliers

The Buckaroo Banzai workprint offers the viewer the opportunity to gain more insight into the characters interaction with one another. A good example of this occurs in the backstage area right before Buckaroo and his band, the Hong Kong Cavaliers, go on stage at Artie's Artery, a local nightclub and musical venue.


Professor Hikita, hard at work as always.
Photo by Bruce McBroom.
© Sherwood Productions, Inc. 1983

Prof. Hikita : "Buckaroo, I've done a spectrographic analysis on the specimen you pulled off the Jet Car drive shaft."

Perfect Tommy hands Buckaroo a viewer (which looks like a large ViewMaster) to look at the Professor's work.

Buckaroo Banzai : "Anybody we know, Tommy?"

Perfect Tommy looks into the viewer. We see a shot of a nude woman from the waist up.

Perfect Tommy : "Who put this dirty picture in Buckaroo's viewer?"

Prof. Hikita (still discussing the specimen) : "I ran it through the centrifuge but it came up acidic."

Reno: "It's dead though, right?"

Prof. Hikita : "By whose standards?"

Perfect Tommy : "Look like a roly-poly to me."

Rawhide: "Pay the band."

Buckaroo Banzai : "Uh, Rawhide, you're keen on bugs, what do you think?"


This extra footage shows the human side of the group as they jokingly interact before a performance while at the same time relating more information about the creatures from the 8th Dimension.

The Hong Kong Cavaliers get into a groove.
Photo by Bruce McBroom. © Sherwood Productions, Inc. 1983

The character of Penny Priddy is first introduced during the scene where the Hong Kong Cavaliers are performing as a band. Buckaroo notices someone not having a good time and stops the show to talk to the person who turns out to be Penny. Buckaroo mistakenly thinks she has said her name is Peggy, the name of his dead wife.


A sad face in the crowd...
Photo by Bruce McBroom. © Sherwood Productions, Inc. 1983

Penny Priddy : "No. My name's Penny. Penny Priddy. There, I said it. But it doesn't matter, it's not important. I just, I just sponged up a little too much Vat 69, that's all. I'm down to my last nickel in this lousy town. And they wouldn't even take my luggage in hock. And I lost my room at the Y this morning. But it's cool. You know, it's like this jerk at the unemployment office says to me. He said, little girl, as long as there's a sidewalk you'll always have a job. (The crowd laughs) He meant it as a compliment! "

Buckaroo Banzai (to the crowd) : "Hey, hey, hey, hey now. Don't be mean. We don't have to be mean. 'Cause, remember, no matter where you go, there you are."


While Penny's extra lines reinforce the fact that she is really down on her luck, her response to the laughing crowd shows that she still has some fighting spirit left. This additional footage also puts Buckaroo's request for the crowd "not be mean" into context as they are laughing directly at her rather than just at her situation as found in the release version.


...or is she more than that to Buckaroo?
Photo by Bruce McBroom. © Sherwood Productions, Inc. 1983

A sizable chunk of additional footage can be found in the original beginning of the conference room scene where Buckaroo Banzai explains his Jet Car experiment to the media. This sequence is comprised of entirely new footage and runs for 50 seconds.


John Bigboote stuffs packets of sugar from a coffee table into his pockets as Buckaroo and his men arrive. Buckaroo gets up on stage and whispers the following introductions; "Professor Toichi Hikita, Penny Priddy. Senator Margaret Cunningham from New Jersey." When he sits down, Professor Hikita hands him some papers and says, "Lizardo." When Penny realizes she is the only one standing she quickly sits down. Buckaroo says to Hikita, "Yes, Reno's going to hang around, go with you for a couple of days. Okay?" Professor Hikita replies, "Are you kidding? I can take care of myself."

[The scene then continues as found in the release version with an introduction by the Secretary of Defense and Buckaroo explaining his successful Jet Car experiment.]


Later, during the same conference, Buckaroo is interrupted by a reporter with a question about Emilio Lizardo. Lizardo is on everyone's minds as he has just escaped from a mental institution that morning.


Buckaroo says, "The rest of this rock is actually only empty space. So, back in 1937, Professor Hikita here and Dr. Emilio Lizardo... " and a reporter interrupts to say, "Excuse me. Is that the same Lizardo that just..." to which Buckaroo replies, "Yeah, yeah, yeah. Exactly. The same old ugly snoot you probably woke up to in today's paper. Anyway, Dr. Lizardo and Professor Hikita..." [The scene continues normally from here.]


This footage is not crucial to the story but is effective in fleshing out the setting and adding some extra moments for character development between Buckaroo Banzai and Professor Hikita. Emilio Lizardo is mentioned twice during the conference therefore reminding the viewing audience that he is going to be playing an important part later in the film. Professor Hikita's assertion that he doesn't need extra protection proves very wrong as later in the same scene he will be kidnapped by John Bigboote and several other Red Lectroids.


A wounded John O'Conner from the assault on the Banzai Institute.
Photo by Bruce McBroom. © Sherwood Productions, Inc. 1983

The camaraderie found in the previous footage carries over into another scene extension when everyone walks into the Banzai Institute to be met by Mrs. Johnson (Laura Harrington).


Penny Priddy : "Well, where are they all going?"

Mrs. Johnson : "Bunkhouse. Off limits."

Rawhide, New Jersey, and Reno walk into the room where Billy Travers, the resident computer expert, sits working on a computer.

Billy Travers : "Hi fellas. Lay down some background vocals tonight?"

Rawhide : "I wish life were so simple Billy. Hey, you remember that outfit the Justice Department was checking into last year?"

Billy Travers : "Which one?"

Rawhide : "Yoyodyne Propulsion Systems."

Billy Travers : "Y-O-Y-O-D-Y-N-E. The big space and weapons high tech consortium. Way behind on the delivery of the new Truncheon Bomber."

Perfect Tommy : "Don't be so laconic Billy. Buckaroo's orders. Gotta break into their databank and attack their system. You up to it?"

Billy Travers : "I'm a little short handed tonight. My phone phreaks are in town at the big ice cream social."

Perfect Tommy : "What does that mean?"

New Jersey : "So we'll help, let's get cracking."

Billy Travers : "Who are you?"

New Jersey : "Sid Zw...(He mentally decides that his real name is not needed)....New Jersey."

[This is followed by the Red Lectroids trying to get into the Black Lectroid Thermopod].

This footage is a good introduction to computer expert Billy Travers (Michael Santoro) and helps establish him as a member of the Banzai team while at the same time showing how New Jersey is trying to ease himself into the group. It's also nice to see more interaction between the Cavaliers and to see how they function as a team.


The Evil Red Lectroids (From Planet 10 Via The 8th Dimension)

Who took my battery!
Photo by Bruce McBroom. © Sherwood Productions, Inc. 1983

"Why are the Lectroids called Lectroids? Because they feed on electricity," explained Richter, "That's why Emilio Lizardo is using so much electricity per month in the institution and why John Gomez is carrying around a battery [in the following scene]."

After the Red Lectroids have fled from Buckaroo's press conference in a van, John O'Connor picks up an emergency beacon signal from a Black Lectroid thermopod (i.e. spaceship) that has crashed.


John O'Connor : "What is it? What is it?"

John Bigboote : "Black thermopod emergency beacon."

John Gomez is seen sucking the acid out of a car battery through a straw [in the letterboxed version.]

John Gomez : "Here? On Earth? Why? John Bigboote, why?"

John Bigboote : "John Whorfin. They must have heard he escaped. What's the location? Give me a fix."

John Gomez, misunderstanding what Bigboote wants, offers a hit from the battery he's "smoking."

John Bigboote : "No thanks, I'm driving."

This short amount of extra footage was removed at the request of Sherwood Productions because they felt that the Red Lectroids were not being portrayed as evil and menacing enough. The producers felt that showing the Red Lectroids as alien "pot heads" wouldn't bring across the idea that they were a real threat to Earth. The joke the producers weren't getting was the fact that the Red Lectroids aren't much of a menace to Earth anymore. They have been here for over 40 years and have grown soft during that time. The true menace at the moment are the Black Lectroids, hovering above the planet in a spaceship, who will destroy the Earth if the Red Lectroids are able to make it back to Planet 10. Richter really liked this scene and would restore the footage in a director's cut if that becomes a reality.

Do you think we're a menace now?
Photo by Bruce McBroom. © Sherwood Productions, Inc. 1983

Finally, one small scene extension plays upon the dual personalities of Emilio Lizardo and the Red Lectroid that has possessed him, John Whorfin. This sequence occurs as Buckaroo is tortured for the secrets of his Overthruster.


Buckaroo Banzai : "The missing circuit's in your head, Whorfin."

Dr. Lizardo : "Whorfin? How did you know that was my secret identity?"

Buckaroo Banzai : "John Emdall spilled the beans."

Dr. Lizardo: (curses in Italian) : "Bigboote... activate your probes!"


The desire to streamline the narrative somewhat in terms of villains would have lead to the removal of the "secret identity" line spoken by Lizardo. This is also a stronger motivation for having Bigboote activate the probes attached to Buckaroo's head.


The Good Black Lectroids (Also From Planet 10 Via Their Extremely Large Spacecraft)

When the Black Lectroids contact Buckaroo and his crew, they do so through a holographic recording of John Emdall, the Black Lectroid leader. A little extra footage in the workprint reveals that what they are seeing may not be a recording after all.


This is your fault, Buckaroo Banzai....
Photo by Bruce McBroom.
© Sherwood Productions, Inc. 1983


John Emdall : "And now, you, Buckaroo Banzai, have unintentionally helped John Whorfin with the success of your Oscillation Overthruster. For our intelligence warns us that he intends to steal your Overthruster. If he should attempt this, we will have no choice but to disrupt world-wide electronic communications, and fire a particle beam weapon from your airspace to Smolensk, in the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics."

Perfect Tommy : "That's an action the Kremlin would most certainly misinterpret as an American first strike! They're already a little trigger-happy as it is!"

John Emdall : "Exactly, Perfect Tommy. The Soviets will retaliate, and your President Widmark will launch a massive counterforce strike, and within twenty minutes, the danger to Planet 10 will be removed. But, because we're good guys, we're giving you a chance to save your planet. Stop John Whorfin before sunset! If you fail, we will be forced to help you destroy yourselves."

What was thought to be a holographic recording seems to be a two way communicator, making the threat to the Earth that much more immediate. "What does that mean?" asks Richter, "Is it [the hologram of John Emdall] reacting to us? Is this a message or is it a live transmission? Or is it something else entirely? We love to keep throwing these questions at the audience to make them question what they are seeing." This footage is another example of the different layers of Buckaroo Banzai that were cut to help streamline the story and to make both the Red and Black Lectroids more threatening.


What Does The Future Hold?

Rawhide and New Jersey would like to know the answer to that as well.
Photo by Bruce McBroom. © Sherwood Productions, Inc. 1983


At the moment, the future for Buckaroo Banzai looks brighter than it has in 15 years. The video and DVD rights to Buckaroo Banzai, long in legal limbo, were recently acquired by MGM. An MGM representative stated that they intend to do a special edition of Buckaroo Banzai on DVD and Richter is excited about the prospect. In addition to the excellent DVD news, Richter and Earl Mac Rauch have a Buckaroo Banzai TV show in development at Fox. As if this wasn't good enough, Rauch is in discussions with Pocket Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, to publish several Buckaroo Banzai novels. There is even an official Banzai web site located at http://www.banzai-institute.com where you can find script fragments and a downloadable version of the opening prologue!

And what about the long-awaited sequel promised at the end of the original film? According to Richter, "the sequel is something that we'll have to see about after some of these other developing situations resolve themselves one way or another. Of course, there can only be a sequel if Buckaroo gives us the go-ahead." In other words, when Buckaroo Banzai is involved, you can never be too sure what's going to happen.


Special thanks to Rick Richter for his time, photographs and continued interest in bringing the world of Buckaroo Banzai to all the many fans.

1) Goldberg, Lee, W.D. Richter Barnstorming with Buckaroo Banzai", Starlog, December 1984, Page 21.

2) Goldberg, Lee, W.D. Richter Barnstorming with Buckaroo Banzai", Starlog, December 1984, Page 21.


This article is Copyright © 1999 by Sean Murphy. All Rights Reserved.

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