Hey hey! It’s winter, I’m sick, there’s nothing on TV and I’ve got one of our old Cinema 1544 movies queued up on my DVR. You know what that means? It’s live-review backfill time! Woo-hoo!
Before I get to the real thing, I ought to note that Phong did have a short for us way back when this was shown (over 6 years ago!) but aside from knowing that the title is “The Snowman”, I can’t seem to find anything out about it. There are about a zillion hits on YouTube for a 30-minute David-Bowie-hosted short, but that ain’t it. I seem to recall a simple black-and-white animated clip about 5 minutes long. Sadly, the real short has been lost to the annals of time, or until I remember to bug Phong about it.
The feature presentation, however, is not in the least lost to the annals of time (nor to the annals of space, as it were). Surprisingly, back when it was shown originally at Cinema 1544, it was my first time seeing the film, and this will be number 2: Welcome to W.D. Richter‘s 1984 cult hit The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension!
Any movie that starts with A-Team block font and a Star Wars scroll to supercheese 1980s synth music has to be legit, right? Oh, wait what did that text in the scroll say? Umm, Buckaroo Banzai is a half-Japanese neurosurgeon with a jet car that is about to cross the dimension barrier. The aliens aren’t happy about it. That about covers it.
The first thing you notice is that BB is decidedly not half-Japanese. And he has really hip red-framed glasses. BB is late for testing out his jet car because he’s doing neurosurgery. The second thing you notice is the epic TRS-80 computer graphics, sometimes with typos. Eventually BB gets to the test run and breaks the sound barrier while being pursued by a helicopter (hell of a helicopter!) Anyway, BB changes the parameters of the test by going off course and going through a mountain. Eighth dimension, I guess. Inside the mountain are a few humongous microtubules and floating space babies. How did he do it? The “Oscillation Overthruster”.
The OO (plenty of alliteration in this movie, it would appear) was originally invented in the ’30s by Dr. Emilio Lizardo, whose first attempt to travel through the 8th dimension was somewhat of a failure and resulted in his body being taken over by an interdimensional alien named John.
They’re all named John.
Wait, what? BB is not only a neurosurgeon AND a master of time and space (well, at least space), but he’s also the headman of a rock band. And they didn’t even have Five-Hour Energy yet! He picks up Penny Pretty at a gig by pointing out the fact that she’s crying to the entire audience. With a spotlight. BB really knows what the ladies like. Of course, PP turns out to be the long-lost adopted twin sister of BB’s deceased wife Peggy. For no good reason.
Aaaand we have the origin of “No matter where you go, there you are.” Hey BB also has his own arcade game, too. And his own comic book. Random observations, but then again its kind of a random movie.
But when BB is giving a press conference about his amazing feat of driving through a mountain he gets a prank call from the President of the United States, which turns out actually to have been placed by interdimensional space aliens, except they’re in orbit around Earth, apparently in a few of the more familiar dimensions. They zap his brain through a pay phone, which appears to have no effect except to allow BB to see who the disguised aliens are, kind of like in They Live.
The aliens turn out to be Lectroids from Planet 10, and they’re associated with Yoyodyne Propulsion Systems (YY). Wait, no. The orbiting aliens are good guys fighting the YY bad guys, and they send down rasta John Parker (bearing bubble-wrap masks) to help BB. The “bad” aliens were all part of the whole Orson Welles War of the Worlds thing…it turns out it wasn’t a hoax, and there really were aliens landing in Grover’s Mill New Jersey.
Did I mention they were all named John? The one surnamed Bigbooté doesn’t like his name being pronounced “Big Booty”.
Hmm. So the orbiting aliens aren’t so nice after all. They imprisoned the YY aliens’ Nazi buddies in the 8th dimension and the OO that the YY aliens are now going to steal is going to allow them to help their Nazi buddies escape, I think. Yeah, that looks like the plan. And if BB doesn’t stop the bad aliens, the good aliens are going to blow up the planet. Anyway, the YY aliens steal the OO, but they don’t know it. See, they kidnap PP to get BB to give over the OO, but PP actually has the OO because Professor Hikita gave it to her when the YY aliens were attacking.
So BB goes to YY to get PP and the OO.
What follows is your typical nonsensical action sequence where BB saves PP, gets the OO back (from the Secretary of Defense, of all people), and blows up the YY aliens’ spaceship (replete with meat jacket). Thus, the planet is saved from the menacing good aliens, who then act like they were cool with Earth the whole time. It’s all pretty hard to follow, and even harder to take seriously. It’s rather like a fever dream, and considering that I’m sick, I’m not sure that it isn’t.
Is it sufficiently silly? Yes. But in the end I think it’s pretty obvious why the promised sequel never materialized – with its low-budget props, its incomprehensible plot, and its ridiculous scientific technobabble, the movie just kind of sucked.