THE ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO
Without question, THE ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO BANZAI ACROSS THE EIGHTH DIMENSION ($20) is one the most eagerly awaited cult films to ever arrive on DVD. After years of being in "rights hell" and unavailable on any home video format, MGM Home Entertainment has issued a superb special edition of THE ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO BANZAI, one which includes all the bells and whistles that the film’s numerous fans could want. Not only that, but it should be noted that this is also the first time that THE ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO BANZAI has been available in its full wide screen glory- outside of a movie theater.
The plot of THE ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO BANZAI is fairly convoluted, centering on the great scientific achievement of the title character, who is something of a modern day renaissance man. Buckaroo Banzai (Peter Weller) is a brain surgeon, physicist, crime fighter and rock musician. With the aid of The Hong Kong Cavaliers, his band and crime fighting cohorts, Buckaroo Banzai is the first human to journey into the eighth dimension and return sane. The news of Buckaroo Banzai’s accomplishment reaches Doctor Emilio Lizardo (John Lithgow), who attempted the same feat back in 1938. However, unlike Buckaroo Banzai, Lizardo was only partially successful in breaking though the dimensional barrier- coming back to our dimension seemingly insane. As it turns out, Lizardo isn’t insane; but instead is possessed by the leader of a group of aliens that have been exiled to the eighth dimension. Making his escape from an asylum in New Jersey, Lizardo sets out to steal Buckaroo Banzai’s Oscillation Overthruster- the key component that makes travel to the eighth dimension possible.
This brief summary leaves out many of the plot details that make THE ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO BANZAI an interesting and fun movie. It also leaves out many of the plot details that make THE ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO BANZAI something of confusing movie. The performances are uniformly good and the film benefits from the earnestness of Peter Weller’s portrayal of the leading character. Additionally, it is the scenery chewing quality of John Lithgow’s work that makes THE ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO BANZAI a real hoot. Supporting the film’s protagonist and antagonist are Ellen Barkin, Jeff Goldblum, Christopher Lloyd, Lewis Smith, Rosalind Cash, Robert Ito, Pepe Serna, Ronald Lacey, Matt Clark, Clancy Brown, William Traylor, Carl Lumbly, Vincent Schiavelli and Dan Hedaya. Look for a brief appearance by Jamie Lee Curtis in the extended version of the film that offers the alternate opening.
MGM Home Entertainment has made THE ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO BANZAI available on DVD in a 2.35:1 wide screen presentation that is also enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. For a modestly budgeted film from 1984, MGM’s transfer makes THE ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO BANZAI look surprisingly good. In fact, for this type of film, the transfer looks great. The image is pretty crisp and nicely detailed, although it is a bit softer than a newer film. Colors are bright and well saturated, while flesh tones appear wonderfully natural. There are plenty of intense reds in the film’s color scheme and they are reproduced without a hint of noise or smearing. Blacks are accurately rendered, contrast is smooth and shadow detail is more than respectable. The film element used for the transfer displays few blemishes and very little appreciable grain. Clean dual layer authoring keeps digital compression artifacts from becoming noticeable.
For this release, THE ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO BANZAI comes with a newly mixed Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack that makes the most of the circa 1984 sound recordings. Overall, this is a very pleasing sound mix that is both engaging and lively. As expected, the forward soundstage is soundstage is better defined and has a stronger presence than the rear. However, the surrounds are well deployed throughout the course of the movie, providing active effects, ambience and musical fill. Dialogue reproduction is good; although the actors’ voices don’t have that sparkling, live quality that one associates with newer soundtrack recordings. The bass channel is solid enough to add the required rumble to the film’s action/special effects sequences. A French monaural soundtrack is also encoded onto the DVD, as are French and Spanish subtitles.
Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD’s interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a number of interesting supplements produced under the auspices of the Banzai Institute. As we learn from the film’s audio commentary by director W.D. Richter and writer Earl Mac Rauch, THE ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO BANZAI is a docudrama based upon real events. The rest of the supplemental materials carry on this conceit, making them even more fun for fans of the film. Also included is Pinky Carruther's Unknown Facts subtitle track, which goes into the nitty-gritty of Buckaroo Banzai’s world. The film’s alternate opening sequence is included as a standalone among the supplements, or it can be viewed integrated back into the film as part of the extended version of THE ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO BANZAI. The documentary Buckaroo Banzai Declassified runs under twenty-five minutes and includes a new interview with the director, as well as a look back at the production of the film. Fourteen deleted scenes taken from a work print/VHS source have been included. As one might expect, the material is in rough shape, but fans will appreciate having it. A CGI trailer by Foundation Imaging, which features the film’s jet car, is provided on the DVD. The DVD also contains a theatrical teaser, an extensive profile of Buckaroo Banzai, profiles of the other characters, details on the film’s jet car, a sizable photo gallery and extensive materials from the Banzai Institute Archives, which includes text information, diagrams and assorted artwork. THE ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO BANZAI is also a Nuon enhanced DVD, for those that own players capable of taking advantage of those features.
THE ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO BANZAI is a completely enjoyable cult movie experience that benefits from MGM Home Entertainment’s terrific DVD presentation. With the addition of its solid supplemental section, this becomes a must own DVD for fans both old and new.
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