The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
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The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension is a 1984 film written by Earl Mac Rauch and directed by W.D. Richter that is one part B-Movie, one part Action Adventure, one part comedy, and one part political satire.

It boasts some names that were quite famous in the 1980s and remain well known now:

Despite this rather auspicious listing of A- and high B-list actors, the movie was not well received in theaters, but it did develop something of a cult following.

Brilliant scientist Buckaroo Banzai is a neurosurgeon who performs rock and roll (on multiple instruments, yet!) and studies the unknown. Surrounded by his faithful team of genius rockers, the Hong Kong Cavaliers, he travels the world pleasing the fans with music, and facing off against evil wherever he may find it.

In this adventure, one of many Shrouded in Myth, Buckaroo goes from surgery to the test of the dimension-hopping Jet Car, to a performance at New Brunswick NJ night spot Artie's Artery. As Buckaroo turns the mood mellow with a solo piano performance of "Since I Don't Have You", a gunshot fires. Penny Priddy was trying to commit suicide, but because Buckaroo has many enemies, a misunderstanding results in her being arrested for attempting to kill him. Meanwhile, the Black Lectroids have sent an agent to Earth to warn Buckaroo that their historic enemies the Red Lectroids will try to steal his invention the Oscillation Overthruster (which the Jet Car used to enter the 8th Dimension) and use it to release their comrades from interdimensional exile. To stop them from causing trouble back on Planet Ten, the Black Lectroids will fire a particle beam from U.S. airspace to the USSR, which will start World War Three, which will hopefully result in vaporizing the bad guys. This, needless to say, does not bode well for Earth. The U.S. Government also wants the Jet Car for military applications. Buckaroo has a lot on his plate, but will he manage to save the world, get the girl, and keep the Jet Car from being misused?

A cult film with a devoted following, Buckaroo Banzai continues to influence films and filmmakers to this day. As recently as 2016, it was poised to make the leap to television, helmed by none other than Kevin Smith, until rights issues sunk the project. But the fact that the rights to a decades-old Cult Classic that did poorly at the box office are still Serious Business offers hope that someone will eventually revive it.

Tropes used in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension include:
  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: Penny and Buckaroo have a quiet moment together before the battle against the Lectroids begins in earnest.
  • Acid Trip Dimension: See also Hyperspace Is a Scary Place and This Is Your Premise on Drugs.
  • Aliens Speaking English: The Lectroids.
  • All There in the Manual: The novelization and the DVD Commentary include a great deal of explanation and backstory.
  • Ascended Fanboy: Buckaroo has a worldwide fan organization called the Blue Blaze Irregulars, who monitor the airwaves to answer the call from Buckaroo at a moment's notice.
  • Back from the Dead: Penny Priddy, thanks to John Emdall. This may not be a first for her, either -- the novelization ends on the unsettling suggestion that Penny may in fact be a mindwiped Peggy -- Buckaroo's first wife, supposedly Penny's twin sister, who was killed via poison by agents of Hanoi Xan long before the opening of the story.
  • Backup Twin: If the film were actually part of an ongoing series the way the supporting material makes it out to be, Penny would be a classic example.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: Orson Welles' War of the Worlds Broadcast? Not so much a fake, as him trying to flush out the actual alien invaders.
  • Big Bad: Hanoi Xan, leader of the World Crime League -- mentioned on the novelization, the DVD Commentary and in the Buckaroo comic books. He engineered Peggy Banzai's murder. There originally were mentions of him throughout the movie, but they were removed at the insistence of the studio.
  • Big Damn Heroes: The Hong Kong Cavaliers storm the Yoyodyne facility using their band tour bus.
  • Big Electric Switch: Emilio Lizardo/Lord Whorfin uses them twice.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Penny Priddy is all battered and bruised when the good guys get her back from the bad guys, but we see no blood.
  • Blown Across the Room: When John Bigbooté spits a starfish at the nameless Jet Car mechanic.
  • Bow Ties Are Cool: Buckaroo is rarely seen without one.
  • But Not Too Foreign: the half-Japanese, half-American titular Buckaroo.
  • Chewing the Scenery: John Lithgow as the driven-mad by possession Dr. Emilio Lizardo.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Whorfin using the Shock Tower on Buckaroo and Penny Priddy's torture.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Red Lectroids are evil, Black Lectroids are good. This works in both their human and native appearances. Red Lectroids are disguised as "White" (i.e. of European descent) humans and Black Lectroids look, well, "Black" (i.e. of African descent). And Black Lectroids -- in either guise -- all speak with Jamaican accents.
    • It's better than that. In their human guises, Red Lectroids have bright, orangey red hair -- and when Lizardo gets possessed by Lord John Whorfin, his previously black hair suddenly turns bright red.
  • Combat Pragmatist: John Whorfin does shoot Bigbooté after one too many whines about the proper pronunciation of his name.
  • Comm Links: Buckaroo and Rawhide each have one.
  • Cool Car: The Jet Car, and the Hong Kong Cavaliers' tour bus
  • Cow Tools: "Why is there a watermelon there?" "I'll explain later."
    • Answer: Experiment in making fruit sturdy enough to survive air drop but remaining still edible. Yes, seriously.
      • Follow Up Answer: Eggs are next.
    • Another answer : Put in so the makers of the film could see whether or not the meddling executives had given up yelling at them as of that point in the production. Yes, seriously.
  • Cryptic Background Reference: Lots of them.
  • Death Is Dramatic: Rawhide and Penny both.
  • Disposable Woman: Peggy Banzai, Buckaroo's dead wife.
  • Damsel in Distress: Penny Priddy, Peggy's twin sister and Buckaroo's new Love Interest.
  • Dope Slap: Whorfin to the guard who couldn't turn on the TV to show Penny's torture.
  • DVD Commentary: Done in character by Earl Mac Rauch as Reno Nevada, who explains how the events in the movie differ from the actual events as they occurred to Buckaroo and company.
  • Final Speech: Rawhide.
  • Five Man Band Concert: The Hong Kong Cavaliers number greater than five, but there are five playing at Artie's Artery.
  • Flash Back: Early scenes depict the tests of the Jet Car, and the accident that caused Lizardo to end up with Whorfin living in his head.
  • Flash Back Back Back: At the beginning of the flashback to Lizardo's accident.
  • Fruit of the Loon: See "why is there a watermelon there?"
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Buckaroo invented the Jet Car and (with professor Hikita) the Oscillation Overthruster, among other things.
  • Goggles Do Something Unusual: John Emdall sends Buckaroo a Hologram recording that can only be viewed by wearing special Lectroid-made eyewear.
    • Which looks suspiciously like bubble wrap.
  • Government Agency of Fiction: The U.S. Department of Defense, in the form of its Secretary.
  • Groin Attack: Buckaroo kicks a Red Lectroid in the groin after being discovered.
  • Gun Fu: In the climactic base invasion, Buckaroo shoots three Lectroids surrounding him by passing his gun behind his head twice.
  • Hachimaki: Buckaroo ties one around his head before the jet car speed run.
  • Head Desk: Perfect Tommy lightly bumps his head against the prison bars while Buckaroo is talking to Penny Priddy in jail. The expression on his face and later dialogue indicates that he's doing it out of disbelief that Buckaroo is wasting his time with a woman who tried to kill him. Watch it here, starting at 3:20.
  • Heroes-R-Us: the Banzai Institute, located in East Brunswick NJ is Buckaroo's headquarters and the place where the Hong Kong Cavaliers and the rest of Buckaroo's staff bunk between assignments/jobs/missions.
  • Hero Stole My Bike: Buckaroo takes advantage of an unattended motorcycle to pursue the Red Lectroids.
    • In the novelization, the motorcycle has an attached sidecar and the operator gallantly offers to drive Buckaroo in pursuit... and succeeds in doing something that no one has ever managed: scaring Buckaroo Banzai. Through the simple expedient of being highly intoxicated and driving very, very badly in heavy traffic.
  • Hologram: The message from John Emdall, generated by a record player-like device.
  • Homemade Inventions: the Jet Car.
  • Hostage for Macguffin: Lord John Whorfin demands the Oscillation Overthruster in return for Penny Priddy's life.
  • Hyperspace Is a Scary Place: The Eighth Dimension happens to be where the evil Red Lectroids were exiled as well as the dimension that vehicles using the Oscillation Overthruster to pass through solid matter wind up in. It's also apparently a combination of Jan Svenkmayer animation, electron microscopy, and nausea-inducing swerving.
  • I Have Your Wife: When they grab "Doctor" Penny Priddy, the first order of business is trying to get Buckaroo to submit to a hostage exchange for the overthruster. Penny puts up a brave front; Buckaroo tells her to get off the phone.
  • It Is Pronounced "Tro-PAY": John Bigbooté
  • Joisey: Almost all the Earthside action takes place in New Jersey.

PA Voice: Warning: We are not in the Eighth Dimension. We are over New Jersey.

  • Last Kiss: Buckaroo tries to give one to Penny Priddy after she dies, but it partially revives her. He finishes bringing her back with a True Love's Kiss.
  • Lie Detector: The Shock Tower that Lord Whorfin hooks Buckaroo up to.
  • Literary Agent Hypothesis: All Buckaroo media [the movie, the comics, the novels] are all supposedly based on the adventures of Buckaroo himself, who is not a character, but a real person.
  • Long-Lost Relative: Penny is the long lost twin sister of Buckaroo's dead wife, Peggy. Maybe.
  • Mad Scientist: Dr. Emilio Lizardo after he's possessed by Lord John Whorfin.
  • Meaningful Name: Penny Priddy.
  • Midair Repair: Buckaroo jumpstarts his borrowed Lectroid ship while it's in a dive.
  • Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: Kidnapping and theft -> A plot to conquer a planet and the possible start of World War III.
  • Naive Newcomer: New Jersey
  • Neck Lift: Lord John Whorfin to an insane asylum attendant and John Bigbooté to the Secretary of Defense.
  • Neck Snap: Lord John Whorfin to the attendant he Neck Lifted, and John Parker to a Red Lectroid.
  • Nice Guy: Buckaroo Banzai is well loved and well known, due to his many talents and adventures. But it shows it's not just his fame or his fearless personality. It's because he also has a good heart. When Penny Priddy was feeling down during his concert, he makes sure the audience doesn't chastise her for it and even tries to sing a song to cheer her up. Unfortunately she tried to shoot herself regardless, but it was the though that counts. Even after the incident he was willing to bail her out himself.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Musician surgeon physicist commando adventurers!
  • No OSHA Compliance: The Yoyodyne facility.
  • Offhand Backhand: John Bigbooté does it to one of the hunters.
  • One-Dimensional Thinking: Buckaroo tries to get away from a pursuing truck by running straight down the road.
  • Operator Incompatibility: Buckaroo has some difficulty flying the Red Lectroid Thermopod thanks to this.
  • Parody Sue: Buckaroo himself is a rock-and-rolling neurosurgeon, surrounded by other genius musicians who save the world regularly from the forces of evil.
  • Pistol-Whipping: a Blue Blaze Irregular knocks out John Parker while he's infiltrating Buckaroo's estate.
  • Planet of Steves: The Lectroids all have the first name "John". The novelization states that in the Lectroid language, it's not a name but something closer to an honorific -- something somewhere between "Hey, you!" and "Mister".
  • Psychic Powers: Buckaroo is hinted at having them. He displays a bit of empathy, determining "someone isn't having a good time."
  • Power Walk: averted in the end credits, though it can be thought of as an embryonic version.
  • Put Down Your Gun and Step Away: An armed John Bigbooté grabs Professor Hikita at the conference.

John Bigbooté: Let those gunbelts hit the floor! Nobody follows, or the Prof is history!

  • Put Their Heads Together: The newly possessed Dr. Lizardo does it to two of his colleagues.
  • Ramming Always Works: Lord Whorfin's troopship vs. the Red Lectroid thermopod.
  • Recursive Canon: see Literary Agent Hypothesis.
  • Recycled Trailer Music: Buckaroo did poorly, in part, to poor promotion. Movies made thereafter learned from this unfortunate mistake.
  • Revolvers Are Just Better: they're Buckaroo's favourite weapons. He has a pair specifically for when he catches Hanoi Xan.
  • Room Full of Crazy: Dr. Emilio Lizardo's room in the asylum was covered in notes for the Overthruster he'd been working on at the time of the accident that caused him to share a body with an evil Lectroid.
  • Scream Discretion Shot: the scene during which the Red Lectroids torture Buckaroo.
  • See You in Hell: Lord John Whorfin.
  • Self-Destruct Mechanism: Used to prevent the Red Lectroids from capturing the Black Thermopod.
  • Sequel Snark
  • Shout-Out
  • Shrouded in Myth: Buckaroo's early past involving his wife Peggy.
  • Sorry That I'm Dying
  • Spiteful Spit: Penny Priddy to Lord John Whorfin while he's interrogating her.
  • Stock Shout-Outs: The makers of some of the later Star Trek series liked making references to this film. The fact that a good chunk of the art department from Next Generation on through Enterprise previously worked on Buckaroo Banzai may have something to do with this.
  • Storming the Castle: The infiltration of and attack on the Yoyodyne facility.
  • Surprise Vehicle: Buckaroo and the ladder from the Blue Blaze Irregular helicopter.
  • Taking the Bullet: Rawhide, to save Buckaroo from the poisonous mini-starfish a Red Lectroid spat at him.
  • Tap on the Head: Red Lectroids do to several humans, and a human does it to a Black Lectroid.
  • That's an Order: Stock Phrase used by the state trooper when he tells the Yoyodyne employees to leave the Black Thermopod alone.
  • Theme Naming: all the Lectroids, Red or Black, are named John when their names are translated into Earth English. Even the females. As noted above, that's because "john" in Lectroid is not a name but something akin to an honorific like "Mister".
  • Theme Tune Cameo: New Jersey plays part of the movie's main theme on the piano.
  • This Ain't Rocket Surgery: Actually it is. Buckaroo is capable of both brain surgery and rocket science. And so are most of the Hong Kong Cavaliers.
  • This Is Your Premise on Drugs: Doc Savage on LSD.
  • Tracking Device: On the Oscillation Overthruster, which Buckaroo uses to find it inside Yoyodyne.
  • Trashcan Bonfire: In the Red Lectroid bivouac and Pitt inside the Yoyodyne building.
  • True Love's Kiss: Buckaroo uses one to resurrect Penny Priddy.
  • Unfortunate Names: Buckaroo is his real first name, owing to his father's enamorment with cowboys. And a significant number of the Red Lectroids had Unfortunate Names:
    • John Yaya
    • John Smallberries
    • John Icicle Boy
    • John Bigbooté - whose name was pronounced Big Boo-TAY, thank you.
  • Unusual User Interface: Apparently, the Lectroids have important controls operable using their feet. This normally wouldn't sound odd, but these controls happen to be levers rather than pedals. It gives Buckaroo a bit of trouble while he's trying to figure out how to pilot a Thermopod.
    • The Black Lectroid with him does mention that the design is very bad.
  • Voice of the Legion: Lord John Whorfin.
  • Wait Here: Buckaroo to Penny Priddy during the Red Lectroid burglary.
  • Waxing Lyrical: Some of Lord John Whorfin's more eccentric pronouncements are actually song lyrics. ("I feel so broke up, I want to go home.")
  • World of Ham: Ah, come on... do we really have to explain this one?
  • Your Other Left: Buckaroo and John Parker are in a thermopod; John Parker is steering, and Buckaroo is navigating -- while seated in a backward-facing chair: "Left! I said left! ... I meant my left, your right!"