A Guide to the film: The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension.
10 Ways 'Buckaroo Banzai' Has Infiltrated Pop Culture [Movies]
This handbook serves as a guide for those who want to venture into the BB world and don't have anyone to walk them through it, because the first time you see it it's a bit confusing. The main thing about this movie is that it's so jammed packed that there's a lot to swallow in the first sitting. I was fortunate enough to be dragged to a second showing of the film, or else I would have hated it all my life and not given it a second chance. It was so much easier to digest the second time around, and so much more hilarious to watch.
When I've shown the film to friends, I usually have to pause midway in order to explain the plot. Once they understand it, the movie is enjoyable. If a person watches for the first time without someone who has seen it - or without any kind of explanation - they are likely to shut it off or "suffer" through the whole thing.
There are those fortunate ones, however, who do understand and enjoy the film during the first viewing. Congratulations.
For the rest of us, here's a reference guide:
Cast: Peter Weller, John Lithgow, Ellen Barkin, Jeff Goldblum, Carl Lumbly, Christopher Lloyd and Clancy Brown.
Background: In order to understand this film you have to know a little bit about the Orson Welles 1938 radio broadcast of War of the Worlds. You could say that Orson Welles pioneered shock radio when he performed this story live on the radio in the form of a special news bulletin, informing audiences that aliens had landed in Grovers Mills, New Jersey. At the time this show aired, audiences in New Jersey actually believed the story, sending mass hysteria throughout the state. It wasn't until the end of the program that he admitted the whole thing was a hoax.
As brief a summary as I can muster: Buckaroo Banzai takes that story and moves it one step further, leading the audience to believe that Orson Welles had been brainwashed by those aliens into lying to the audience about the "hoax". So, according to Buckaroo Banzai, aliens did land in New Jersey all those years ago.
These aliens (all named John, which I will get to later) are Red Lectroids from the Planet 10, who were banished to Earth's 8th Dimension sometime around Orson Welles' broadcast. Yes, 8th dimension. As Buckaroo explains early on in the movie, there is another dimension that is within solid matter, and it is within there that the aliens were held prisoner.
These Red Lectroids are outlaws in their own planet. They were banished to earth by the Black Lectroids (the good guys) after a civil war.
Some of these Lectroids had managed to escape the 8th dimension around the time of Orson Welles' broadcast and live among the human race. They are hard to distinguish from the rest of society due to the fact that they emit a substance that prevents humans from seeing their true identity.
On the surface they look like everyone else and are mixing with society, but they don't want to stay here. They want to go home. And the only way they know how is to steal an invention from Buckaroo Banzai called the Oscillation Overthruster, a device that is used to travel to the 8th dimension, where thery can free their comrades before returning to Planet 10.
Buckaroo must stop these Red Lectroids from succeeding, saving not only Planet 10, but also human kind.
Buckaroo Banzai: Think comic book hero. Think invincible man. Imagine Superman, Batman, Han Solo, Kwai Chang Caine, ER and your favorite rock star all wrapped up in one handsome package that makes the men envious, and the women swoon. A man who can casually walk down the street to cries of, "Hey! It's Buckaroo Banzai!" He's a neurosurgeon, a rocket scientist, a musician, a samurai and a superhero. He's got the humility of Superman and the grace of Robin Hood. The man can do anything. And, yet, there is a vulnerable side to boot. A flawed hero, what more can a person want?
Everyone heeds his advice, including the President. Buckaroo isn't arrogant. He's an everyman type of hero, despite his extraordinary talents.
Within the first ten minutes of the film he performs brain surgery on an Escimo, breaks the speed of sound and goes through solid matter to discover aliens inside. It is the last part that is the focus of the movie.
The Hong Kong Cavaliers: Like Robin Hood, Buckaroo has his band of men who stand by him and fight with him. They all have pseudonyms like Perfect Tommy (this guy thinks he's God's perfect man), Reno, Rawhide and New Jersey (I'll get to him later). These guys also make up his rock band The Hong Kong Cavaliers - sort of like the merry men, I suppose. (I don't recall ever finding out why that name, but if I do I'll update the page. Still, it's a funny name for a rock band).
Apparently Buckaroo Banzai is the hero's real name. His father was Japanese.
Other Buckaroo Supporters: Aside from the Cavaliers, Buckaroo has some backup groups spread out throughout the country. Their names are the Blue Blaze Irregulars, the Kolodny Brothers and the Rug Suckers. These are ordinary people (I think) who have volunteered to assist Buckaroo in times of need.
Characters of Note:
Dr. Emilio Lizardo: (and you thought the names of Buckaroo's band of men were strange). Apparently he is a scientist who worked with Buckaroo's father many years ago to develop the first Oscillation Overthruster. During an early experiment, Dr. Lizardo's own matter was messed with and he ended up possessed by a Red Lectroid by the name of Lord John Whorfin, the leader of the outlaws. The first time we see him, he's in a mental institution remembering that experiment. He soon escapes and Buckaroo must capture him.
Penny Priddy: Basically she looks like Buckaroo's wife, Peggy, who is "gone". We don't know what happened to her, but her disappearance is a sore spot for him. It is discovered that Penny is a twin separated at birth.
Dr. Sidney Zweibel: A medical colleague of Buckaroo's who is invited to join the Hong Kong Cavaliers. Buckaroo extends the invitation with, "Can you sing?" Sidney replies, "No. But I can dance." The other members of the band dub him New Jersey. You'll see why in the movie. Remember, think of a comic book when you watch this movie.
Professor Hikita: Buckaroo's mentor and fellow scientist. He worked with Buckaroo's father and Dr. Lizardo years ago. It is with his help that they create the Oscillation Overthruster.
Where's the "John"? Ever wonder why John is always listed as the most common name in America? Perhaps this movie can explain why. The Guiness book should have Buckaroo Banzai listed as the one movie with the most characters named John. Apparently, the aliens (both black and red) in their attempt to fit in with society decided to name themselves John. This includes female Lectroids. A female emissary from Planet 10 is named John Emdall.
And let's not forget some of the classic last names of these nefarious evildoers. Yaya, Smallberries, and Bigboote to name three.
"Don't tug on that. You don't know what it's connected to."
"Lithium is no longer available on credit."
"Home is where you hang your hat. I feel so breakup, I want to go home."
"Don't be mean. You don't need to be mean. Just remember: No matter where you go, there you are."
"Don't worry about me. I'll get my own ride."
Perfect Tommy: "Dr. Lizardo? Wasn't he on TV once?"
Buckaroo: "You're thinking of Mr. Wizard."
Reno: "This guy is a top scientist, dumbkoff."
Perfect Tommy: "So is Mr. Wizard."
"I'm going to snoop around. Make yourself at home."
"If it had been a snake it'd have bit me."
"How many zeros is that."
Penny Priddy: "Buckaroo, you forgot your thruster."
Buckaroo: "Why don't you hold it for a while?"
"I've been ionized, but I'm okay now."
Buckaroo: "What's this?"
Dr. Hikita: "It is your hand, Buckaroo."
"You drag me out of jail. You like Jerry Lewis. You give me hope to carry on...."
New Jersey: "What's that watermelon doing there?"
Reno: "I'll tell you later."
"A girl named John?"
"Laugh while you can, monkey boy."
"Jammed? By who? Who by?"
"Declaration of War (the short form)"
"The Future Begins Tomorrow."
"History is made at night. Character is what you are in the dark."
John Whorfin: "Where are we going?"
Red Lectroids: "Planet 10!"
John Whorfin: "When?"
Red Lectroids: "Real soon!"
"Nobudy cumz in here. Sekrit."
"That won't work either."
"Sealed with a curse as sharp as a knife. Doomed is your soul and damned is your life."
New Jersey: "Where are we?"
Buckaroo: "I hate to tell you."
"Damn John Whorfin and the horse he rode in on."
"If you are not in time, you have missed the boat."
Buckaroo: "It's like driving a truck."
John Parker: "Good. What is a truck?"