I first saw The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension when I was about 10, early in its run on cable. My family didn’t have cable out in the country – it simply wasn’t available back then and still isn’t available at my parents’ house to this day – but my Aunt and Uncle had a satellite dish. Their house was “just up the lane” behind our house, so I spent a lot of time running in and out to use the bathroom or get a drink while playing outside, but also eating dry Froot Loops straight out of the box as I sat in front of this wonder of modern entertainment called H…B…O.
I remember some very specific moments from the day I first saw Buckaroo. Aunt Pam would often take a look at the cable guide and would let my mom know what time a movie was playing that day that I might want to come up and watch. I was so transfixed by movies, that it was no big deal for my aunt to keep an eye on me while she cleaned house and made dinner, because she knew I was just going to be glued to the couch for 90 minutes.
The funny thing is, I don’t remember what movie she invited me over to watch that day, but I do remember that after it was finished, another movie came on with a weird, sci-fi-sounding title, which was a genre I was very much into. I was supposed to go home after the first movie was over, but I kind of accidentally, but not really forgot, and kept watching the next movie for a little while. Before I knew it I was hooked.
Eventually, my mom called up to my aunt’s house and angrily asked to speak with me. She reminded me that I was supposed to come home after the first movie was over and that was half-an-hour ago. I asked if I could stay a little bit longer, because I started watching this other movie about this guy fighting aliens from the 8th dimension. She asked me if there was any cursing in the film and I said, yeah, maybe the s-word once or twice, but that was it. I insisted that I knew I wasn’t supposed to say bad words like that, but this wasn’t that kind of movie anyway. It was silly and fun and weird, but there was no bloody violence or anything. She relented, but I was to come home as soon as that movie was over. And that’s how I got to watch The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension for the first time. (I’m sure you latchkey kids with cable TV babysitters are laughing your ass off at our Puritan, country bumpkin ways, but all we had was broadcast TV, so things like sex, violence, and f-bombs were just not something I was exposed to a lot as a kid. Don’t worry – I’d make up for it starting in college.)
Oddly enough, I didn’t get to see the movie again until about a decade later. Again, no cable, and it was such a niche film that it’s not like my friends rented it when we had sleepovers or anything, so it just wasn’t on my radar for a long time. But when I got to college in the early 1990s, I got on this thing called “the internet” in the computer lab I worked at, and the people on newsgroups like alt.movies couldn’t get enough of Buckaroo. I rented it, fell in love with it all over again, and I’ve loved it ever since.
Is Buckaroo Banzai a good movie? Oh, hell, no. Is it a fun movie? Oh, hell, yes. The way the film just drops you right into the middle of what is clearly a long history of the adventures of Buckaroo Banzai and the Hong Kong Cavaliers is both disorienting and exciting. There are all these crazy characters with crazy names wearing the craziest clothes – they’re a rock band, they’re scientists, they’re trained for armed combat! – it’s just amazing and cheesy and more amazing all rolled into one. The effects range from impressive for the time to unimpressive for any time in film history, but you let it slide and just grab on and go for the ride. It’s a blast if you’re in the right mindset or if your mindset isn’t quite right.
Despite my love of the film, I don’t have a lot of BB merch. I do have an unopened View-Master set, as well as a really clean copy of the movie novelization (the less said about the sequel book the better). I found photos on worldwatchonline.com, a long-running BB fansite, of what the images on the View-Master reels look like if you want to check them out. Maybe one day I’ll open up the package and see for myself, but these photos will do for now.
It’s not vintage, but I also have a BB logo on the windshield of my car, so Blue Blaze Irregular Space Monkey X is always ready to answer the call from World Watch One!