The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension
1984, 105 minutes
Directed by W.D. Richter
Screenplay by Earl Mac Rauch
Peter Weller . . . Buckaroo Banzai
John Lithgow . . . Lord John Whorfin
Ellen Barkin . . . Penny Priddy
Jeff Goldblum . . . New Jersey
Christopher Lloyd . . . John Bigboote
Lewis Smith . . . Perfect Tommy
Robert Ito . . . Professor Hikita
Well, first of all there's this guy named Buckaroo Banzai, a brilliant neurosurgeon who also happens to be a samurai, an inventor, a race car driver, and the lead guitar of the Hong Kong Cavaliers. Of course, all the guys in the band carry guns, because they're members of Team Banzai, an eccentric cadre of genius adventurers who secretly keep the world safe from, well, threats of certain unusual varieties. Such as Red Lectroids from Planet Ten, who escaped to our world in the 1950's, posing as employees of a company called Yoyodyne, an electronics firm based in Grover Mills, New Jersey. There, under cover of a secret chemical that masks their true appearance to humans, they prepare to liberate their insane leader, John Whorfin, who was trapped in the body of a human scientist named Dr. Emilio Lizardo. On account of the fact that their success at this endeavor would be very bad news for Planet Ten, whose dominant population of Black Lectroids exiled them to the 8th Dimension in the first place, the somewhat morally superior Black Lectroids tell Buckaroo Banzai that unless he puts a halt to Whorfin's evil machinations, Planet Ten will have no other alternative than to initiate a nuclear armageddon that will destroy the Earth. Consequently, Team Banzai must infiltrate Yoyodyne and stop Lord Whorfin and his Red Lectroid followers, all of whom are named John. Oh, and there's also a few subplots involving sexy identical twins, travel through solid matter, Jewish cowboys and mysterious watermelons.
From Richard Lane:
Buckaroo Banzai was the SF franchise that never happened. Created by writer Earl Mac Rauch and directed by W.D. Richter, it was based around a genius neuro-surgeon /rock star/ cultural hero Buckaroo Banzai (Peter Weller), and his band, the Hong Kong Cavaliers. There was also a network of over 6,000 civilian supporters/aides de-camp called the Blue Blaze Irregulars, ready to rise to the occasion. Intended as a multi-media series across films, novels, comic books, etc., the box office failure of the first film nixed those plans.
Earl Mac Rauch used Pynchon's corporation Yoyodyne as the name for the company run by the evil alien race of Red Lectroids. Another tip of the hat appears to be the naming of John Lithgow's character, the alien Lord John Whorfin, and its loose proximity to Pynchon's seventeenth century playwright Richard Wharfinger in The Crying of Lot 49. As Lord Whorfin is rather fond of himself, his workers are subjected to countless bizarre homilies, quasi-Marxist exhortations, and egocentric PSAs over the Yoyodyne public address system, including this quote from Pynchon's V., itself an old movie title: "History is made at night!"
Screenshot from the film
In an unusual twist, Pynchon returns the favor, and 1990's Vineland appears to reference the movie -- the band "Eddie Enrico and his Hong Kong Hotshots" pops up in the novel. (Also note the alliteration of the singer's name.) Further proof may be gleaned by the mention of Ramon Raquello on the same page -- the name of the fake orchestra leader that is "interrupted" during the fabled Orson Welles 1939 production of "War of the Worlds." In Buckaroo Banzai, Yoyodyne is based at Grover's Mill, the actual site in New Jersey where Welles had his Martian invaders land.
Buckaroo Banzai (1984) ~ DVD
MGM/UA Video, 2002, $19.98
Buckaroo Banzai (1984) ~ VHS
MGM/UA Video, $4.94
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai: Across the Eighth Dimension
By Earl Mac Rauch
Pocket Books, 2001, $12.95
Buckaroo Banzai FAQ -- So, what exactly is that watermelon doing there? These questions, and many more, are answered in depth at Sean Murphy's FAQ page.
Buckaroo Banzai Script -- Courtesy of New Jersey. Sort of.
Buckaroo Banzai Merchandise -- T-shirts and patches -- including some handsome Yoyodyne corporate wear!
IMDB's "Buckaroo Banzai" Page -- The Internet Movie Database's page on Buckaroo Banzai.