Blog: Commentary from the den of a pulp super-fan

A look at ‘Buckaroo Banzai’

Posted by at 10:00 am Friday, May 26, 2017 in Movies, Pastiche, Pulps, Review
Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

A look at ‘Buckaroo Banzai’

In 1984 I was thrilled to see a new movie that seemed (to me) to have some pulp inspirations: The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai: Across the 8th Dimension. We got to see Dr. Buckaroo Banzai, neurosurgeon, physicist, musician, and adventurer, in action alongside his band-mates, the Hong Kong Cavaliers, who were all top experts in their fields. They worked to stop the evil Red Lectoids from Planet 10 escaping from Earth and causing the good Black Lectoids to destroy the Earth to stop them.

Buckaroo Banzai and his Hong Kong Cavaliers: actors Jeff Goldblum (from left), Clancy Brown, Peter Weller (as Buckaroo), Pepe Serna, Billy Vera, and Lewis Smith.

Buckaroo Banzai and his Hong Kong Cavaliers: actors Jeff Goldblum (from left), Clancy Brown, Peter Weller (as Buckaroo), Pepe Serna, Billy Vera, and Lewis Smith.

And at the end we were promised a sequel in which Banzai and his friends went up against the World Crime League!

Sadly, it would never appear.

The characters were created by writer Earl Mac Rauch, and the movie was produced and directed by W.D. Richter. Rauch also wrote a novelization of the movie, that gave more information, such as that the head of the World Crime League, Hanoi Xan, was responsible for the deaths of Banzai’s parents, as well as his wife.

There are a lot of pulp elements in this story. It’s not clear if Rauch had read any pulp stories or if he was just created a similar kind of story. Some claim to see in Banzai a Doc Savage pastiche. I don’t see him as pastiche, but a similar character. Banzai is, like Doc, a polymath and adventurer. But he was not trained from birth, and he’s certainly not a person in peak physical form. And I have a problem seeing Doc heading up a rock band.

His associates, the Hong Kong Cavaliers, are similar to Doc’s aides: all are top experts in their respective fields, as well as being musicians. In addition, Banzai has a network of informal assistance, similar to Sherlock Holmes‘ Baker Street Irregulars, the Blue Blaze Irregulars. There are also the Radar Rangers, who are ham radio enthusiasts, and the Rug Suckers, a civilian assault team operating under guise of a rug cleaning company.

As I noted, we never got that movie sequel. Probably never will. The promised future novels also didn’t appear. A TV show was worked on that also never happened.

In recent years Moonstone Books has been putting out new comic book stories written by Rauch. Most have been collected into two trade paperbacks. It’s unclear if we will be seeing more of those. At this point, unless we see new prose stories (which would be nice), this will be our only way to see more Banzai stuff. Also check out Moonstone for other tie-in merchandise.

If you’ve never seen the movie, check it out. It should be readily available.

What do you think?