Facebook Twitter

Film that died in ’84 gets new life on DVD

SHARE Film that died in ’84 gets new life on DVD

Back in the olden days, when I was doing double duty as film critic for both the Deseret News and KSL, I was often teased by Doug Wright on our weekly radio show — and even more often by call-in listeners — about my 1984 review of "The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai: Across the Eighth Dimension."

Why? Because I liked it. And I may have been the only critic in the country who did.

The movie itself died a quick box-office death, and it wasn't until "Buckaroo Banzai" resurfaced on video that it began to develop a following. (We even sponsored a late-night screening of the film that drew a healthy audience, although a lot of people left the theater scratching their heads.)

Anyway, it's 2002, and someone besides me must like this movie, since it was released last week on DVD, complete with W.D. Richter's deadpan director commentary, 14 deleted scenes — including an opening sequence with Jamie Lee Curtis — and all kinds of other "extras." Some of the bonus features are fun, some are silly and most of the deleted scenes deserved their fate (as is often the case on DVDs). The disc also boasts a gorgeous widescreen transfer.

And you know what? I still found it to be a hoot.

This bizarre, knows-it's-hip sci-fi comedy about a mystical rock 'n' roll heart surgeon/save-the-world hero (Peter Weller) is still campy fun. And the cast includes actors who went on to various levels of stardom — Ellen Barkin, Christopher Lloyd, Jeff Goldblum and especially scenery-chewing John Lithgow, in a wacked-out performance that seems to be a warm-up for "3rd Rock from the Sun."

Favorite lines: "Laugh while you can, Monkey Boy" (Lithgow); "Remember, no matter where you go, there you are" (Weller); "You're like Jerry Lewis; you gave me hope to carry on" (Barkin).

Now if someone would just release a CD of the film's music score!

OTHER NEW DVD releases:

"Mad Max" (1979, R), which has been on DVD for some time, is now in a "Special Edition" that has restored the original soundtrack.

Big deal, you say? Well, yes, since Mel Gibson's second movie has never been available in this country with his own voice — and what an improvement! The Australian accents were dubbed into bland "American" for the film's U.S. release in 1980, and subsequent U.S. video releases were the same.

As for the movie itself, it was dismissed by most American critics (including yours truly), but now, as the first in a trilogy (before "The Road Warrior" and "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome"), it works as a rather innovative, high-energy, low-budget revenge thriller that provides quite a ride. (And it's not nearly as brutal as many that followed.)

Gibson shows off his youthful charisma. The extras are aplenty — some good, some unctuous, and neither Gibson nor director George Miller are present. (By the way, the "Original Australian Theatrical Trailer" isn't; it's the dubbed American trailer, as are the TV spots.)

"Ocean's Eleven" (1960) is an enjoyable nostalgia trip starring the Rat Pack (Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop) as part of a group of ex-G.I.s who plot to rob five Las Vegas casinos in a single night.

The film is fun, if not a classic, and a commentary track by Frank Sinatra Jr. (with some occasional remarks by Angie Dickinson, who was in the film) gushes too much, though it does offer interesting tidbits about the making of the film and some Vegas history.

The best extra, however, is an old "Tonight Show" clip (from Nov. 14, 1977), with Frank Sinatra subbing for Johnny Carson and talking about "Ocean's Eleven" with guest Angie Dickinson. (Why don't more DVDs use old TV talk shows this way?)

The widescreen transfer is gorgeous — and there's an easy-to-find Easter egg.

"Robin and the 7 Hoods" (1964) and "4 for Texas" (1963) DVDs were released with "Ocean's." "Robin" reunites Sinatra, Martin and Davis in an amusing gangster musical with some good songs, co-starring Bing Crosby, Peter Falk and Edward G. Robinson. "Texas" has Sinatra and Martin running rival saloons in the Old West, with Anita Ekberg, Ursula Andress and the Three Stooges! Both contain making-of documentaries and are widescreen transfers.

"Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" (1988, PG) is a funny farce set on the French Riviera with Steve Martin and Michael Caine as competing con artists. This film had a previous DVD incarnation, but this edition offers a bright commentary by director Frank Oz, a behind-the-scenes promotion video and, best of all, the film's original teaser trailer, which Oz explains was thought up by Martin.

E-mail: hicks@desnews.com