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W.D. Richter update on BUCKAROO BANZAI

Hey folks, Harry here with a tidbit on the state of the wacky world of Banzai from W.D. Richter his own self. So bend them corners of your mouth north and show some teeth... ya hear? Cool.

Harry, "Grimmtooth" here.

Since El Cosmico seems to be in limbo for the moment, could you pass this on to someone appropriate at the site?

From the website of the Banzai Institute (



December 15, 1999

To: All Fans of B. Banzai

From: W.D. Richter

Subject: Status

Dear Friends:

Dr. B. Banzai stopped me in the hall a few days ago. He'd been working with a team of NASA engineers for 72 hours straight, trying to establish contact with the Mars Polar Lander. As you can imagine, he was pretty haggard, but not so tired as to fail to say "hello" to a friend.

Anyway, Dr. Banzai wanted to tell me how much he had enjoyed reading Earl Mac Rauch's revision of the "Buckaroo Banzai: Ancient Secrets & New Mysteries" pilot script for the proposed Fox Television series. He said that he was particularly pleased that Rauch's new version focuses even more on certain ongoing threats to public safety. "Without being too alarmist," said Banzai, "I think you are performing a public service by helping people to realize the insidious dangers posed by the World Crime League. For that, I salute both you and Fox Television."

Dr. Banzai asked me when we might expect a decision from the network on whether to "go to pilot" with the project. I explained to Dr. Banzai that the revision, which had been requested by Fox, had just gone to the network last week. The nature of the television industry, I explained, was that it was inherently unpredictable. Projects can languish in "development hell" for what seems like forever, only to be "fast-tracked" at the drop of a hat when you least expect it.

"How well I understand that," Banzai smiled. "It is as Albert Einstein once observed, that a moment on a hot stove seems like an eternity, while an afternoon with a pretty girl seems like an instant." In the meantime, I reminded him, Rauch continues his work on the "Lizardo Quartet" of novels. At that point, Mrs. Johnson interrupted us with an urgent call for Dr. Banzai from the United Nations Famine Relief Project (something about airdropping watermelons), and he was off. I could only wonder what adventures the future still holds for the good doctor.


W.D. Richter

Readers Talkback
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  • Dec. 17, 1999, 3:53 p.m. CST

    Heard of the movie. Never saw it.

    by The Kid

    Though I think I will rectify that soon. This series sounds cool. I hope it works out.

  • Dec. 17, 1999, 3:54 p.m. CST


    by Wormhole

    Long time reader, first time poster. It's a shame Fox wants it. The only way it'd get less of a chance is if it was on UPN. Given Fox's 2 episode and cancel policy with fall shows it is unlikely that a TV series based on a fifteen year old cult movie will last unless it does huge numbers. However, I will think positively.

  • Dec. 17, 1999, 4:25 p.m. CST


    by The Kid

    Coming Attractions has posted production art of Cyclops and Magneto in costume. I was trying to be optimistic about this (it's the X-Men, and it's a Bryan Singer film, I was hoping we would get a great comic adaptation), but Cyclops' costume just looks awful to me. He's a biker with a bad costume. Magneto, I don't know. It's not a bad costume on the whole, but the helmet doesn't really match. Ehhh. Like Harry said, we need to see these costumes in motion (and in actual photographs).

  • Dec. 17, 1999, 4:27 p.m. CST


    by The Kid

    I should have said "outfit" instead of repeating the word costume when I made the biker comment.

  • Dec. 17, 1999, 4:55 p.m. CST

    you would have seen it, if...

    by mckracken

    The Kid, you would have seen it if the fine people who control the movie hadn't SHELVED it into oblivion! Buckaroo Banzai: Across the Eighth Dimention CURRENTLY is no longer availible on video OR DVD (last I checked) some video stores still rent it, but the tapes are getting pretty old. --McK

  • Dec. 17, 1999, 5:01 p.m. CST

    Hey Harry (or Glen or El Cosmico)...

    by Jacob Corbin

    Anyone know if "Banzai" videos or DVDs will be released to coincide with the pilot movie?

  • Dec. 17, 1999, 7:15 p.m. CST

    Buckaroo Banzai: Across the Eighth dimension

    by ZOMBO

    Y'know, frankly, I always thought this movie was a big letdown and grossly overbraised by a small minority of vocal fans. The plot concerning alien villians attempting to escape from their prison on both Earth and the Eighth Dimension meanders, moves at a snail's pace and is never fully resolved, and Peter Weller as Banzai was poorly cast. Plus the whole thing seems to me to be a thinly vieled rip-off of the Ron Ely Doc Savage film from the mid seventies, right down to the promise of a sequel at the end credits.

  • Dec. 17, 1999, 7:45 p.m. CST

    To Zombo and others who Don't like Banzai

    by rally

    Until you have read the novel and some of the excellent fan work, don't critize. Banzai is more than just a solitary film killed by the powers that be.

  • Dec. 18, 1999, 12:10 a.m. CST

    good relations

    by gary2012

    It's nice to hear the creator himself address the fans interest in the state of this project, even if it was basically him saying "hey even I don't know what the hell is going to happen to it". I would DIE for a DVD of the film. Well not really, because then I wouldn't be able to watch it, but I WOULD yell a naughty thing into the open door of a church for one. Something I want almost as badly is the soundtrack. That end theme song is a classic. I put it on a tape and played it constantly in my studio at artschool. Really confused a lot of people.

  • Dec. 18, 1999, 3:17 a.m. CST

    Dr. Banzai, I presume

    by wildcard98

    As much as I would love to see Banzai make a comeback, I think it might be too late. The people at Fox would kill it almost immediately. They would revamp it as a two hour movie (like they did with Dr.Who a few years ago) and as soon as it didnt get the ratings that would be that. I also would love to see the soundtrack and dvd released. There are alot of sequences I would like to see put back onto a dvd copy (like Jamie Lee Curtis as Banzais mom). The only way I was able to get a copy was to tape it off of HBO in the wee hours of the morning a few years back. You can still get the laserdisc copy on ebay, but that thing fetches a pretty penny. (or is that penny priddy?)

  • Dec. 18, 1999, 2:48 p.m. CST

    I hope Fox goes for it

    by dehayd

    I'm one of those people who "admit" to liking the movie, and I can certainly see its shortcomings. Frankly, the marketing campaign was better than the movie, and I fell in love with the concept before I ever saw it. (By the way, it's not a thinly-veiled rip-off of the Doc Savage movie, it's a thinly-veiled rip-off of Doc Savage!) I hope it is revived, but it does seem like a long shot for any kind of real success, especially, as Wormhole astutely pointed out, since it's Fox's property. They've gotten so paranoid about ratings they make the big 3 look like models of stability.

  • Dec. 19, 1999, 2:11 a.m. CST

    Thats a nice opinion you got there...

    by gary2012

    Just don't act so deffensive yourself. In fact I never really liked Banzai much until about five years ago. I had remembered seeing it a few times whem I was younger, but I wasn't crazy about it. Then I watched it with a friend again about five years ago and loved it. I think that I had to grow up a bit more and the film had to age just right for me to really like it. I agree to a point about some of the shortcomings in the directing (especially about Perfect Tommy), but I still think it is a good film none the less.

  • Dec. 19, 1999, 7:47 a.m. CST

    Better The Thinly-Veiled Rip-Off Than The Original...

    by Teethclenched

    ...If Schwarzenegger is gonna portray Doc.

  • Dec. 19, 1999, 6:30 p.m. CST

    What I learned...

    by Pseudo

    ...from watching B.Banzai, when I was a teen, was that it was possible to be many things, do many things, see things differently and do it all well. I learned that courage and conviction don't have to come before decency and humility. I learned that even an unevenly directed film could become one that would rally people around a cause and a character that seems to be all things good at once, and still a pretty cool guy. When I look at the mirass of negativity and, generally, un-stimulating fare that is passed off the the American public as entertainment I hope like crazy that something with the POTENTIAL of B. Baizai can make it onto the small screen and survive long enough for an audience to make its presence well enough known that no hen-brained pea counter dare pull it for lack of offending the majority of the viewing clientell. Perhaps a bit overly optimistic of me, but hey, I learned a long time ago that optimism isn't such a bad thing, and can you guess where I learned that? That's my soapbox... ??Pseudo??

  • Dec. 20, 1999, 4:28 p.m. CST

    Concept vs. Execution

    by LiquidNitrate

    It's not often that good screenplay and good cast of talent survive a mediocre director, but age has done ABB well. Banzai flopped not merely because of Fox-Sherwood's hesitant/lukewarm marketing (which strictly catered to fanboys and ignored the public-at-large), rather Banzai owes its financial woes to the fact that WD Richter & Company did not know how to make a comic book movie LOOK or FEEL like a comic book movie is supposed to. ABB is a charming screenplay, but the actual movie is slow, rambling, visually ugly, bland, and unattractive. The fans have embraced it into a cult classic IN SPITE of Richter's grossly inept ruination. I didn't care for the film upon first viewing. But later I became a big Banzai fan and collector, because subsequent screenings of ABB enabled me to ignore Richter's terrible filmmaking skills and realize that underneath was Earl Mac Raugh's pricelessly witty and hilarious screenplay. For the record, WD Richter is a fantastic writer, as shown by his work on Carpenter's Banzai-crazy "Big Trouble in Little China." But Richter did not display enough directorial skills to make Banzai a competently-mounted production.

  • Dec. 20, 1999, 5:30 p.m. CST


    by TheWanderer

    Judging by the comments here and my own opinion of the film, my feeling is, "cool ideas -- what could have happened if it were a GOOD movie!" Now I love this film (Ellen Barkin; that end sequence), but it doesn't play (make sense) to anybody but fanboys! FOX is running too scared to make a go of it (even six eps would be fantastic) Fingers crossed...

  • Dec. 21, 1999, 2:03 p.m. CST

    Banzai sound quality

    by Cool Nickname

    Ok, my bias: I'm a big fan of BB. But I *will* admit that it took two screenings for be to come to this opinion - the first time, I was deeply underwhelmed and confused. I'm not sure, though, if this is due to poor direction as much as it is to poor sound mixing; every version of the movie I've run across (including the VHS tape I own) seems to have really faint-'n'-fuzzy dialog, and it takes concentration, luck, and a better sound system than I've ever owned to make out all the words - a fatal flaw in such a dialog-dependent movie. Have I just had bad luck with my copies, or have others noticed this as well?

  • Dec. 22, 1999, 2:09 a.m. CST

    No, I think you're not the only one

    by Jacob Corbin

    The sound mixing on my tape of BB is utterly atrocious -- large swaths of dialog are simply incomprehensible, the worst examples being at the beginning and end of the movie. Also, the tape is simply screamingly ugly -- they did that 80s crap where they didn't crop the picture, they didn't letterbox it, and they didn't pan-n-scan...they just squeezed the whole frame into the TV aspect ratio so that everything looks hideously elongated and the principal characters are unrecognizeable until about 10 minutes into the movie.

  • Dec. 22, 1999, 1:24 p.m. CST

    Probs with the movie

    by Psyclone

    It was not just the bad promo campaign, they pulled the film after 1 week then re issued it with no promo. Know what killed it at the BO? "Revenge of the Nerds", I kid you not. Granted, the film is spotty, but it still is great fun, don't over analyze stuff!

  • Dec. 26, 1999, 8:14 p.m. CST


    by Seward

    Those who dislike the movie completely missed the point! My guess is, you were watching it hoping to see something like "Indiana Jones" or "Star Wars," but got something vaguely homoerotic, convoluted and bizarre instead. It's a twisted mirror for all the goddamned nonsense we've been fed for the last two decades. And frankly, I love it. May Dr. Banzai live a thousand years!

  • Dec. 26, 1999, 8:25 p.m. CST

    And if you want to see a comic book..

    by Seward

    Go rent "Streets of Fire," which is a great comic book film. It's far, far superior to high-budget disasters such as "Dick Tracy" and "Roger Rabbit." If TABB had been filmed like "Strees of Fire," it really would have fallen flat. TABB, unlike a comic book, is not supposed to be taken at face value.

  • Dec. 26, 1999, 9:16 p.m. CST

    Banzai: Movie, T.V. Show, and DVD

    by Bono

    I really love the movie, which was only hurt by its low budget and some trouble with one of the producers meddling (I have a video copy of the original workprint with Jamie Lee Curtis as Buckaroo's mom; it's got some great stuff that was cut out of the movie...but read the novelization for a really wild sci-fi comedy adventure--it's full of tons of stuff that never made it to the screen). Richter and Earl Mac Rauch had been working on a t.v. series in the same tone of BUCKAROO (late 1980s?) called HEROES IN TROUBLE (or something like that). I saw a page of the script and it was really great (same tone and goofiness as BB), so I am confident that their current BANZAI efforts are going to be great. As for the original film, until recently the rights to the movie were in limbo, but a new video (and presumably DVD) are in the works (that is, the owners of the movie DO intend on getting it out there at some point to make $$$$ on a property they know has value). The film has gained a lot of new fans through cable; the timing of the sequel and new video re-release was really screwed up by the issue with the rights). Of course, if the show IS ever made and it's faithful to the movie, it will be cancelled because it will be too weird for television.

  • Dec. 31, 1999, 1:06 a.m. CST

    Buckaroo Banzai

    by GW

    I'm going to throw my hat in the ring on this one. Buckaroo Banzai ranks as one of the best pieces of cinema as cinema that I have ever seen, perhaps THE best. If this seems an outlandish stance please read on, because I will try my best to defend my view of this film. B.B. takes chances, and as a comedy vehicle takes the high road. The comedy is derived from the audience's realization of the plot's absurdities. The characters within the movie play it totally SERIOUS! This is a technique used by the Zucker brothers at their best, not in the later Naked Gun movies, but to perfection in the original Police Squad TV series. It works best because to the actors there is no joke. The most far fetched situation is treated as NORMAL! That's the joke. That's why Buckaroo Banzai can explain away the strangest of circumstances not with a reason, but with an aside. It allows the filmmaker to set ground rules. Even fantasy, however bizzare, must conform to the rules within the universe it creates, to remain believable. The difficuly in achieving this effect over the course of the entire movie (and juggling how many plot lines) requires superb ensemble acting, tight writing, precision directing and some damn fine editing. Take a look at Big Trouble in Little China, another wonderful and unique film. Similar style. Guess who was involved in that one? Another technique in this film and in Big Trouble is the handling of time and overlap of disparate plots. Tarantino? Boy, look closely at what these people achieved. Each character, every plot line, is treated as an event IN MOTION! Plots don't have a static beginning, middle and end. Characters are thrust into events already in motion and interact with characters with their own set of events already in motion. This style is too complex to be dismissed as a "comic book". It borrows enough from the way real life occurrs that it can create intense and three dimensional situations and characters with less information than would otherwise be possible. (Even with the comedic aspect used in these films). Now that's quite an achievement! The characterizations should be applauded. The performances were flawless. Cinematography also. Editing, a dream. Music? Writing? Directing? Come on folks, if we don't recognize the truly unique, the truly innovative, when it does happen, then we deserve the recycled, poorly written crap that Hollywood continues to toss our way. PS: The audio on the old RCA CED setup is much cleaner than the VHS transfer, so pray for a good DVD version. (Look at what MGM has done with the remastering of the aging Bond titles.) PPS: For those who haven't seen it and like the director's style, try Late For Dinner, a small underseen gem.

  • Jan. 8, 2000, 8:06 p.m. CST


    by Shmouse

    I really enjoy BB, but I agree with the comments about the quality of the tape. Even more, I agree that having Fox take on the series is a sure death knell for it. Anything good, or with potential, they cancel--and they don't promote their shows well, either. As a fan of the very imaginative "BrimStone," I have developed such low expectations of Fox that I basically don't watch it anymore.