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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Adventure > Superhero > Martial Arts > Science Fiction > Thriller > Espionage > Airplanes > Heist > The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension (1984/Orion/MGM/Umbrella Import Blu-ray)/Crack-Up (1936)/I Was An Adventuress (1940/Fox Cinema Archives DVDs)

The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension (1984/Orion/MGM/Umbrella Import Blu-ray)/Crack-Up (1936)/I Was An Adventuress (1940/Fox Cinema Archives DVDs)

Picture: B/C+/C+ Sound: B/C+/C Extras: B-/D/D Films: B-/C/C

PLEASE NOTE: The Fox DVDs are online exclusives available from Amazon.com from the sidebar of our website, while The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai Region Free (despite being marked Region B, though most extras are in the PAL format, so make sure your Blu-ray player can handle both unless you just want the movie and audio commentary) import is now only available from our friends at Umbrella Entertainment can be ordered from the link below.

These thrillers are in the old-fashioned mode, two because they are from decades ago and another because of how it has aged and because it intends to be a partial throwback to the 1930s, et al...

In a cinematic move of nostalgia, movies occasionally at the time wanted to do an old fashioned hero throwback film and when Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981) was a worldwide blockbuster, the desire to do such films only escalated, even when so many suddenly were just bad imitators of the Spielberg/Lucas hit. The big difference between W. D. Richter's The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension (1984) and the other films is that it actually took place in the present (with a time & dimensional travel theme a year before Back To The Future) combining it with the Indiana Jones adventurer idea (though this film is heavily inspired by Doc Savage and the Ron Ely film from 1975 (reviewed elsewhere on this site)), science fiction, the nerd/geek cycle that had kicked in at the time (peaking with Real Genius, also the next year) and also managed to be a superhero genre film when the genre was only occasionally taken on. The fact that the title character (a pre-Robocop Peter Weller) was also Japanese allowed Martial Arts to also be part of the mix.

This might have been confusing to many viewers at the time, down to the technology which now seems simple decades into the Internet era, this was just too much for audiences and despite the best efforts of Orion Pictures to promote it (as they would also on Remo Williams), it did not do as well as it needed to and the intended franchise series never materialized leaving this a cult item that is now very ripe for rediscovery. The post-modern technical storyline seems right on time, the look of the film is unique (with visual effects on par with the original Ghostbusters, including in their character) and it has a cast that is now extraordinary for any film. That includes John Lithgow, Ellen Barkin, Jeff Goldblum, Christopher Lloyd, Ronald Lacey, Lewis Smith, Rosalind Cash, Robert Ito, Clancy Brown, Lewis Smith, Carl Lumbly, Vincent Schiavelli, Dan Hedeya, Matt Clark, Yakov Smirnoff and Billy Vera.

Richter is a very capable writer and this is one of only two films he ever directed, but its fan following has only grown over the years. Now owned by MGM, with all the obvious titles they are remaking (including disasters like recycling Carrie, Rollerball and Robocop), they ought to continue Banzai's adventures by making the second film and mixing up the cast with original and new actors. With a Doc Savage remake on the horizon, why not? This holds up well enough and when it does not, it serves as a time capsule to several eras.

Extras include an amusing feature length audio commentary track by Richter and writer Earl Mac Rauch playing it as if Banzai actually existed, a Declassified Documentary, alternate opening scene where Jamie Lee Curtis plays Banzai's mother (!), Deleted Scenes, New Jet Car Trailer and Original Teaser Trailer. Nice to see this one finally make it to Blu-ray!

Malcolm St. Clair's Crack-Up (1936) lives up to its title by being a sometimes unintentionally hilarious thriller where a buffoon (Peter Lorre) turns out to be a leading enemy agent out to cleverly tries to get the naïve boyfriend of a secretary in the war office to steal a secret airplane design so a foreign power can get it and exploit it. Brian Donlevy, Helen Wood and Ralph Morgan are among the supporting cast and they all give it their all in the quick 70 minutes this runs. Most amusing are the visual effects, obvious models that were hilarious by the 1960s. This is worth giving a look to, especially if you enjoy thrillers or old mystery movies. Nice this made it to DVD.

There are sadly no extras.

Finally we have Gregory Ratoff's I Was An Adventuress (1940) with Vera Zorina as a countess who distracts wealthy people and those selling valuables to them so she and her friends (Peter Lorre again, plus Erich Von Stroheim!) but she never expects to fall in love and that is what happens when she meets a good man (Richard Greene) in this sometimes comical (intentionally) thriller that has a touch of romance, a great cast, Fox creating a film they think will really entertain and one that may play it safe too much for its own good.

I still enjoyed what works here and that includes the cast, clothes, production design and some chemistry, but it also has aged in mixed ways, plays it too safe, is too predictable and does not make the most of its 81 minutes, yet here again we have everyone trying and I was glad to see it after all these years. Again, everyone should see this one at least once and that especially goes for fans.

There are sadly no extras.

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Banzai can show the age of the materials used and some grain, but the color and detail are not bad throughout and far outdoes the older DVD which looked good for the time. When it was issued, it had a solid campaign behind it and was even one of the choice titles issued to launch an interactive format for DVD called NUON. DVD players were even made for it, but it did not pick up and even with video games available for it, it fell flat quickly. Director of Photography Fred J. Koenekamp (Sol Madrid, Patton, Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls, Billy Jack, TV's original The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and yes, Doc Savage) uses the very widescreen frame to its fullest extent knowing this was getting a 70mm blow-up and save the grain, you can imagine this is the shot bug with its real anamorphic Panavision lenses on 35mm film. Most of their intents hold up and even shine here.

The 1.33 X 1 black and white images on both Fox DVDs look pretty good for their age and may have some softness and occasional print issues, but are very watchable and its nice good prints of both films survived.

As for sound, the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Banzai may have some slight harshness, but is a fine upgrade just the same from the original Dolby 4.1 magnetic stereo 70mm blow-up prints sound. Michael Boddicker's score comes through very well and sounds a bit better than the dialogue and some sound effects recording. Whether this is the 5.1 soundmaster from the old DVD is hard to tell, but it is fun and fans in particular will be happy, while those new to the film will have a few surprises here.

The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on both Fox DVDs show their age, but Adventuress is a bit weaker in clarity throughout than expected, so be careful of volume switching and playback levels.

To order either of the Umbrella import Blu-ray or DVD releases above, go to this link for them and other surprises at:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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