It’s hard to believe that I’ve been listening to podcasts since 2005. That was the year my wife got me this cool new device called an iPod. It opened up a new world to me as I realized my passions for all things Star Trek, Doctor Who, horror and sci-fi were shared by countless others all around the world. Oh sure, I obviously knew that but now there was a way I could connect to them. And ever since I left that first voicemail for Joe Barlow and his Cinemaslave podcast, and he responded with kind and enthusiastic words, I’ve never looked back. These podcasts have introduced me to movies I’ve never heard of or have long since forgotten of. In recent weeks, I’ve been playing some serious catch-up on some “new” movies. Let’s take a look and see how they turned out!
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension (1984)
I’m not sure how I missed this movie back in the 80s. Sure, the 90s got busy with kids but the 80s? Well, after years of it being on my mountainous “to watch” stack, I finally sat down to enjoy it. Peter Weller (Robocop) stars as Buckaroo Banzai, who can best be described as a modern-day Doc Savage. His group, the Hong Kong Cavaliers, are very similar to the Fabulous Five (again from Doc Savage). Buckaroo is a scientist, rock star and comic book hero, amongst other “jobs”. He and his sidekicks is the only thing between us and an alien invasion that dates back to the infamous War of the World radio broadcast of 1938. You’ll recognize a young Jeff Goldblum (The Fly) and Clancy Brown (The Shawshank Redemption), but you’ll probably miss 80s one-hit wonder Billy Vera. We have John Lithgow (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) as Dr. Emilio Lizardo aka Lord John Whorfin and Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future) as John Bigboote. And, of course, Ellen Barkin (The Big Easy) looks sexier than I ever thought she could as love interest Penny Priddy. It’s crazy, over-the-top comic book fun that reminds me a lot of Doctor Who madness. Unfortunately, it went virtually unnoticed in 1984 and we never got the sequel that is promised in the end credits. Admittedly, it was hard to promote and got lost amongst other summer of ’84 blockbusters, such as Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Ghostbusters. That said, it has since gathered a cult following who crave anything Banzai, such as the novelization and comic books that eventually followed. It is well worth checking out on DVD but it is harder to find and may be a little expensive. It’s also easily found on Netflix. Meanwhile, check out a trailer and be sure to listen to Terry Frost and Nick Sauer discuss the movie in episode 10 of the Martian Drive-In Podcast.
Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (1985)
This was another 80s classic that I never saw. Having finally seen it, I guess I’m falling into a minority as I just didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would. It’s based on a series of pulp paperbacks called The Destroyer. However, from what I’ve read, the book series took itself more seriously than the movie since they now total 150 and going strong. Our main character of Remo Williams is played by Fred Ward (Tremors), who is just not leading man material in my opinion. He was okay as the New York City cop who “dies” in the line of duty only to be recruited as a super-secret assassin. But I think his performance played a part in the poor performance of this movie at the box office. He is trained in the Korean martial art-form of “Sinanju” by the elderly master Chiun. Joel Grey (Cabaret) gives a great performance behind the make-up, mixing in just the right amount of humor. In fact, the moments between Remo and Chiun are, by far, the best of the movie. It’s fun to see Wilford Brimley (The Thing) in his relatively small role of Harold Smith (think of a harder edge version of 007’s M). However, much of the supporting cast leaves much to be desired. Kate Mulgrew surprised me by showing off her legs years before she became Captain Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager but she doesn’t show off much acting talent here. The soundtrack is great and throws you back into the time period. However, clocking in at over 2 hours long, the movie clearly needed a better editor as it would have moved much quicker if finishing up around 90 minutes or so. It’s just rather dull at times. Apparently, a faster paced climax was nixed at the last minute due to budgetary concerns. After only making $12 million on a budget of $40 million, any ideas of a sequel were quickly forgotten. It’s not a horrible movie; it just suffers from a lackluster script and uneven acting. That said, it is out-of-print on DVD so expect to pay a little more than it’s probably worth. Watch the trailer and judge for yourself, and then catch the whole movie on YouTube. After that, listen to Vince, Mary and Nic over at the B Movie Cast, episode 229, for a great conversation about this forgotten film of the 80s.
Next time, we’ll catch up on three more recent podcast movies: The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake, The Hideous Sun Demon and Lo. And fear not, there is more Godzilla on the way!!