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Writer's Block: Killer tomatoes

What's your favorite cult film of all time, and why? What are the essential ingredients for a cult classic?

Oh. Well. That's easy. The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension. Case closed.

There's B. Banzai, after all. And Reno. And John Parker. And the Jet Car. And Penny Priddy. And the oscillation overthruster. And Professor Emilio Lizardo/Lord John Whorfin, the divergent magnificence of both brought to me by John Lithgow in what may arguably have been his finest role(s). You doubt it? "Laugh while you can, Monkey Boy."

Of course, B. Banzai has all the best lines, partly because they're great pointers for life. "Wherever you go, there you are." "Don't be mean."

Also, B. Banzai and the Hong Kong Cavaliers? They dance just as good as they walk. And they walk with style. Also, loads of narrow belts and ties. And syncopated music. And Perfect Tommy. And ... well, isn't Perfect Tommy enough? (Even though I much prefer Rawhide, and in my personal world he never did run into that particular Red Lectroid, and he's the reason I love Clancy Brown, not the stupid Highlander movie.) And the whole thing's the most brilliant pastiche and paean to Doc Savage that I've yet seen. It's a pity the other hour or so never saw daylight.

And you must read the book by Earl Mac Rauch. Really. It's of inestimable value for all fans of B. Banzai, and makes the movie even more wonderful.

Oh yeah; the rest of the question.

The essential ingredients for a cult classic are (she said, answering it like it was an essay question on a Grade Eleven History final): any suitable combination of off-kilter and generally vaguely scientifictional - or at least, in these degenerate latter days, somewhat niche pop-cultural plot points; attractive character aspects that can either be laughed at, yearned after, or both; one-liners (like whoah!!!); musical themes, any six bars of which, when heard on a radio or over a store sound system, will immediately throw one back into the theatrical experience; and appreciation of the absurd that talented but (possibly) over- or under-medicated writers can mix well and hand over to (possibly) yet-to-be-discovered or shouldn't-be-discovered directors and (definitely) under-appreciated, yet-to-be-discovered. or never-nope-won't-get-discovered actors.

There. I say these things three times, and they are true.

Comments

( 26 comments — Leave a comment )
beamjockey
Jan. 31st, 2010 04:02 am (UTC)
What I like about it is that it is obviously maybe the fourth movie in the Buckaroo Banzai series.
kaffyr
Jan. 31st, 2010 07:09 pm (UTC)
Oh yes, indeed. Just a quick look at the book gives me two other referenced adventures: "Extradition From Hell" and *snrt* "Bastardy Proved a Spur", not to mention anything with B.Banzai's main opponent Hanoi Xan (and occasionally Xan's Death Dwarves.)

And now, of course, unless we want to see B. Banzai Senior's adventures, we can't recall the original cast for a sequel, something I have always regretted. On the other hand, Perhaps that wouldn't be a bad adventure in and of itself: B. Banzai, the Hong Kong Cavaliers and Penny Priddy in "Rascals at the Retirement Village."
bibliofile
Feb. 1st, 2010 12:16 pm (UTC)
Damn, I missed those!

Too bad what's-his-name gave up acting for academia. Well, and didn't he dislike the movie anyway?

(Somewhere (in a box), I still have some of the papers and stuff from the official fan club...)
kaffyr
Feb. 1st, 2010 06:40 pm (UTC)
Yes, I think Weller was working his way to a Master's or Doctorate in some brand of history ... possibly art history? For a while he also apparently hosted a PBS type show, although not on PBS. I hadn't heard that he disliked the movie. That's a shame.

Y'all were a fan club member? KEWL!
bibliofile
Feb. 2nd, 2010 09:40 am (UTC)
The BB fan club was a thing that the movie studio did. At the time, it felt a bit odd becoming a "fan" as defined by a movie studio -- rather than, y'know, just someone who goes to SF cons. I appreciated all the stuff they sent out a lot more, later.
maruad
Jan. 31st, 2010 04:18 am (UTC)
I don't think I have ever seen it all the way through. I should probably get a hold of a copy for the boys. Then I can watch it as well.
kaffyr
Jan. 31st, 2010 07:10 pm (UTC)
Oh, yes. In the language of teh Intarwebz ... doooooo iiiitttt, dooooo iiiitttt ...."
erikvolson
Jan. 31st, 2010 05:08 am (UTC)
What's the watermelon for?
kerravonsen
Jan. 31st, 2010 06:08 am (UTC)
Yes, I've always wondered that. Someone told me it was a physics joke.
kaffyr
Jan. 31st, 2010 07:17 pm (UTC)
Physics. Well, see, there's the reason I didn't see the watermelon. Heh.
kaffyr
Jan. 31st, 2010 07:16 pm (UTC)
You know, I haven't the slightest idea. Until you mentioned the watermelon, I hadn't even realized there was one. And that gives me an idea. If you have some time next weekend, perhaps you should come over, have some supper, watch the movie with us (we have two versions, including one without music, with blue screen, and with about two extra minutes of story), and point out where the watermelon is.

I'm a social scheduling genius, I am ....
erikvolson
Feb. 1st, 2010 01:47 pm (UTC)
Would love to, but can't for a couple of weeks. This weekend is work, plus visitor, next weekend is Capricon.
kaffyr
Feb. 1st, 2010 06:41 pm (UTC)
No problem. I know we'll eventually /h/u/n/t/ /y/o/u/ /d/o/w/n/ get together.
bibliofile
Feb. 1st, 2010 12:14 pm (UTC)
I'll tell you later.
erikvolson
Feb. 1st, 2010 01:46 pm (UTC)
(Tips hat.)
kaffyr
Feb. 1st, 2010 06:43 pm (UTC)
Wait.
*checks colander-like memory*
Did New Jersey see the watermelon as he was being brought into the Bunkhouse (or Worldwatch One) for the first time?
tardis_stowaway
Jan. 31st, 2010 09:51 am (UTC)
That is indeed a fabulous cult movie. "Wherever you go, there you are" is one of my mantras.
kaffyr
Jan. 31st, 2010 07:14 pm (UTC)
Indeed - it's one of those wonderful "weird-cookie" sayings: complete rubbish on both sides, but it sandwiches a creamy filling of damn, that makes sense!
rmjwell
Jan. 31st, 2010 04:09 pm (UTC)
I concur. John Lithgow as Lizardo/Whorfin made a much better Joker than Jack Nicholson ever did.
kaffyr
Jan. 31st, 2010 07:12 pm (UTC)
Got it in one! I shall tell BB this, and it will make him happy; one cannot mention Nicholson's Joker in our house without risking a veritable tirade, loosely themed "Nicholson just played himself, like he has done for the past 15-20 years."
doclnghair
Jan. 31st, 2010 08:49 pm (UTC)
I love this one dearly i admit. It is the closest i'll get to see of a Doc Savage piece done right as well.
kaffyr
Jan. 31st, 2010 09:26 pm (UTC)
I'm trying to remember - was there ever a modern attempt to put Doc Savage himself on the screen? I think there was, but I'm not remembering any details at all.
apostle_of_eris
Jan. 31st, 2010 11:19 pm (UTC)
One explanation I heard one time for the, uh, peculiar pacing of BB is that it was a comedy, but the producer didn't want a comedy, so the jokes were cut out, leaving only the punchlines. Or something like that.
I had an especially peculiar experience with the Doc Savage movie of '75. I was on the road, but !George Pal!. I probably saw it someplace in Jave. I remember the theater, but not what town I was in. The thing was, the audience seemed to think that was what life in the United States really was like.

They don't quite fit the criteria here, but if you want a short list, I insist on the inclusion of Phantom of the Paradise, with rock group parodies which are still spot on 35 years later; and the sui generis Mystery of the Leaping Fish.
kaffyr
Feb. 1st, 2010 05:22 am (UTC)
Actually Phantom of the Paradise is a perfect example of cult movie, and it's pretty good one at that. Mystery of the Leaping Fish? It's indescribable. Which, I suppose, makes it a cult picture, too. Heh.
minnehaha
Feb. 1st, 2010 12:28 am (UTC)
Hello? Jeff Goldblum?

K. [has favorites]
kaffyr
Feb. 1st, 2010 05:00 am (UTC)
Oh, yes. New Jersey was cool, wasn't he? (Also Goldblum was in Earth Girls Are Easy, and that's a cult film I'd forgotten. Goldblum is a very mannered actor, but I like him a lot.)

Edited at 2010-02-01 05:03 am (UTC)
( 26 comments — Leave a comment )

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