This box set of three movies tries to take advantage of a college course theme to generate interest for films already available in these same editions. This collection uses Astronomy to bunch together three lighthearted science fiction adventures. The films are Killer Klowns From Outer Space, Spaceballs, and The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across The Eighth Dimension. The lesson we’re really learning here is how corporate quests for profits can reach almost ridiculous proportions. Many studios are running low on the films in their libraries that have yet to be released but still have a market to sustain a DVD title. The obvious answer to this dilemma is double, triple, and beyond dipping. The idea is to repackage a film, maybe add an extra or two, often not, and put it in a newer, shinier package. In theory we unsavvy buyers are like wild raccoons who can’t resist putting their hands on that new glittering design and will buy products which we already own. It would sound silly, except that it works. Record companies have been doing it for decades. Elvis has been dead for almost 30 years, but there’s still at least one new Elvis CD every year since. OK. Rant out of the way. Let’s talk about the three films in the package.
Killer Klowns From Outer Space
Aliens have come to Earth in a spaceship that looks remarkably like a circus big top. They’re hungry, and we’re on the menu. Using every circus tradition they can, the film has their clowns firing popcorn guns and others that turn humans into tasty little globs of cotton candy. Yummy! Of course a few local teens are wise to the whole thing, but in true Invasion Of The Body Snatcher fashion, nobody believes them until too late. Particularly insistent among the unbelievers is Officer Mooney, played for a few great laughs by film veteran John Vernon. The film is certainly a tent stake to your funny bone, but there are some effective creepy moments to be found. Grant Cramer and Suzanne Snyder do a serviceable job of screaming their way through as the teens in the know and on the run. Most of the film is your typical monsters picking off locals fare. No question this nightmare is more like a sweet dream, but the Chiodo Brothers do deliver a lasting film. It doesn’t take long before you too will realize, “There’s something funny happening around here.”
The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension
The world of Buckaroo Banzai is a strange world indeed. Of the three films from this collection, this one leaves me scratching my head the most. The film sports an almost A list of actors, but you must remember almost none of these people were that well known when Banzai was filmed. Peter Weller is break-out good in the title role. Banzai is the son of two scientists who were killed during an experiment to cross over into the 8th Dimension. He has been obsessed with proving their theories and making the breakthrough himself. Of course nights he’s part of a rock band. He’s attracted to a woman at one of his gigs who looks exactly like his own dead wife. Ellen Barkin is a bit over the top as Penny Priddy. Jeff Goldblum, Lewis Smith, and Clancy Brown are the rest of Banzai’s gang. As it turns out, that first attempt was sucessful after all. Dr. Lizardo (Lithgow) has been inhabited by a leader from the 8th Dimension, and his cronies include Christopher Lloyd and Vincent Schiavelli. The usual zaniness ensues as Banzai and the boys must stop these 8th Dimension invaders from taking over the Earth. Again, this is the same DVD you could have gotten years ago and likely still can for just a couple of bucks only proving that “Wherever you go, there you are”.
All but Killer Klowns come in a Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Klowns is only in 2.0. None of these tracks are better than average. There isn’t anything aggressive to warrant the surround transfers. Dialog is OK on all three films, but don’t look for anything dynamic on any of these discs.
Each film has something in the way of extras, but nothing was done new for this release.
Killer Klowns From Outer Space:
Storyboard and Production Galleries: Some nice stills you can browse.
Visual Effects: Gene Warren Jr. supervised the nice f/x work on the film. Here he sits down with the brothers in what appears to be the same time as the earlier session. Unfortunately, he doesn’t do much of the talking and appears uncomfortable throughout. There is some vintage rough footage on the f/x which is actually worth seeing.
The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension:
Audio Commentary: Have you ever listened to two guys talking and felt completely like an outsider? That’s what this conversation with Director W.D. Richter and writer Earl Mac Rauch felt like. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of information here, but I still felt like an outsider.
Buckaroo Banzai – Declassified: With vintage footage and sound bites that all looks like a bad VHS dub, you get some insight into the making of the film including character development, props, and f/x. They play this out like a making of a documentary.
Deleted Scenes: There are 14 deleted or extended scenes which are in various stages of development. There is a play all option, but you need to step to the second screen, and there it was at the end. Too late for me, of course.
There are other features, but they can only be played if you have one of the 2 or 3 DVD players that had NUON technology. This was a short-lived operating system that was intended to better display motion more smoothly. Processing speeds caught up with the third gen machines, and there were only four DVD’s made with this option.
All three of these films have their moments and are relatively fun to watch. The transfers are all quite dated, and again, I don’t like the double dipping. With the new HD formats there will be reason enough to update some of your favorite films; to do so with below average quality SD repackaged stuff makes no kind of sense to me at all. I doubt I’ll buy a double dipped film in SD again, and because you’re savvy enough to be reading DVD reviews, I am confident you won’t be either. Still, I suspect MGM expects us to fly down to our local video store to get this stuff at “ridiculous speed”.