Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Remembering Jake Speed & Buckaroo Banzai

Cheesy, Retro but Great Action/Comedy Movies That You Probably Never Saw

When you are schoolboy young, one of the greatest dilemmas is branding yourself so your fellow classmates, your extended circle of friends and let’s not forget, all the pretty girls look up to you. Having been bestowed with neither Greek godish looks nor an Olympian body plus a terrible case of amnesia with mathematical formulas, I engrossed myself instead with books, comics, rock music, horror, sci-fi, fantasy and action movies and some more books - escaping into my own MTV infused imaginary world of flying saucers, serial killers, supermen, giant robots, dungeons, dragons, man-eating aliens and dazed damsels in distress.

Often, I would be so awed by something I would have seen or read that I would almost bore my classmates to death and the central character (mostly a super hero or a maverick private eye) would stay with me for days or weeks until a new one would supersede with even more vigor and panache. “Jake Speed” was one of them. The name of the hero in an awesome B movie of the same name, I was obsessively addicted to it that it almost became my pseudonym at school. You could find it in my notebooks, my bag, my bicycle, my watch, my cap and even my lunchbox.

Now looking back; I smile with amusement and satisfaction, content that in spite of all my perceived shortcomings, I was happy in my own imaginarium. So, reliving those carefree days of school and college, I present below some of the great supermen/super hero and action/comedy movies (which you have probably never seen or heard of) that inspired me and hopefully would do the same to you as well!!

For your added advantage, I have also added actual video web links of the some of them for your viewing pleasure.

1. Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai (W.D.Richter/1984)– Cooler than James Bond, hipper than Indiana Jones and smarter than Conan the Barbarian, the fearless Buckaroo leads the team Banzai against the evil Dr. Lizardo and his slimy Lectrroids from planet 10. High speed, high-camp adventure spoof with one of my favs Peter Weller (Robocop) as the rock star/neuro-surgeon/super hero and a hilarious John Lithgow as his demented, scene stealing nemesis. Jeff Goldblum, Christopher Lloyd and Ellen Barkin co-star. A cult favorite now, this movie has inspired numerous movies, comics and spoofs the world over.

2. Adventures of Ford Fairlane (Renny Harlin/1990)- This movie starring the American stand-up comic Andrew Dice Clay as a maverick rock n' roll private detective is a weird diversion and certainly not for all tastes. Though made by the director who gave you massive hits like Die Hard 2, Cliffhanger and Deep Blue Sea, this was a box office dud in America. In fact, it won the 1990 Golden Raspberry for Worst Actor, Worst Picture and Worst Screenplay. It was also nominated for Worst Director and twice for Worst Supporting Actor. However, it evolved into a cult hit on video with distinct popularity across Europe especially in Norway, Spain and Hungary that continues to this day. Co-starring Priscilla Presley (ex-wife of Elvis Presley), Lauren Holly and Robert Englund (Nightmare on Elm Street)

3.Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother (Gene Wilder/1977)– In the spirit of mentor Mel Brooks, Wilder’s first directorial effort is all skits – many of them hysterically funny but with little continuity. However, there’s a unique sweetness in this period comedy as well as a sense of craft that’s often missing in Brooks’ caustic work. The cast which includes Wilder, the late Marty Feldman and Madeleine Kahn as a conniving femme fatale is delightful and fun to watch.

4. Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey (Peter Hewitt/1991)– Having completely missed the first part – Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure; thanks to a pen pal I got to see this exciting sequel first. Starring a young Keanu Reeves with great support from Alex Winter, Joss Ackland and William Sadler, this is a superlative sci-fi teen adventure comedy that hasn’t aged over the years though its not exactly superhero material. For those who have already seen it, the brilliant premise of Bill and Ted challenging Death to a game to win back their lives is a direct reference to the famous Ingmar Bergman film The Seventh Seal, in which a determined knight plays chess with the Grim Reaper in an attempt to save his life.

5. Billy Jack (T.C. Frank a.k.a. Tom Laughlin/1971)– An amazingly popular film back in the early 70’s reminiscent of Shaft, I saw it 20 years later when I was in high school. Strong silent half-breed Billy Jack (Tom Laughlin) is the liberals answer to Charles Bronson – he protects women and minorities against greedy white bigots. Laughlin directed and along with his appealing co-star and real life wife Delores Taylor, wrote and produced under various pseudonyms. The movie is melodramatic and manipulative as hell but it works: you’ll be rooting for Billy Jack all the way. Apparently, this pic was a big hit then but spawned two terrible sequels.

6. Cloak and Dagger (Richard Franklin/1984)– E.T’s Henry Thomas plays a little boy obsessed with the adventures of an imaginary hero in this hitchcockian adventure mystery. When Thomas witnesses an actual murder, no one believes him. Dabney Coleman shines in the dual roles of Thomas’ father and the fantasy playmate. A great watch for all times.

7. Eliminators (Peter Manoogian/1986)– Here goes the story – A man who’s half man/half tank seeks revenge on a megalomaniac who wants to be Julius Caesar. On his journey, he enlists the help of a beautiful young scientist (who has single –handedly discovered matter transport), her foot-high robot, a conniving river guide and a kung fu master. Sound like Wizard of Oz? Wait. They have to invade the castle yet. Actually, the whole thing is quite amusing. If your dream is to see Bing Cosby’s granddaughter in a wet T-shirt, this is your film. This movie was also released as "Decapitron.

8. Jake Speed (Andrew Lane/ 1986)– A fictitious storybook hero comes to life to rescue the kidnapped sister of the heroine in this cult hit action comedy which actually failed at the box office. Silly light hearted rip off of a hundred other adventure films but made with pizzazz and loads of style, this slowly grows on you and proves its cult following. And if like me, you’re a fan for this kind of stuff, it may just be what you have been looking for. Starring Wayne Crawford, Dennis Christopher and John Hurt, this has music by X-files’ Mark Snow and was novelized into a book after the movie’s release.

9. Remo Williams (Guy Hamilton/1985)– Based on a series of action/adventure mass market books, this movie translates into good action/adventure fun. Fred Ward plays the ex-cop whose death is staged so he can be resurrected as Remo Williams, super agent for a secret agency. But Remo’s transformation isn’t complete without an unrecognizable Joel Grey in amazing make-up as an oriental master who teaches him how to dodge bullets. Thanks to this movie, we’ll always remember that at one time there was scaffolding around the Statue of Liberty. Director Hamilton also directed many James Bond features including Gold Finger.

10. Romancing the Stone (Robert Zemeckis/1984)– If you can buy red-hot Kathleen Turner as a mousy romance novelist, you’ll have no problem with the other implausibilities here in this popular flick. A fast paced comedic action adventure following Turner’s repressed writer from New York to South America where she meets Michael Douglas, a cocky, self-absorbed soldier of fortune. Danny DeVito and Zack Norman make amusing lowlife villains. The real gem in this mad cap treasure hunt is sexy, funny, irresistible Kathleen Turner and her electric chemistry with Michael Douglas. One of the best films from 1984.

11. Traxx (Jerome Gary/1988)– All the action of Rambo with all the humor of Airplane. Meet Traxx – this man has just blown away six terrorists, dynamited a drug smuggling compound and baked a dozen cookies; he’s a chocolate chip’ off the old ‘Rambo” block… so reads the DVD blurb and pretty much sums up what Traxx is all about. Starring the former American Top 40 host Shadoe Stevens in the lead, Traxx is a wacky comedy but with an acquired taste. Enjoy.

Please share your comments especially your favorites. I would really love to hear from you all or email me.


  1. fantastic list.I remember seeing Billy Jack, Remo Williams and if my memery is right, maybe Buckaroo Banzai too. But, knowing your young age..you possibly couldn't have seen them all when they were released. When did you see them? at school or college? and how the hell do you remember them? Loved it though and thanks for the downlaod links.

  2. WHy did you add Traxx? I remember seeing it and found it taxing to watch but agree totally with Buckaroo Banzai and Jake Speed. Jeff Goldblum and John Lithgow were awesome in Buckaroo Banzai and I really wanted to see it again. So, thanks for keeping the memories alive.

  3. Except for about three movies, the rest of them i truly have never heard of. YOu actually watched these?! :) First time here. Good going.


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