For the Adherent of Pop Culture
Adventures of Jack Burton ] Back to the Future ] Battlestar Galactica ] Buckaroo Banzai ] Cliffhangers! ] Earth 2 ] The Expendables ] Firefly/Serenity ] The Fly ] Galaxy Quest ] Indiana Jones ] Jurassic Park ] Land of the Lost ] Lost in Space ] The Matrix ] The Mummy/The Scorpion King ] The Prisoner ] Sapphire & Steel ] Snake Plissken Chronicles ] Star Trek ] Terminator ] The Thing ] Total Recall ] Tron ] Twin Peaks ] UFO ] V the series ] Valley of the Dinosaurs ] Waterworld ] PopApostle Home ] Links ] Privacy ]

Episode Studies by Clayton Barr

"Return of the Screw" Part 1
Buckaroo Banzai:  Return of the Screw #1
Story: Mac Rauch
Adaptation/New material: Joe Gentile
Art: Stephen Thompson
Covers: Matt Haley (A), Michael Stribling (B), David Michael Beck (C)

Buckaroo and the Hong Kong Cavaliers investigate the possible return from the dead of Dr. Lizardo.


Read the TV pilot script this 3-issue mini-series was based on, "Supersize Those Fries", here


Didja Know?


This story was originally a script for the pilot episode of a proposed TV series called Buckaroo Banzai: Ancient Secrets and New Mysteries. The script was titled "Supersize Those Fries", changed to "Return of the Screw" for this 3-issue mini-series. (Another title considered for the story was "Lizardo's Own Private Idaho".)


The title "Return of the Screw" is a play on the title of the 1898 Henry James novella The Turn of the Screw.


Characters appearing or mentioned in this issue


Hanoi Xan

Buckaroo Banzai

Penny Priddy (mentioned only, deceased)

Perfect Tommy

New Jersey


Red River Daddy

Lady Gillette

Jimmy Oh (mentioned only, deceased)

Widow Oh

Dr. Emilio Lizardo (aka Emir Locarno and Shifty)

Mrs. Johnson (mentioned only)

John Whorfin

Henry Shannon


Didja Notice?


On cover B of this issue, the shadow cast on the wall behind Whorfin and the woman looks to be that of Buckaroo himself, as we can see that's he's holding a gun and has a guitar slung across his back.


On cover C of this issue, the Lectroids in the background are green for some reason instead of red or black!


In his mental communication with Buckaroo on page 1, Xan paraphrases Buckaroo himself, saying, "No matter where you go, there I am." In Across the 8th Dimension, Buckaroo said, "No matter where you go, there you are."


On page 1, panel 2, the gearshift of the Jet Car has a caduceus printed on the knob. This is the symbol of the medical professions, of which Dr. Banzai is a member.


Notice that the panels of pages 1-5 are laid out as if their borders are crossbeams, probably intended to indicate the Japanese-style divided rooms of the Banzai Institute Buckaroo is sleeping in during the nightmare depicted on these five pages.


At the time of this story, Penny has already been killed by Hanoi Xan. Buckaroo still seems to be tormented by her death, so it may have happened relatively recently, placing this story in 1986 or maybe 1987.


   On page 7, Buckaroo remarks that Jimmy Oh (aka Illinois Mongoose) died while climbing the Himalayas on his honeymoon. But "Of Hunan Bondage" Part 2 depicts Illinois Mongoose dying of injuries sustained while saving Buckaroo from Hanoi Xan's men in China. The Himalayas is a reference to the Himalayan Mountain Range in Asia which hosts the world's highest peaks.

   Another discrepancy regarding Illinois Mongoose is that while he is named Jimmy Oh here, he is referred to as Kawolski in "Of Hunan Bondage" Part 1. Since Kawolski died in "Of Hunan Bondage" Part 2, maybe the "Illinois Mongoose" nickname was inherited by Jimmy Oh afterwards; perhaps Kawolski had been Jimmy's mentor and so Jimmy took the moniker in his honor.


The name "Lady Gillette" was originally used for a razor marketed towards women by Gillette, introduced in 1963.


On page 9, Mrs. Oh is driving a pink Cadillac convertible, circa 1965. The script refers to it as a Mary Kay Cadillac; these are pink Cadillacs given by the Mary Kay cosmetics company as co-op leases to their top sales people as long they maintain a certain level of sales and team members.


I would assume the Banzai Institute seen in this issue is the Banzai Institute West in Arizona, otherwise known as Complex 88, as mentioned in the DVD extras of the movie Across the 8th Dimension, based on the different (Japanese) look of the main compound from the New Jersey one seen in Across the 8th Dimension, and on the desert landscape seen around. (The TV pilot script suggests this is correct.)


If the art here is following the original TV pilot script accurately, the Japanese banners hanging outside the Institute translate as "AT PEACE UNTIL DISTURBED" and "WE WILL FIGHT".


The credit and identification cards of Emir Locarno found in Mrs. Oh's purse on page 11 are an AARP ID card (American Association of Retired Persons) and a Visa credit card.


Also on page 11, Buckaroo states that after the Panther ship of the Red Lectroids was shot down over New Jersey at the end of Across the 8th Dimension, the feds cordoned off the crash site and took the dead aliens to Area 51 where the bodies were supposedly autopsied and cryogenically frozen. Area 51 is a top secret U.S. military base in the Nevada desert, suspected by some of housing the remains of extraterrestrials and technology of their crashed ships. Buckaroo also refers to Area 51 as the twilight zone; this is a reference to the classic Twilight Zone TV series of 1959-1964, an anthology of fantasy, horror, science-fiction and suspense.


On page 12, Buckaroo tells Mrs. Oh to try some of Mrs. Johnson's famous son-of-a-gun soup. This is a reference to "sonofabitch stew", a stew that was/is made by cowboy cooks in the American West out of the beef and offal of calves and sometimes other parts and seasonings. In the presence of a lady, the cowboys would refer to it as "son-of-a-gun stew."


Perfect Tommy tracks Locarno's home address as 493 West Robinson, #36, Chicago, IL. There is no such address in Chicago in the real world.


On page 13, New Jersey refers to Dr. Emilio Lizardo as Emilia!


The cover of the Buckaroo Banzai comic book New Jersey is reading on page 13, panel 5, appears to show the man in the pickle costume of Pete's Pickles who will later appear in "Return of the Screw" Part 2. From Jersey's dialog, it seems the issue he's reading is intended to relate the story of Across the 8th Dimension, or a portion thereof. (The TV pilot script describes the cover as featuring a crazed Lizardo.)


As he reads the comic book, it doesn't really make sense to have New Jersey saying he remembers this issue and describing the plot, that being the story of Dr. Emilio Lizardo from Across the 8th Dimension. New Jersey was in on the story from the beginning as part of Team Banzai! It makes more sense in the original TV pilot script, where the character reading the comic is relative newcomer Johnny Concho instead of New Jersey.


The Jet Car appears to have had mach of its internal cab mechanisms removed (or, perhaps, miniaturized?) to allow room for additional passengers (for example, the OVERTHRUSTER cradle is now missing); the vehicle now holds 5, including the driver (or 6, counting a person in the machine gun turret, which is a new addition to the vehicle).


On page 14, Red River Daddy erroneously states the year of the Orson Welles War of the Worlds radio broadcast as 1937. It was actually 1938.


On page 15, we see that the Jet Car is now capable of flight.


On page 16, Buckaroo says that Dr. Lizardo used to be referred to as Ninestein because he was nine times smarter than Einstein.


Also on page 16, Buckaroo suggests that John Whorfin's Lectroid DNA is co-mingled with Lizardo's human DNA, so he now passes for human.


Perfect Tommy refers to the city of Chicago by several nicknames: Chi-town, City of Big Shoulders, that tottling (sic) town, and the Windy City. These are all real nicknames that have been applied to the city.


On panel 5 of page 16, we see the same slash marks on the back of the Jet Car's driver's seat as we saw being made by Hanoi Xan in Buckaroo's nightmare on page 2. This may suggest that the intermingling of Buckaroo's dream and Xan's mental intrusion were being psychically reflected in reality in some ways.


On page 17, the young man Buckaroo shows Dr. Lizardo's photo to is wearing a jacket that has "ABERCROMIE" printed on the back. This may be a veiled reference to Abercrombie & Fitch, a maker of casual clothing fashions.


Also on page 17, a Chicago local refers to Locarno's two men as Siegfried and Roy. Siegfried and Roy are two German-American entertainers who had a magic and exotic animal show at the Mirage in Las Vegas, Nevada from 1990-2003.


When Perfect Tommy enters the building that housed Locarno's apartment on page 18, notice that there are multiple instances of graffiti on the walls that read "John". This suggests the graffiti is likely the handiwork of John Whorfin and other Red Lectroids, who go by a title that sounds like that name.


On page 19, Perfect Tommy is referred to as Tommy Lee. Is this his real name? Or is he just being confused with that other rocker from Motley Crue?


The "gun" the young Blue Blaze Irregular holds on Tommy on page 19 appears to be made out of a potato, a spark plug, and other electrical parts. It seems the weapon may have been made by the Red Lectroids before they abandoned the apartment.


The girl's mother mistakes the photo of Locarno for George Washington. Washington was a general and hero of the Continental Army during the American Revolution and the first President of the United States.


On page 22, dwarves riding on the shoulders of taller guards appear again at the Temple of Deception in the Valley of the Naive in Myanmar, just as they did earlier at Hanoi Xan's base in China in "Of Hunan Bondage" Part 2. Although Myanmar (also known as Burma) is a real country in Southeast Asia, the Temple of Deception and the Valley of the Naive appear to be fictional constructs of the Banzai universe.


The background wall behind the aged professor-ish presenter on page 22 is riddled with bullet holes, an early clue that his platform is frequently used for executions.


The aged professor remarks that they may soon have help from ex-Soviet physicists willing "to work for food" in their search for the long-rumored heavy metal element Nazium. This sounds like an exaggerated reference to scientists formerly working for the Soviet Union after that country's government collapsed in 1991. If this story does take place in 1991 or after, it seems like a long time for Buckaroo to have continued mourning Penny's death (in 1986 according to the novelization of Across the 8th Dimension.)


On pages 22-23, Hanoi Xan appears to be bathing in blood. Notice also that Xan has very long, sharp fingernails and large, snake-like leeches are on his body and in the blood bath.


On page 22, panel 3, Xan has a wine glass in his hand and a bottle of Eadu de Vipere sitting behind him, presumably his beverage. Eau de Vipere is French for Viper Water. What exactly Viper Water is, I don't know.


On panel 4 of page 22, Xan says, "I see dead people." This is likely a reference to the now-famous line spoken by young Cole Sear in the 1999 film The Sixth Sense, even though "Return of the Screw" would seem to take place significantly before this.


On page 23, panel 4, Whorfin-as-Lizardo seems to light a cigarette by touching the tip to his tongue.


Page 23 reveals another nickname of Hanoi Xan, the Black-Goat Son of Baphomet. Baphomet is an imagined pagan deity that is largely the creation of Christian folklore regarding paganism; since 1855, Baphomet has been associated with the Sabbatic Goat image drawn by French artist and occultist Eliphas Levi (1810-1875).


Page 24 reveals three other names for the World Crime League: World Capital Lending, the Black Parliament, and the Hundred Devils Who Come Out at Midnight.


On page 24, Whorfin implies he is 350 years old.


It's possible that the blood bath and/or the Viper Water allows the aged Hanoi Xan to attain a youthful appearance. On page 25, a young Asian man calling himself Henry Shannon, Xan's personal secretary, comes out to greet Whorfin and the Lectroids. "Henry Shannon" is an obvious English-based sound-alike of "Hanoi Xan".


On page 26, the exposed Lectroids appear to have small suction-cup-like growths on their fingers (see the Lectroid fingers in the image in the item below). A possible use for these growths is depicted in "Tears of a Clone" Part 2, in which we see a Lectroid clinging to the ceiling like Spider-Man.


The photo held up by Whorfin at the end of the issue appears to be a Tesla tower (though Buckaroo sees a similar drawing of it on the wall of Locarno's apartment on page 20 and says it looks like a "seismic resonator"). The Tesla tower concept was designed by Nicola Tesla at the end of the 19th Century and was intended to 1) broadcast telecommunications around the globe and 2) allow the wireless transmission of electricity across great distances. Tesla ran out of money before he could complete his first two large-scale towers and was not able to convince further investors to provide funds.
Whorfin's tower Tesla tower under construction at Wardenclyffe circa 1903.


Notes from Buckaroo Banzai: Return of the Screw Preview Edition


The preview edition of this issue was a 50-cent black-and-white special that printed the first 8 pages of the story, plus a text piece by Dan Berger on how the story developed from the initial TV pilot script to the 3-issue mini-series for Moonstone. It also contains some personnel profiles for some of the Cavaliers. The profile for Red River Daddy reveals that he was formerly an animator at Disney who was hired by Planet 10 to create a cartoon avatar to represent them to the U.S. President. He is now a percussionist for the Cavaliers and is chief game designer at the Banzai Institute's new gaming division. The novelization of Across the 8th Dimension reveals that games are a large part of the way the Institute teaches its recruits, so a video game division makes more sense than it might at first sound.


In New Jersey's profile it is revealed that he surgically separated the siamese twins Linda and Twinda so that Linda could be executed by the state of Texas for a murder committed by her of which Twinda was innocent. New Jersey has since married Twinda and is semi-retired from the Institute.


Perfect Tommy's profile tells us his real name is unknown (at least to the public). It is believed he and Buckaroo may have met at Phillips Exeter, a reference to Phillips Exeter Academy, a private high school in Exeter, New Hampshire which teaches by the Socratic Method of asking questions and inviting discussion. He then spent some time at MIT and in the Foreign Legion. The profile also suggests he frequently changes his hair color. Tommy is described as a "wicked lead guitarist" and is always "turned up to eleven", possibly a reference to the metafictional rock band Spinal Tap (maybe Tommy has played with them?).


The Lady Gillette profile reveals that she busted up a vaccine ruse by World Contagion Limited, an illicit company of the World Crime League.


Notes from the TV pilot script "Supersize Those Fries"


The script states that Reno is a Mexican matinee idol.


In the script, New Jersey's role has been replaced by a newer Cavalier named Johnny Concho. 


Back to Buckaroo Banzai Episode Studies