In 1986 Howard Zuker and Neil Cohen directed their first and only film, CHIEF ZABU, a low budget, audacious socio-political comedy about New York real estate operators who scheme to take over a Polynesian country while its leader is in New York seeking admission to the UN. Featuring a cast of legendary character actors - Allen Garfield (The Conversation), Zack Norman (Romancing the Stone), Allan Arbus (Putney Swope), Marianna Hill (The Godfather: Part 2), Manu Tupuo (Hawaii), Ed Lauter (The Longest Yard), Shirley Stoler (Seven Beauties), plus the harp-playing "Miss California," Lucianne Buchanan - and set in Manhattan, The Hudson Valley, Beverly Hills, Las Vegas and the fictional island nation of Tiburaku, CHIEF ZABU was shot almost entirely on a college campus, in 15 days, for under $200,000 (with the cast, crew, and student interns all living together in the dorms). After a series of snafus that paralleled the film's madcap plot, and despite featured coverage of its production in ... Written by
Neil Cohen, co-director, co-writer
Formerly titled "Rich Boys", as evidenced by a poster released in 1988, which bears an Al Hirschfeld caricature of both Zack Norman and Allen Garfield. This image was re-purposed in 2016 for the official poster, under the new title; the caricature was ultimately replaced by a screenshot of the scene depicted. See more »
Chief Zabu is spectacular and hilarious. The fact that the movie was shot in 1986 yet completed only months ago is nothing short of astonishing, giving it an air of complete autonomy and uniqueness; I've never seen anything like it and doubt anyone else has, either. The guerilla, micro-budget filmmaking style is years ahead of its time, as are its characters and themes, all weirdly relevant to the very latest issues of today, political and otherwise. The staccato banter and razor wit are comically arresting and delightful, the period art direction flawless and authentic without feeling dated or condescending, which is very rare indeed. The 1980s hair and costumes are of course spot-on, far crazier and amazing than any recreation could ever hope to be: you can't make this stuff up. As moving as it is irreverent, Chief Zabu is absurdist satire at its best!
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