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Chief Zabu (1988)

R | | Comedy | 28 October 2016 (USA)
2:04 | Trailer
An outrageous social comedy about a New York realtor who dreams of having political influence by taking over a new Polynesian nation.


Neil Cohen, Zack Norman (as Howard Zuker)


Neil Cohen, Zack Norman (as Howard Zuker) | 1 more credit »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Allen Garfield ... Ben Sydney
Zack Norman ... Sammy Brooks
Allan Arbus ... George Dankworth
Ed Lauter ... Skip Keisel
Lucianne Buchanan Lucianne Buchanan ... Monica Keisel
Marianna Hill ... Jennifer Holding
Manu Tupou ... Chief Henri Zabu
Joseph Warren Joseph Warren ... Arthur Keisel
Betty Karlen Betty Karlen ... Linda Gato
Shirley Stoler ... Joan Ironwood
Ferdy Mayne ... Seth the Butler (as Ferdinand Mayne)
Charles Siegal Charles Siegal ... Seth's Assistant
Tom Nardini Tom Nardini ... Gatekeeper
Steve Mittleman Steve Mittleman
Harsh Nayyar ... Prime Minister


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

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis










Release Date:

28 October 2016 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Rich Boys See more »


Box Office


$187,996 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Zabu Company See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



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Did You Know?


Shot in 15 days on the campus of Bard College in 1986, during the break between the spring and summer sessions. Its cast of legendary character actors was joined by a young NYC indie crew and 22 Bard College student interns, all living together in the dorm. 93% of the film was shot at Bard (or a nearby Chinese restaurant, a local hardware store and on the highway to Bard). NYC exteriors were filmed on the streets of Manhattan in a day and a half, plus a half day of exteriors on the island of St. Croix. See more »


Referenced in Mystery Science Theater 3000: Gamera vs. Guiron (1991) See more »

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User Reviews

Chief Zabu is great!
2 November 2016 | by elizabethalexander-08284See all my reviews

Chief Zabu is a socio-political comedy shot in the 1980's that only recently released this year and just in time for the presidential election. It tells the story of two New York businessmen who scheme to take over a Polynesian country in hopes of living out their American dream. Neil Cohen and Zack Norman create a hilariously quick-witted script in this social satire that I found exceptionally entertaining. Also, Allen Garfield and Zack Norman were perfect in their roles as the hysterical New Yorkers. Their chemistry on screen was truly captivating and I loved their intelligent humor and perfect comedic timing. Although this was a low-budget film with a short running time, it successfully manages to humorously incorporate topics of the political and social world that are still incredibly relevant today. I highly recommend watching this uniquely brilliant comedy.

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