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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 »



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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:



See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Zack Norman, the comic actor who feeds the crocodiles ('look at those snappers') in ROMANCING THE STONE, and who co-stars as "Sammy" in CHIEF ZABU, co-wrote, co-directed, and produced CHIEF ZABU under the name 'Howard Zuker.' Surprising to many, in 1974, as 'Howard Zuker' he also financed the Academy Award-winning anti-war documentary "HEARTS & MINDS" which Michael Moore calls "Not only the best documentary I've ever seen - it may be the best movie ever." And, as 'Howard Zuker,' Zack Norman also financed the celebrated and critically praised 1971 lesbian vampire cult classic "DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS." See more »


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

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User Reviews

One of the most independent films ever made
13 November 2016 | by matzohboy-767-33708See all my reviews

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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