>> Sunday, February 11, 2007
USA/C-96m./Dir: Art Linson/Wr: John Kaye/Cast: Bill Murray (Dr. Hunter S. Thompson), Peter Boyle (Carl Lazlo, Esq.), Bruno Kirby (Marty Lewis)
Hollywood first attempted to bring the bizarre world of whiskey-slugging, pill-popping, gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson to the screen with 1980’s Where the Buffalo Roam, starring Bill Murray as Thompson and Peter Boyle as Carl Lazlo. The film centers on Thompson’s relationship with Lazlo, a part-time lawyer and full-time radical based loosely on Hunter’s friend Oscar Zeta Acosta, who joined Thompson on the famous road trip depicted in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. After Acosta disappeared during a trip to Mexico, the real Hunter wrote a farewell article to his friend for Rolling Stone, entitled "The Banshee Screams for Buffalo Meat." That article provided the primary basis for this film. However, the screenwriter also threw in bits borrowed from Thompson’s other writings, including "Fear and Loathing at the Superbowl" and Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72.
It might have been better if the filmmakers had concentrated on a single piece, because the resulting picture is an incoherent mess. Jumping through three loosely connected flashbacks in the lives of Thompson and Lazlo, Where the Buffalo Roam generates few laughs and fails to provide any genuine incite into the relationship between the two men. Worse yet, the tone of the film shifts wildly from serio-comic realism to frat boy slapstick.
Still, while this is not a good film, it is an interesting failure. Murray is surprisingly decent as Thompson, and his understated performance occasionally captures glimmers of Thompson’s paranoid charisma. Also, it’s hard for me to completely dismiss any film that features a hospital IV tube attached to a bottle of Wild Turkey.
Drinks Consumed--Bourbon, vodka (straight and Bloody Mary), beer, and champagne
Intoxicating Effects--Drunk driving, destruction of property, passing out, memory blackouts, swearing, public disturbance, and physical violence
Potent Quotables--THOMPSON: I hate to advocate drugs or liquor, violence, insanity to anyone, but in my case it’s worked.
Video Availability--The studio didn’t want to pay the licensing fees for many of the songs on the original soundtrack, so music by Hendrix, Dylan, the Temptations, and others has been replaced on the Where the Buffalo Roam DVD (Universal). However, the film occasionally runs on cable with the original soundtrack intact.
Similarly Sauced Cinema--Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro portrayed Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo, the fictionalized versions of Thompson and Acosta, in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998).
The Gonzo Tapes:The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson (Box Set)