Review: Where the Buffalo Roam (1980)

>> 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)


Anonymous February 15, 2007 at 12:16 PM  

You know, I really liked this movie myself. It is a bit of a mess, I guess, but it really works for some reason. Probably Bill Murray - I've always reckoned him to be really great at salvaging even the worst films.

I even kind of prefer it to Fear and Loathing, but that might just be because I've watched it at way too many parties. It kind of became stupid once it became the fucking thing to do.

But then again, I haven't seen Buffalo for a good six or seven years. Maybe if I watched it again now, I'd think different.

garv February 15, 2007 at 5:16 PM  

I enjoyed the film and agree that it's worth watching. I just didn't think it was very good.

I guess it's similar to the fact that there are many Three Stooges shorts that I love to watch even though I know that those particular shorts are terrible (there are many Stooge shorts that I think are excellently crafted comedies, by the way).

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I like to drink. I like to watch movies. I like to watch movies about drinking. I like to write about the movies I’ve watched, but only if I’ve had a drink first.

All text including the title "Booze Movies: The 100 Proof Film Guide" Copyright William T. Garver

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