A not-quite-voyeur of Hunter S. Thompson land

Long ago I read the “Rolling Stone,” and discovered Hunter S. Thompson.  If you don’t know about Thompson, there is a pretty decent article about him at Wikipedia.  The stuff he wrote fascinated me.  I kept thinking, “Is this guy for real?”  Years later I finally got around to reading his books, after my son gave me a copy of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream (1971).  Again, there was that same horrified fascination.  Reading the book was dangerous . . . I had to put it down after each chapter, and reconnect with what was real in my life.  And yet, in the midst of the twisted, drug induced descriptions and (possible) paranoia, Thompson would make commentaries on life that rang true.  He wrote things about what the counter-culture members of my generation had hoped to create, and how members of the status quo set out to squash that. 

So I read everything Thompson wrote that I could find.  Some of it was as “unique” as Fear and Loathing, and some of it was a bit more mundane.  I certainly can’t say I agreed with his life view; sometimes I felt like a sociologist, exploring an unknown culture.  But he made me think.  And he continued to fascinate me. 

In 1980 they made a movie about stories from his life: Where the Buffalo Roam, starring Bill Murray as Thompson and Peter Boyle as Carl Lazlo, his Samoan attorney.  It covers highlights from Thompson’s writings, and tidbits from his life, but it’s a little . . . tame.  Am guessing we can blame that on it being done in 1980.  Societal mores were still rather tight back then, and they didn’t have the CGI capabilities to really do some of the stories justice.  Murray does a good job, but Peter Boyle’s Lazlo is more manic than seriously whacked out.  The DVD is rated R and runs 96 minutes.  Yahoo movies gives it a B; I’d give it more of a C. 

Then in 1998 they made Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, with Johnny Depp as Thompson, Benicio Del Toro as the Samoan attorney, and Terry Gilliam directing (with bit parts played by other name actors, such as Tobey Maguire, Carmen Diaz, and Christina Ricci).  Wow.  This one captures the twisted, this-can’t-be-real essence of the book, including an excellent scene in the hotel bar where Thompson sees everyone as reptiles.  I read somewhere that Depp got so into the character of Thompson, that it took him six months after the filming was done to feel like himself again.  It shows.  Don’t watch the movie just because Depp is in it, because instead of handsome Johnny you see what Thompson looked like.  (Thompson actually plays a cameo in the film.)  This movie comes far closer to conveying the feeling of Thompson’s writing.  I couldn’t get my husband to watch the bonus features on the DVD with me immediately after the movie, because he had the same “lets connect with real life” reaction I had with the book.  The DVD runs 2 hrs and 8 minutes, and is rated R (but a harsher R than the other movie — really).  Yahoo movies gave it a B+, while I would give it an A-. 

Hunter S. Thompson died in 2005 at the age of 67 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.  He was known for his drug taking, love of firearms, and gonzo journalism.  The weekend before John Belushi died of a drug overdose, he spent time with Thompson, and finally left because he couldn’t keep up with Thompson’s drug taking.  Thompson was an interesting mix of educated, Southern gun freak and whacked out druggie.  When he wrote, you never quite knew what facet of his personality you would read, but it was rarely boring.

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About judithornot

Lives in semi-rural Northern California, happily married, retired counselor, night person, knits, plays WoW.
This entry was posted in books, DVDs, Interesting people and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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