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Where the Buffalo Roam
How could I resist? Bill Murray as Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. Come on, that's absurd, right? Well, Bill wasn't half bad in Where the Buffalo Roam (1980, 99 minutes). But 20 years later, it's impossible not to compare his to Johnny Depp's astounding performance in Terry Gilliam's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. While Murray does an admirable job aping a believable Thompson -- Depp literally morphs into Dr. Gonzo. The two do have something beyond the subject matter in common: NO ONE WENT TO THEIR GOLDANG MOVIE. That's a shame, especially for Mr. Depp. But Bill took solace in Caddyshack, released about three months after Buffalo roamed itself right out of theaters.
The movie: We follow the exploits of Thompson and his attorney Oscar Zeta Acosta (for some reason called "Laslow") as Hunter covers a 1968 pot trial, the 1972 Super Bowl and presidential campaign -- including a urinal-side interview with Richard M. Nixon. Along the way, Laslow (Peter Boyle) disappears and reemerges in Hunter's world, always at a pivotal point, where the journalist is lured even further down life's weirdest path. It's a trail littered with booze, weird chemicals and general mischief. The movie's far more accessible than Fear and Loathing, but no where near as hallucinogenic. Includes music by Neil Young. Look for "Benson" star Rene Auberjonois as Harris from The Post.
Notables: No breasts. Herd of buffalo. One stuffed bat. Dog attack. Dancing nurse. Slime-ball lawyers. Involuntary blood-pressure check. Midget bellhops. M-16 shooting. Gun running. Mace to the eyes. Whiskey-drinking Doberman. Fire extinguisher brandishing. One fake Nixon. Gratuitous urination.
Quotables: Any mumbled stream of verbiage from Murray as the good doctor including, "I hate to advocate drugs, liquor, violence or insanity to anyone -- but in my case, it's worked."
Time codes: Thompson types and drives a car ... one more successfully than the other (12:42). A hell of a Super Bowl party (54:50). Stewardess swigs beer (1:16:45).
Audio/Video: Clean, but not vivid widescreen print (1.85:1). Mono audio track.
Extras: A brief Hunter S. Thompson bio. No trailer. Reprint insert of original poster (featuring Ralph Steadman's distinctive lettering).
Final thought: The second-best film tribute to a fine American. Recommended.
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G. Noel Gross is a Dallas graphic designer and avowed Drive-In Mutant who specializes in scribbling B-movie reviews. Noel is inspired by Joe Bob Briggs and his gospel of blood, breasts and beasts.