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Hunter S. Thompson - Final 24: His Final Hours

Other // Unrated // August 24, 2010
List Price: $14.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Kurt Dahlke | posted September 17, 2010 | E-mail the Author
Hunter S. Thompson - Final 24: His Final Hours:
You can't really describe this Quebec-Ontario TV series as anything but ghoulish and fascinating, focusing as it does on the last days of relatively contemporary famous or notorious folks. Many of them died too young. Hunter S. Thompson was not one of those, having made it to the ripe old age of 67 before pulling the trigger. Of course previously, the author led quite a life, a fact that bolsters this 60-minute program with plenty of back-story, archival footage, dramatic recreations and interviews. The DVD spins down after providing viewers with a modicum of entertainment, a little bit of knowledge, and a slightly queasy feeling.

So I guess at this stage in civilization folks are fascinated by celebrity and death in about equal measure, so when a celebrity dies, who lines up to garner the gold? Only a little company called Cineflix entertainment (I've never heard of them either.) It's a good idea, delivered with just the right mix of solemnity and curiosity. Of course Thompson is known to most as America's gonzo man of letters, a once-protean writer crushed under the illusion created by his most popular book, 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.' Thompson's style of inserting himself into the action surrounding whatever he was reporting on started even when he was doing more-or-less straight travel reporting for Scanlan's, and took off with his groundbreaking creative non-fiction novel 'Hell's Angels.' However, when the Doctor discovered LSD, all bets were off, and the rest is a history Thompson wanted badly to forget. Years of being constantly high and drunk also took their toll, ultimately providing Thompson with only one seeming solution.

Part of Final 24's strength, in this case, lies in its broad coverage, delivering plenty of knowledge to those new to Thompson's legacy, while smoothly mixing in details of his last day for fans who simply want to understand how and why. Recreations from the author's final 24 hours are disconcerting in that the actor chosen more-or-less resembles Thompson, but does little to ape him as did Johnny Depp and Bill Murray in their movie depictions. Thompson fans want to see the shtick as much as learning what made him tick (and stop ticking.) Regardless, these inherently interesting elements are woven into the fabric in a smooth, logical fashion that will keep interested anyone who takes this ride.

On the other hand, said reenactments read so much like false home movies that they're sometimes hard to accept. While feeling as though we're spying on private moments, we're also incredulous as to how unconvincing those same moments are. We might also feel just a tiny bit ashamed in our desire to dig up all the dirt on the man's suicide. After all, isn't such morbid curiosity part of what drove Thompson off the cliff? Furthermore, numerous interviewees (no offense to those involved) appear culled from the b-list of Thompson associates. Certain Rolling Stone Magazine editors are interviewed, but no Jann Wenner. Thompson's first wife graciously appears, though Anita, his wife when he died, is absent, as is his son Juan. There's no Ralph Steadman, nor any of Thompson's later friends, like Depp. The only usual suspect to show up is Gerald 'Ching' Tyrell, who might very well be able to make a living solely off speaking to his early friendship with Hunter.

Hunter S. Thompson - His Final Hours splits the board successfully, providing an intrinsically fascinating look at the famous author's life and last days that will appeal to both fans and newcomers alike. The hour-long program is not without its faults, not the least of which is plain morbidity, but also, unconvincing recreations and a dearth of representatives from Thompson's inner coterie might put off some folks. But if you're a fan, or just want to absorb the high-and-lowlights of Thompson's storied career and semi-shocking suicide, Final 24 does an admirable job laying it bare for you.

The DVD

Video:
Thompson's personal final 24 come to you in a 1.78:1 ratio presentation, with naturalistic colors and no apparent defects or compression artifacts. Of course contemporary interviews look the best, while archival footage and stills display various levels of grain and/or damage, none of which are distracting in any way, they're just part of the package. It's an overall fine looking package that's not sensational but quite acceptable.

Sound:
Dolby Digital Stereo Audio is likewise acceptable, without defect and mixed appropriately with soundtrack elements. There's nothing to complain about here, except for the fact that "White Rabbit" by the Jefferson Airplane is conspicuous in its absence.

Extras:
And yet, we are denied any extras.

Final Thoughts:
Thompson's final 24 hours are laid out creatively, delivering what feels like insider knowledge that should satisfy die-hard fans. Thompson newbies will also benefit from a fairly comprehensive look at the author's career, a look that even manages to present information or insights that may be new to the most rabid HST acolytes. An appeal to morbid curiosity, and somewhat goofy reenactments, plus a lack of heavy hitters from the Thompson conglomeration, are deficits to this otherwise sprightly creation, a creation that in its brevity still manages a Rent It recommendation.

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