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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

Where the Buffalo Roam


Starring: Bill Murray and Peter Boyle
Distributor: Fabulous Films / Fremantle Media Enterprises
RRP: £14.99

Certificate: 18
Release Date: 27 April 2015

Hunter S. Thompson was the sixties journalist who coined the term ‘Gonzo’. In this form of reporting the journalist becomes an active participant rather than a detached observer and given Thompson's enthusiastic embrace of both alcohol and drugs, there was a chance that this would descend into chaos.

Where the Buffalo Roam (1980. 1 hr 39 min 26 sec) is a semi autobiographical film about Thompson's earlier career, his rise to fame, and the relationship with his lawyer Lazlo. The film was directed by Art Linsom, from a John Kaye script based in Thompson’s books The Banshee Screams for Buffalo Meat and Strange Rumblings in Aztlan.

The film opens with Thompson, alone in his cabin, save for his dog who has been trained to attack a mannequined Richard Nixon. Between drinking copious amounts of whisky he is trying to finish a book about his strange friendship with Lazo. At this point the film jumps into a flashback and we see Lazlo trying, unsuccessfully, to defend a group of hippy clients who have been arrested for possession of marijuana. Through the progression of the film we see them meet up again, when Thompson is sent to cover the Superbowl and on the presidential election trail.

Bill Murray plays Thompson and although this is an early role for him he only gives a monotone version of the real Thompson. We watch, with not a little disbelief, as the character navigates through life, necking pills and alcohol and yet at no time does this have a greater affect on him other to continue his slightly laid back acerbic persona. In the film the character states that nothing was ever weird enough for him, but this is not reflected either on the screen or in the script. I suspect that if Murray had been freed from the script his own innate chaos would have given us a more faithful version of Thompson and a funnier film.

His supposed foil, Lazlo, is played by Peter Boyle, all wild hair and moustache. As the character enters and exits at various point of Thompson's life the film fails to really explain what keeps these two men together, or even the basis of their friendship. It also makes it difficult to care about his transformation from kooky lawyer to small time revolutionary.

What the film ends up showing us is a series of events, some amusing, some not, but the tone of the film remains the same throughout. Murray does a good impression of Thompson, capturing many of his idiosyncratic mannerisms; his performance just about makes the film worth watching, but the overall project lacks the manic edge of Terry Gilliam’s superior Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998).

The film is presented on Blu-ray for the first time. The print is clear, but there is grain from the original film stock. The disc contains no extras.


Charles Packer

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