- Movie Rating -

Where the Buffalo Roam? (1980)

| April 25, 1980

I suppose it is tempting to always focus on the insanity associated with Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, the thunderous counter-culture journalist for Rolling Stone, rather than the words that made him famous. His writing was so colorful that you envied his talent.  His words and his legendary antics inspired a generation of wannabe writers to find the insanity in their own bloodstream but few ever reached those heights mainly because they had the insanity but not the talent.

The legend was born from his writing but further still from his association with Oscar Acosta Fierro, a Mexican-American attorney whom Thompson immortalized in his book “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” under the name Carl Lazlo and confessed that the attorney advised him to take large amounts of drugs and alcohol to ward off the effects of his paranoia.  The book has become legendary not only as a grand piece of gonzo journalism but because it has inspired speculation about questions about Lazlo whom Thompson last wrote about in the 1976 article “The Banshee Screams for Buffalo Meat” in which he speculated that his legendary disappearance (still unsolved to this day) was actually murder.

I first came to the legend of Hunter Thompson and Carl Lazlo as many in my generation did, through the character of Raoul Duke in Garry Trudeau’s “Doonsbury” cartoons where the weathers of his soul might either be fictional or complete fact.  I have no idea.  I have always taken a “print the legend” approach to Thompson.

SO!  Given that, I was really looking forward to Where the Buffalo Roam, a movie that I hoped would give me some kind of insight into their relationship even if it was mostly fictionalized.  The problem is that the movie does everything under the sun not to deal with their relationship.  Bill Murray plays Thompson in much the same role that he played in Meatballs as a likable wild and crazy guy who does wild and crazy things.  The problem is that you never really feel that you’re watching Thompson.

I have no doubt the did interview George McGovern at a urinal or that he staged a mock football game in his hotel room when he was supposed to be covering the Super Bowl or that he started and orgy in a hospital room.  It’s just that scene after scene like that feels more like tossed out SNL sketches then they do any kind of insight into Thompson’s craft of writing.

The movie spends so much time focused in on Bill Murray’s antics that it never really gets to the point.  It keeps getting distracted by itself.  Yes, Thompson takes buckets of drugs and alcohol but what are the effects?  Where are the bad trips?  Where are the hangovers?  This is drug and alcohol abuse on a cartoon level.  I never felt that I was watching the real thing, and truthfully, I spent much of the movie just kind of irritated.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1980) View IMDB Filed in: Uncategorized