Two white policemen kill an assaulted heart surgeon in New York City’s streets. Detective Jalen Shaw (Mehcad Brooks) becomes victimized by racial profiling from two officers who refuse to believe his badge.
As Frank Cosgrove (Jeffrey Donovan) investigates an intricate web of corruption, the episode also reimagines Thompson’s relationship with Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo, two prominent characters in Thompson’s legacy.
1. The Banshee Screams for Buffalo Meat
The inaugural gonzo episode of the series, “The Banshee Screams for Buffalo Meat,” introduces viewers to its setting and storytelling style. A riveting tale of murder, drugs, and social injustice featuring Jeffrey Donovan as Detective Cosgrove; additionally, it addresses significant societal concerns that remain relevant today as when it was first broadcast.
Even though actual events inspired the episode, its story remains clouded. In the late seventies, Universal executive Thom Mount acquired the rights to Thompson’s The Banshee Screams for Buffalo Meat which consisted of long wails by Thompson wondering if Oscar Zeta Acosta had indeed passed. From this came the 1980 movie Where the Buffalo Roam is, starring Bill Murray as Thompson and Peter Boyle (whose character bears only faint similarities to Acosta himself).
Fear and Loathing from Modern Library Edition contains an essay by Thompson detailing what led up to Where the Buffalo Roam. Also included is an old photo of Acosta with Thompson from when they researched Strange Rumblings in Aztlan, which inspired their road trip journey. Furthermore, Criterion Collection DVD of Terry Gilliam’s film features an additional disc featuring Acosta.
Acosta played an instrumental role in what would eventually become Gonzo journalism, yet the urban legend that Hunter S. Thompson created alone persists today, with Acosta effectively being erased from any conversation about its creation. Even some of Thompson’s more well-known characters – such as Dr. Gonzo, who Johnny Depp played in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) film version) are hardly recognizable as Acosta characters.
Gonzo journalism will likely come as a shock when viewers see him get kicked out of court after one of his clients receives a five-year sentence for marijuana possession, prompting a distinct feeling: this doesn’t feel quite like what we expect of Gonzo journalism!
2. Where the Buffalo Roam
The Buffalo Roam, directed by Hollywood producer Art Linson and featuring one of his most acclaimed actors – Bill Murray, fresh off early Saturday Night Live years – bombed in theaters and dorm rooms alike. Conceived as an incoherent series of vignettes inspired by various Thompson sources, with Bill Murray portraying Thompson in what can only be described as a straight, self-referential caricature – he storms through hospitals, hotel rooms, and courtrooms like an angry, gun-toting nightmare version of Monsieur Hulot himself!
Neil Young’s version of Neil Young’s title song plays over shots of Thompson drinking whiskey in an isolated cabin before moving on to show him typing away at an office that appears like that of Rolling Stone and complete with fake covers and an attack Doberman was trained to attack hearing Nixon’s name. Unfortunately, though Thompson approved of the project and permitted Murray to portray such an immense figure, he never entirely became his character as intended.
Linson and John Kaye appear uncertain whether to create the movie as an outrageous farce or severe social commentary; neither approach works well enough, leaving an incoherent mess that ultimately provides no insight or amusement.
Murray saves it from obscurity with his manic performance; his presence alone keeps us engaged. Furthermore, comparing Where the Buffalo Roam with Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is interesting. It offers a better adaptation and has more deeply cemented Thompson’s legend than Where the Buffalo Roam ever could.
3. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Hunter S. Thompson’s most celebrated work is this book by its self-eponymous title; a journalist and soldier honorably discharged from the U.S. Air Force who pioneered “Gonzo journalism,” in which participants rather than observers are involved with events happening around them. Thompson was known for his amusing writing style and unabashed approach, creating works that often combined fiction with journalism seamlessly.
This Roman a clef follows Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo from Samoa on their drug-fuelled quest for the American dream. They embark on an unexpected trip from Los Angeles to Las Vegas in 1971 to cover the Mint 400 off-road motorcycle race but pick up an incoherent hitchhiker who is outraged by their chaotic and drug-infused antics and sudden change of tone during their drive.
While in Las Vegas, they slum it out by imbibing alcohol and mind-altering substances – crashing a police convention along the way and amassing an impressive assortment of mind-altering substances – before ending up at room service bills of ridiculous proportions.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was brought to the screen by Terry Gilliam for its cinematic adaptation, making for an exciting rollercoaster that may not be suitable for children. It depicts graphic depictions of drug abuse and addiction; however, adults who enjoy its dark humor should enjoy it, while families can use this film as a springboard to discuss substance abuse prevention and avoidance.
Johnny Depp excels as Thompson’s persona Duke in this fantastic film. His performance is enhanced by an outstanding cast that includes Benicio Del Toro as the deranged Dr. Gonzo and Tobey Maguire as his smooth counterpart, Tobey Maguire. Additionally, iconic visuals and music make this an irresistibly entertaining viewing experience that should not be missed! This must-see must also satisfy fans of Thompson as well as those interested in counterculture hippie movements or Gonzo journalism!
4. The Rum Diary
Law and Order Detectives Shaw and Cosgrove must investigate a series of incidents that appear related. For example, a doctor was shot dead by patrolmen mistaking him as someone attempting to mug them, leading them down some strange avenues of investigation. The gang may still be operating, although now working more with corrupt city officials rather than being part of some more extensive network.
This episode draws inspiration from Hunter S. Thompson’s novel of the same name, written using his signature Gonzo style of journalism and novel writing. Gonzo journalism involves using personal experience as part of its narrative; this was Thompson’s precursor work before producing more introspective results later in life.
Johnny Depp plays Paul Kemp, a New York freelance journalist who escapes to Puerto Rico for an illicit lifestyle of rum-soaked revelry and alcohol consumption. This movie serves as a prequel to Terry Gilliam’s 1998 adaptation of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which featured an actor portraying Thompson dressed in Hawaiian-print shirts with hallucinations-induced hallucinations coming from beneath his balding pate.
Though it doesn’t match the novel’s continuity and plot development, watching The Rum Diary on television is an excellent way to get acquainted with its characters and understand their interactions. Plus, it gives your family a chance to discuss alcohol use generally and how their characters may have used drugs themselves.
This episode explores the narrator’s complicity in violence arising out of collective appropriative mimesis, highlighted by her discussion with Duke regarding turning Lucy into a prostitute: “Set her up in one of our backstreet motels, hang pictures of Jesus all over the room, turn these pigs loose on her,” Duke says (114-115). This language shows Thompson‘s point about his speaker’s participation in market systems undermining any desire to maintain an ethically pure outsider position while undermining any possibility for alternative utopias that might arise alongside capitalism’s oppressive state (114-115).