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Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (2d)

Director(s): Terry Gilliam

Theatrical Release: 1998

Cast: Johnny Depp, Benicio del Toro, Craig Bierko, Ellen Barkin, Gary Busey, Cameron Diaz

Genre(s): Comedy, biography, Criterion Collection, Dean's List

Countries: USA


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Running Time: 119m.

Terry Gilliam (Brazil, Twelve Monkeys, The Fisher King) directed this colorful, stylized, pseudo-psychedelic $21-million adaptation of the 1971 Hunter S. Thompson classic, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey into the Heart of the American Dream, about stoned sportswriter Raoul Duke, Thompson's alter ego, on a wild drug-crazed road trip, a paranoid plummet into the belly of the beast, with his pal, lawyer Oscar Zeta Acosta. Originally serialized in Rolling Stone (November 1971), the book catapulted Thompson headfirst toward the Kerouac-Mailer-Capote pantheon and jump-started the entire movement of "gonzo journalism." Carrying a suitcase of drugs, Raoul Duke (Johnny Depp with shaved pate) and his attorney Dr. Gonzo (Benicio Del Toro) drive a red convertible across the Mojave from L.A. to Vegas, where Duke has an assignment to cover the Mint 400 desert motorcycle race. As the drugs kick in, Duke ventures into voiceover, filling in the blank spots and narrative gaps. "This is not a good town for psychedelic drugs," says Duke, but even so, they consume vast quantities, eventually escalating to ether. Duke notes that with ether "you can actually watch yourself behaving this terrible way, but you can't control it." The two trash their hotel room, and Gonzo goes back to L.A. Thinking the hotel room holocaust will lead to an arrest, Duke begins a drive back to L.A., but after an odd encounter with a highway patrolman (Gary Busey) and a telephone conversation with Gonzo, he returns to Vegas to cover the District Attorney Convention on Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs in the glitzy Flamingo Hotel. This time the drugged-out duo trash their Flamingo room. The crazed carnival atmosphere segues into a carney casino, Bazooko's Circus, where a barker (Penn Jillette) spiels amid aerialists, clowns, and a rotating carousel bar. Gonzo worries over runaway teen Lucy (Christina Ricci), who paints portraits of Barbra Streisand. Soon the hallucinations begin: Duke sees Gonzo transmogrify into a demon with breasts on its back, and an acid vision of a Vegas bar features large legit lounge lizards (courtesy of monster makeup man Rob Bottin). Flashbacks depicting Duke's intro to the drug scene jump back to love-Haight relationships in San Francisco's Summer of Love. Cameos and guest stars include Mark Harmon, Cameron Diaz, Flea, Lyle Lovett, Harry Dean Stanton, Ellen Barkin, Tobey Maguire, and Hunter S. Thompson himself. The film features a Geffen Records soundtrack mixing rock of the period with Vegas lounge tunes. Over the years, various script adaptations came and went as did numerous talents; people connected with past efforts to film Thompson's book include Martin Scorsese, Jack Nicholson, Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, and writer-director Alex Cox. Shown in competition at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival. - Bhob Stewart (allmovie.com)

“We were somewhere around Barstow when the drugs began to take hold.” It is 1971, and journalist Raoul Duke barrels towards Las Vegas to cover a motorcycle race, accompanied by a trunkful of contraband and his slightly unhinged Samoan attorney, Dr. Gonzo. But what is ostensibly a cut-and-dried journalistic endeavor quickly descends into a feverish psychedelic odyssey and an excoriating dissection of the American way of life. Director Terry Gilliam and an all-star cast (headlined by Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro) show no mercy in bringing Dr. Hunter S, Thompson’s legendary Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas to the screen, creating a film both hilarious and savage.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1. This anamorphic digital transfer was created from the 35mm interpositive and was supervised by Terry Gilliam. The soundtrack was re-mastered from the original magnetic 6-track masters. The new 5.1 DTS and Dolby Digital soundtracks were remastered at 24-bit; audio restoration tools were used to reduce clicks, pops, hiss, and crackle. -Criterion Collection

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Criterion Collection 2-DVD Set #175 Special Features:

DISC ONE: The Movie

+ Digital transfer, approved by director Terry Gilliam and enhanced for 16x9 televisions

+ New Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 sound mixes

+ Three audio commentary tracks: director Terry Gilliam; stars Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro, and producer Laila Nabulsi; and author Hunter S. Thompson

+ Deleted scenes, with commentary by Terry Gilliam

+ English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired

Optimal image quality: RSDL dual-layer edition

DISC TWO: The Supplements

+ Collection of storyboards and production designs

+ Stills gallery

+ A selection of Hunter S. Thompson correspondence, read on-camera by Johnny Depp

+ Hunter Goes to Hollywood, a short documentary video by filmmaker Wayne Ewing

+ A look at the controversy over the screenwriting credit

+ Original trailer and TV spots

+ Rare materials on Oscar Zeta Acosta, the inspiration for Dr. Gonzo

+ Collection of original artwork by illustrator Ralph Steadman

+ Excerpt from 1996 Fear and Loathing audio CD with Maury Chaykin, Jim Jarmusch, and Harry Dean Stanton

+ Fear and Loathing on the Road to Hollywood: A 1978 BBC feature documentary with Thompson and Steadman

Member Reviews


8
The Bats! by RW - June 8, 2008
A cinematic odyssey that takes dominion over your brain like a horrible hallucinogen made by a wrinkled shaman out of dime store cleaners and insect parts. Your friend assures you this is the good stuff, but no, NO this isn't the good stuff at all and if it is then you want no part of it. But you swallow it down and after a brief period of acclimation the fetal, terrified bit of your psyche shrieking in the corner becomes quiet as if you were hearing it through cotton stuffed in your ears. And you think Hey, maybe this ride isn't so bad after all. Maybe I'll see what's around the next corner. And that, my friend, is where the real nightmare begins.

Ahem.

Worthy of multiple viewings (though your probably best to leave a couple months between them), Fear and Loathing captures and infects you with the spirit of Thompson's addled counter-American journey.
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