Where the Buffalo Roam (1980)

 “To better days …”

Where the Buffalo Roam is a cinematic tribute to the life and legend of Journalist Hunter S. Thompson (Bill Murray). When the film begins, Thompson is writing–or attempting to write a story about his relationship with his attorney, Lazlo. Thompson reminisces back to 1968 when he was holed up in a hospital room along with a semi-dressed nurse. Thompson has the door barricaded, but that doesn’t stop Lazlo (Peter Boyle) from climbing up through the window, and rescuing Thompson. Following their escape, Lazlo represents several defendants on various narcotics charges in San Francisco. Thompson, who takes a bloody mary and a stick of celery along for the ride, covers the trial.

The character of Lazlo, who is based on Thompson’s real-life attorney Oscar Acosta, reappears in pivotal moments in Thompson’s life. During the course of the film, he hijacks Thompson on three separate occasions, and in each incident, Thompson is scheduled to provide important newspaper stories. The final incident takes place in 1972 during the Presidential campaign. Thompson is assigned to the “Zoo”–a plane that is full of lesser journalists (those not favoured by Nixon’s campaign manager) and various technicians. Thompson, however, wants to get on Nixon’s plane, and he doesn’t allow the fact that he’s not invited to stand in his way. Richard Nixon makes a great appearance when he is confronted by Thompson in a bathroom, and Thompson asks Nixon “what is this country doing for the doomed?” Nixon’s terse reply and the statement “I’m the President of the United States, and I can do anything I want” creates a hilarious moment. This episode is the meatiest part of the film.

The film is structured to represent the legend of Thompson rather than the person behind the larger-than-life persona. Naturally, this leads to some fantastic tale telling–including fringe-dweller revolutionaries, gun-runners, madness and mayhem. How much is true? For that answer, read When the Weird Get Going by Peter O. Whitmer. But in the meantime, enjoy the film for what it is–one of Bill Murray’s best roles in his portrayal of a talented man who was no respecter of rank or privilege.

Regarding the DVD itself–I watched the Universal DVD (the one with Murray and Boyle behind him making a gesture), and the picture quality is excellent. As for the soundtrack … we get Murray singing “Lucy and the Sky With Diamonds” and CCR’s “Chooglin”, but that’s it–so don’t give away your old VHS tape of the film. There are no extras, but this is a low-priced DVD.

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