Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

May 19, 1998

Fresh off of the hard-hitting journalism of Tea Leoni in DEEP IMPACT and Maria Pitillo in GODZILLA, summer of ’98 offered an alternative approach. Johnny Depp (A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET) plays Raoul Duke and/or Hunter S. Thompson in Terry Gilliam’s adaptation of Thompson’s 1971 Rolling-Stone-two-parter-turned-book about covering the Mint 400 desert motorcycle race for Sports Illustrated. You do see a glimpse of dirt bikes (well, mostly dirt), but the real story is his crazed debauchery while “searching for the American Dream” with his lawyer (who we never once see doing legal work) Dr. Gonzo (Benicio del Toro, SICARIO), ingesting much of the contents of a briefcase containing “a serious drug collection,” turning hotel rooms into Vietnam War movies and barely avoiding death or prison like some silent film clown accidentally dodging a series of falling objects.

And the movie itself keeps ducking dangers with miraculous precision. This is 118 minutes of what mostly feels like aimless madness, depraved variations on bad behavior and hallucinations, but to me it never gets old. I actually feel more exhausted at the end of Gilliam’s more polite movies like BRAZIL, THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN or TWELVE MONKEYS. Somehow I’m endlessly amused by Duke and Gonzo’s deadpan craziness as they live out the type of lifestyle where you’d only be a little surprised to wake up with an alligator tail growing out of you, a microphone taped to your face and a giant smoking hole in your hotel bed.

There’s a line where Duke says “But we had trouble on the road when a stingray in front of us killed a pedestrian,” and the camera rises over the traffic jam, across a horrific Ralph-Steadman splatter of blood on the concrete before we can glimpse that oh, the car that did it must be a Stingray. I assumed he was talking about the aquatic creature, which would fit so well into his world that it took me a couple viewings to pick up that this was the joke.

Duke can go through this and still pretend to be the reasonable one since he sounds smart and sane when he’s narrating and is too with it to grant Gonzo’s request to throw the radio into his filthy bath just when “White Rabbit” peaks. I would not have known to solve the problem by playing along and then beaning Gonzo hard in the skull with a grapefruit.

Gilliam brings all his visual invention to hippie era L.A., Las Vegas, and drug trips, the obvious joke being that it’s hard to know the difference. I think the ape that Duke tries to buy is real, but what about the angel with the flaming sword? I honestly don’t know.

Somehow this intoxicated bull-in-a-china-shop barrage keeps on working. There’s so much comical detail to these performances, dumb little things that make me laugh like when they’re trying to fit in at the D.A. convention and Duke says “Good question!” to some angry cop’s paranoid marijuana query. Or language choices, like when Gonzo tries to get into a sold out Debbie Reynolds show by saying “Fuck seats. We’re friends with Debbie. I used ta romp wit her.” Or the recurring joke of pretending that any of this has anything to do with his law practice: “Well, as your attorney I advise you to buy a motorcycle.” (Must be trying to get some of that sweet attorney-client privilege.) Or that right after Gonzo terrifies the hitchhiker (Tobey Maguire, SPIDER-MAN 3 , MOLLY’S GAME) by pretending to pass out and wake up disoriented, muttering “What the– what the fuck are we doing out here in the middle of the desert? Somebody call the police, we need help, we need help, need help, need help,” he reaches back and gets him to shake hands.

Or the way Gonzo, decked in robes like some guru, gets offended by Duke’s sick joke about pimping out the teenage Barbra Streisand fan (Christina Ricci, CASPER) that he picked up and brought to his hotel room for no doubt not-innocent reasons. When a movie opens with the main character getting a flyswatter out of the trunk of his convertible to fight off imagined animated bats and only gets more trippy from there, it makes it possible to laugh at the simmering menace of Gonzo almost starting an elevator knife fight with Cameron Diaz’s photographer and later delusionally grunting “She’s in love with me, man. Eye contact, man.” At least for awhile.

But things get uglier and more feverish and the buzz or the spell has definitely worn off by the time the trip is almost over and they stop at a little cafe in North Vegas. Gonzo passes the dog-tired waitress (Ellen Barkin, BROOKLYN’S FINEST) an obscene note, and she rightfully flips out on him. Even after it escalates it’s probly not the worst thing they’ve done on this trip (and being casually rude or threatening to waiters, valets, hotel clerks, doormen, cocktail waitresses, bellboys and other service people has been a theme throughout the movie), but it feels like the haze is lifting to reveal the dark reality out here away from the neon lights, and it’s clear that Duke recognizes the evil here. He feels uncomfortable with it, but he doesn’t have the balls to do anything but smile and pretend everything’s fine. He starts to walk out with his plate of food, but looks back at the waitress and, probly for the first time in the whole movie, feels guilty and doesn’t go through with it.

The scene now has an extra layer of uncomfortable-ness after Gilliam grumbled about the #MeToo movement in an interview and Barkin tweeted a response:

But in his capacity as director Gilliam understood that this was the crucial breaking point in the story. He once said it “may be the best scene in the film, it’s certainly the most powerful,” largely because “It’s an intriguing reaction to the violation of Ellen that he’s witnessed (and obliquely participated in).”

As a young man I once had a really scary roommate, the son of a Navy SEAL, who according to legend had been normal until a brain-damaging acid experience. He painted crude portraits of Kurt Cobain and Martin Luther King and hung a battle ax on his wall (“just sharpened it” he said when first moving in). He got in trouble for painting stripes on someone’s parakeet, for slapping our neighbor’s ass in the hallway and yes, for passing cryptic sex notes to women he didn’t know. He had a vibe like Gonzo in his darker moments, and only seemed funny in retrospect, when everyone was out of harm’s way.

FEAR AND LOATHING works as a sort of wake and/or requiem for this type of toxic cultural residue, the broken people left over after the dreams and ideals have been given up on. Nixon and those mean cops were still on top, the war was still going, and Thompson lamented “a generation of permanent cripples, failed seekers who never understood the essential old mystic fallacy of the acid culture, the desperate assumption that somebody, or at least some force, is tending the light at the end of the tunnel.”

The movie was birthed into a very different era, but one with a sense of naive optimism which would soon suffer its own ugly crash. The Clinton years made many of us comfortable – there were military conflicts, but no full-on wars, the economy was strong and seemingly stable, we were able to worry about stupid shit like “we can’t make Al Gore president, his wife censored rock music in the ’80s.” The internet was changing everything – and only in good ways, it seemed like. I remember how it felt, and it didn’t feel like the contentious election of 2000, the 9-11 terrorist attack, the Afghanistan War, the Iraq War or the “with us or against us” division of the American people were on the horizon. We wouldn’t have guessed that Thompson would see a president he hated more than Nixon, write a weekly column for ESPN.com, then blow his own head off.

I’m not a drug person, so forgive me for not being able to understand this on a drug culture level. I’m sure there’s something to compare and contrast between the summer of love and, say, the rave or alternative music cultures of the ’90s. I can say that the surviving popular music of the ’60s is more appealing to me than the late ’90s music that shows up in most of these movies. Don’t get me wrong – 1998 brought us Lyricist Lounge Volume One, the HE GOT GAME soundtrack, It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot, Hello Nasty, 40 Dayz & 40 Nightz, The Love Movement, Tical 2000: Judgment Day, Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life, Extinction Level Event and of course The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, to name a few of the albums I’ve continued to enjoy over the years. But as I realized when I revisited THE BIG HIT, there was also this pop-punk, white ska thing going on at the time that I don’t really understand or relate to. So it makes sense that one of the better soundtracks of the summer (for my tastes) was a period piece.

And it might not have been! The most befuddling thing I learned while researching this movie is that the studio at first wanted Gilliam to update the story for the ’90s. I can’t even picture how that would work. Would they be burnt out boomers stuck in their old ways like the guys in that other ’98 masterpiece, THE BIG LEBOWSKI? Or would it drop the themes of the book and they’d be, like, young hackers or something? I guess we can speculate it would be “Insane in the Membrane” playing on the radio instead of “One Toke Over the Line.” Jesus, I’m glad they didn’t go that direction.

Instead they have songs capturing the culture of the 1960s wiping out in the ’70s: Big Brother & the Holding Company, The Yardbirds, Three Dog Night, Bob Dylan, Buffalo Springfield, obviously Jefferson Airplane… I don’t remember which ones, but I know some of the songs are even mentioned in the book. And then there’s the older, squarer stuff leaking out of Vegas: Tom Jones singing “She’s a Lady,” Perry Como singing “Magic Moments,” Debbie Reynolds singing “Tammy.”

The score, when necessary, is by English percussionist Ray Cooper, who had worked on the music of Gilliam’s films in various capacities since TIME BANDITS. According to Gilliam, Cooper’s cues are “not written; they’re created by hitting things, making noises, playing, and then combining it all.”

In 1996, Gilliam’s usual composer Michael Kamen had composed an Olympics closing ceremony song called “On Wings of Victory,” performed by Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra featuring the Japanese guitarist Tomoyasu Hotei…

…so maybe that’s the connection that explains how Hotei (the star of SAMURAI FICTION) ended up providing some psychedelic fuzz for Cooper’s score here. He can be heard on tracks #6, #12 and #14 on the soundtrack CD – “A Drug Score-Part 1 (Acid Spill),” “A Drug Score-Part 2 (Adrenocrhrome, the Devil’s Dance)” and “A Drug Score-Part 3 (Flashbacks). I just want to mention Hotei because he became a little more relevant to our lives about five years later when Quentin Tarantino made us aware of one of his songs:

The excellent adaptation is credited to Gilliam & Tony Grisoni (BROTHERS OF THE HEAD, RED RIDING) and Alex Cox (REPO MAN) & Tod Davies (THREE BUSINESSMEN). Gilliam, who had completely thrown out the Cox/Davies script developed for Cox to direct, quit the WGA in protest of the credit. I highly recommend the documentary BREAKFAST WITH HUNTER for incredible footage of real live creative differences between Thompson and Cox. The writer seems like a very difficult person to work with, and the director seems unaware of how much he’s rubbing him the wrong way by trying to sell him on using animated sequences in the movie. The director of the documentary says he was genuinely worried that Cox was going to get shot.

It was not always clear that Fear and Loathing could be made into a movie at all, much less a good one. Many filmmakers (including Martin Scorsese and Oliver Stone) had tried since the ’70s, with star pairings including Jack Nicholson & Marlon Brando and Dan Aykroyd & John Belushi. When Thompson optioned the rights to his obituary of Oscar Zeta Acosta (the inspiration for Dr. Gonzo) he assumed it wouldn’t really get made, but in 1980 it became WHERE THE BUFFALO ROAM starring Bill Murray and Peter Boyle as Thompson and Acosta. It went over poorly, especially with Thompson, though he thought Murray (who he had tied to a chair and thrown into a swimming pool during production) was good in it. Murray got so into living as Hunter that his Saturday Night Live castmates said he hadn’t dropped it when he came back for the next season.

It was Thompson who chose Depp, and let him live in his basement, and loaned him some of the clothes and props he uses in the movie. They remained so close that after Thompson’s death Depp fulfilled his wish of having his ashes blasted out of a cannon on top of a giant tower shaped like his double-thumbed fist symbol. A later legal battle between Depp and his management revealed that he spent $3 million on the ceremony. One-sixth the budget of the movie.

I think this is still one of the best performances by Depp, who had already been amazing in EDWARD SCISSORHANDS and ED WOOD, among other things, but never received an Oscar nomination until the first PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN (well deserved and unusually comedic for the Academy) and then a couple of “oh, what the hell, we nominated him before and I can’t think of anybody else”es for FINDING NEVERLAND and SWEENEY TODD. Depp is tainted now because of domestic abuse reports, but let’s take a moment to admire that after this most supremely drug-crazed role he was able to star in eight Disney movies. It usually goes the other way. Del Toro would win best supporting actor for TRAFFIC in 2001, and be in a STAR WARS movie and some Marvels and shit. So I guess FEAR AND LOATHING wasn’t big enough to typecast them. Or they were too powerful for it to hold them back.

Since FEAR AND LOATHING was released as sort of counter-programming to GODZILLA, it’s fun to compare them to each other. It’s Sony vs. Universal, corporate licensing product vs. adaptation of counterculture literary classic, crass director of INDEPENDENCE DAY vs. respected director of BRAZIL, toy commercial vs. drug orgy, cgi monster attack vs. animatronic vision of rich people morphing into grotesque lizards (designed, by the way, by Rob Bottin of THE THING fame).

My favorite comparison is in the choice of end credits music. GODZILLA manufactured a putrid hit single with “Come with Me,” the Jimmy Page and Puff Daddy remake of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir.” FEAR AND LOATHING made perfect use of the Dead Kennedys cover of “Viva Las Vegas.” I remember it, sitting in the smaller theater, not very many people there, hearing the Dead Kennedys in THX. And then the Universal logo comes up.

You gotta respect the studio for putting out something like this. Some of the other 1998 Universal Pictures releases included OUT OF SIGHT, BRIDE OF CHUCKY, BABE: PIG IN THE CITY, and Gus Van Sant’s PSYCHO. So, yeah, their parent company, Seagram’s (!), fired the chairman of the film division at the end of the year.

If Raoul Duke had stumbled across the Godzilla or ELE stories I can’t imagine he would’ve zeroed in on them like our previous journalist heroes of summer ’98. I mean, you saw what he did with the Mint 400. He just wouldn’t care. But having read Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail 1972 I am positive he’d write the most entertaining and artful book about it. And if he had to do broadcasts they would’ve been funnier than what those ladies came up with. Though he might’ve walked out in the middle, as Thompson does on the great DVD commentary track for this.

FEAR AND LOATHING made about $10 million in American theaters, less than a quarter what GODZILLA made in just its opening weekend. In the intervening decades, though, GODZILLA has been replaced by a better remake, murdered by his Japanese predecessor, disavowed by at least half of the filmmaking team and loved by no one, while FEAR AND LOATHING is a legitimate classic, known by all and even re-released by the Criterion Collection. What was that you said about size again, motherfucker?

P.S. As evidence of how much people love this movie, here’s a guy who made a realistic sculpture of the stretched out Depp head from the poster.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 23rd, 2018 at 10:54 am and is filed under Comedy/Laffs, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

61 Responses to “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”

  1. Depp played Hunter again (via voice-over) for the Rolling Stone HBO special that came out last year. I found the whole thing surprisingly worthwhile, those segments especially. Makes me wish this was the first in a trilogy, with the ’72 presidential campaign and the story he did in the 80’s about some tawdry divorce as it’s follow-ups.

    This review illustrates one of the things I love about your writing Vern, is that you don’t avoid the elephants in the room. Connecting Ellen Barkin’s scene with her Tweet about Gilliam and bringing up Depp’s problems within the context of a glowing review of this film (without playing down the seriousness of that underbelly) is something I’d find hard to do.

  2. I hate drugs. All of them. I won’t pretend that I’m a guy who lives healthy, but fuck drugs. Including the legal ones like alcohol and tobacco, plus the supposedly soft ones like Marihuana. I’ve witnessed too many stoners being completely unable to function without a “wake & bake” and becoming seriously shitty people when they notice that they run out of weed and can’t buy new stuff for a while, to buy the fairy tale of “It’s not really a drug”. Not to mention that for a group, that keeps bragging about how easy going and chill they are, they are incredible pushy when they try to convince outsiders to take a hit and can get really angry when you decline.

    That’s basically the main reason, why I hate how FEAR & LOATHING was appropriated by those people as “Har har, it’s the funniest thing since Cheech & Chong, I totally wanna do that too, drugs are awesome, what do you mean it’s not really pro-drugs, it’s funny” comedy. I don’t have a problem with the movie, though. It’s great.

    In an interview about this movie, Gilliam was asked about his own drug consume and if he believes that they make people more creative. He said something that I still quote to that day and became more or less my life motto: “I can do everything, that other people need drugs for, without drugs.” (Note that this quote came from a print interview that was translated into German, so I don’t know the EXACT quote, only the German version, which I now translated back into English. Feel my skills, donkey donkey donkey donkey donkey!)

    Even when this movie came out I was pretty much a teetotaler, so it’s not like Gilliam’s quote turned me into a square. It just suited me too well.

    Fun fact about me: My anti-drug stance comes often as a real surprise to people, since I not just look like a stereotypical stoner, with the long hair and the long goatee and the (at least in summer) way too colourful shirts, but also talk like one. I keep dropping a bunch of “Alter” (which could be translated as “dude” or “man”) at the beginning or end of many sentences when I speak German, or a similar amount of “dude” when I speak English, while often apparently saying or doing things, that others find super hysterical, although I have no idea why.

  3. I can relate to a degree, CJ. The stoners I went to my first school with were all assholes (the HS I graduated from was more of a mixed bag, but mostly nice) so I adopted a negative stance on that culture right away. I actually feel much more strongly about alcohol (from personal experience), but won’t doubt at all your assertion that there are pot-smokers who aren’t the friendliest bunch. I couldn’t quite believe it when Angelina Jolie said Brad Pitt became that way because of weed (if I got that info right), but reading your account again it brought some things from my past up that would make me see that more.

  4. Hey Vern, I was curious to see if you’d watched the deleted ending of this one. The last scene originally had Duke, having dropped Gonzo off, stop at a roadside bar on his way out of town to discover something of a bucolic scene of “real America” to contrast with all the debauchery that had come before, only to ruin it in his cynicism. Unfortunately (according to Gilliam) test audiences had become so jaded by this point that they misunderstood the scene, reading something untoward in the relationship between the cute waitress and her grandfather. It’s hard to tell if the scene would have worked in the finished film (and it’s certainly hard to imagine a better ending than the one they went with, closing the circle with Thompson speeding away down the road, the same way he arrived) but it’s interesting to think how much this would have altered the movie’s message.

  5. Crushinator Jones

    May 23rd, 2018 at 12:59 pm

    Weird strain of prudism going on here. I’ve smoked weed for years and I don’t need to wake and bake. Of course I tend to do it once a week at most. Respectfully, young people are generally assholes and so it’s not surprising that weed doesn’t shake them of that.

    There’s all sorts of people who make dumb shit their identity and get mad if you take it away, seems weird to single out weed when food (which I assume eats, everyone except of course the AIs from the future who are reading this) can serve the same function.

    Anyway, good review, “those mean cops were still on top, the war was still going” basically describes today. Very perceptive review, Vern.

  6. BIG LEBOWSKI is technically a period piece too, it takes place in 1991.

  7. Being proud of doing drugs is just as stupid as being proud of not doing drugs. Both of them have nothing to do with who you are and what you’re about. Some of the biggest idiots I know never touch the stuff, and some of the most competent and capable people I know wake and bake. We’re all different. We all experience the world in a different way, and we all react to it differently too. Saying “Well, I get through life sober so everybody else should” is like telling a diabetic to toughen up because you, personally, have never needed insulin. That’s great. That’s your experience. Own it. Stay out of mine.

  8. Not going to start a fight about other people’s drug use, but your Insulin allegory is the dumbest that I have ever heard in that regard.

    Also after 36 mostly shitty years, that include heavy bullying, a (to put it nicely) very difficult relationship with my family, struggling with mental illness since my teenage years and almost a full decade of unemployment, without ever resorting to weed, booze or worse (the only time I was drunk was on a birthday 20 years ago), I think I earned the right to sit on my high horse. I won’t come and slap the bong or bottle out of your hand, but I will definitely roll my eyes and quietly leave the room when you pull them out.

  9. Again. Awesome. Good for you. Stay the fuck out of my life.

  10. Ooh, he phrasing was wrong on that. I meant “That’s awesome that that’s the way you have chosen to live your life. It doesn’t make you better than me or give you the right to judge me.”

  11. Crushinator Jones

    May 23rd, 2018 at 1:35 pm

    “Also after 36 mostly shitty years, that include heavy bullying, a (to put it nicely) very difficult relationship with my family, struggling with mental illness since my teenage years and almost a full decade of unemployment, without ever resorting to weed, booze or worse (the only time I was drunk was on a birthday 20 years ago), I think I earned the right to sit on my high horse. ”

    *Ron Howard Narrator Voice* You haven’t

  12. My point is, I don’t give a shit if you drink or smoke or shoot heroin into your cock. Unless you are an addict and it is running your life, it’s none of my business and most likely will have little effect on my interaction with you. I also don’t care if you’ve been stone sober your whole life. It’s not interesting or telling either way. So why are you judging me for something that is a tiny little part of who I am? You talk about all the asshole pot smokers you’ve come across, but when everybody you meet is an asshole, chances are, you’re the asshole. And if you felt like you had to leave the room because I lit a joint or took a shot, that’s exactly what you’d be.

    I can’t believe I’m having this conversation in 2018.

  13. Crushinator Jones

    May 23rd, 2018 at 3:31 pm

    Imagine being bullied and shit on for 10 years by our capitalistic hellworld nation and thinking that it gives you the right to lecture and condescend to people. That’s what’s really baking my bean. In should have taught you the exact opposite, I would think.

  14. “As your attorney, I advise you to rent a very fast car with no top. And you’ll need the cocaine. Tape recorder for special music. Acapulco shirts. Get the hell out of L.A. for at least 48 hours. Blows my weekend.”

    THAT’s legal work.

  15. As the late great Mitch Hedburg once noted, alcoholism is the only disease you can get yelled at for having.

    Anyway, this was (perhaps a bit embarrassingly) very much a keystone movie of my college years. I never dabbled in any hard drugs (I’ve always been paranoid about my heart health for whatever reason), but the spirit of the picture really spoke to me, in the way that de Palma’s SCARFACE seems to speak to other young men of the age.

    I think it still holds up as a viewing experience, though I’m a little more ambivalent about it now. It’s been probably 10 years since I last saw it, though- maybe a rewatch is due over this long upcoming weekend.

  16. Oh, and speaking of Thompson seeming, uh, difficult to work with- the commentary track he recorded for the Criterion release of FEAR AND LOATHING is definitely worth a listen. It’s essentially two hours of insane screeches, howls, swearing, and intense muttering, all semi-futilely guided by his superhumanly patient personal assistant.

  17. grimgrinningchris

    May 23rd, 2018 at 5:55 pm

    As a former heroin addict, I can safely say that anyone that thinks that weed is, in itself, problematic- doesn’t have the slightest clue what they are talking about.
    And anyone that can’t function or is an asshole without a “wake&bake” has far deeper problems than liking pot. And they are in the vast minority in comparison to the people that use it recreationally (even daily) and still manage to lead great productive lives- despite whatever the ratio of people you’ve personally met may tell you.
    I’ll listen to missives against the perceived (and often rightly so) evils of alcohol, hallucinogens, opiates, hyper-stimulants like meth and cocaine and even professionally prescribed psychotropics for people with severe mental disorders… and yes, even tobacco… all of them can be misused and abused to dangerous and deadly levels and most are highly physically and mentally addictive.

    Anyone that has a marijuana “problem” was an idiot or an asshole (or both) to begin with.

  18. I gave marijuana a fair shot. Tried it three times in my college and adult life. Didn’t like it any of the times so concluded it’s not for me, but I don’t have a problem with it being legal or other people using it in private.

    However, if you lit up a joint I would have to leave the room because the secondhand smoke would give me a sinus infection. So I wouldn’t want you to think I was judging you. Just attending to a medical condition.

  19. To be fair, it would be kind of rude to just light up a joint in someone’s house without asking if it was cool. Those things fumigate a room something powerful.

  20. I still love this film, and the Big Lebowski, now that it has been mentioned,
    I’m sure more gems will appear in the summer of ’98 retrospective but currently… those are my two favorite films of that year.

    Fear and Loathing, and Hunter S’s literature overall really did influence my personal drug habits alot when I was 17 through to my early 20’s, I did a lot of psychedelics and uppers that I wouldn’t have necessarily considered otherwise at that age.

    CJ – I feel like were pretty close in age, and I respect the fact that you are comfortable sober.
    I have known alot of people in the music scene who are straightedge, and I have admiration for those who choose to deal with their thoughts and emotions unburdened by chemical manipulation; however, I like smoking weed, after nearly 25 years it’s still fun.

    I’m currently a manager at a private Liquor store in a very weird area of Vancouver, where the cross-section of people runs from the ultra rich too the very poor.
    I see how the products I sell, affect those most vulnerable and it fucking kills me, but I enjoy drinking the products we sell.

    I don’t drink daily, but besides a couple of vacations and dry spells, I have smoked weed for about 23 of the last 24 years, and haven’t run into too many of those marijuana enthusiasts you describe since I was a teenager.

  21. Aren’t all movies period pieces?

  22. Psilocybin is the most effective treatment for tobacco addiction by miles. It has been shown to help people with terminal diseases come to terms with their imminent death. It has overwhelmingly positive spiritual effects on the religiously inclined (probably counteracting many of the negative impulses that religion can feed). MDMA has been shown to be an excellent resource in treating anxiety and PTSD. The list goes on and on. Anything can be misused. A lot of my favorite filmmakers and artists eschewed drug use. Jodorowsky, Dali and Kubrick all claimed to have not done drugs and some of them were openly critical of their usage (Kubrick should have at least tried some before directing those ridiculous pot smoking scenes in the otherwise solid Eyes Wide Shut). But none of those guys hold a candle to someone like Hieronymus Bosch, who had likely consumed ergot, a form of bread mold that was a precursor to LSD (he leaves hints about it in his work, specifically as it relates to St. Anthony). The imagination on display in his work is unparalleled. I’ve done some of my best work after coming down from DMT or mushrooms (never while still on them). This is no different, in my mind, than traveling somewhere and getting inspired by that journey. It would be a little silly for an artist to brag that they never left their house because they could be just as inspired sitting on their toilet as other people get by actually, you know, experiencing stuff (although, to be fair, the hermit Henry Darger is one of my favorite artists). Considering how poor Gilliam’s recent output has been maybe he should start doing a few drugs. Just an idea.

  23. I know I’m not a great artist but I also know that casual drug use has improved my work exponentially by breaking down barriers in my thought process. Some examples for those interested:

    This was done after doing DMT:

    David Lambert on Instagram: “DM me if you'd like to pose or purchase something. "7 Years: The Death and Resurrection of the Cells" . . . . . #art #arte #artwork…”

    673 Likes, 10 Comments - David Lambert (@davidlambertart) on Instagram: “DM me if you'd like to pose or purchase something. "7 Years: The Death and Resurrection of the…”


    David Lambert on Instagram: “DM me if you'd like to pose or purchase something. . . . . . #nawden #artistsofinstagram #artistsoninstagram #artistoninstagram #instagood…”

    557 Likes, 9 Comments - David Lambert (@davidlambertart) on Instagram: “DM me if you'd like to pose or purchase something. . . . . . #nawden #artistsofinstagram…”

    David Lambert on Instagram: “DM me if you'd like to pose or purchase something. Work in progress. . . . . #art #arte #artwork #artworks #artstagram #instaart…”

    1,004 Likes, 14 Comments - David Lambert (@davidlambertart) on Instagram: “DM me if you'd like to pose or purchase something. Work in progress. . . . . #art #arte #artwork…”

    David Lambert on Instagram: “DM me if you'd like to pose or purchase something. . . . . . .#art #artwork #arte #drawing #lifedrawing #figuredrawing #artoftheday…”

    585 Likes, 22 Comments - David Lambert (@davidlambertart) on Instagram: “DM me if you'd like to pose or purchase something. . . . . . .#art #artwork #arte #drawing…”

    David Lambert on Instagram: “SOLD! "Diaspora" DM me if you'd like to pose or purchase something. . . . . #art #arte #artwork #artworks #artstagram #instaart…”

    671 Likes, 11 Comments - David Lambert (@davidlambertart) on Instagram: “SOLD! "Diaspora" DM me if you'd like to pose or purchase something. . . . . #art #arte #artwork…”

  24. Man, remember when Johnny Depp was someone people actually liked? I used to really like him myself but then his career took a nosedive and he was outed as being an asshole.

    I first saw FEAR AND LOATHING in 2004, which was my introduction to the man, myth and legend of Hunter S Thompson himself and then like a few months later I heard he died.

    Anyway I’ve never used drugs in my almost 30 years of life and don’t plan to, but I do drink, though usually I just sip some beers because I like the taste, too often when I drink to get drunk it’s ended in disaster, one time in 2013 I almost died and again in early 2017 I drank too much and felt like I was dying, I remember lying in bed forcefully keeping my eyes open and moving around because I felt like if I passed out I would never wake up, after that I’ve pretty much stopped binge drinking completely.

    My lesson is with mind altering substances is simply, be careful with that stuff, for me videos games are a much better and less dangerous way to tune out reality for a while.

    In fact if I’m a junkie for anything it’s video games.

  25. I hope everyone remembers that Amber Heard also had domestic abuse allegations brought against her by a former girlfriend. Not saying Depp isn’t an asshole, but anyone boycotting his work or whatever should apply the same standards to her (not that anyone really wants to see work from either of them lately).

  26. This is a surprisingly serious, and somewhat hateful, discussion for such a funny movie. Along with WITHNAIL & I, THE BIG LEBOWSKI and BARFLY this is my go to comedy featuring drugs and/or alcohol. I tend to stick to beer myself, but I have no problem with people using other means to entertain themselves – or staying sober. Each to his own.

  27. I could never get into beer. It takes too long to get me where I want to go and by the time I get a nice buzz going I feel like I’ve eaten three cheeseburgers or something. Never been a big weed guy either. It either makes me zone out completely or focus on a lot of extraneous stuff I’d rather not think about. I’ve had a lot of bad trips on mushrooms but never as unpleasant as my worst experiences doing edibles

  28. I think it’s way to soon to write Johnny Depp off. All celebrities are assholes in some ways.

  29. David, are all the drawings above made under the influence?

  30. “Surprisingly serious and somewhat painful.”

    No doubt, man. It’s totally harshing my mellow.

    But as long as we’re being honest, I gotta admit around the time the first POTC movie came out is when I completely turned on Depp, to the point where I have lost all objectivity regarding the man, his performances, and his movies. It doesn’t hurt my position that it seems a lot of critics agreed that his output has been less than stellar for awhile, but, in unfairness to Depp, I haven’t even liked, or often even seen, the (allegedly) good stuff he’s done. I think it might have started around the time (unfairness alert) he dressed up and talked like an idiot for Tim Burton the second or third time.

  31. Let’s get down to brass tacks, how much for the ape?

    This movie is a real marriage of source material and incredible execution. There’s fantastic acting from both Johnny Depp, with an amazing physical performance, and Benicio Del Toro constantly shifting from incoherence to voice of reason to threatening force of nature. There’s the direction Terry Gilliam employs to create the skewed altered reality: oblique shots, wide angle lenses, organic, fluid camera movements and a whole host of insanity transpiring in the background of virtually every scene where the extras are experiencing their own story’s which are often as strange as the events occurring in the foreground. The lighting is amazing; colour refracted and splashed against darkness in virtually every scene like some massive abstract portrait. The dialogue is endlessly quotable and for those who lived an ‘experimental’ lifestyle the situations both absurd and relatable at the same time.

    What continues to elevate this movie is it’s heart; the dissection of the american dream where the hope and optimism of the ’60’s turned into personal liberation and rebellion against authority in the ’70’s, which eventually gave way to the greed and excesses of the ’80’s.

  32. grimgrinningchris

    May 24th, 2018 at 4:26 am


    You wanna see a picture of me when I was younger?

    “Every picture of you is a picture of you when you were younger?”

  33. Whilst those pictures are really very good David, scrolling down this screen during lunch break in a packed office has turned out to be very embarrassing!

  34. The Winchester

    May 24th, 2018 at 4:58 am

    I love this movie. It was hilarious and disturbing. The look and feel was both classic Gilliam and what I imagine a less sentimentalized and probably more accurate (minus the drug filters) version of late60s/early70s. I also love how it feels like a movie about impending apocalypse, which it kinda is if you think of Nixon/Watergate as that change in American lives.

    Fun related story. Saw it twice in theaters that summer. That fall, I was working in London, and my friend got us into the London premiere! I sat in front of Grisoni, who was happy I was so into it. I told him I saw it twice already, he responded “Oh, so YOU’RE the one!”

    Later, I got to meet Gilliam himself. I told him how much I love the flick and how I’d already seen it twice. He naturally responded “Oh, so YOU’RE the one!”

    Swear to God they both said the same thing.

    I showed him my Hunter Thompson tattoo, he told me I need to find Steadman and have him sign it, then get that tattooed. I told him I was studying to be a filmmaker and I wanted to be like him and he said ,No you don’t wanna do that. Believe me!” Super nice guy and a great evening.

    Of note: when i saw it that third time, I was about 2 weeks after I smoked weed for the first time. Its since become my vice of choice, and I wonder if rhe movie (along with Lebowski at the time) made me think it was alright to smoke herb, but to stay away from harder stuff like coke and adrenochrome.

  35. Wow, this talkback went off the rails quickly.

    At least we got titty paintings, though.

  36. Pegsman,

    The DMT one was made directly after coming down from a trip. DMT only lasts about 10 minutes so I wouldn’t have been able to finish something that detailed within that time. DMT is also so intense that it’s hard to do anything more than sit there and experience it. The world broke up into fractals and geometric shapes and for hours afterwards I had this weird feeling that I needed to draw that way.

    The other ones weren’t done while tripping on mushrooms but sometimes I would sketch ideas down during the trip. With hallucinogens, hours (and sometimes days) after the trip ends I feel a certain creative euphoria, but the trips themselves are usually too intense to get any actual work done and I usually want to go outside and see nature or listen to music or laugh with friends.

  37. I feel bad about how this went down. All I really meant to say is that I’ve met awful people who smoke and drink and awful people who didn’t, and awesome people who smoke and drink and awesome people who don’t. To a person, their recreational usage was not a factor. Intoxicants just made them more of what they already were. If you were hanging out with bad people, CJ, that sucks and I’m sorry. But they were bad people because they were bad people, not because they like to indulge. Likewise, if you’re a good person, and I think you are, it’s because of YOU, not because you’re sober. You’d be just as good a person if you felt like getting high every now and then.

    I do wish you wouldnt be so quick to judge. You’re throwing out a massive swath of the populace sight unseen, and that’s a bummer. I hope there’s no hard feelings.

  38. Two famous people who have never had a sip of alcohol or drugs:

    Gene Simmons and Donald Trump. True fact.

    Personally, I am going to have an IPA or two tonight and go see Solo.

  39. Vern, can I just say:

    1. I really appreciate the effort you put in to finding these movie-related sculptures. I’m pretty sure I’d rather have Lee Marvin as A-No.1, but it’s a shame that some burger chain wasn’t giving those Johnny Depp heads away back in ’98.

    2. I just read your 1999 review of this and I think you were being hard on yourself, but I guess that’s what striving for excellence is all about.

    3. There was a lot of talkback then (well actually 2009; talkback seems to’ve speeded up since then) about WITHNAIL AND I, and it’s been mentioned here too. Bruce Robinson has subsequently filmed Thompson’s autobiographical novel THE RUM DIARY Diary with Depp in the lead. It really doesn’t stand comparison to FEAR AND LOATHING though, and I think the fault may lie with Thompson’s book not with Depp or Robinson.

    4. The guy who rubbished your original review doesn’t seem to’ve shown up here to congratulate you on this new review. That may be because Mr. M left his eviscerated troll corpse somewhere back in the noughties. That has made my day.

  40. Also, while we’re talking drugs, drug movies of the 90s, and book adaptations, I’m always impressed by TRAINSPOTTING and particularly how likeable it is, given the gruesome nature of both the subject and the source novel.

  41. The one tidbit about WITHNAIL I love is that David Fincher did his damndest to cast as many people from it in ALIEN3 as he could.

    I finally saw TRAINSPOTTING a few years ago and it really stands up, in a way some of these 90’s drug movies don’t. It’s a murderer’s row of actors who have mostly gone on to do very well for themselves and was a good way of introducing Boyle to American audiences.

    As far as Depp goes, it seems the things I like him in the most are when he plays real people. This, ED WOOD, DONNIE BRASCO and PUBLIC ENEMIES. It’s an odd trait, especially since most bio-pics are take it or leave it with me. I just thought of this and I’m not sure why, but I’d have liked to have seen him as Jimmy Hoffa in the upcoming Scorsese movie instead of Pacino. I have little doubt Pacino can bring the goods there, but anybody playing that part has some big shoes to fill regarding Jack Nicholson’s portrayal of him (though few remember it seemingly).

  42. Nah, don’t worry Mr M. I’m actually a really chill live-and-let-live kind of person, even though people who do drugs are the only group, who provoke this big FUCK YOU reaction in me, without being actual horrible you-should-all-be-in-jail-or-in-hell people. (Although that IMO applies to drug dealers, at least.) I just can’t remember one good thing in my life, that involved drinking/smoking/doing any kind of drug, but tons of ruined parties and hangouts, violent encounters, a few dead pets and lots and lots of irredeemable asshole behaviour. Also while I can understand that some people feel the urge to numb the pain in their life, I still can’t see how anybody be so stupid to do it with a bunch of shit that will slowly kill you or at least turn you into the reason for other peoples’ pain.

    However, I’m actually okay with drug movies. After all I’m also against murdering people and love action and horror movies. They don’t even have to contain a “drugs are bad” moral. There are a bunch of stoner comedies, that are extremely hysterical IMO.

    So what I’m trying to say is: It’s definitely too late to change my stance on the whole thing. If you think your life is better through drugs and even know people who don’t become everything we should hate about human beings after a few bong hits or shots of whiskey, good for you, you don’t know how lucky you are.

    Apologies to Vern, for pretty much kicking in the door to his review with stating an opinion that nobody asked for and derailing the comment section from the beginning. (I’m sure you were braced for a bunch of another #MeToo and “artist Vs art” discussions, though, so at least THAT was something new, right.)

    Of course I’m not going to have any hard feelings against anything that anybody might have said in this discussion, because that’s how we roll here and it’s a good way to live your life in general.

  43. I think THE RUM DIARY should be viewed before FEAR AND LOATHING. Even if Depp is older, RUM shows how Thompson started out. And FEAR kind of where he ended up. WITHNAIL & I is of course a much better Robinson movie, but as a fan I think it was good to see that he (in my book) hadn’t lost it.

  44. Borg9 – Until your comment I had completely forgotten that I reviewed this before. Luckily that was an incomplete review and after a quick skim I don’t think I repeated anything. It’s funny reading those old reviews, they’re always embarrassing but then there will be lines like “it looks like a junkyard on top of a lagoon” and I worry that I used to be better in some ways.

  45. …Griff… you’re almost 30?!? I remember when you were like, in high school. God, we all got old.

    Also, I’m named after Hunter S. Thompson. Also also, my parents are teetotal.

  46. If you are going to talk about Depp being an asshole, don’t forget Terry Gilliam is a piece of shit too.

  47. Stray thoughts.
    -I thought Depp was really good in MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS
    -There were some overly harsh words put forth from all sides of this drug debate

  48. Good Morning CJ HOLDEN! Just wanted to drop a bad german Wortwitz, cause i know that you will get it:

    In the End Johnny has proven to be a “Depp” for real.

    When we were about 8 years old, me and my little sister used to get a big laugh out of the fact that the guy who was playing on 21 Jump Street really had “Depp” for a name. We were sitting in front of the TV watching the intro of the show only waiting for the moment that this word would appear.
    Even if i have an total different view on the drug/addiction/people turning into assholes – Topic i sure can relate to those feelings that you described in the beginning. In my teenage years i also used to hang with an similar bunch of bad brains (which i thought turned bad cause of all the stuff they -and to be honest me too- were using) but after quitting the friendships and the drugs i had to realise that it doesn´t really affect a character per se cause everybody has the “power” of turning into an egomaniac asshole. We all just have different cues that can be set off by ANYthing to turn into full frontal asshole mode. I am no exception.
    But tell me how you managed to sit sober to an whole Ren and Stimpy Episode without thinking that you are going to loose your mind any second now. :D Just joking.

  49. I’m 95% sure that the old German video rental poster of EDWARD SCISSORHANDS misspelled its star’s name as “Johnny Deep”. Maybe it was a typo, maybe back then someone thought “Wait a second. That name can’t be real!” and “fixed” it, maybe I’m remembering it wrong. I mean, despite my talent for remembering completely random things from decades ago, that was back in 1991, so maybe it was ME misreading the name. However, I’m sure I also remember my sister’s friend pointing it out too.

  50. Michael Keaton’s names WAS misspelled on the German VHS of BEETLEJUICE as “Michael Keaten” and I can prove it, because I still own that thing.

  51. Misspelling is one thing…the other thing is to translate a movie title like MO MONEY into MEH GELD like they did here.
    In the golden era of video renting we had so many silly sounding titles. Nowadays it´s even worse:
    They replace the original english title with an english title that they think will
    A) …attract more moviegoers or
    B) …is easier to understand for the common german (even in english)
    For example YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE which got his cinema release as IT´S A BEAUTIFUL DAY…(wtf??)

  52. Not to mention all those _________ ACADEMY titles that came out in the 80s, although there is no Academy in the movie at all! (For example the Raimi/Coen joint CRIMEWAVE is THE KILLER ACADEMY here.) They are now doing this with BAD ________. Like THE SITTER was called BAD SITTER and the upcoming THE SPY WHO DUMPED ME will be BAD SPIES.

  53. CJ, I know I just said there’s no hard feelings over our scrap the other day, but you willingly withholding the information that “depp” literally translates to “douchebag” in German is a slight I can’t forgive. I could have been calling him Johnny Douchebag this whole time, but you stole that from me. I’ll never get those years back. I thought we were friends, man.

  54. I’m actually sure that I dropped the Depp tidbit on a few other Johnny related occasions, but if this never happened on this websight, I apologize, That shit is something that everybody needs to know, regardless if you are still a fan of him or not.

  55. That said, in defense of your treacherous, joke-hogging people, I will say that THE SPY WHO DUMPED ME is a horrible, embarrassing title that no one should have to say out loud, even in German, one that turns the ostensible subject of the story into an object defined by her relationship to some dude. More subliminal subjugation from the Romantic Industrial Complex. Get a boyfriend, little girls, and even you might someday get to be the protagonist of a movie, provided your man has a job interesting enough to define your identity for you.

  56. Well, I would’ve just said: “AUSTIN POWERS made this 007 title his own 20 years ago, couldn’t they think of something better?”

  57. Ugh. You’re right, it gets even worse the more you think about it.

  58. Hands down the greatest LOONEY TUNES movie ever made. BACK IN ACTION comes close due to it’s Dante-isms but FEAR & LOATHING shits all over SPACE JAM.

  59. I saw this movie at a noon matinee after smoking a lot of pot (TRIGGER WARNING), and I was the only person in the theater. It turned this movie into a uniquely exhausting experience for me. By the end, I was suffering from the comedown as much as the characters on screen. At the least, this film nails that happy/rush/hangover progression perfectly.

  60. In that clip, I can see how test audiences read something untoward into the relationship between the waitress and her grandfather, seeing as Thompson loudly does the same.

    Sadly, Gene Simmons is a Trump fan.

    That artwork isn’t showing up for me, even after I allowed all JavaScripts. (Maybe because it’s four years later.)

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