Where the Buffalo Roam

Director: Art Linson
Written by: Hunter S. Thompson (stories), John Kaye (screenplay)
Cast: Bill Murray, Peter Boyle, Bruno Kirby, R.G. Armstrong

Year / Country: 1980, USA
Running Time: 95 mins.

‘I hate to advocate weird chemicals, alcohol, violence or insanity to anyone, but in my case it worked.’ Where the Buffalo Roam is the first movie adaptation of the work of legendary Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, who is portrayed by Bill Murray in the movie.

The story of Where the Buffalo Roam deals with Thompson’s encounters with his equally legendary ‘mutant’ attorney Oscar Zeta Acosta, who is called Carl Lazlo here and is portrayed by Peter Boyle. The movie is based on Thompson’s obituary for his attorney who disappeared in Mexico in 1974, three years after their two trips to Las Vegas that were immortalized in Thompson’s masterpiece ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’.

Screenplay writer John Kaye also drew from other works of Thompson, including ‘Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail 72’’, ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’ and ‘The Great Shark Hunt’. The final result depicts three journalistic adventures of Thompson in which Lazlo shows up. The first one involves San Francisco drug trials in which Lazlo represents wrongfully indicted youngsters. The second story shows Thompson missing the Super Bowl to accompany Lazlo on a failed activist mission. Finally, Thompson is seen on the presidential campaign where he has a one-on-one encounter with his self proclaimed nemesis Richard Nixon.

Most of the people involved, including Thompson himself, didn’t like the final result or even hated the movie. It is easy to see why. Much of Thompson’s razor sharp journalism resorts into a bunch of silliness. The second half is especially very uneven. Still, it is a lot of fun hearing a number of great Thompson quotes being uttered by Bill Murray, who’s excellent in the role of Gonzo journalist. Boyle is also enjoyable as his dope crazed attorney.

As a whole, the movie is indeed too silly to be perceived as a success or an effective movie translation of Thompson’s writing. However, separate parts range from funny to almost great. Especially the sequences in which Thompson has to meet deadlines, but is too preoccupied with weirdness and dope frenzies. Also includes an excellent soundtrack featuring: Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix and Creedence Clearwater Revival.


Biography: Art Linson (1942, Chicago) was born in Chicago, but grew up in Hollywood. He graduated from UCLA Law School in 1967 but never practiced. Linson has distinguished himself in Hollywood by developing scripts and stories that attract the highest caliber talent, resulting in some of the most admired and successful motion pictures of the last two decades, including Heat, Fight Club and The Untouchables. In 1995, Linson published his first book, ‘A Pound of Flesh: Perilous Tales of How to Produce Movies in Hollywood’. His second book, ‘What Just Happened? Bitter Hollywood Tales From the Front Line’, was published in 2002.

Filmography: Where the Buffalo Roam (1980) / The Wild Life (1984)


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