Dungeon Classics #1: Masters of the Universe

FilmDungeon’s Chief Editor JK sorts through the Dungeon’s DVD-collection to look for old cult favorites….

Masters of the Universe (1987, USA)

Director: Gary Goddard
Cast: Dolph Lundgren, Frank Langella, Meg Foster, Courteney Cox
Running Time: 106 mins.

The costumes are lame, the action clumsy, the production design outdated and the screenplay – at times – ridiculous. However, in the eighties Masters of the Universe was perfectly respectable, and – as long as you ignore certain aspects – it is still pretty entertaining. Although I suspect members of a younger generation won’t be able to overlook its inherent lameness. Based on the classic eighties cartoon, the story revolves around an epic battle between good and evil on planet Eternia. The dark forces, lead by the magnificent Skeletor, are the best thing about this camp. The ultra-blond Dolph Lundgren, a B-version of Schwarzenegger, made a lot of crap in those days, but he was born to play He-Man. You will certainly chuckle when you hear him scream at the end: ‘I have the power!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!’

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Hunter Goes to Hollywood: Hunter S. Thompson Triple Bill

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Who’s Hunter? Hunter Stockton Thompson (1937 – 2005) was an American journalist and inventor of Gonzo Journalism, a form of New Journalism. His persona and works inspired three Hollywood movies and several documentaries.

1. Where the Buffalo Roam (1980, USA)

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

Running Time: 95 mins.

‘I hate to advocate weird chemicals, alcohol, violence or insanity to anyone, but in my case it’s 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 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’ 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 arch enemy 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. Especially the second half is 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 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.

Gonzo Rating:

2. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998, USA)

Director: Terry Gilliam
Written by: Hunter S. Thompson (book), Terry Gilliam (screenplay), Tony Grisoni (screenplay), Tod Davies (screenplay), Alex Cox (screenplay)
Cast: Johnny Depp, Benicio Del Toro, lot’s of cameo’s including; Tobey Maguire, Gary Busey, Ellen Barkin, Christina Ricci, Cameron Diaz, Flea and Harry Dean Stanton

Running Time: 118 mins.

It is the foul year of our lord 1971 and Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson (Raoul Duke in the story) and his Samoan attorney Dr. Gonzo decide to undertake the ultimate trip of the seventies. The official assignment is to cover the Mint 400 desert race in Las Vegas, but they have something bigger in mind. They want to find the American dream. Armed to the teeth with highly dangerous narcotics, they head out to Las Vegas in their fire red convertible… Some trip it’s gonna be.

While searching for the American dream, Thompson and Dr. Gonzo only find fear and loathing. Intolerable vibrations in a town not at all suitable for the use of psychedelic drugs. The atmosphere is extremely menacing, but as they behave as animals, nobody even notices them. Vegas turns out to be a truly savage town. And while soldiers are dying in Vietnam, used car dealers from Dallas throw their money in the slot machines, Debbie Reynolds sings in the Desert Inn and the national police force meets on a congress about marijuana. Thompson and Dr. Gonzo are there…

Thompson’s novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, that was first published in two parts in Rolling Stone Magazine, became a cultural phenomenon (and my personal favorite book of all time). The movie adaptation by Terry Gilliam is a literal one. Thompson wrote his famous novel Gonzo style, which means the events are told through the eyes and vision of the author who fully participates in the story himself. Since Thompson was heavily under the influence during the writing process, he claims he can’t fully remember which parts truly happened and which ones did not (fully). Therefore this literal adaptation is a highly enjoyable blast, though not always realistic.

There is one downside to director Gilliam’s literal approach. In the novel, all the psychedelic escapades form an integral part of what is obviously a literary masterpiece. In the translation to film however, these escapades sometimes appear to be useless fuckarounds, especially during the final part of the film. However, that is a minor criticism for this is obviously a highly enjoyable movie. Depp and Del Toro are both terrific in their method acting approaches to their roles. Thompson’s poetic writing, beautifully spoken by Depp in voiceover, runs through the movie that captures the era and paranoid nightmare perfectly. Combined with a beautiful seventies soundtrack and Grade A settings, the great time capsule that is Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is complete. Also, it is one of the funniest movies of all time. So buy the ticket and take the ride.

Gonzo Rating:


3. The Rum Diary (2011, USA)

Director: Bruce Robinson
Written by: Bruce Robinson (screenplay), Hunter S. Thompson (novel)
Cast: Johnny Depp, Amber Heard, Michael Rispoli, Aaron Eckhart

Running Time: 115 mins.

The title The Rum Diary can mean two things. Hunter S Thompson’s novel that is told in this movie or The San Juan Star, the near bankrupt Puerto Rican newspaper where main character Paul Kemp (Thompson’s alter ego) takes a job as journalist. Why? Because the entire writing staff is completely drunk. The same seems to apply for the whole population of Puerto Rico in the 1960’s, the setting of The Rum Diary.

This is a story about alcohol and lots of it. But, whenever Kemp takes time off of drinking, he engages in a compelling journalistic endeavour, shining light on the culture and problems of the relatively unknown country he resides in. This is also a love story. Kemp falls head over heels for the stunning Chenault, girlfriend of corrupt businessman Sanderson, who wants Kemp to write stories in favour of his unethical real estate plans.

Kemp’s dilemma, going along with the flow or exposing the ‘bastards’ as he puts it, is the backbone of this movie. The pace is as relaxed as the setting and director Robinson succeeds well in translating the mood of Thompson’s novel to the white screen. The cast is on a roll as well. Depp, who once said he would like to play Thompson every few years, is solid as always. He gets excellent comic support from press associates Michael Rispoli, Richard Jenkins and Giovanni Ribisi. Amber Heard and Aaron Eckhart play Chenault and Sanderson, whose characters add the necessary intrigue and substance to the story.

Obviously this is no Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and the drug fueled craziness portrayed in that movie is largely absent. This is Thompson Light; a smaller movie without too much excessive behavior. Director Robinson did add one pretty funny drug scene that can be considered as a wink to big brother Fear and Loathing. In The Rum Diary, a novel that Thompson wrote many years before his Vegas-masterpiece, the author was still searching for his unique voice and it is pleasant to join him on this quest. It is best to keep some rum within reach though as you might get thirsty underway…

Gonzo Rating:

For Dutch speaking Thompson aficionados, check out also:
De Hunter S. Thompson kronieken
Blasted!!! The Gonzo Patriots of Hunter S. Thompson SH-2007
Dromen en dronken deliriums in San Juan (Over ‘The Rum Diary’ van Hunter S. Thompson)
Een authentieke dichtbij-opname van de Hell’s Angels (door Hunter S. Thompson)
Hunter S. Thompson in 1970 – Decadentie en verderfelijkheid in het Zuiden
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: De ultieme trip van de jaren 70′
Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72
‘The Great Shark Hunt’ – Gebundelde waanzin van Hunter S. Thompson
Instructies voor het lezen van Gonzo Journalistiek
‘The Curse of Lono’ – Het Hawaii avontuur van Hunter S Thompson
Image board on Pinterest

Jeppe Kleyngeld

James Bond: 10 Best Pre-Credit Scenes

In anticipation of SPECTRE, FilmDungeon.com editor Jeppe Kleyngeld lists his favourite things about the James Bond series in 12 unique features. Enjoy!

The 10 Best Pre-Credit Scenes 


10. Die Another Day
Die Another Day 1
Multi-dollar action sequence in North Korea, featuring terrific hovercrafts and high-tech weaponry. In his last performance as Bond, Brosnan comes surfing in on this high stakes assassination mission. The images have a very bleak colour, fitting and stylish for the North Korean setting. Most of the action consists of a hovercraft chase through a damp North Korean forest.

9. Licence to Kill
License to Kill
Felix Leiter’s wedding is rudely interrupted by the DEA. They are after a South American drug lord who is currently on the Bahamas’ and they enlist CIA-agent Leiter to catch him. Bond goes along for the ride, but ‘strictly as an observer’. Yeah right. It is too much to explain all that happens next, but it’s very good stuff. It ends in a brilliant stunt, namely a DEA helicopter that plucks Sanchez’s plane straight out of the sky. Leiter and Bond still make it to the wedding in time by parachute.

8. Octopussy
Octopussy 1
Octopussy 2
007 becomes a one man army in this adrenaline fuelled start of OCTOPUSSY. He pretends to be Colonel Luis Toro in order to enter a heavily armed enemy base in Cuba to place a bomb. But he is caught, so he has to go with Plan B. That involves attacking the base with a micro airplane, being chased by a heat seeking missile and using that to blow up the main hangar (where the enemy’s secret weapons are stored). Off course he also snugs a girl during all of this. That is how you fulfil your objectives in style.

7. Thunderball
Thunderball 3
James attends the funeral of Colonel Jacques Bouvar, an operative from SPECTRE (Number 6). On his coffin are the initials JB and Bond remarks that he would have liked killing Bouvar himself for murdering two of his colleagues. Later, Bond goes to the château of Bouvar where he identifies his foe disguised as his own widow. A spectacular fight ensues in which no piece of furniture is left unused. After Bond killed Bouvar with a fire poke, he makes a spectacular escape using a jetpack and his Aston Martin DB5. Very cool sequence that sucks you right into the movie.

6. For Your Eyes Only
For Your Eyes Only
It took a while, but James finally gets his revenge on his arch enemy Ernst Stravro Blofeld for murdering his wife Teresa in ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE. This credit sequence has no direct link with the story in FOR YOUR EYES ONLY, but does fit the central ‘revenge’ theme. Bond is called away while visiting his deceased wife’s grave. As he approaches Blofeld’s hide-out, the controls of his chopper are taken over by the old SPECTRE leader. After Blofeld has toyed with him for a while, Bond manages to take back control of the chopper again, scoops up Blofeld and drops him in a factory chimney. ‘Mr. Bond’, he pleads, ‘We can do a deal. I’ll buy you a delicatessen. In stainless steal.’

5. Casino Royale
Casino Royale 1
This back-to-the-beginning entry in the series opens with a grainy black and white sequence in which Bond earns his Double 0-status. We learn it takes two kills to become a Double 0. The first one is a real die hard kill in a men’s room. But the second one is considerably easier. Nice to meet you, Mr. Bond.

4. Skyfall
Skyfall 1
SKYFALL opens with a massive pursuit through Turkey. Bond needs to get his hands on a stolen list with identities of secret agents. He chases the bad guy on foot, by car, by bike and by train. With trademark humour (‘just changing carriages’) and plenty of demolition. The perfect opening for Bond’s 50th anniversary movie.

3. You Only Live Twice
You Only Live Twice 1
It begins with the brutal space jacking of Jupiter 16, an American spacecraft. With the cold war going on, the Americans are quick to accuse the Russians, but her Majesty’s government does not agree. Their sources say the enemy’s spacecraft has landed in Japan, so all secret intelligence should look in that direction. ‘Our man in Hong Kong is on it right now’, says a British official. Cut to James Bond making love to a Chinese girl. Soon after, Bond is executed off screen and the police finds his dead body. Surely, James can not be dead? Very suspenseful opening of the fifth official Bond movie.

2. The Spy Who Loved Me
The Spy Who Loved Me
A submarine hijacking, a terrific skiing purchase, the classic British flag escape… This is how you start a Bond movie. The action is also a set-up for the plot, unlike the usual standalone pre-credit scenes. Bond kills a Russian agent who happens to be the lover of a female Russian spy (the gorgeous Triple X) who James will very soon meet…

1. GoldenEye
GoldenEye 2
It is a breath-taking moment, when James bungee jumps of a massive dam in Russia. After that comes the toilet joke (‘beg your pardon, forgot to knock’), the first we see of Pierce Brosnan’s humorous take on 007. After that it is action time with Bond and colleague 006, who are assigned to destroy a chemical weapons factory. After 006 gets killed by General Ouromov, Bond makes a very narrow escape by pulling an unbelievable airplane stunt. Spectacular opening in every way.

007

Read also:

10 Best Bond Girls
James Bond: 10 Finest Bond Girls

10 Greatest Henchmen
James Bond: 10 Greatest Henchmen

Top 20 Action Sequences
James Bond: Top 20 Action Sequences