Quantcast

Where The Buffalo Roam (Blu-ray Review)

When it comes to author Hunter S. Thompson, most have an image already in their head. They picture a guy wearing rather leisurely golf enthusiast-like clothes, smoking a cigarette from an elongated holder while wearing aviator style sunglasses and barking out weird nonsensical silliness while accompanied by an equally dumb mustached companion.  And the quickest go-to thought of the man is usually the depiction done by Johnny Depp in the Terry Gilliam Film Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas (The “bat country” line being a very popular quote.). But, did you youngins know that Depp was merely the 2nd to play Hunter S. Thompson? Bill Murray did it 18 years prior in the film, Where The Buffalo Roam. Accompanied by Peter Boyle, they marked the adventures of the author in the late 1960s leading into the 70s. Shout! Factory, via the Select line, will be recovering this one from film history and extending it to Blu-ray on June 6th.

Film 

Comedy legend Bill Murray is at his wildest as America’s leading “Gonzo” journalist, Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, the legendary underground reporter whose passion for writing was second only to his love of weird chemicals, alcohol, violence and insanity. Along with his best friend Carl Lazlo, Esq., Thompson takes us on a manic look back at the Sixties and Seventies as an eyewitness to everything from a free-for-all San Francisco drug trial to a one-on-one bathroom interview with then Presidential candidate Richard Nixon.

Art Linson’s film features a lot of positive qualities, bits, performances and comedic presence, but ultimately is too much like the subject of the film; scatterbrained, random and incoherent. This would work terrific in today’s climate a series of web shorts of as a little YouTube series. There’s no way to string a through line of what happens in this movie neatly. It doesn’t even flow as a long form presentation of sketch comedy. However, taken individually, things could have worked well on their own. When they are crunched together like this, there is less a sense of sense and jumping one to another only hurts the subsequent stories.

Bill Murray and Peter Boyle are quite committed here and seem to really buy into this projects. They play everything straight and fine tuned into character without getting completely eccentric. The two have good chemistry with number and really drive this movie. Unfortunately, neither of them can case save it from crashing. Both of them are drug experimenters and constantly inebriated and it makes the story a bit of challenge to get in touch with, which is important to have something to be in tune to, in order to laugh at the odd man out. Ultimately, the viewer is always the odd man out and Murray and Boyle seem more at home and in tune with everything.

I’ve mentioned sketches and bits here in both my praise and deriding of the movie. However, each scene or sequence of related events work here in their own way. There are great physical performances from Murray and Boyle to withstand whatever is thrown at them. I think of moments separated and laugh and think something was brilliant. However, I also remember watching the movie and feeling tired, run down, and wondering what it all was I had just watched. Maybe that’s the brilliance of Thompson or this film. Maybe I’m not on that level yet (or maybe never will be). Like everything, if you’re a fan, good, if you’re not, I get it.

Where The Buffalo Roam is very much like the man its depicting; scatter-brained, random, incoherent and a bit of a tough watch.  Its true to its source, but maybe that’s not a good thing. It weird that everyone is all in and Murray and Boyle are weird and work…but the movie doesn’t. Maybe Hunter S. Thompson faithful can enjoy something as random and not put together as this, but for a someone looking back, it didn’t hold up then and time hasn’t made it hold up any better now.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: Where The Buffalo Roam isn’t Shout! Factory’s finest hour, but given that this was sublicensed from Universal, I’m sure they weren’t given much room to work with. The image does look pretty solid overall, but one can’t help but wonder if it couldn’t have been better as this doesn’t look like a huge jump over DVD quality. Details are pretty strong for the most part. Maybe its just the source of it all, but its got a rather dingier looking image to portray.

Depth:  The film holds a bit of a flatter look to it. Movements are cinematic with a little bit of the blurring/jittering.

Black Levels: Blacks are solid, proving to have a bit more grain in the deepest, darker moments. Details do get lost a bit, but overall are just fine. No crushing to report from this viewing of the film.

Color Reproduction: Colors area bit held back and muted here. Reds and blues come through pretty nicely, but overall its got a picture teetering between natural and murky.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and maintain a consistency throughout the duration of the film. Facial details are more distinct in close-ups than they are pulled further back with medium shots servicing form pretty good to decent.

Noise/Artifacts: There is a little haze of grain and some slight compression going on.

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English Stereo DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics:  Where The Buffalo Roam drops on Blu-ray with a pretty nice stereo mix that sounds a good crisp step up from what I imagine it counterpart would have been. There is a some obvious feeling to it as an analog originator, but it does have a good balance and free bit of separate feeling of the dialogue, musical score and sound effects. This isn’t going to to wow, but its enough to make this film work.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is clear and plenty audible at all times. There is a hint of analog sourcing, but for the part the audio is plenty separate and not a meshed piece of the full mix.

Extras 

Inventing The Buffalo (HD, 41:58) – An interview with screenwriter John Kaye. He talks about turning down writing Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas, instead opting for a piece from Rolling Stone for the film, taking interest in Carl Lazlo over Hunter S. Thompson.  He discussed his using drugs while making the film and his relationships on set and working with the cast and crew.  There is also a good bit of his research and knowledge that comes through in talking what works, how the people were and spinning this into cinema.

Theatrical Trailer (SD, 3:14) 

Summary 

Billy Murray is a treat in Where The Buffalo Roam, but the movie itself is way to scattered and lack finding any sort of narrative or consistency to hold onto viewers. This Blu-ray holds on with a solid video and audio presentation. The interview provided works as a solid extra, but that’s really all you get. Fans of the film should rejoice because its getting the Blu-ray treatment by one of the best int he biz, but many others who aren’t experienced or haven’t looked back upon this film in a long while should be cautious.

Share

Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

  1. No Comments