The ten most trippin’ moments in ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’
Hunter S. Thompson was a writer like no other. A mythical figure in his own right, he lived the stories he put down on paper and invented an entirely new style of writing as the pioneer of gonzo journalism.
To keep his belly fire burning, Thompson consumed a cocktail of Chivas Regal, Dunhills, cocaine, orange juice, marijuana, Heineken, hideous mounds of food, LSD, Chartreuse, clove cigarettes, gin, and pornographic movies, culminating in great works such as the gonzo masterpiece Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
As a sprawling, hilarious tirade on the failure of the American Dream, Thompson wrote the piece in response to a sports writing assignment – a roman à clef that’s rooted in autobiographical musings.
Over 25 years after Thompson unleashed the book upon an unprepared America, director Terry Gilliam (The Man Who Killed Don Quixote) adapted the novel into a big-screen hit, about an oddball journalist and his psychopathic lawyer who travel to Las Vegas for a series of psychedelic escapades.
It’s been over twenty years since Raoul Duke (Johnny Depp) and Dr. Gonzo (Benicio del Toro) bent our minds on a psychedelic plane. In tribute to this mescaline-fuelled classic, here’s a ranked list of the ten most trippin’ moments from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
Hotel on acid
As he’s waiting in line at the hotel, the acid starts to kick in. “Be quiet, be calm,” Raoul tells himself. Clutching onto his suitcase with a half broken smoke in his slender cigarette holder and enough sweat to hydrate the Mojave Desert, we join Raoul on his attempt to hold it together. If only the carpet would stop morphing.
A mundane conversation takes a violent u-turn when a group of news reporters rub Gonzo up the wrong way. As the late, great Robert Ebert once put it, “If you encountered characters like this on an elevator, you’d push a button and get off at the next floor.”
The horror films warn about picking up a strange hitchhiker, but in the case of Fear and Loathing, it’s the drivers you should be more worried about. Poor old Tobey Maguire (Spider-Man) as a meek blonde hippy gets taken on the trip of a lifetime, and not in the way he’d hoped.
All these signs of violence
If you thought your hangover was bad, try waking up in a room where there was evidence of “excessive consumption of almost every type of drug known to civilized man since 1544 AD.” Yeowch!
Too much adrenochrome
The John Waters-esque pink settings in this scene represent the pink hues of the enigmatic human neurotransmitter adrenochrome – a substance “that makes pure mescaline seem like ginger beer”.
Big machine in the sky
Room service! The wide-eyed waiter brings up the order of rum, grapefruits, and a healthy number of shrimp cocktails for Raoul and Gonzo. While he unloads the goods, Raoul’s busy trying to avoid a hail of bombs from the electric snake in the sky.
This is Bat Country
One of Thompson’s most iconic pictures is painted when the drugged-up duo enter Bat Country, referring to the writer’s alter-ego and his hallucinations as he invades Las Vegas. We’re soon made aware the bats are but visuals, induced by a suitcase containing “a whole galaxy of multi-colored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers.” Oh yeah, and a shitload of booze. You know – to take the edge off.
San Francisco acid wave
The viewer travels with Raoul back to the great San Francisco acid wave of 1965.
In this scene (featuring a cheeky cameo from Thompson himself) we see an unsuspecting businessman whose life was ruined forever after witnessing a hippy feeding from the acid-ridden sleeve of our protagonist, “always thinking that just behind some narrow door in all his favorite bars, men in red woollen shirts are getting incredible kicks from things he’ll never know.”
There’s nothing that’ll fuel the fear quite like a carousel bar filled with freaks, geeks, and two women fucking a polar bear. Combine that with a hefty dose of mescaline and you’ve got yourself a rapid descent into insanity.
A trip to the hotel bar turns jurassic when Raoul envisions the guests as maggot-guzzling reptiles. As he panicks to keep his shoes off the ground, Raoul muses, “I was right in the middle of a fucking reptile zoo, and somebody was giving booze to these goddamn things,” before demanding to find out about “the fucking golf shoes!” It’s a minefield out there.