Lost Classics! “Where The Buffalo Roam”
On paper, it probably looked like a surefire idea: condense the crazed writings of brilliant journalist/author Hunter S. Thompson and turn it into a movie. And sign up comedian Bill Murray to play him! And have eccentric rocker Neil Young do the soundtrack! Surely, a coked-up Hollywood producer’s dream.
Back in 1980, Where The Buffalo Roam was the unholy product of this drug-fueled vision. Of course the movie was bad – it was little more than Murray mugging through one bizarre episode after another. So little of Thompson’s sensibility made it onto the film, the writer hated the movie, even though Murray was a close friend. And of course the movie was a flop.
The soundtrack album was probably an even bigger disappointment. Young’s “score” consisted of nothing more than him riffing on the old song “Home On The Range.” The record also had some old songs from Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, the Four Tops and Creedence Clearwater Revival that also appeared in the movie.
These days, the music is even harder to find than a copy of the movie. In fact, most VHS and DVD versions of the film have replaced all of the classic stuff because of the high cost of music licensing. Any version of Where The Buffalo Roam you’ll see today has only Neil Young’s score and Creedence’s “Keep On Chooglin’.” The rest are just soundalikes – a just epitaph for a truly strange project.
Thompson may or may not have had this movie in mind when he committed suicide in 2005. He probably felt better about Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, the even-stranger movie from 1998 starring Johnny Depp.
Footnote: My only favorite moment in Where The Buffalo Roam: a drunken Thompson (Murray) encounters presidential candidate Richard Nixon in a men’s room. Muttering about “the doomed,” Thompson is brushed off by Nixon, who says “Fuck the doomed.”