The only way to film Hunter S. Thompson's ultimate trip is all the way, balls to the wall, no turning back! That's precisely how Terry Gilliam and company made it in 1998, and this month it's available on the ultimate, two-disc DVD set, as elaborate as any I've ever seen. It's of interest primarily to cultistswho else would want to watch Thompson's alter ego Raoul Duke (expressing Fear) and Dr. Gonzo (Loathing) rampage through Vegas, the rotting '60s, and their own tortured souls?
Producer Laila Nabulsi lived with Thompson for four years and spent many more developing the movie (which nearly starred Nicholson, Brando, Aykroyd, Belushi, Malkovich, and John Cusack). Johnny Depp lived with him for two months, "to steal as much of him as I could," as he puts it on one of three excellent commentary tracks. Benicio Del Toro was so dedicated in capturing Dr. Gonzo (based on Chicano activist Oscar Zeta Acosta) that he gained 40 pounds and nearly died by actually practicing Acosta's habit of putting cigarettes out on his skin (he got blood poisoning). Gilliam couldn't afford many special effects, but he achieves a virtuoso hallucinatory effect through Alex McDowell's superb production design. And he got inspired (albeit drug-free) acting from the genius leads and a fab supporting cast including Cameron Diaz, Tobey Maguire, Christina Ricci, Harry Dean Stanton, and Ellen Barkin.
The extras are a scholar's dream: insights from Thompson, Gilliam, and the stars; deleted scenes; two Thompson documentaries; more than I can list. Thompson gives the best advice on the DVD: "Don't try this at home, kids!" -Tim Appelo
Also out from Criterion (always foggy about those street dates) is a supercool trifecta of The Killers: three adaptations of the Hemingway story directed by Robert Siodmak (1946), Don Siegel (1964), and Andrei Tarkovsky (a 1956 short). Also promised by Criterion are Gilliam's Brazil (on three discs!) and Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs. Anchor Bay is issuing several old Alex Cox titles, including Repo Man. Disney's Beauty & the Beast is out on a special-edition disc Feb. 25. That date also greets Knockaround Guys, Tuck Everlasting, and the harrowing 2000 Oscar-nominated Romanian orphan documentary, Children Underground. -B.R.M