Wednesday, July 18, 2007

DVDs WE LOVE: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (The Criterion Collection)

Release: 2003

Status: In print

Legacy: Though it was long-established with the movie community and DVD collectors, this release was what put Criterion Collection on the mainstream map, and it's easy to see why. It wasn't the first time Criterion had released a contemporary, big studio film (see: The Royal Tenenbaums, The Rock, Chasing Amy, Armageddon), it did serve as the company's first foray into re-releasing a mainstream film that deserved a definitive edition. It was the perfect time for such a venture, because Fear and Loathing was gaining steam as a cult classic on video after its theatrical release bombed. Suddenly, Hunter S. Thompson was being introduced to a new generation of readers, and the strange comedy produced by Johnny Depp and Benecio del Toro in the film was starting to resonate as other movies followed its batshit lead. The DVD was also riding Criterion's new wave of ultra editions that came in sleek radical packaging and contained a bounty of print essays in addition to a new level of video content. Early Criterions, even their sterling examples of Notorious and The Third Man, were hardly stacked with extras -- leaning mostly on archived articles presented on screen or old radio spots (which were still appreciated). But Fear and Loathing represented the new Criterion standard, featuring full-length documentaries both classic and contemporary to go along with first-rate commentary tracks and impeccable audio and visual transfers. This would go on to be Criterion's best-selling DVD and serve as a gateway to the masses just what the company does and why so many pay a $10 or $20 premium for their releases.

Personal: I'm conflicted about how good this movie is, but I'll always be amazed by the Criterion's DVD. It has become an example of how relevant DVDs can be: just listen to Thompson's amazing commentary track, is there a better or more candid into the writer's brain? Sitting in his Colorado home with his wife and a producer of the movie, Thompson alternates between talking about Depp and director Gilliam to shrieking wildly and even taking a call from a University of New Orleans professor for an impromptu interview. For someone from my generation who didn't grow up with Thompson, this is a rich introduction since it includes two of his essays and two documentaries following his life (one made in 1978, another during the filming of the movie). The extras are generous enough, but you see what Criterion is all about in the details: the packaging is fun just to look at, and it has one of the best menu screens of all time (Steadman painting the film's chaotic logo in real time).

Availability: Often discounted to around $30. A steal.


Jordan said...

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Adam Ross said...

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