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DVD Review: Hunter S. Thompson – His Final Hours

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On the final weekend of his life, Hunter S. Thompson hosted his son, daughter-in-law, grandson, and protégé at his home, a farm in Colorado which he shared with his wife, Anita. Thompson, a phenomenally popular and talented writer in the 1970s was in his late sixties and life wasn’t so much fun anymore.

Drinking since he was a young teenager, Thompson was a career alcoholic—it was said that he hadn’t spent a sober day in over forty years. In addition to his alcohol use, over the course of his life he used speed, cocaine, hallucinogens, and other illegal drugs.

Hunter S. Thompson – His Final Hours chronicles the events of his last twenty-four hours. From this and other documentaries, it seems certain that his suicide that particular weekend had been planned. When one considers the many narcissistic aspects of his personality, it’s not surprising that he would surround himself with the people who loved him. Others are more kind and say that he wanted his family around him when his soul passed to wherever it is souls go.

The major interviewees for Hunter S. Thompson – His Final Hours were his first wife, Rolling Stone editors, his protégé/writing partner, and some friends who had known him for fifty years or more. A mental health professional also weighs in with his opinions.

Having fun was important to Thompson. His idea of fun included firearms, explosions, drugs, bourbon, noise, fire, breaking glass, and chaos. His first wife described life with him as being very difficult—it could be exciting, romantic and loving, but mostly it was hard.

The Rolling Stone editors had high praise for Thompson’s early writing, but it seems that, in his last twenty years or so, writing was just a job. The spark and creativity were no longer there. The man who had invented gonzo journalism was—after 1982—just gone.

Having sustained broken bones on several occasions, Thompson was left with chronic pain. The pain he suffered infringed on his fun. Freedom was paramount to him, and he saw his narrowing. In addition to heavy drinking, he was using painkillers. Thus, the man who was described at charismatic, popular, talented, impulsive, pained, insecure, anxious, tortured, and angry decided his time was up. He typed one word on his typewriter, “Counselor,” which to this day remains a mystery. On February 20, 2005, he fired his gun for the last time, taking his own life. He was 67 years old. His name had become much bigger than he was.

Hunter S. Thompson – His Final Hours also provides a look at what led up to that final shot, examining his past, and providing clues to what went into his self-destructive lifestyle. Was the death of his father when Thompson was a teenager what started his downward spiral? After his father’s death he began drinking and engaging in destructive behavior.

Were drugs and alcohol responsible for his declining writing ability? They surely played a role. I have seen five episodes of Final 24, a documentary series featuring some dramatization; Hunter S. Thompson is the least sympathetic subject of the five. No matter how brilliant Hunter S. Thompson – His Final Hours depicts him, we are still seeing a selfish man.

Hunter S. Thompson was a gifted writer, but as a human being he never made it past out-of-control adolescent. Hunter S. Thompson – His Final Hours details his successes and ultimate fate, and shows him to fall far short of the literary hero so many held in regard during his Fear and Loathing past.There are no bonus features.

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About Miss Bob Etier

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    “after 1982—just gone.”

    Is that what the program says? Because that’s no entirely accurate. He certainly wasn’t as consistent, but he had very good work after that. His coverage of the Pulitzer divorce, “Fear and Loathing in Elko”, and his reaction to 9/11 was not only brilliant but quite prescient.

    “shows him to fall far short of the literary hero so many held in regard during his Fear and Loathing past.”

    How so? Because he was a flawed person? What literary hero isn’t?

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    btw, any coverage of his funeral? I know it would be outside the 24, but still, it seems like something worthy of being featured considering how spectacular the send-off was.

  • the real bob

    One of the editors of Rolling Stone who had worked with Thompson in the seventies, remarked that after ’82 he was just writing for a paycheck; the editor described his work as “flat,” among other unflattering terms.

    While drug-addled, alcoholic writers blowing things up for fun may be the stuff of heroes, and scaring family members by aiming guns at them is just for laughs, Thompson (the eternal drunk) seemed far from heroic but more self-pitying and self-absorbed. Perhaps facing up to his flaws might be considered more heroic.

  • the real bob

    Sorry, no funeral coverage

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    definitely self-absorbed. a couple of recent documentaries show him having people read his work as he watches and he seems way too pleased with himself. I went to the funeral, so that’s everyone else’s loss

  • http://bastetslair.blogspot.com Lynn Voedisch

    People can psychoanalyze Thompson all they want, but most experts agree that alcoholism and addiction are a disease that is largely genetically caused, and mostly inherited. People don’t ask for the disease and Thompson didn’t get it by being sad about his father’s death or other of life’s tragedies.
    Researchers are closing in on the genetic markers for the disease and treatment someday might look awfully different than it does today. And geniuses like Thompson might have been saved.
    It’s a tragedy all around. There’s nothing glamorous about the way he died. It’s only pathetic and sad. I feel for him and the pain he went through.

  • C. Duggan

    Once again everyone has missed the point, HST was a brilliant writer and journalist. People complain that he couldn’t keep the brilliance going forever. I ask how many writers/artists/musicians of the last century were able to have 40-50 years of “perfect” output without fading? Not many. Also getting hung up on personal issues like being a drunk/drug addict is ridiculous. Examples, Hemmingway-violent drunk, F.S. Fitzgerald-drunk, Burroughs-Junky/pedophille, Kerouac-drunk/speed freak,I could go on and on, all possessed by genius, all severely messed up and all unable to keep their output at the level it once was. SO WHAT!! As for his death, I find it pathetic how some people judge his suicide as selfish etc. This man was in constant agony from multiple accidents/surgerys and virtually crippled towards the end, I view his death as brave act of mercy. If we always judged a persons artistic merit against their personnel problems/flaws the world would be a very sad place indeed. As for being washed up by 1982,I challenge anyone to go and read his article written within hours of 9/11, it shows how in tune this man was and how that spark of genius never died, it just needed the right motivation to reignite!

  • itsme

    why did you even review this movie if you clearly don’t care for HST. Like critical distance is one thing but this guy was a genius, full stop.

    As to having people read his work he was always obsessed with how words jumped off the page when read aloud. Similar to how he would type other writers to get into their rhythm.

    I was really excited to read this review then heavily let down by the whole thing.

  • the real bob

    I’m sorry if you were disappointed. I suggest you watch this program (it’s on You Tube, broken down by chapter) and see how it portrays Thompson.

  • itsme

    thanks for that, I will. Despite my complaining I do appreciate you covering it at all.

  • Adam

    Someone really doesn’t like Hunter S Thompson