I watched “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” for the first time in a few years the other night, and really noticed something for the first time — I can’t believe I never caught this before.
One of the best scenes in the movies is when Hunter S. Thompson and his Samoan attorney attended an anti-narcotics lecture at a Las Vegas convention of the National District Attorney’s Association.
As the camera pans through the audience, you see most of the DAs attending the lecture are puffing away on cigarettes, as the featured speaker, “Dr. Bumquist” is introduced with the line of:
“The man who will define this cancer eating at the heart of America.”
Cigarettes kill more than 200,000 a year in the U.S. from cancer … the irony.
Now, of course, Hunter S. Thompson has his cigarette in his trademark cigarette holder, as well, but as Dr. Bumquist takes the podium to explain the evils of marijuana, he’s puffing away on a cigarette himself, proclaiming that he is there to help the DAs:
… to try and attempt to imagine what it is like inside the possessed mind of the addict.
A guy clearly addicted to nicotine … the irony.
Later, our Dr. Bumquist explains the psychology of the typical pot smoker (as Hunter drops the top to his vial of cocaine) that centres around the ideas of being “cool, hip and groovy,” and that by smoking dope, pot smokers can:
… become on of those cool guys
And here’s what I saw, Dr. Bumquist attempting to hold his cigarette in a suave and sophisticated manner as shown in countless smoking ads and Hollywood movies … the irony.
I have absolutely no idea if the director Terry Gilliam was intentionally attempting to make any kind of message with the hypocrisy of the attitudes in the early 1970s toward pot vs. cigarettes, but I certainly picked up on. Maybe it just happened organically, or maybe Gilliam very much meant to do it. But, after I really caught on to it, it made that scene that much funnier to me.
Here is the scene: