The Crazy Never Die: Hunter S. Thompson in Rare 1988 Documentary (NSFW)

What should we make of Hunter S. Thomp­son today? Only a hard­ened con­trar­i­an could down­play his impor­tance as a chron­i­cler of the col­lapse of six­ties-style utopi­anism in Amer­i­ca. Few read­ers could for­get — or refrain from com­mit­ting to mem­o­ry — the famous pas­sage of Thomp­son’s jour­nal­is­tic and psy­che­del­ic nov­el Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1971) that looks back on the ruins of hip­piedom from with­in the hang­over of the ear­ly sev­en­ties. With unmatched clar­i­ty, he traces how “the ener­gy of a whole gen­er­a­tion comes to a head in a long fine flash,” the “sense of inevitable vic­to­ry over the forces of Old and Evil,” the feel­ing of “rid­ing the crest of a high and beau­ti­ful wave,” and how, “less than five years lat­er, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark — that place where the wave final­ly broke and rolled back.”

In the sev­en­ties, Thomp­son count­ed among his friends San Fran­cis­co pornog­ra­phers the Mitchell broth­ers, best known for pro­duc­ing Behind the Green Door, which hit the zeit­geist the year after Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. In 1988, the Mitchell broth­ers grabbed their cam­eras and fol­lowed Thomp­son around on a lec­ture tour, to places like the Uni­ver­si­ty of Kansas and Port­land, Ore­gon’s First Con­gre­ga­tion­al Church, col­lect­ing mate­r­i­al for what would become the half-hour doc­u­men­tary The Crazy Nev­er Die. It fol­lows from the title that, since the news of Thomp­son’s hav­ing removed him­self from this mor­tal coil broke sev­en years ago last week, he either did not die, or was not crazy. Though the lat­ter pos­si­bil­i­ty seems more plau­si­ble on its face, those famil­iar with the trap­pings of Thomp­son’s pub­lic per­sona — the “for­ti­fied com­pound,” the rounds unloaded into the type­writer, the pea­cocks — may find the for­mer eas­i­er to swal­low. Just look at the footage cut between the lec­ture seg­ments: Thomp­son spray­ing a makeshift aerosol flamethrow­er, Thomp­son light­ing a can­non, Thomp­son vicious­ly attack­ing the cam­era with a Mex­i­can restau­rant-nap­kin — all rigid­ly in line with his man-out-of-con­trol image.

Wit­ness to the end of the Age of Aquar­ius, drug-fueled bon viveur, sociopo­lit­i­cal crit­ic, flail­ing mani­ac: Thomp­son con­tained mul­ti­tudes. His Fear and Loathing on the Cam­paign Trail ’72 remains one of the most inci­sive texts I’ve read on the Demo­c­ra­t­ic par­ty — more so than any­thing polit­i­cal sci­ence class­es assigned me — but over the fol­low­ing decades his polit­i­cal posi­tions cur­dled into a sad sort of para­noia. The Crazy Nev­er Die cap­tures Thomp­son in full gad­fly mode, pack­ing hous­es and eas­i­ly enter­tain­ing them, whether on time or (more com­mon­ly) not. But the con­tent of these talks, assum­ing you can fol­low it, seems alto­geth­er less rel­e­vant to the man’s endur­ing appeal than the life and sen­si­bil­i­ty that pro­duced it. He takes the usu­al crowd-pleas­ing swipes at Nixon and Rea­gan, but then delves hap­haz­ard­ly into elab­o­rate the­ses involv­ing Oliv­er North, George H.W. Bush, and Iran. (1988, recall.) He takes par­tic­u­lar excep­tion to Ed Meese, a name I imag­ine very few of Thomp­son’s younger fans rec­og­nize. But when the name of Meese and what­ev­er crimes may or may not be pinned upon it has long fad­ed from liv­ing mem­o­ry — and sure­ly that time is upon us — the name of Thomp­son will keep on res­onat­ing and fas­ci­nat­ing.

(NSFW warn­ing: Stay­ing true to form, the Mitchell broth­ers saw fit to include a few flash­es of nudi­ty through­out this doc­u­men­tary.)

The Crazy Nev­er Die has been added to our col­lec­tion of Free Online Doc­u­men­taries, a sub­set of our meta list 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Hunter S. Thomp­son Gets Con­front­ed by the Hel­l’s Angels

Hunter S. Thomp­son Inter­views Kei­th Richards

John­ny Depp Reads Let­ters from Hunter S. Thomp­son (NSFW)

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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  • Hunter S.Thompson will live on through his lit­er­a­ture no doubt,and as an impor­tant role mod­el for gen­er­a­tion x people,like the Aus­tralian gen­er­a­tion x artist James DeWeaver,who’s por­trait of Thomp­son is sub­lime!

  • SUSAN CELI says:

    I want to buy an xtralarge long SLEEVE t‑shirt feA­tures
    The Crazy Nev­er Die fea­tured with Skel­ton in cof­fin with bot­tle of booze and four legs.make it 2 0r 4 0f them.Pop

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