Doomed: Hunter S. Thompson’s American Dream [A Review]

doomed hunter s thompson's american dream

A Kentucky filmmaker called Jacob Mulliken recently released the first episode of a projected nine-part series on Hunter S. Thompson called Doomed: Hunter S. Thompson’s American Dream. It is currently available on Instagram and YouTube.

After an overly long intro sequence, we meet Anita Thompson in the kitchen of Owl Farm. There is no title to tell us her name or relation to Hunter. You just have to know. She talks about Thompson’s deadline procrastination tactics briefly before George Stranahan appears (again with no introduction). He talks about first meeting Thompson. His story is oddly cut and unrelated to Anita’s.

Then we have Thompson’s first wife, Sondi Wright, who paraphrases a quote she gave to Corey Seymour for the book Gonzo about Thompson shooting out of the womb angry. She makes an interesting observation about Hunter being split between compassionate and cruel, and then speculates that this was the cause of his “self-medication.”

Next, Ed Bastian talks about Thompson’s loyalty and the real man beneath the clownish persona, and Michael Cleverly explains that Thompson’s books will continue to appeal to rebellious youths. “Some of them will read the books,” he says, “because they will last forever.” However, others will just like him “for the persona he created.” Cleverly notes that the Raoul Duke schtick was more or less “a marketing scheme.”

Michael Cleverly in Doomed.

Loren Jenkins then explains that “underneath the drug stuff” Thompson was a very serious and political man and Joe Edwards shares a few flattering words, too.

All of that probably suggests this was a half-hour or twenty-minute episode, but it was in fact a little under eight minutes long, so there wasn’t much insight. These were soundbites rather than interviews.

I don’t honestly know why Mulliken has chosen to release this film in such short instalments rather than as a more conventional one-hour film. Perhaps it is that he wants to attract a younger generation, more accustomed to short-form entertainment. That would explain why the film is only available on social media.

But the result is, to my mind, not very effective. Almost half of the first episode is an intro sequence and credits. The intro has a slight charm due to its Python-esque use of stock images to illustrate the sixties and seventies background to the Thompson story. Hunter rides a bullet across a sequence of low-resolution images that move and dissolve. It’s quirky but not interesting enough to warrant three minutes of the episode.  

From the intro sequence.

I was really excited to watch this because of an article in the Louisville Courier-Journal. In it, Mulliken says he wanted to focus on Hunter Thompson as a serious writer and did not want a bunch of random celebrities telling stories. I really respected that because it was the same impetus that pushed me to write High White Notes. Very few people have ever bothered to look beyond the clownish persona to tackle Thompson as a truly serious writer.

But there really wasn’t much in this episode of any substance. It seemed like a random collection of thoughts, loosely assembled. It’s been three weeks since the first episode and there’s nothing to signal a follow-up. His YouTube channel has a few dozen followers and not that many more views, and there is just a collection of random raw clips in addition to the first episode. There is no website, no “about” page, nothing.

If this were a passionate low-budget, underground project to tackle Thompson the writer without flashy Hollywood effects, I would have a huge amount of respect, but the lack of effort is disappointing. There is almost no online presence except those two social media pages, an interview in the Courier-Journal, and a poorly compiled NFT collection. Does Mulliken even intend to continue the series?

I hope so, and I hope that one day he cuts it as a proper film – a documentary with substance and meaning, that digs into Hunter the writer. But from just this first episode, I am somewhat underwhelmed. Here’s hoping episode two – if we ever get it – is a lot better.

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