I found an original script of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and have included the first portion of the first scene below. Highlighting the sounds mentioned within the text, they include everything from the wind, car tires, music, screeching bats, characters screaming, news, voiceovers and narration. This montage of reference to sound doesn’t include what might be assumed by the action, from slamming car doors and trunks to crinkling plastic and popping tops of bear cans. (Although, in the 70s, these were pull back tabs, they still popped from the pressure of carbonation.)
To illustrate what a sound editor might consider, I marked the direct reference to dialogue in red, narration in green, prerecorded music and news in blue, and implied sounds in orange. In doing so, I found it eye-opening to see just how much editing and mixing is involved in such a short span of film. This, by no means, covers the full spectrum.
You might also notice that there are several changes to the original script. To avoid large Rolling Stone licensing fees, Brewer and Shipley?s ?One Toke Over the Line? subs for ,? the song that originally appears in Hunter S. Thompson?s book, ?Sympathy for the Devil.” In the film, the radio stations are changed rather than competing with a tape recorder and the news?station in the film?reports on?soldiers overdosing on drugs. Still, the following?visual aid continues to provide a snapshot of mixing considerations.
FEAR & LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS
Terry Gilliam & Toy Grisoni
A desert wind moans sadly. From somewhere within the wind comes the tinkly, syrupy-sweet sounds of the Lennon Sisters singing “My Favorite Things.” A series of sepia images of anti-war protests from the mid-sixties appear one after another on the screen.
In the violently scrawled style of Ralph Steadman, the title FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS splashes onto the screen A beat, and then it runs down and off revealing:
“He who makes a beast of himself
Gets rid of the pain
Of being a man
— Dr. Johnson
The VOICE OF HUNTER S. THOMPSON — a.k.a. RAOUL DUKE
We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.
EXT. ON THE ROAD TO LAS VEGAS – DAY
THE RED SHARK races down the desert highway at a hundred miles an hour. THE STONES’ “Sympathy For the Devil” blares.
AT THE WHEEL, STRANGELY STILL AND TENSE, RAOUL DUKE DRIVES — SKELETAL BEER IN HAND — STARES STRAIGHT AHEAD. BESIDE HIM, FACE TURNED TO THE SUN, EYES CLOSED BEHIND WRAPAROUND SPANISH SUNGLASSES, IS HIS SWARTHY AND UNNERVINGLY UNPREDICTABLE ATTORNEY, DR. GONZO.
The music pounds. DUKE stares straight ahead.
GONZO froths up a can of beer – uses it as shaving foam.
I remember saying something like:
“I feel a bit lightheaded. Maybe you should drive.”
GONZO starts shaving
Suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us and the sky was full of what looked like huge bats, all swooping and screeching and diving around the car…
Close on DUKE — shadows flutter across his face. The reflections of bats swirl within his eyes. We push in close to one eye ball — SCREECHING SWIRLING BAT-LIKE SHAPES
… and a voice was screaming: “Holy Jesus! What are these goddamn animals?”
CUT TO WIDE SHOT OF CAR — DUKE, eyes rigid, flails at the air. No bats anywhere. GONZO casually looks over.
What are you yelling about?
DUKE SCREECHES to the side of the road. The sudden wrench makes GONZO nick his face with his razor.
Never mind. It’s your turn to drive.
No point mentioning these bats, I thought. The poor bastard will see them soon enough
DUKE hops out of the car, keeping an eye out for bats, frantically opens the trunk to reveal what looks like A MOBILE POLICE NARCOTICS LAB. DUKE desperately rifles through the impressive stash.
We had two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high powered blotter acid, a salt shaker half full of cocaine, a whole galaxy of multi-colored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers… Also a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of beer, a pint of raw ether and two dozen amyls.
DUKE, eyes darting madly as he hears what sounds like the SHRIEKS OF BATS returning, grabs an assortment along with another six-pack of beer – slams the trunk shut and dives back into the car.
Not that we needed all that for the trip, but once you get locked into a serious drug collection, the tendency is to push it as far as you can.
THE RED SHARK RACES INTO THE DISTANCE… on the ground, weakly flapping is a SEMI-SQUASHED, SLOWLY DYING ANIMAL… A BAT
EXT. FURTHER DOWN THE ROAD TO LAS VEGAS – DAY
IN THE RED SHARK GONZO grips the wheel – stares maniacally down the road -a lousy driver.
The only thing that really worried me was the ether. There is nothing in the world more helpless and irresponsible and depraved than a man in the depths of an ether binge. And I knew we’d get into that rotten stuff pretty soon.
The radio news wars with “SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL” on a tape recorder.
An overdose of heroin was listed as the official cause of death for pretty 19 year old Diane Hanby whose body was found stuffed in a refrigerator last week…
GONZO changes the station – “ONE TOKE OVER THE LINE, SWEET JESUS, ONE TOKE OVER THE LINE” vies with “SYMPATHY”… He sings along – washes a couple of pills back with a new beer. The RED SHARK fishtails.