The 2.35:1 picture on Blu-ray is constantly jammed with the bizarre yet all-too-believable exaggerations of Thompson’s medicated memories. Ridiculously clashing patterns in hotel carpets and “Acapulco shirts” are crisp and well defined. Although colors are pushed to an insane intensity — from evil pink and green pastels to unlikely combinations of saturated primaries — somehow there’s no bleeding whatsoever. All is horribly distinct.
The rare peaceful moments are a pleasant reprieve and allow for a greater appreciation of movements through the image. For example, when Duke is actually writing, the camera circles him and reveals the layers of objects in his hotel room. Every barb of Depp’s 5 o’clock shadow is clearly visible, and freak creatures — human or otherwise — have convincing depth, dimension, and detail.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix hits on all valves from the get-go. Soon, the surrounds are sending colonies of hallucinated bats flapping all around you. The soundtrack evokes an era when lounge music (Perry Como, Robert Goulet) was still around to rub shoulders with pop and rock (Big Brother & the Holding Company, Jefferson Airplane, the Yardbirds, Three Dog Night, Buffalo Springfield, Bob Dylan) — all of which sounds pretty good in 5.1, though the higher tones are a little tinny. A “2.0 Surround” track is clearer with the dialogue, but the 5.1 is more psychedelically atmospheric, as when all channels are filled with a beeping, clinking casino cacophony backed by Tom Jones and Die Walküre while reptiles screech and patrons go on “humping the American dream.”
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