by Anthony Nield
Since its belated theatrical release in early 1988, Withnail & I has slowly but surely attracted an ever-increasing amount of ink. In fact, if you ever feel the need to trace the steadily-growing popularity and appeal of the film, then a quick scan of the key texts does a fine job. Initially there were the reviews, and a mixed bag at that; the Village Voice describing it as “civilised Cheech and Chong”. And then, nothing. Or rather, the words being spoken about the film were word-of-mouth and not to be found in print. It was only when a new magazine and a new audience – loaded and the ‘new lad’ of the mid-nineties – emerged that some recognition in a popular publication arrived. Appearing in May 1994, in the very first issue, James Brown’s article, ‘The Biggest Cult Video in Britain?’, became the first to identify the growing student audience for the film, as well as laying out the rules for the now-infamous drinking game.