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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Oliver Stone Collection: The Doors - Special Edition
Oliver Stone Collection: The Doors - Special Edition
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Review by Aaron Beierle | posted January 26, 2001 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

An Oliver Stone film seems to always be a magnet for controversy or, at the least, varying opinion - and "The Doors" was no different. Stone's look at the life of the classic rock band either is regarded as a wonderfully done look at the band and 60's music or a dark, inaccurate look at a singer whose career ends in a haze of drugs. One thing that both sides seem to agree on is the performance of Val Kilmer, whose stunning performance does an almost unbelievable job of capturing the personality of the charismatic singer.

The general plot of the movie isn't terribly out of the ordinary for such a rock-biography. We see the band in it's early years practicing together and trying to find gigs as well as write songs of their own. The group gains popularity after a series of concerts where Morrison's star-persona gained a legion of female fans who came out to see him. And then, things got progressively worse. Morrison grows more and more addicted to drugs, getting into arguements with band members and jumping from woman to woman while his wife, Pamela(Ryan) watches from the sidelines.

Stone's film is more fascinated with the grand personality that was Jim Morrison than it is with the band as a whole; as a result, some of the band members come off as rather one-dimensional characters. The film begins to ramble at times, but it manages to ramble realistically; I can't say for sure, but I would think that the life of Jim Morrison probably wasn't particularly organized from one minute to the next, and Stone's film recreates that well.

Where Stone's films are often lengthy, "The Doors" sometimes becomes unecessarily so. 15 or 20 minutes of the film could have been taken out to tighten up the pace of the film and keep things going a little quicker during some stretches. Still, the performance by Kilmer is easily one of (if not his best) performance. The other supporting players contribute good performmances, although some of their characters are a little bit underwritten. Last but not least, the contributions of Stone's usual cinematographer Robert Richardson (who's also done stunning work in recent films such as "Snow Falling On Cedars") gives the film an often hypnotic, wild visual look.

Overall, I like "The Doors"; it's not without some little concerns here and there that could have made for a smoother film, but there's some great things about the picture that really stand out, and I think it's one of Stone's better films.


The DVD

VIDEO: The box for "The Doors" states that the film is presented anamorphic for this edition. The actual presentation on the other hand, actually is not anamorphic, and the results of Artisan's work here are somewhat mediocre at best. Sharpness is wanting during many scenes in the film, which often looks at least somewhat soft throughout, with the picture looking only fairly well-defined at best.

Flaws are definitely apparent through a good deal of the film. Print flaws are noticable, with small marks and scratches visible occasionally throughout the movie. Some edge enhancement and minor pixelation also appear, but are rare and don't cause much distraction.

Colors are fine; the film's color palette offers a wide range of colors that look rather enjoyable, if unspectacular on this release. I simply find it a bit odd that if Artisan is going to put together a 2 DVD special edition of the movie that they don't give that much effort into the actual presentation of the movie. Weird. And unfortunate.

SOUND: Where the picture quality remains rather fair, the sound quality for the Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation is actually very good. Stone's films seem to always put audio to effective and creative use, and "The Doors" is no exception. The film uses the surrounds quite a bit throughout the movie, whether for ambient/environment sounds during many of the film's scenes, or to effectively add to the concert sequences.

Although the material doesn't lend itself to a completely agressive audio experience, Stone and team - like he does for the rest of his films - doesn't leave any stone (ha) unturned when it comes to opportunities for creative sound use. Dialogue is natural and easily understood, with no problems. Overall, the sound is often exciting, especially for the concert scenes. It's unfortunate that the visual quality of the image for the presentation on this disc isn't up to the strength of the sound.

MENUS:: A lengthy clip of scenes from the movie leads into the main menu, which has some slight background animation. While I liked the clip that lead into the menu, the menus themselves were just okay looking. While not part of the menus, the packaging should probably be discussed here. The snapper case that Warner Brothers has offered with the 2 DVD special editions of "Any Given Sunday", "The Doors" and "JFK" in the Oliver Stone box sets offer the first DVD in the usual place - but the second disc is actually in an envelope that's stuck in the cardboard fold-out when the package is opened. It's an unfortunate choice for packaging; I can see where a lot of discs may get dirty or damaged as a result.

EXTRAS:

Commentary: Although I'd say with most commentaries by director Oliver Stone that there's never a dull moment, I actually found there to be a handful of them on the track for "The Doors". Where Stone has offered an energetic and impressively in-depth discussion of some of his other movies, his talk for "The Doors" focuses mostly on the history of Morrison and The Doors as well as working with the actors. There's also quite a few pauses of silence during the track, something that I'm not used to in a Stone commentary, where he usually seems to be able to talk throughout his entire films(Stone nearly talked all the way through the 2hr 20min "Heaven and Earth"). I don't mean for this review to sound as if Stone has contributed a bad commentary - even a Stone track at its most uninteresting is more enjoyable than some filmmaker discussions - but simply in comparison to some of the other new commentaries he's offered lately it seems a bit thinner. I will say I learned quite a bit about the band through Stone's discussion, which provides interesting analysis of the group's music. Still certainly worth a listen.

Road To Excess: This is a 40 minute documentary looking at the inspirations behind and making of "The Doors". Stone contributes a great deal of discussion about his feelings about the music of the Doors, and some of the history behind his enjoyment of the band and how it lead up into the screenplay and making of the film.

The documentary is often honest and fun, with members of the cast and crew as well as some members of the band discussing their anxiety of whether or not Stone would actually be able to carry the task of making a film about Morrison and the Doors. The interviews then lead us through the progression that took place during the production from not really knowing what was going to happen to having the actors find themselves getting things together. Although I don't claim to have a great knowledge of "The Doors", I liked hearing about some of the realities behind the band that I hadn't heard before watching this documentary.

Promotional Featurette: This is a smaller 6 minute promotional featurette that does offer a little bit more than the usual promotional "making of" that we see. Interviews with the actors are interesting, and there are some shots of "behind-the-scenes" as the production goes about his business. A few too many clips from the movie are in-between, but overall it's worth a watch - maybe not repeated viewings, though.

Trailers: Teaser and Trailer in 2.0.

Deleted Scenes: 14 deleted scenes for a total of about 43 minutes worth of footage. It dissapointed me a bit that Stone has not recorded commentary for these scenes to discuss why these scenes were cut out. We do get a taped intro by the director who talks about why the scenes were cut out, but I still would have liked additional commentary like Stone provided for the wealth of deleted footage that was included on the "Heaven and Earth" special edition.

Some of these scenes provide some entertaining and fun moments that might have worked in the movie, but I think that most of the sequences would have added additional length into a movie that's already a little slow moving now and then. As for the scenes, they are presented non-anamorphic and are in watchable condition, with a soft look and the occasional mark and scratch.

Also: Cast and crew bios, production notes and text notes about Richardson's cinematography.

Final Thoughts

Positive: Stone's movie, in my opinion, remains very enjoyable and although not Stone's best film, one of his better ones. The sound quality is very enjoyable as well, and there's quite a few extra features throughout.

Negative: It seems silly that Artisan put together a 2 DVD Special Edition (although I believe that many of these extras are taken from the laserdisc special edition) and didn't have the presentation be anamorphic. The picture quality doesn't suffer completely, but it's certainly not as good as I think that the film could look. This "Doors" special edition is not available on it's own until 2/20/01; right now it's available in the Oliver Stone Collection 6 and 10 DVD sets only. Fans of the film may want to wait for the film on its own on 2/20, but many will likely be dissapointed with the picture quality. I'd probably "Highly Recommend" this special edition if the picture quality was improved.

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