In 1991 Oliver Stone reinterpreted the story of notorious classic rock bad boys The Doors for a big screen adaptation. Concentrating mostly on the story of front-man Jim Morrison, the film starts with a young Jim Morrison (Val Kilmer) studying to be a filmmaker through to his joining up with Ray Manzarek (Kyle MacLachlan), John Densmore (Kevin Dillon) and Robby Kreiger (Frank Whaley) to form The Doors. We see the band during their early years in Los Angeles, through to some experimenting with hallucinogenic drugs, and on into their proper career with Morrison receiving most of the publicity due to his good looks and undeniable stage persona.
As the band rises to fame, Morrison's dependence on drugs and alcohol to fuel his energy and creativity causes the band and his personal life to spiral out of control. His relationship with Pamela Courson (Meg Ryan) deteriorates and he ultimately winds up dead in Paris at the all too young age of twenty seven. His premature death assuring his place as a rock and roll martyr and the spokesperson for a generation even now, decades after his passing..
The Doors is a fantastic looking movie and Stone takes every chance possible to bombard the viewer with psychedelic imagery through his film. We see it early on in the film school scene where Morrison's project shows him rambling poetically with his face between the legs of a go-go dancer standing on the top of a television. Morrison's poetic and creative aspirations are set up very early on as a key part of what made him who he was and this becomes important later in the film, particularly in a scene where the band are in the recording studio and he sees Light My Fire used in a car commercial for the first time. Morrison is set up in the film as a consummate antisocialist, an artist who saw no appeal in the conventional mainstream. His stage rants against not only the police but against the very audience who had paid to see him that night convey this in no uncertain terms.
Kilmer plays Morrison amazingly well, acting and sounding just like he appears in the archival footage so many of us have seen. At times he is so eerily dead on in his portrayal that even if the movie were terrible it'd still be worth sitting through just to watch him perform. Luckily though, despite the fact that there are some inaccuracies in the way some of the characters are portrayed in the film, the movie is quite entertaining and manages to relay an intensity in the concert scenes that few other films featuring similar reenactments can come close to matching. Alongside Kilmer is a rock solid supporting cast. Aside from the band members (Kyle MacLachlan is a fantastic Ray Manzarek) and Meg Ryan's turn as Courson, look for some interesting cameos including Michael Wincott as producer Paul Rothchild, Michael Madsen as actor Tom Baker and the always quirky Crispin Glover as Andy Warhol. Billy Idol, Oliver Stone, John Densmore, Eric Burden, Paul Rothchild, Paul Williams and Jennifer Tilly all also have brief cameo spots in the picture.
While the film might not delve as deep into Morrison's perpetual mystique as it could have, it does do a good job of showing the inevitable rise and fall of one man in his struggle against his own personal demons. His trouble with drugs and alcohol may have fueled his art and his rock 'n roll rebel persona, but they ultimately cost him his life. The film is both tragic and fascinating at the same time, even if it isn't as accurate as it could have been. It might not be the best bio-pic ever made, but as a rock 'n roll movie, it definitely works.
The anamorphic 2.35.1 widescreen 1080p AVC encoded transfer for The Doors is a very nice effort on the part of Lionsgate. There are some miniscule compression artifacts in the darker scenes from time to time and the desert scenes look a little grainier than the rest of the film but it's never a problem, nor is it distracting. The black levels are nice and strong and detail remains sharp in both the foreground and the background of the picture for the duration of the movie. Color reproduction looks very good, the orange hues in particular doing a nice job of bathing certain scenes with a nice atmosphere. At times the picture is a little bit hazy looking, but it's always looked that way and it works in the context of the movie. There aren't any noticeable issues with edge enhancement nor is there much in the way of print damage to complain about. All in all, the movie looks very good on Blu-ray.
The English language 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track on this release is great, even if a little more punch in the lower end would have been welcome. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and the surround channels are used very effectively during the concert scenes though the rear channels are a little quiet during most of the other scenes. The score sounds nice and lively and there aren't any problems to report with hiss or distortion at all. Ultimately, this is a very good track but it's not quite reference quality. Optional subtitles are provided in both English and Spanish.
The extras on this disc are going to look awfully familiar to those who have had the pleasure of checking out the last standard definition 15th Anniversary DVD release. First up, in terms of the supplements, is Oliver Stone's audio commentary track which has appeared on the last releases of the film on DVD. Flying solo, Stone talks about his take on Jim Morrison and The Doors and why he wanted to make this film. He talks about some of the research that went into getting the project rolling and he talks about the ever important casting of the band members. Although Stone gets quiet in spots a little too often, this track does cover most of the basics and provides a good, general overview of the making of this picture.
The Doors In L.A. is an interesting featurette where Stone and the three surviving members of the band comment on the film and talk about the authenticity of Kilmer's performance. This nineteen minute featurette was carried over from the 15th Anniversary standard definition release of the film and is presented here in 1080p high definition.
Also carried over from the last standard definition release is the excellent Jim Morrison: A Poet In Paris, which runs for fifty-two minutes in length and provides an interesting look at the twilight of Morrison's life where he lived in Paris before he died. Presented in French with English subtitles in standard definition, it's a pretty fascinating look not only at what happened to Morrison but also how and why it happened. There are some interesting interviews with those who knew him as well as a look at the investigation of his death and some of the strange circumstances that occurred there. Interesting stuff!
The Road To Excess is a thirty-eight minute documentary that serves as both a look at the making of the film and a brief biography of Morrison himself. While most of what we learn here is covered in the commentary and in the other two featurettes, there's some interesting footage and input here that makes it worth a look. Presented in standard definition, there's some great archival footage of Morrison included in here as well as some more interesting interviews with those who knew him before he died.
The Original Featurette, which appears here in standard definition, is a six-minute promotional documentary that was made in 1991 to generate some publicity for the film. Also carried over from the standard definition release are the fourteen Deleted Scenes that appear here with introductions from Stone who explain why he chose to take them out of the finished version of the film.
Rounding out the extra features are a theatrical trailer and five television spots for The Doors, trailers for a few other unrelated Lionsgate Blu-ray releases, menus and chapter selection.
The Doors isn't as deep as it could have been but it is a very entertaining look at a very important band from a strange era in American history. Stone's direction is solid and Kilmer's performance top notch. This Blu-ray release from Lionsgate carries over a wealth of extras from the standard definition release and delivers impressive audio and video. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.