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review added: 1/24/01



The Doors

review by Greg Suarez and Todd Doogan of The Digital Bits

The Films of Oliver Stone on DVD


The Doors: Special Edition (Warner Stone Collection)


The Doors
Special Edition - 1991 (2001) - Artisan (Warner)

Film Rating: B

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/A/A

Specs and Features:

Disc One: The Film
138 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch 1:35:37 in chapter 27), Snapper case packaging, audio commentary by director Oliver Stone, "jump to a song" feature, animated film-themed menu screens, scene access (35 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1), subtitles: none, Closed Captioned

Disc Two: Supplemental Material
97 mins, NR, full frame (1.33:1) and letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), single-sided, single-layered, The Road of Excess documentary, 14 deleted/extended scenes with introduction by Stone, "making-of" featurette (circa 1991), cast and crew filmographies, production notes, Cinematographic Moments production notes, teaser and theatrical trailer, animated film-themed menu screens, languages: English (DD 2.0), subtitles: none



The Doors: Special Edition (Artisan)

The Doors
Special Edition - 1991 (2001) - Artisan

Film Rating: B

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/A/A

Specs and Features:

Disc One: The Film
138 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch 1:35:37 in chapter 27), Amaray keep case packaging, audio commentary by director Oliver Stone, "jump to a song" feature, animated film-themed menu screens, scene access (35 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1), subtitles: none, Closed Captioned

Disc Two: Supplemental Material
97 mins, NR, full frame (1.33:1) and letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), single-sided, single-layered, The Road of Excess documentary, 14 deleted/extended scenes with introduction by Stone, "making-of" featurette (circa 1991), cast and crew filmographies, production notes, Cinematographic Moments production notes, teaser and theatrical trailer, animated film-themed menu screens, languages: English (DD 2.0), subtitles: none



The Doors (Live original)

THX-certified

The Doors
1991 (1997) - Live Entertainment

Film Rating: B

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B-/A/D+

Specs and Features:

141 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), THX-certified, single-sided, single-layered, Snapper case packaging, cast & crew bios, production notes, theatrical and teaser trailers, film-themed menu screens, scene access (35 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1), subtitles: English, French and Spanish, Closed Captioned



"I am the Lizard King!"

The Doors is the story of the rise and fall of legendary singer/poet Jim Morrison. Morrison became a popular musician after he lost a fortune on Wall Street. Then, after assassinating JFK, Morrison decided to trek across the country, brutally murdering innocent people and becoming glamorized by the media. Then there was his whole Vietnam period…

Okay, okay… kidding. The Doors is Oliver Stone's epic tribute to rock icon Jim Morrison, the visionary poet behind the legendary rock group The Doors. The movie begins just days before Morrison teams up with guitarist Robby Krieger (Frank Whaley), keyboardist Ray Manzarek (Kyle MacLachlan) and drummer John Densmore (Kevin Dillon) to form the group. The audience is then pulled into a two-hour acid trip full of strange visions, wild imagery and lots and lots of Doors tunes. Well... it's not quite that extreme, but it's still pretty trippy. Stone presents us with a history of the band, from their early days playing gigs at The Whiskey a Go-Go to the passing of Morrison at the age of 27, as an ex-patriot in France. In between those events, we're treated to an intimate look at the band's almost overnight success, and their faltering in the later years. What's interesting about The Doors is Stone's subtext that drugs and alcohol both contributed to the creative intensity of the band, and also led to its destruction. Whether or not Morrison would have been as successful without the drugs is a question that will never be answered, but the fact that drugs and alcohol destroyed the band cannot be argued.

As a filmmaker, Stone trips over his own ego sometimes. What that means here, is that The Doors is just way too long. The last 30 or 40 minutes of this film just drag and drag and drag. Part of the problem is that Stone presents a lot of concert footage (and not original Morrison footage) with periods of long interludes. Characters are introduced that probably could have been left out, including those played by Billy Idol and Dennis Burkley, and the film seems to go on for the sake of going on. If Stone trimmed some of the fat from The Doors, it would be a much more satisfying experience. To paraphrase comedian Denis Leary, "Do we need a two-and-a-half hour long film about The Doors? I don't think so! I can sum it for you right here: I'm drunk - I'm nobody. I'm drunk - I'm famous. I'm drunk - I'm fucking dead. That's your movie!" While Leary's assessment might be on the harsh side, it still holds a little truth.

How could one talk about The Doors without mentioning Val Kilmer's uncanny turn as Jim Morrison? Forget the fact that Kilmer bears an amazing resemblance to Morrison - he absolutely becomes the entranced, eerie singer here. Kilmer's portrayal pushes the envelope and makes The Doors feel like an authentic documentary rather than a film-based biography.

There are now two DVD versions of The Doors in existence. The first was a single-disc standard edition (released back when Artisan Entertainment was known as Live) that has since been discontinued. The new version is a 2-disc special edition (note that Warner's Oliver Stone Collection release is identical to the new Artisan special edition, simply in Snapper packaging).

The image quality of the original edition is less than stellar, and looks to be from the same composite master used for the laserdisc. The letterboxed-only picture is soft and hampered by analog noise. The new DVD's video is a little better, but only just. The lighter scenes are colorful with beautiful textures, excellent detail and nice flesh tones. But the darker scenes still show signs of artifacting and the flaws are quite apparent. It may be that it's the exact same transfer as the earlier DVD, which is just benefitting from the added room of the new edition's dual-layered disc (and thus a higher average video bit rate). And here's something that will drive you crazy - the new transfer ISN'T anamorphic widescreen! I don't even want to comment on how ridiculous that is. Suffice it to say that Artisan, who produced this new disc, should have known better than to release this film in letterboxed-only widescreen - this film absolutely deserved an anamorphic transfer. That aside, this new version of The Doors is at least a little improved over the previous disc.

On the other hand, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks on both discs are excellent (it's probably the same track). The mix makes great use of the surround channels for ambiance and depth, and there are few nice directional effects. But where the soundtrack really shines - and rightfully should - is with the music of The Doors. Their songs are crisp and clear, with great range and fidelity. For what it is, this is excellent DVD audio.

The original standard edition disc was very short on extras, containing only the requisite cast and crew bios, production notes, the film's theatrical trailer and an excellent teaser trailer. But the new two-disc set is full of bonus material. On Disc One - the movie disc - there's a commentary track by Stone. He's less animated here than he's appeared other special editions, but he still spouts enough trivia to make this track a fun listen. Stone gets a little too chatty about what's happening on-screen, but he relates enough little known production facts, points out enough cameos and explains enough visual symbolism to make up for it. Also on Disc One is a "jump to a song" feature - basically a chapter index for the film's songs. Oddly, there are subtitles and no alternate language tracks. And man... these are some ugly menus.

Disc Two's primary focus is the making of documentary, The Road of Excess, which is made up of new interviews, behind-the-scenes footage and deleted concert footage (from the film), as well as archival footage of the real Jim and The Doors. It's worth watching just for the interviews. Stone talks candidly about Meg Ryan's performance, and those who were really present for the events depicted in the film speak their minds. Stone's even ready to cry at the end of this piece - that's cinema, my friends. Also available on Disc Two are 14 deleted/extended scenes with an introduction by Stone. They don't add too much, but a couple of these scenes are awfully cool. There's more on Jim's last recording session (featured in the opening of the film), an extended take of the scene on the plane with Jim and his cronies, as well as an extension of the initial Doors press conference. Like I said... it's not too thrilling, but it's fun nonetheless. Of lesser value are a "making-of" featurette from the film's original 1991 release, cast and crew filmographies and biographies, various production notes (including some that focus on the cinematography) and the film's teaser and theatrical trailers. This isn't the greatest DVD special edition, but it's a much better release than the previous incarnation (and it's more than we expected), so we can't complain too much.

We do have one major complaint with Warner's Oliver Stone Collection version of the new DVD - the packaging. The 2-disc set is packaged in a Snapper case, where the second disc is contained in an envelope that fits into a pocket in the package's cover-flap. It's a pain to access the second disc because of this, and the risk of the disc getting physically damaged is unacceptable. The package is absolutely awful. Thank God Artisan's version comes in keep case!

The Doors is a fascinating, if flawed, film. Its length hampers its overall impact, and Stone's admiration of Morrison gets a bit too obvious as the film draws to its finale. However, the film is definitely an interesting way to spend an evening, and the new 2-disc special edition is good enough that we can easily recommend you see it at least once. But damn - if only it was 16x9!

Greg Suarez
gregsuarez@thedigitalbits.com

Todd Doogan
todddoogan@thedigitalbits.com

The Films of Oliver Stone on DVD

The Doors: Special Edition (Artisan)


The Oliver Stone Collection (6-film)


The Oliver Stone Collection (10-film)


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