The Doors “When You’re Strange” – DVD Review

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Culled entirely from archival footage of the band in the studio, on stage, and backstage, “When You’re Strange” is the definitive look at one of America’s true rock and roll sensations – The Doors. The film, compiled by director Tom DiCillo, focuses its main spotlight all over Jim Morrison, documenting his beginnings and rise to stardom. Amazing how quickly Morrison went from quirky film student/poet to lead singer for one of the world’s biggest rock bands. Morrison had absolutely no training or experience when it came to singing, making his quick assent to stardom that much more astounding. The documentary lets the music guide you through the rise of the band as it earns its following, at first for their unique version of rock and roll, and then for the theatrics of the famous lead man Morrison.

Nothing new is revealed here. It’s classic Doors stuff that most casual fans know. What really sets this apart, though, is the ton of unseen footage used to tell the tale, especially the opening piece taken from Jim Morrison’s own foray into film making, his 1969 piece “HWY.” The footage is so well-restored (with overdub by renowned Los Angeles DJ Jim Ladd announcing Jim Morrison’s death, while Jim is shown tooling down a stretch of highway listening to the radio), that you would swear it was filmed yesterday. Adding to the film is the narrative voice over by Johnny Depp. Depp’s voice acts as a soothing companion on this journey and works well with the production of the documentary.

The DVD also comes with a special conversation with Morrison’s sister and father. It’s a unique contrast of opinion about Jim–the father being a life-long military man and never really knowing his son’s struggles to understand the whole rock and roll thing, though at the end of the conversation, props his son for following his own destiny. Morrison’s sister shares a very different view of Jim, one of admiration and sadness over his sudden passing.

Towards the end of the film, Depp mentions that the Doors were together for only 55 months. “When You’re Strange” is a whirlwind celebration of the shooting star that was Morrison and the genius of The Doors, a film that truly captures this brief but monumental moment in rock history.

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