Oliver Stone (director)
22 July 2019 (released)
26 July 2019
Director Oliver Stone is never far from controversy when it comes to his films and it’s no different as far as his 1991 biopic about legendary Doors frontman Jim Morrison is concerned. This no holds barred, sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll fuelled portrayal sees a more than impressive Val Kilmer morphing into the Lizard King while real-life band members, most notably Ray Manzarek, felt that Stone’s depiction of Morrison as a hallucinogenic-loving sociopath soils the band’s legacy.
Say what you will, you can’t deny the fact that Kilmer (who by the way sang most of the songs himself in the film) really is Jim Morrison personified! The film begins with the recording of ‘An American Prayer’ and then we’re in a 1949 flashback scene where Jimmy (as a child) and his parents are driving along a highway in the Mojave desert when they encounter a fatal car crash with a dead Native American lying by the roadside. The image of the Native American must have made a mighty impression on little Jimmy as later on in his life he experienced re-occurring visions (helped on by drugs) during which a shaman (played by native Sioux Floyd Red Crow Westerman) showed him the path and opened doors that lead to a more aware consciousness as referenced in some of his songs and poems.
The film then moves on to 1965 where Jim had just arrived in California, throwing himself into the Venice Beach counter-culture of the time. Intercuts show how, as a student, he already displayed talent for shooting experimental films as well as writing poems and musical lyrics. During this time he also meets future girlfriend Pamela Courson (Meg Ryan) as well as future band member Ray Manzarek (Kyle MacLachlan). Manzarek encourages Morrison after he read some of his lyrics and it is suggested to form a band in earnest, but not before a psychedelic and mind-opening outing in Death Valley. After various rehearsals, then newly formed band decide to call themselves The Doors and soon Morrison, Manzarek, Robby Krieger (Frank Whaley) and John Densmore (Kevin Dillon) find themselves playing their first gigs including at famed LA club Whisky a Go Go. While the fan base expands the club owners feel irritated especially by Jim’s deliberately provoking onstage antics. Of course, this can only mean one thing: big shot producers are interested in the band and so it is that record producer Paul Rothchild (Michael Wincott) takes them under their wing. It’s only a matter of time and the band’s meteoric rise not only lands them a mega record deal but more often than not, it lands them into trouble thanks to Morrison’s ‘outrageous’ behaviour – most notably during a stint on the Ed Sullivan Show.
Various stages during the band’s career are chronicled (some truthfully, others fictionalised for heightened entertainment) including a trip to New York where Morrison encounters a pretentious, insecure and mad-as-a-hatter Andy Warhol (Crispin Glover) and Velvet Underground chanteuse Nico (Kristina Fulton – who looks nothing like Nico). Morrison’s encounter with Nico leads to a certain sexual act in a hotel elevator – had the real Nico still been alive when the film came out no doubt she would have sued the a** off Oliver Stone!
As the band’s fame increases so do Morrison’s ego and his appetite for drugs and booze. Things between him and Pamela are a constant up and down (not just horizontally…) thanks to his affair with rock journalist Patricia Kennealy (Kathleen Quinlan), a practising pagan witch who introduces him to mystical ceremonies in her flat. In 1970 Morrison is arrested for indecent exposure on stage exclaiming “I’m the Lizard King, I can do everything!” He escapes a prison sentence when his lawyers wrangle a deal which sees him remain free on bail. In the recording studio, friction between his band mates and producer Rothchild also deteriorate and it becomes clear that Morrison begins to feel worn out and disillusioned over the fact that the band’s success has become a commercial one – as highlighted when Morrison happens to watch a TV-commercial during which a some female dancers sing ‘Light my Fire’. He feels the band has reached the end of the road and as a true poet he and Pamela relocate to Paris in 1971, which of course really did spell the end for him when, on July 3rd, Pam finds him dead in his bath tub (verdict: heart failure). The film ends with a scene at Morrison’s gravesite at Pére Lachaise cemetery close to where Oscar Wilde, Honoré de Balzac and other literary geniuses lay buried. A text before the credits informs us that Pamela Courson died three years later (also aged 27) but fails to mention that she died of a heroin overdose. The studio recording of ‘LA Woman’ is shown during the credits. Also appearing in the film is Billy Idol as Cat, Michael Madsen as Warhol actor Tom Baker, and Mimi Rogers as a savvy magazine photographer responsible for the legendary Jim Morrison ‘Young Lion’ picture though in reality it was taken by Joel Brodsky!
Studiocanal presents the new 4K restoration of THE DOORS – THE FINAL CUT in a 3-Disc Special Format (UHD and two Blu-rays) including fascinating and generous Extras, as well as a 3-Disc Limited Edition Steelbook. The ceremony is about to begin…