Director: Oliver Stone
Screenplay: Randall Jahnson, Oliver Stone
Starring: Val Kilmer, Meg Ryan, Kyle MacLachlan, Frank Whaley, Kevin Dillon, Michael Wincott
Country: USA
Running Time: Theatrical Version – 140min; Final Cut – 138min
Year: 1991
BBFC Certificate: 18

There aren’t many bands whose music is so iconic that people are likely to know at least one song in their discography, even if they aren’t aware of who the band actually is. The Doors certainly fall into that category and even listing song names like Light My Fire, The End, Riders On The Storm and Break On Through (To The Other Side) is likely to elicit a strong earworm. Try not to tell me that you’ve not got one or more of those classic rock riffs spinning round your subconscious right now.

Perhaps just as iconic as The Doors music is their lead singer, hellraising rock god Jim Morrison (Kilmer), and it’s really his larger than life persona that is the focus of this 1991 biopic from director Oliver Stone. The narrative of the film runs the gamut of the band’s career, following Morrison from his days in film school through to the forming of The Doors alongside keyboard player Ray Manzarek (MacLachlan), guitarist Robby Krieger (Whaley) and drummer John Densmore (Dillon) before they are catapulted to stardom and controversy.

The musical biopic has seen somewhat of a resurgence in recent years with Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman, and while actors Rami Malek and Taron Egerton certainly did a fantastic job in those movies playing Freddie Mercury and Elton John respectively, it’s an eerie experience going back and watching Val Kilmer literally become Jim Morrison, adopting his persona, mannerisms and, yes, his voice so closely that it’s hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. Kilmer really is front and center for most of the narrative as it chronicles Morrisons drug addiction, increasingly wild behaviour and the relationships between him and the two women in his life, Pam Courson and Patricia Kennealy.

Indeed, it’s through the focus on these relationships that the audience is really sold that Morrison wasn’t a particularly likeable person; from his frequent abuse of Courson, hooking her on drugs and in one instance locking her in a burning closet, to his abandonment of Kennealy, the woman he married, Kilmer’s Morrison is a cold and at times almost uncaring person, frequently drunk or high. He loses focus on the band, flying into fits of rage when his co-musicians try to capitalise on their music and popularity, and while he ultimately gets a somewhat sense of redemption, the narrative is most certainly not kind. To this end, the story almost plays as a cautionary tale, a warning against excess which may not entirely have been Stone’s goal (indeed, over the years many have criticised him of hero-worshipping Morrison) but the effect is there nevertheless.

The Doors is most certainly an audiovisual treat, as one would expect, and this new 4K transfer is no exception. It’s always interesting watching older films in both UHD and HDR as the transfer process can be a little hit or miss, but The Doors generally shines. The grain of the original film is retained and the colours pop through the HDR grading, the neon-lit club scenes being a particular highlight. There are occasionally soft scenes, however, which does suggest some digital smoothing may be getting deployed on occasion, but generally the picture is excellent.

That’s just as well, really, as the cinematography is fabulous, from the constantly moving, sweeping cameras that are used to great effect during club and party scenes, to the huge scale concerts that make you realise what would now be achieved through CG is here being done practically, on location with massive crowds of extras. They genuinely don’t make ‘em like this any more! The new Dolby Atmos mix will also please audiophiles, showcasing the music in the film, however on my standard 2.1 set-up I did find that the music was often favoured over the dialogue.

The Doors as a film is absolutely marmite cinema. There are those who suggest it misrepresents Morrison and indeed some of the band members are included in this, but there’s no escaping the fact that it is a brilliant showcase of some of the most influential rock music of the 60s, as well as providing a cautionary tale of the dangers of rock god excess.

DISC ONE – 4K BLU-RAY:

  • The Doors – The Final Cut – 138′
  • The Doors – The original theatrical version – 140′
  • Oliver Stone Audio Commentary
  • New extra: Interview with Oliver Stone – 35′
  • New extra: Interview with Lon Bender, mixer for new Dolby Atmos mix – 10′

DISC TWO – BLU-RAY:

  • The Doors – The Final Cut – 138′
  • The Doors – The original theatrical version – 140′
  • Oliver Stone Audio Commentary
  • New extra: Interview with Oliver Stone – 35′
  • New extra: Interview with Lon Bender, mixer for new Dolby Atmos mix – 10′

DISC THREE – BLU-RAY:

  • Deleted scenes – introduced by O. Stone and then included in full with the script section as Chapter heading – 44′
  • “Jim Morrison: A Poet in Paris” – a documentary in French looking at the last few months of Jim Morrison’s life in Paris, and his death – 53′
  • “The Road to Excess” – a documentary looking at how the movie came to be made, including interviews with the real-life Doors and main characters (except Ray Manzarek) – 39′
  • “The Doors in LA” – a documentary looking at the formation and rise of THE DOORS in LA in second half of the 1960s with the Vietnam War and hippy culture as their backdrop 19’30”
  • EPK – includes behind the scenes featurette, profiles, music video, original trailer – 16’51”

DISC FOUR – BLU-RAY: When You’re Strange

  • Feature length The Doors documentary narrated by Johnny Depp

The Doors: The Final Cut is certainly the complete package as far as extras go; whether you’re interested in finding out more about the band or the film making process itself, there’s something for everyone here.

Both the UHD Blu-Ray and HD Blu-Ray discs come with both the theatrical cut and “Final Cut” of the film, as well as a commentary from Oliver Stone and new interviews looking at the history of the film itself as well as the new Dolby Atmos mix. The Final Cut itself is an interesting beast – while not a complete recut of the film, it omits 3 minutes from the finale with the aim of ending the story on a more final note. Your mileage may vary on whether you think this is a good change or not, but you’re not really missing anything by just watching the original cut of the film.

Of the other two discs included in the set, we unfortunately didn’t get a copy of the “When You’re Strange” documentary, but the main extras disc is chock full of interesting features, from individual documentaries chronicling the different eras of the band and Morrison, to an extensive archive of behind the scenes material and a whopping 44 minutes of deleted scenes. These are interesting in themselves as they show how much of the band interaction actually made the cutting room floor; had they been included they would have fleshed out Manzarek, Krieger and Densmore in the story and shown more of their relationship with Morrison. The scenes would also have lent a more humanising air to Morrison himself that isn’t present in the final film, so it’s a shame that they weren’t reincorporated into perhaps a longer cut instead of the abridged “Final Cut” we get here.

Still, The Doors: The Final Cut is a great release for fans of the band and the film alike, with a crisp new transfer that lets this almost 30-year-old film shine.

The Doors: The Final Cut
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