THE DOORS When You’re Strange: A Film About the Doors (Eagle Vision)

By now, the legend of Jim Morrison and the Doors should be familiar to any student of the classic rock era. So it does not bear repeating, in my view. Indie filmmaker Tom Dicillo has delivered a landmark rockumentary, which I’m certain will influence the approach of rockumentaries to come. Basically, Dicillo has opted to tell the story of the Doors via original archival footage only. No contemporary interviews with the surviving Doors, for instance and no recreations of historical events, thank you very much. This approach allows the events to seem current and not mere reminisces of “ancient history”. There is also hardly any pontification about the Doors’ legacy and place in the rock pantheon.

The film begins with excerpts from Morrison’s 1969 experimental movie – HWY: An American Pastoral – and looks so uncannily modern that it is shocking to realize that its more than 40 years old! Johnny Depp’s narration fits perfectly so its perhaps surprising to learn that the original narration (by Dicillo) was considered unsatisfactory (at advance screenings) prompting the recruitment of Depp.

The major achievement of When You’re Strange is that it properly distills the musical alchemy of the Doors – the combination of 4 very different characters and talents whose sum was greater than its parts – certainly Morrison was the band’s visual focal point but Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger and John Densmore were indispensable components as well. Of course, as we edge closer to the denouement, the path to Morrison’s self-destructive demise takes centre stage and dominates proceedings but that is in fact how the sad events unfolded.

Even if the film does not broach the subject of the Doors’ legacy much, it is clear of course that the band’s influence remains potent to this day, particular on post-punk (that probably needs another full-length documentary to adequate explore). Thus, it behooves me to state that When You’re Strange is essential viewing for any serious lover of pop-rock music. Highly recommended.


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