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The Doors (4K Blu-ray Review)

Jim Morrison is the epitome of a rock star. Someone with a mythic personality, innate sexuality, and a talent that was absolutely unique. He also had his demons, struggling with the usual rock star addictions. In the film The Doors we are shown the quick rise of Jim and his band. Oliver Stone has his stamp all over this delirious ride through the life of one of the most iconic bands of the 60’s and beyond. Check it out in fine detail below and look out for The Doors in a stunning 4K transfer in stores Tuesday, July 23rd!

 

Film 

The Doors begins immediately in a hazy state. You see a soft image and are transported to the past. A young Jim Morrison rides through the desert with his family. We see some foreshadowing in the form of a car crash. Young Jim is taken by what he sees on the side of the road. The images seem to haunt him throughout his life. Flash forward to the adult years, and young Jim has just arrived in Los Angeles. He’s a student at the UCLA film school. He makes artistic films that almost seem like you’re hallucinating. His film seems to mirror some of his life’s moments from time to time in context. When his film is met with boo’s and harsh criticism, Jim decides to cut school loose. A classmate, Ray Manzarek (Kyle MacLachlan) sees in Jim true artistry. They have a conversation and learn they both have a flare for songwriting. They collaborate quickly and find they’re a great match. The rest, as they say, is history.

The whole allure of The Doors is that you’re taken on a literal trip through the lives of the titular band. You’re taken into a world of booze, drugs, sex and rock excess told only in a way that Oliver Stone can deliver. Val Kilmer embodies the role of Jim Morrison in one of his most celebrated performances. This is so much more than a performance – You are transported into the 60’s, taken into the world of The Doors like you’re a fly on the wall. After the introduction, we see Jim’s life change even more when he meets Pamela Courson (Meg Ryan) and not only falls in love but finds a true companion. She becomes his muse. Robby Kreiger (Frank Whaley) and John Densmore (Kevin Dillon) round out the band and their music captivates their audiences immediately.


Once The Doors takes off, you are not given a moment to breathe. We are given scene after scene of arresting visuals, commanding performances, and some downright captivating drama. Everyone in their roles seems to be tailor made for them. There is an artistic quality that most films like this don’t really go for. We aren’t given the generic treatment with this movie. You see things go down and dirty. You see downward spirals, infighting in the band, drug and alcohol binges, crippling infidelities and more. It is so hard to look away from this movie, because if you do, you will most certainly miss something.

As the band reaches even further superstar heights, things become predictably complicated. Jim meets Patricia Kennealy (Kathleen Quinlan) and begins a torrid affair involving witchcraft. She is beguiling but also pulls the old Yoko trick, nearly breaking up the band and destroying the relationship between Morrison and Pamela Courson. When times get really tough, Jim has become a no-show at concerts, is constantly under the influence of some sort of stimulant, and is confrontational with everyone in his life, from his fans, to his band, and his lover.


The rest of the story, most of you know. We lost Jim Morrison at a tragically young age and will always wonder what might have been. The Doors plays out like a fever dream of excess. Oliver Stone doesn’t shy away from ugly truths and isn’t afraid to show his subject matter in some unflattering light from time to time. Things do often get ugly on our film journey. Jim’s persona of “The Lizard King” often seems to take him over. Pam is not the supportive love that we thought she might be. The other band members can’t save their friend and musical partner. It’s all a little sad. There lies the beauty of the film though. Through all we know about the band, the details of what happened and even deeper, we are locked into the story with all of our attention. We are right there for those acid trips, those candlelit dances with wiccan women, and those small moments of clarity through all the hoopla. It’s a gregarious film to be sure, but a stunning achievement for all involved. A definite must-see for music fans.

Video 

  • Encoding: HEVC/H.265
  • Resolution: 4K
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
  • Clarity/Detail: Right off the bat, I noticed a fairly variable amount of clarity and detail changes in the transfer. The opening scenes have a haze about them, that is almost like there has been a filter put on the camera lens. I figured that this was a director’s intention type of thing and went with it. When we shift to the LA scenes, the haze lifts a little bit, and we see some lovely scenes on the beach, and as Jim meets Pamela at night. The crisper elements we know and love about 4K content really come through later during an acid trip scene in the desert. The preceding scenes also fluctuate in their clarity. Concert scenes in dimly lit venues have a great uptick in contrast to bring a clearer look overall. We don’t get the same in scenes where Jim is with his mistress engaging in blood rituals. The wide range in the difference in image quality may be Oliver Stone’s intent, but to my eyes the 4K image, clarity wise, is a mixed bag.
  • Depth: While the clarity can at times be questionable, depth is nicely rendered throughout. Spacing in bright and dark scenes is nice overall, and the natural filmic look benefits from the upgrade in depth.
  • Black Levels: Dark scenes are all throughout the film, and the Dolby Vision presentation gives the film an opportunity to get very dark from time to time. The blacks of clothing, interiors and nightfall are all faithfully represented and inky throughout.
  • Color Reproduction: The film was overseen during it’s remaster by Oliver Stone himself, and the colors have been corrected during the remaster. A great many moments in the film are shown with a warm tone. From the opening, to the beach scenes, to the candlelit moments peppered throughout the film, the image is a golden hued presentation. Val Kilmer’s skin as he emerges from the beach early on appears reddish and sunburned. Each character has a sun-kissed look about them. Clothing and props in the backgrounds and foreground also carry a golden look from time to time, harkening back to the era the film is showing us, and making the film have a vintage feel.
  • Flesh Tones: As I mentioned above, the cast has a sun-kissed or tanned appearance most always. The look seems to be intentional, and even as we travel around the world with the band, everyone has a tanned look about them. Nobody looks misrepresented though.
  • Noise/Artifacts: The film has that vintage look of course, and so grain is apparent throughout. Some of it is subtle and complimentary. Other times the grain is the type that can get noisy. Those moments however, are not frequent and are a part of the film just as much as the music would be.

Audio 

  • Audio: English Dolby Atmos (4K Disc), English DTS-HD MA 7.1 (Blu-ray Disc)
  • Subtitles: English SDH
  • Dynamics: The sound design of this film is meant for the surround sound environment. The dynamics of the mix are well represented in every speaker most of the time. The sound design is also meant to take you on a trip which it does. You hear things everywhere in the soundstage and you do truly feel immersed as if you were being transported back to the 60’s with the band.
  • Low Frequency Extension: LFE is one of the only true downfalls of the Atmos mix. Bass is tepid a lot of the time, with low end moments coming from music more than anything, and even then, some of the music is lacking in the bass department as well.
  • Surround Sound Presentation: Surround sound is used beautifully in this mix. The music fills the soundstage and utilizes every speaker in the right way. When there isn’t music, crowds, traffic, nature, and even voices/sounds that only someone only the influence of 60’s drugs might have heard are in those speakers! Great use of surrounds here.
  • Height: Height channels are all about music, overhead voiceover moments and crowd ambience. The use of overheads provides also an echo effect for some scenes, taking you right into the shows that are shown in the film.
  • Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is front and center for much of the presentation. Voices off screen are in their appropriate channels and sound excellent as well.

Extras 

Besides the slipcover, digital code, and standard Blu-ray, The Doors comes with extras spread across the 4K Blu-ray and standard Blu-ray, including some new features!

  • Audio Commentary by Oliver Stone (Theatrical Cut only) (2:21:00) – Offers Stone’s insights of the film (This was recorded for the DVD or even Laserdisc edition of The Doors.) To be honest, this more of a rambling of information that kind of drones on, but for those who love commentaries, you might want to give this one a shot.
  • Interview with Oliver Stone (4K Disc Only) (4K, 31:09) – A fascinating new interview with Oliver Stone going over his memories of the making of the film.
  • Interview with Lon Bender (4K Disc Only) (4K, 17:38) – Another very interesting interview that gives insight to Dolby Atmos itself, as well as the mix of the film, which we learn is Near Field ain French, touching on the last days of Jim Morrison in Paris. Interesting, but not one you’ll want to watch if you hate reading your documentaries.
  • The Doors In L.A. (Blu-ray only) (480i, 19:37) – A featurette about the beginnings and rise to stardom of The Doors.
  • The Road To Excess (Blu-ray only) (480i, 38:42) – A DVD vintage featurette about The Doors focusing on the time frame of the film.
  • Original Featurette (Blu-ray Only) (480i, 6:19) – An EPK making of from 1991. Short and banal.
  • Deleted Scenes (Blu-ray Only) (480p, 43:09) – Deleted scenes with an introduction by Oliver Stone. The scenes are framed at 1.33:1 and are also letterboxed. The scenes are also shown where they’d fit in the film. They are presented unfinished, with poor sound and overall poor picture quality.
  • Theatrical Trailers and TV Spots (Blu-ray Only) (480p)

Summary 

The Doors is an electrifying portrait of an iconic rock band. They changed the face of music at a revolutionary time. This film presents the life of their leader as he descends into the darker reaches of his life. The film is unwieldy, imperfect and also fascinating and cathartic. While I don’t believe this to be a perfect 4K Blu-ray there is no doubt in my mind that this is the best the film has looked or sounded and for music fans, biography film fans and Oliver Stone fans this is a no-brainer buy. The overall package is wonderful, and though the transfer and sound design aren’t without flaws, you will find much to savor here.

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