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When You're Strange: A Film About The Doors [Blu-ray]

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Product Details

  • Actors: Johnny Depp, John Densmore, Robby Krieger, Ray Manzarek, Jim Morrison
  • Directors: Tom DiCillo
  • Writers: Tom DiCillo
  • Producers: Bill Guttentag, Cory Lashever, Dick Wolf, Jeff Jampol, John Beug
  • Format: Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • MPAA Rating: R
  • Studio: Universal Music Canada
  • Release Date: April 10 2012
  • Run Time: 86 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B003H5WF44
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #34,510 in DVD (See Top 100 in DVD)

Product Description

Product Description

When You're Strange, written and directed by the award-winning Tom DiCillo, is the first feature documentary released on The Doors. Graced by the narration of Johnny Depp, it carries the audience through the journeys of vocalist Jim Morrison, keyboardist Ray Manzarek, guitarist Robby Krieger, and drummer John Densmore. This 90-minute presentation features never-before-seen rare archival film, pulled from their inception in 1966 to Morrison's passing in 1971. These snapshot scenes of the band's history is as much an intimate experience, as it is revealing.

After being featured at the Sundance, Berlin, Deauville, and San Sebastian Film Festivals, music fans who didn't catch this in theaters can now relish in this extraordinary documentary. It celebrates the collaborative power of this illustrious rock quartet and their revolutionary fusion of creativity and thought-provoking rebellion.


Of course that's Johnny Depp narrating When You're Strange, the 2010 documentary about the Doors: who else but Hollywood's biggest fan of counterculture history? The film's other prominent attraction is the treasure trove of heretofore unscreened footage from the band's heyday, including backstage material, film-school stuff, and a curious project shot by (and starring) Jim Morrison after the group had broken through. That color footage, which When You're Strange returns to throughout its running time, has a bearded, zonked Morrison driving through the Southwest desert, on the road to who knows where. For fans, this footage is fascinating to watch, although the actual narrative of the band's rise and flameout will be very familiar if you already know the story. And even for newbies, the breathless, grandiloquent nature of writer-director Tom DiCillo's approach will likely be a bit off-putting. Made with the participation of band members Ray Manzarek, Robbie Krieger, and John Densmore, the movie adopts a general air of sadness about Morrison's substance abuse, noting that a band intervention led to but one week of sobriety for their lead singer/shaman. It's not all gloom: footage of Morrison wading through a pre-concert crowd catches some of the giddy promise of his unpredictability, which seems so in tune with the era. Those fresh glimpses of an icon make this film worth seeing, even if you've traveled down this road before. --Robert Horton

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most helpful customer reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Seventies guy on July 19 2010
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I'm not exactly a Doors "aficionado", but I did enjoy this documentary very much. Other reviewers on the American Amazon have commented that a lot of the footage is old hat, but I can't comment. I was particularly blown away by the footage from "HWY", which features Jim driving on a desert highway, stopping for gas, etc. (looks like it was filmed last week). I would say the central focus of the film is Jim Morrison, rather than all four members (I guess this is kind of unavoidable when you consider his wild, dominating, poetry-spewing, bohemian, obnoxious, devil-may-care persona; amazingly, despite his total lack of musical training (one could legitimately argue he wasn't a very good singer either), he was the creative force behind the group and after his demise their output was negligible (just my humble opinion of course). It has also been suggested that this documentary presents a narrow, biased view of Jim as an uncontrollable raving junkie and drunk (part of the self-serving, official Doors "mythology"). Again, I can't really comment; however, I will say that before watching this, I read "No One Here Gets out Alive" and this movie really brought to life a lot of the events and personalities featured in the book. I was also glad they included (as bonus features) two short interviews, with Morrison's late father and his sister. This film is engaging from start to finish, there is all kinds of interesting footage of the doors and their members (both in and out of concert); the film also explores the social, musical and political fabric of the Doors era. It may be, for all I know, a biased portrait, but it is an audio-visual tour de force nonetheless.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Torval Mork TOP 1000 REVIEWER on July 30 2010
Format: Blu-ray
If you're not a Doors afficionado who has scouted every last piece of accessible video footage of the band, this is a great documentary that strings their story together with newly released film footage, narration by Johnny Depp and direction from indie film auteur Tom DiCillo.

Having acquired access to a treasure trove of previously unreleased 1966-71 video from Paul Ferrara, an LA film-school colleague of Morrison's, DiCillo has crafted a beautifully edited and sparsely narrated tome that for the most part lets the images and the music speak for themselves.

The opening footage is from a DiCillo directed vignette featuring a Morrison look-a-like walking alongside a desert highway and hitching a ride. Scenes from this short film are used throughout as interludes whilst the plot points of The Doors story unfold. With a brisk running time of 82 minutes, this documentary has no lulls, and depicts the tragedies and triumphs of The Doors 54 months of superstardom. A heavy hand is dealt to Morrison; instead of being lauded for his poetry, showmanship and unbridled charisma, we hear of how his bandmates spent the better part of their tour of duty lambasting him for his drinking, drugging and womanizing.

The archival footage is amazing. For example the 8mm reel of the band members spending time together on a boat as the sun is going down gives a real grounded perspective of four guys who went from nothing to world reknown celebrities in less than a year. Another reel of Morrison walking through a crowd on the way to the stage to begin the show has him talking casually with fans, with no air of disdain but a real appreciation for their attendance.
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Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
A must-have documentary for Doors fans, including never-before seen footage (including Jim's appearance in a student film HWY) presented in a well thought-out chronological way. One of the best music docs I have ever seen. Johnny Depp narrates and does the admirable job you'd expect.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful By M. Codas Echavarri TOP 500 REVIEWER on July 25 2010
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I have been a fan of The Doors for as long as I can remember. I've starved in order to get a rare item from them. I've listened to them for hours trying to get inside Jim's head. I've always been partial to songs that had Jim's lyrics in them, because I found them to be much more poetical than those written by Robbie. While most people were going nuts over Light My Fire, I listened to "The End" over and over again, trying to see where Jim's mind was at the time, and why.

I tell you this because, if you feel identified with what I stated above, you will HATE this "documentary". I remember when Oliver Stone's movie came out, the living members said that it was a pretty picture painted of Jim, and that it was very inaccurate (specially in magazines... such as Guitar Legends, and others). Well, I guess they felt they needed to set the record straight.

In this "documentary", we see Jim portrayed as a person with mild talent that was given much more attention than he deserved because of his looks and his on-stage performance, rather than his poetic capabilities or his singing abilities, which, throughout the movie, are being put down.

The only thing that I liked about this "documentary" is that you see that no matter what Jim did, or how supposedly irresponsible and volatile he was, the other members never kicked him out. Why, you might ask yourself, at the end of the film, did they not just kick him out, if he was so unreliable and untalented?

The simple answer: Jim FED them. It was Jim's talent that kept The Doors alive, his charisma, his poetry. And it is still feeding them. How many of the people who bought this film, would have bought it if this wasn't about The Doors, but about Ray, Robbie or John?

Save yourself the heartache of seeing Jim portrayed as a Clown, and remember him for who he really was.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 134 reviews
124 of 139 people found the following review helpful
In the loose palace of exile May 8 2010
By D. Hartley - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Blu-ray
In the short 4 ½ years that keyboardist Ray Manzarek, guitarist Robbie Krieger, drummer John Densmore and lead vocalist Jim Morrison enjoyed an artistic collaboration, they produced six timelessly resonant studio albums and the classic Absolutely Live (which still holds up as one of the best live albums ever by a rock band). The Doors were also one of the first rock bands to successfully bridge deeply avant-garde sensibilities with popular commercial appeal. It was Blake and Rimbaud... that you could dance to.

Surprisingly, it has taken until 2010, 45 years (!) after UCLA film students Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek first starting kicking around the idea of forming a band, for a proper full-length documentary feature about The Doors to appear, Tom DiCillo's When You're Strange. You'll notice I said, "about The Doors". I felt that Oliver Stone's 1991 biopic ultimately lost its way as a true portrait of the band, because it was too myopically fixated on the Jim Morrison legend; Morrison the Lizard King, the Dionysian rock god, the drunken poet, the shaman. Yes, he was all of that (perhaps more of a showman than a shaman), but he was only 25% of the equation that made The Doors...well, The Doors. That's what I like about DiCillo's film; he doesn't gloss over the contributions of the other three musicians.

In fact, one of the things you learn in the film is that Morrison himself always insisted that all songwriting credits go to "The Doors" as an entity, regardless of which band member may have had the dominant hand in the composition of any particular song (when you consider that Morrison couldn't read a note, that's a pragmatic stance for him to take). The band's signature tune, the #1 hit "Light My Fire" was actually composed by Robbie Krieger-and was allegedly the first song he ever wrote (talk about beginner's luck). He's a great guitar player too (he was trained in flamenco, and had only been playing electric for 6 months at the band's inception). Manzarek and Densmore were no slouches either; they had a classical and jazz background, respectively. When you piece these snippets together along with Morrison's interests in poetry, literature, film and improvisational theatre (then sprinkle in a few tabs of acid) you finally begin to get a picture of why this band had such a unique vibe. They've been copied, but never equaled.

The film looks to have been a labor of love by the director. Johnny Depp provides the narration, and DiCillo has assembled some great footage; it's all well-chosen, sensibly sequenced and beautifully edited. Although there are a fair amount of clips and stories that will qualify as old hat to Doors aficionados (the "Light My Fire" performance on the Sullivan Show, the infamous Miami concert "riot", etc.), there is a treasure trove of rare footage. One fascinating (but all too brief) clip shows the band in the studio constructing the song "Wild Child" during the sessions for "The Soft Parade". The real revelation is the interwoven excerpts from Morrison's experimental 1969 film "HWY: An American Pastoral". Although it is basically a bearded Morrison driving around the desert (wearing his trademark leather pants), it's mesmerizing, surreal footage. DiCillo must have had access to a pristine master print, because it looks like it was shot last week. It wasn't until the credits rolled that I realized this wasn't one of those dreaded recreations, utilizing a lookalike. As a matter of fact, Morrison has never appeared so "alive" on film. It's eerie.
35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
When The Music's Over July 18 2010
By Steve Feldman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Blu-ray
John, Jim, Ray, and Robbie - probably the closest an American band ever came to The Beatles. Obviously comparing any band to The Beatles will most likely result in some sort of unjust outcry from the masses, but the comparison is there: 4 guys that the stars aligned to get together for a short period of time to create original music that spoke to a generation and is still going strong after 40 years.

For me, I was born in 1964 so by the time I discovered The Doors, Jim had been dead 7 years. I was rummaging through a stack of old out-of-rotation LPs that a local radio DJ gave to my older sister. In the mix was The Soft Parade. Having heard of The Doors, I gave it a listen. I remember thinking to myself, is this really The Doors' music, but the names on the back of the album confirmed it. Anyway, I liked what I heard and wanted to hear more. At that time, my music collection was mainly British bands like The Who, The Kinks, Led Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd. The Doors fit right in very nicely.

As to When You're Strange (I have the Blu-Ray version) I found it to be entertaining. I have seen some of the footage before, but not this clean or sounding as good. As to the story, well, most everyone probably knows it, so this documentary doesn't veer to far away from what most fans already know. However, it is edited very nicely and covers as much as an 85 minute documentary can reasonably cover. To truly tell the full story with in-depth album by album coverage would require a multi-disc anthology set.

I recommend When You're Strange to both the casual and avid fan of The Doors. I was very impressed with the clips from Jim's Highway movie as well as clips from his UCLA days and from when he was 16. The film is very fair and represents all band members. Certainly Morrison is the most notorious member and therefore, gets more focus. However, as time has proven, despite the vast musical talents of Ray, Robbie, and John, they really weren't anything without Jim as their catalyst.

What The Doors did in 54 months is incredible and this film reminds us of those accomplishments. It also clearly shows that Morrison knew, well before the other 3 realized it, when the music was over.
26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Blu-ray & Bonus Content July 7 2010
By L. Columbus - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Blu-ray
I just finished watching the blu-ray edition and wanted to write a few quick comments. First of all, the only "bonus feature" is a brief (about 9 minutes) interview with Jim's father and sister. Even though it's very short, I found it interesting to hear their comments, especially Jim's dad, as this was the first time he had commented on his famous son. Mr. Morrison had obviously not approved of Jim's chosen path, but had apparently come to terms with it and come to respect it. These all too brief interviews are both touching and sad, showing that Jim Morrison was an enigma to his family, but they still love and miss him. The picture quality is good, but I don't feel blu-ray does much to enhance things, as the original footage is so grainy. There is a stereo and 5.1 audio option, but honestly I found negligible difference between them. There are chapter marks, but no scene selection menu. A fine documentary, but I see no reason to purchase the blu-ray over the DVD.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Love The Doors but was a litte disappointed. June 27 2010
By JimMorrisonfan67 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Big fan of The Doors and a big collector. I was hoping for more person depiction of Jim. Instead I found it more like the story line of Oliver Stone movie. I hate that the most attractive thing to portray about Jim was his antics, drinking and drugs. There has got to be more to the mans personality that's interesting than this. I did enjoy the cleaned up footage of HWY as the copy I have is not great. I would like them to release a full copy of HWY remastered. I saw this movie on the PBS airing as there was no local film release in my area to my disappointment. I will pre-order the blu-ray disc as I still want this movie for my collection. ( Watching the Critique footage right now as I type this and just love it. Sunday morning and The Doors, you can't beat it!)

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A Film About The Doors ...FINALLY Jan. 13 2013
By Gary Pig Gold - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
The summer of 1970 was certainly a strange one in, for, and around what we may now quaintly call the pop/rock scene: Paul had just left his Beatles, for starters, the Stones and Dylan were missing-without-much-action, kids were throwing various Jacksons, Osmonds, and even Bobby Sherman way up the charts whilst the older kids were pretending to get back to the garden via a newly-released big-Hollywood Woodstock movie.

Meanwhile, this Amazon Reviewer was busy buying up every single Creedence Clearwater record he could lay his young hands on, I'll have you all know.

Then again there was the, well, strange case of John Densmore, Robby Krieger, Ray Manzarek and Jim Morrison who, after having closed out those Sixties with a "flop" album ("The Soft Parade") and even floppier run-ins with the law (their singer having gotten busted acting naughty on stage in Miami, and again on a Phoenix-bound airliner) now found themselves in 1970 under immense pressure to resurrect their career and get back to where they once belonged. As in the basics, musically speaking that is.

These various struggles, conflicts, lewd behavior indictments and then some are all fully explored - along with, thankfully, lots of great music too - in this fascinating documentary entitled "When You're Strange: A Film About The Doors."

Now, unlike the band's own series of understandably self-serving concert films over the years or, on entirely the other hand, Oliver Stone's utterly cataclysmic 1991 biopic "The Doors," Tom DiCillo's "When You're Strange" perhaps comes closest to finally presenting, as no less an authority as Ray Manzarek has long promised, "the TRUE story of The Doors." It does so by wisely keeping 21st Century interference to a bare minimum, concentrating instead on a wealth of live and studio footage from throughout the band's surprisingly brief career intriguingly intercut with - and this is the film's real coup to my eyes - never before seen segments from Jim Morrison's barely-released 1969 short subject "HWY: An American Pastoral."

Without ever getting overtly ham-fisted a la the above-mentioned Mr. Stone, DiCillo (along with Johnny Depp's narration) weaves the HWY footage of Morrison speeding across the California desert to actually drive "When You're Strange" forward, onward and upward from the band's infant gigs on L.A.'s Sunset Strip through the recording of their landmark debut album in 1966 and subsequent stardom. It's interesting, not to mention important to realize and understand just how big a POP star Jim was at this time: He may have been playing it so cool by singing the dreaded "higher" word when The Doors performed "Light My Fire" on The Ed Sullivan Show, but at the same time this was a man only too happy to appear bare-chested and love-bead-adorned alongside Davy Jones and Mark Lindsay across the pages of "16" Magazine.

"When You're Strange" similarly pulls few punches in charting the band's just-as-speedy fall from those poppiest of heights, mainly but not fully on account of Jimbo's descent into the depths of alcoholic fear and self-loathing. It was indeed, and still remains, quite disheartening to watch The Doors' slinky frontman decline from the leather-clad Lizard King of every bad girl's Summer of Love dreams to the bearded, bloated ragamuffin who hauled sheep on stage in 1969, only to then berate his audience with cries of "You love it, don't ya? Maybe you love gettin' your face stuck in the [expletive deleted]. You're all a bunch of [ditto] idiots!" Oh, Morrison...

Such performance Art with a capital "F" notwithstanding, footage from the band's 1968 European tour, and then a remarkable sequence from the "Wild Child" recording session itself, show The Doors were without a single doubt a FOUR-piece band, oh so much greater than the sum of its equal parts, with each man contributing his own special brilliance to the creation. There wasn't ever a single weak musical link to this band, its writing, arranging, and (usually) its performing skills, and "When You're Strange" never once lets the viewer get distracted from this critically important fact ...despite the carnival atmosphere which never seemed to cease swirling around the entire proceedings.

Finally, we also see how, following that tricky Summer of 1970, the band fully rebounded with its final two albums, "Morrison Hotel" and "L.A. Woman" (again, "When You're Strange" presents fabulous footage from the latter's recording sessions ...apparently, the last existing footage of the band as a whole).

But then, most inconveniently, Jim moved to Paris and rumor has it actually died there very early on the morning of July 3, 1971.

Now he may indeed remain "hot, sexy, and dead" as Rolling Stone declared a decade later, kicking off the Doors Resurrection each surviving band member continues to propagate most efficiently to this day. Yet Tom DiCillo has bravely succeeded, where few have ever even attempted to before, in stripping away the excess, puncturing the mythology, and - What a concept! - letting The Doors' MUSIC do the talking.

Strange indeed.