THE DOORS. 1991. DIRECTED BY OLIVER STONE. STARRING VAL KILMER, KYLE MACLACHLAN, KEVIN DILLON, FRANK WHALEY, MICHAEL MADSEN, BILLY IDOL, MICHAEL WINCOTT, KATHLEEN QUINLAN AND MEG RYAN. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
This is my favourite film of director Oliver Stone’s, although he’s done many other famous films such as WALL STREET, NATURAL BORN KILLERS and his ‘Vietnam Trilogy,’ which includes PLATOON, BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY and the lesser-known HEAVEN AND EARTH.
THE DOORS tells the story of my favourite music group, incidentally. They burst onto the music scene in Los Angeles in 1966 and the five years that followed can probably best be described as a wild ride, steered of course by their charismatic frontman, Jim THE LIZARD KING Morrison.
Jim’s sudden death in 1971 at the young age of twenty-seven, after years of compulsive womanising, drug-taking and alcohol abuse, assured him his immortality as one of the most iconic rock stars of all time. We’ve all seen the picture. Morrison with his top off and his arms extended to the side of him as if he’s flying, pouting for the camera under a mop of sexily-tousled hair. That pose is as recognisable as The Beatles crossing the street on the cover of ABBEY ROAD or Farrah Fawcett posing in her legendary red swimming-costume. It’s a part of music history. A vital part.
Val Kilmer looks more like Jim than Jim himself. It’s bloody uncanny how like Jim he looks. The star of BATMAN FOREVER (1995) and THE SAINT (1997) turns in the performance of a lifetime as The Doors’ oversexed, self-indulgent frontman. You can actually believe you’re watching real concerts and real performances as he gyrates wildly and throws himself around the various stages like a thing possessed.
At its best, a concert by The Doors during the turbulent ‘Sixties seems to have been pure dramatic, magical theatre. I can’t even imagine what it must have been like to attend one. Oliver Stone, who became a fan of the band when he was serving in Vietnam, may actually have seen them live. I don’t know for sure, but it’s not outside the bounds of possibility.
Watching the performances Jim screwed up with his bullshit and nonsense is car-crash-TV at its compelling best. I adore The Doors and Jim Morrison, I always have, but even I can admit that he’d probably still be alive today if he hadn’t behaved like such a gigantic twat. Drinking and popping pills like they were going out of fashion, hanging out of upper-floor windows when he was stoned and pissed out of his mind, screwing everything with tits and just generally behaving like a giant pillock. Watch the film and cringe every time he ruins another gig with his own special brand of utterly self-indulgent twaddle. It’s so well-acted by Val Kilmer it seems real, scarily real.
Kyle TWIN PEAKS MacLachlan is also superb as Ray Manzarek, the keyboard-wizard and the real brains of the operation. Meg Ryan too, probably better known for her roles in girly rom-coms SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE (1993) and YOU’VE GOT MAIL (1998), both with Tom Hanks, does a decent job as Jim’s long-suffering girlfriend Pamela Courson. Michael Madsen, best-known for his roles as Mr. Blonde in RESERVOIR DOGS and the nice dad in FREE WILLY, turns up as Tom Baker, actor and one of Jim’s drinking buddies.
I’ll tell you two things about Michael Madsen which you might not know. When he was offered the part in FREE WILLY, a sweet little story about an orphaned boy who forms an attachment to a killer whale, he not unnaturally thought that he was being asked to play a baddie again:
‘I thought there was gonna be a scene in it where the guy goes berserk. But it turned out they just wanted me to play the dad…!’
Also, I clearly remember the time I saw a book of Michael Madsen’s poetry in the window of my local Oxfam shop over the May Bank Holiday of 2011. The news of the weekend was all about the shock assassination of Osama Bin Laden as organised by President Barack Obama. The Oxfam shop was shut because it was the Bank Holiday Monday. The following morning, the Tuesday, I hot-footed it over to the shop and bought the book for a fiver.
It turned out that movie tough-guy Michael Madsen had been writing some seriously good poetry for years, often while hanging around on the sets of his various movies. The book has some gorgeous photos and movie stills in it too and I’m still thankful for the coincidence that led me to be walking past the Oxfam shop that Bank Holiday Monday. He’s a poet of some acclaim in America now. If you like poetry, you should check him out.
Anyway, favourite scenes from THE DOORS…? The scene where Andy Warhol gives the death-obsessed Jim the telephone which he can supposedly use to ‘talk to God.’ The ‘You Killed My Duck!’ Thanksgiving. Singing the word ‘higher’ on the Ed Sullivan show. Any scenes highlighting Jim’s fascination with Native American Indian mysticism. The scene in which poor deluded Patricia Kennealy tells Jim of his impending fatherhood, he lets her down, as she surely must have known he would, and she ends up screaming:
‘Those vows were forever in the goddess’s sight…!’ She’s referring to their ‘marriage ceremony.’
‘I was stoned,’ shrugs an uncaring leather-trousered Jim, who by now is fat and beardy and not as sexy. ‘It seemed like a fun thing to do at the time.’
This is a powerhouse of a movie. You’ll hardly feel the two hours and eighteen minutes whizz by as you strap yourself in and prepare for a rollercoaster of a ride. The soundtrack of no fewer than twenty-five Doors songs includes BREAK ON THROUGH, RIDERS ON THE STORM, THE END, L.A. WOMAN, LOVE ME TWO TIMES, PEOPLE ARE STRANGE, TOUCH ME, ROADHOUSE BLUES, my own personal favourite LOVE STREET and, of course, the one that started it all, LIGHT MY FIRE. What more could you possibly want from a film? Billy Idol? Yep. It’s got him too…
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based performance poet, novelist, film blogger, sex blogger and short story writer. She has given more than 200 performances of her comedy sex-and-relationship poems in different venues around Dublin, including The Irish Writers’ Centre, The International Bar, Toners’ Pub (Ireland’s Most Literary Pub), the Ha’penny Inn, Le Dernier Paradis at the Trinity Inn and The Strokestown Poetry Festival.
Her articles, short stories and poems have appeared in The Metro-Herald newspaper, Ireland’s Big Issues magazine, The Irish Daily Star, The Irish Daily Sun and The Boyne Berries literary journal. In August 2014, she won the ONE LOVELY BLOG award for her (lovely!) horror film review blog. She is addicted to buying books and has been known to bring home rain-washed tomes she finds on the street and give them a home.
She is the proud possessor of a pair of unfeasibly large bosoms. They have given her- and the people around her- infinite pleasure over the years. She adores the horror genre in all its forms and will swap you anything you like for Hammer Horror or JAWS memorabilia. She would also be a great person to chat to about the differences between the Director’s Cut and the Theatrical Cut of The Wicker Man. You can contact her at:
1) ‘… BY A WOMAN WALKING HER DOG…’
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4) ANOTHER FIFTY REALLY RANDOM HORROR FILM REVIEWS TO DIE FOR…
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