Must See DVD: When You’re Strange, A Film About The Doors

As much as our culture overemphasizes the value of being and looking young, I would not want to be a minute younger than I am. Because if I’d been born in the eighties or nineties I wouldn’t have been alive to experience firsthand an era of rock music when bands like The Doors, Led Zeppelin, Queen and the Alice Cooper band were together and releasing new music that didn’t sound like it came from a can. How many 20 year-olds can say that they were able to see Queen in concert five times before Freddie Mercury even came out of the closet, or paid just $12 to see The Who back when Keith Moon was still alive? I feel sorry for anyone who ever scalped tickets to attend a Blink 182 concert or uttered the phrase “Limp Bizkit is my favorite band!” How unbelievably sad.

I remember when Rock Stars were Gods that Walked the Earth as Men instead of generic, indie-rock doofusses dressed in identical t-shirts and ripped jeans. Those days are gone for good, of course, and I cherish my memories of that time, but it’s nice also to be reminded of musicians that earned their legendary status when somebody makes a good documentary about a seventies band. Right now, you can rent or own a DVD of the fantastic documentary, When You’re Strange, a Film About the Doors directed by Tom Dicillo and featuring narration by Johnny Depp. The Doors are a band that’s easy to take for granted, because all of their songs are amazing and Jim Morrison remains enigmatic as an artist immortalized by a premature death.  I don’t claim to be the hugest Doors’ fan on the planet, but I do realize when I hear “The Crystal Ship” or “Riders On The Storm” that their music is fucking genius.

I thought I knew a lot about the story of The Doors and their ill-fated lead singer, but really, even if you are a die-hard fan you are going to learn something from watching When You’re Strange. Dicillo approaches the story in such a refreshingly linear fashion, using tons of never-before-seen, archival footage of The Doors live, in the studio, back stage and also including high-quality “lost” footage of Morrison’s own film, HWY. Depp’s narration is matter of fact and unpretentious, and the music just speaks for itself: so many fantastic songs by a band that – with inclusion of Ray Manzarek’s “lead organ” riffs – had a truly unique and inimitable sound. There is no denying that Jim Morrison’s death at the age of 27 was a tragedy. But instead of thinking about how sad it is that Morrison died “before his time,” viewing When You’re Strange led me to conclude that we should just be happy and celebrate the fact that we had Jim for as long as we did, and that he left such a rich and enduring legacy. It’s so obvious that he was an artist who really gave all he could. Like Jimi, Janis, Kurt and Jean-Michel – all gifted artists who died at age 27 – I really don’t think he was built to last.

The Worley Gig Gives When You’re Strange Five out of Five Stars.

0 thoughts on “Must See DVD: When You’re Strange, A Film About The Doors”

  1. You have said it best. HWY was never lost it just wasn’t appreciated or managed by the inheriting family. It was the best film I ever photographed and I wait for the entire film to be presented.

  2. I just joined your blog and read through your review of the new Doors documentary. I put off getting it, because I opted to get the long-awaited Rush documentary and the Stones’ Exile documentary…
    I am 37 years old and grew up on old-fashioned, straight-up in your face, rock and roll from the late 60’s through to the 70’s! I am from Cleveland and I think we and Detroit always had our fingers on the pulse of that Golden Age!
    I have been reading more and more, from my generation and the previous generations, the question that we must be getting old, because the music of today is quite frankly, garbage, in comparison to what we were brought up on…
    When I was in high school, hair metal was at its peak and I knew that that stuff was shit in contrast to the plethora of artistic or experimental or theatrical bands that pushed the envelope in a time period where the record industry wasn’t so corporate. History has shown, that the more corporate an industry becomes, the more that corporate level or mindset drives the soul out of the art…
    You hit the nail right on the head within the first paragraph of your review! I am also very glad to have not been born in the eighties or nineties, to be spoon fed such crap.
    I’ve thought long and hard about this subject, because music seems to be my center in life. I’m not trying to come off chauvinistic, but there is such a lack of testosterone or even better, aggression and anger in music today, because the kids that are coming up in the industry are pretty much having things handed to them. There is not too much starvation for their art, like their predecessors of the previous generations.
    Technology has become easily obtainable! In the old days, a band would practice their asses off or gig their asses off. They’d take their lumps and grow from it. Get bitter from it. Get immune to it! They’d save up their money and buy studio time. Making demos from home was unheard of! There was no American Idol, which to me, is nothing more than a glorified karaoke contest.
    Bottom line is, they worked hard for success and it forced some to stand out to get noticed!
    The one good thing about today’s record industry, is that it is a dying field, because of the fact that people are downloading. Modern day bands are now forced to work really hard at putting out a solid album. Why download an entire album, when you are only interested in say, three songs? Too many lengthy CD’s were released in the late 80’s and up till this day, that were not worth the $12-$15 of hard earned money and this is in an era where bands took two to three years to make an album!
    A band can only have so many ideas for writing and it’s just not the same if they didn’t have much to struggle for or if they are trying to write songs on chaise lounge, next to a swimming pool…

    I don’t think we’re getting old. I think original ideas have been exhausted and the “youngsters” are too spoiled to be good enough!

    Good stuff, Gail!
    Thanks for the invite and I will definitely check out When You’re Strange!

  3. I have this film in my Instant Queue and plan on watching it soon. When I was in Paris, I went to visit Morrison’s grave – very sad, but interesting to see all the love and items left behind by fans who continue to visit it to this day.

  4. Saw this on Netflix and passed it up cuz I thought, how many more ways can the story be told? But now I guess I will have to watch since it came so highly recommended.

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