The Doors R-Evolution
The Doors met at UCLA's film school, so no surprise that they worked to craft short films to accompany their songs. At the same time, they were compelled into the awkward setting of teen television. And much later, during their posthumous revival in the '80s, new videos were assembled on the The Doors' behalf for the MTV audience.
All these categories are represented on a new collection out in January on Blu-ray and DVD. R-Evolution brings together a batch of previously unreleased footage starting with a 1967 band-produced film of "Break on Through (To the Other Side)." Shot against pitch darkness with the hands and faces of band members (sometimes) illuminated, the film established many poses that recur throughout R-Evolution. Jim Morrison is becalmed yet somehow insouciant, building gradually toward ecstasy; Ray Manzarek is hunched over his keyboards like a near-sighted professor over his lecture notes; guitarist Robby Krieger and drummer John Densmore are just there, playing.
Television forced them into some odd configurations. On "American Bandstand," in between "The Crystal Ship" and the abbreviated AM version of "Light My Fire," a courteous if superficial Dick Clark interviewed The Doors. Manzarek went over the host's head; when asked to describe the band's music, the keyboardist demurred, telling Clark that "we are our music" and "labels have to come from the outside." Morrison looked utterly bored. Worse still, on "Malibu U," The Doors were placed on a red fire engine parked on the beach for "Light My Fire" as surfer dudes and girls ogled them (while probably dreaming of Jan and Deans's comeback). "People are Strange" evidently put the producers of "Murray the K in New York" in a Halloween mood. The Doors were posed in a windblown urban setting, grouped around a tree on a boulevard island as a zombie-like crowd with nylon stockings over their faces looked on.
The band had more fun on a 1968 German show, playing "Hello, I Love You" on a cobblestone street as a mod mini-skirted go-go girl danced and a crowd of townsfolk gathered in mild interest.
For many of their self-produced music films, The Doors flirted with the avant-garde. "The Unknown Soldier" found band members juxtaposed with crowded urban settings, making their way to a beach where Morrison was strapped to a post and executed as if by firing squad, fake blood pouring from his mouth.
R-Evolution also includes a 1966 Ford training film using Doors' music (a bid for hipness?) and other bonuses. The collection provides a fascinating sidelight to a band whose best recordings have maintained their eerie power over the imagination.