Lone Wolf Sullivan is a writer, songwriter, and studio musician.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

The Stepford Wives (1975) * * *

Joanna Eberhart (Katharine Ross) is a young wife who moves with her lawyer husband Walter (Peter Masterson) and two children from NYC to the idyllic Connecticut suburb of Stepford. Walter has dreamed of moving to the suburbs in Fairfield County, Connecticut, but Joanna doesn't enjoy suburban life. Loneliness quickly sets in as Joanna, an aspiring photographer, finds the women in town all look great and are obsessed with housework, but have few intellectual interests. They behave like zombies, constantly cleaning their houses and cooking their husbands' dinner. The men all belong to the club Stepford Men's Association, which Walter joins to Joanna's dismay. Witnessing neighbor Carol Van Sant's (Nanette Newman) sexually submissive behavior to her husband Ted, as well as her odd, repetitive behavior after a car accident also strikes Joanna as unusual. Something is going on.

Carol Van Sant: I'll just die if I don't get this recipe. I'll just die if I don't get this recipe. I'll just die if I don't get this recipe.

Things start to look up when she makes friends with another newcomer to town, Bobbie Markowe (Paula Prentiss), a sassy woman who quickly becomes Kathy's best friend in town. Bobbie says, "It's like maids have been declared illegal and the housewife with the neatest place gets Robert Redford for Christmas." Stepford once had a women's group with a healthy membership, but that dissolved some years ago. So, along with trophy wife Charmaine Wimperis (Tina Louise), they organize a Women's Lib consciousness raising session, but the meeting is a failure when the other wives hijack the meeting with cleaning concerns.

Joanna is unimpressed by the boorish Men's Club members, including intimidating president Dale "Diz" Coba (Patrick O'Neal). The men stealthily collect information on Joanna, including artist's renderings of her face, recordings of her voice, and other personal details. When Charmaine turns overnight from a languid, self-concerned tennis fan into an industrious, devoted wife, Joanna and Bobbie start investigating the reason behind the submissive and bland behavior of the other wives, especially when they learn they were once quite supportive of liberal social policies. It soon becomes plain that the women of Stepford are being coerced, brainwashed, or otherwise altered.

Dale Coba: (Joanna is brewing coffee) I like to watch women doing little domestic chores.
Joanna Eberhart: Then you came to the right town. Why do they call you Diz?
Dale Coba: I used to work in Disneyland.
Joanna Eberhart: No, really!
Dale Coba: No. Really.
Joanna Eberhart: I don't believe you.
Dale Coba: Why not?
Joanna Eberhart: You don't seem to be the kind of person that likes to make other people happy.

Joanna and Bobbie investigate Stepford. They are depicted wearing casual clothing, unfussy hairstyles, and little or no makeup. In addition, they are not wearing bras, indicating they are "Liberated Women" of the 1970s. This is in contrast to the perfect Stepford Wives. Bobbie and Joanna start house hunting in other towns, and later, Joanna wins a prestigious contract with a photo gallery with some photographs of their children. When she excitedly tells Bobbie her good news, Joanna is shocked to find her freewheeling and liberal friend has abruptly changed into another clean, conservative housewife, with no intention to move from town.

Joanna Eberhart: It'll happen to me before then. When you come back, there will be a woman with my name and my face, she'll cook and clean like crazy, but she won't take pictures and she won't be me! She'll be... like the robots at Disneyland.

Joanna panics and at the insistence of Walter, visits a psychiatrist where she explains her belief that all the men in the town are behind a conspiracy of somehow changing the women. The psychiatrist recommends she leave town until she feels safe, but when Joanna returns home, the children are missing. The marriage turns into domestic violence when Joanna and Walter get into a physical scuffle. In an attempt to find her children, she thinks Bobbie may be caring for them. Desperate, Joanna stabs Bobbie with a kitchen knife trying to prove her humanity, but Bobbie doesn't bleed or suffer, instead she goes into a loop of odd mechanical behavior, thus confirming she is a robot.

Dr. Fancher: Here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to give you a prescription that you get filled, then you get your children and get the hell out! Don't tell your husband, don't tell anybody, just get in your car and drive somewhere you feel safe.

Bobbie Markowe: (after being stabbed) Oh Joanna! My new dress! How could you do a thing like that? Just when I was going to give you coffee! How could you do a thing like that? I thought we were friends! Just when I was going to... how could you do a thing like that... just when I was going to give you coffee! Oh Joanna... I thought we were friends... I thought we were friends... friends... coffee... how could you do a thing like that? Like that? Like that? Like that? Friends... friends...

Knowing she will be the next victim, Joanna sneaks into the mansion which houses the Men's Association to find her children, but finds the mastermind of the whole operation, Dale "Diz" Coba, and eventually her own robot-duplicate. Joanna is shocked into paralysis when she witnesses its soulless, black empty eyes. It is then suggested that the Joanna-duplicate strangles the real Joanna. In the final scene, the duplicate is seen placidly purchasing groceries at the local supermarket, along with the other wives wearing similar long dresses, large hats and saying little more than "Hello" to each other. The final shot focuses on Joanna's now-finished eyes.

(last lines)
Joanna Eberhart: Hello, Bobbie.
Bobbie Markowe: Oh, hello, Joanna.
Joanna Eberhart: How are you?
Bobbie Markowe: I'm fine. How are you?
Joanna Eberhart: I'm fine. How are the children?
Bobbie Markowe: Fine.

THE STEPFORD WIVES is a great movie with a terrific premise, extremely watchable. It's a stylish triumph filled with POV shots, incredible production design, smart performances and a haunting score by Michael Small. This science fiction/horror film is based on the 1972 Ira Levin novel of the same name. To some extent it's a knockoff of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956), in that human beings are replaced with duplicates who look similar on the outside, but on the inside have lost their abilities to think and feel as individuals. One problem is the women actually seem more interesting after their transformation than before it, when they come across as whiny and petulant, and little else. The conclusion of THE STEPFORD WIVES is visible from a million miles away. If the men of Stepford are taking voice recordings and drawings of their women, there are only a few possibilities about their ultimate project. The film's tone is reminiscent of Levin's earlier work ROSEMARY'S BABY (1968), where it is unclear whether or not the film's protagonist is truly threatened or merely paranoid. In both cases, the films make the threat more concrete.

The shining star of the film is Katharine Ross. Although she was not the producer's first choice for the role of Joanna, it is hard to imagine that anyone else could have done a better job of bringing the character to life. The scene where Joanna seeks psychiatric advice about her fear of being changed by Stepford is very well acted. The worst thing for Joanna is that she knows how crazy her story sounds and she says so: "If I'm wrong then I'm crazy, but if I'm right then it's worse." Paula Prentiss is excellent as Bobbie, a fun character who is like Joanna, new to the town and just can't seem to work up that traditional Stepford cleaning spirit. The other characters are very well cast too, and Patrick O'Neal is particularly menacing as Diz, the head of the Stepford's Men's Association. He doesn't actually do a lot to be menacing, but nevertheless he exudes menace in his every scene. He is calm, cold and calculating, and from the first moment that you see him looking at Joanna you just know that whatever is on his mind isn't anything good.

The cast also includes: Carol Eve Rossen (Dr. Fancher), William Prince (Ike Mazzard), Carole Mallory (Kit Sunderson), Toni Reid (Marie Axhelm), Judith Baldwin (Patricia Cornell), Barbara Rucker (Mary Ann Stravros), George Coe (Claude Axhelm), Franklin Cover (Ed Wimpiris), Robert Fields (Raymond Chandler), Michael Higgins (Mr. Cornell), Josef Sommer (Ted Van Sant), Paula Trueman (Welcome Wagon Lady), Martha Greenhouse (Mrs. Kirgassa), Remak Ramsay (Mr. Atkinson), Mary Stuart Masterson (Kim Eberhart), Ronny Sullivan (Amy Eberhart), John Aprea (Young Cop), Matt Russo (Moving Man 1), Anthony Crupi (Moving Man 2), Kenneth McMillan (Market Manager), Dee Wallace (Nettie), Tom Spratley (Charlie the Doorman), Emma Forbes (Alison Van Sant), and Dennis Kear (Young Grocery Boy). Michael Small composed the incidental music. William Goldman wrote the screenplay from Ira Levin's novel of the same title. Bryan Forbes directed.

The original script by William Goldman was heavily revamped by director Brian Forbes. Tension developed between Forbes and Goldman over the casting of Nanette Newman. Goldman wanted the wives to be depicted as model-like women who dressed provocatively. But after casting Newman this was not to be, as Goldman stated he felt that Newman's physical appearance did not match the type of woman he imagined, and as a result this caused a change in appearance in costuming for all of the other wives. Goldman has said that he found Newman to be a perfectly good actress, but was unhappy with some rewrites that Forbes contributed. In particular, Forbes toned down Goldman's "horrific" ending. Actor Masterson, who was friends with Goldman, would secretly call Goldman for his input on scenes creating additional stress.

The film was shot in a variety of towns in western Connecticut, primarily in Darien, Westport, and Fairfield, with some location work in New York City. Forbes purposefully chose white and bright colors for the setting of the film, attempting to make a "thriller in sunlight". With the exception of the stormy night finale, the film is almost over-saturated with bright light and cheery settings. All the locations were actual places. No sets were built for the film.

THE STEPFORD WIVES debuted in theaters in February of 1975 and was only a moderate success at the time of release, but it has grown in stature as a cult film over the years. Film critic Roger Ebert wrote, "The actresses have absorbed enough TV, or have such an instinctive feeling for those phony, perfect women in the ads, that they manage all by themselves to bring a certain comic edge to their cooking, their cleaning, their gossiping and their living deaths."

The term "Stepford wife" is still used to describe a woman who is completely devoted to cooking, cleaning, and loving her man. Building upon the reputation of Levin's novel, the term "Stepford Wife" has become a popular science fiction concept and several made-for-TV sequels have been produced over the years including:

* REVENGE OF THE STEPFORD WIVES (1980) starring Don Johnson, Sharon Gless, and Julie Kavner.
* THE STEPFORD CHILDREN (1987) starring Barbara Eden.
* THE STEPFORD HUSBANDS (1996) starring Donna Mills and Michael Ontkean
* The remake of THE STEPFORD WIVES (2004) starring Nicole Kidman and Matthew Broderick

On the occasion of its 25th Anniversary, THE STEPFORD WIVES made its second DVD appearance thanks to Anchor Bay. The previous DVD was a non-anamorphic bare-bones disc. This is an improvement over that release if only because of the new anamorphic widescreen transfer. The 1.85:1 image is very grainy and shows its age. Colors seem a little washed out, but this could reflect the low budget of the film. It looks more like a movie-of-the-week than a theatrically released film. Presented with the original mono track, the disc performs adequately in the audio department. It will not wow your system, but maintains consistency with the original presentation. A 5.1 remix wouldn't have improved the experience very much, given the limited nature of the action in the film. The dialogue is crisp and clear, and the louder scored sequences are free of distortion. Also included is a French mono track.

There are some interesting supplements. First up is the 18-minute featurette "The Stepford Life" with interviews with Ross, Masterson, Prentiss and director Bryan Forbes. It's a very welcome supplement to fans of the film, as it chronicles the translation of the novel to a screenplay, the original casting of the lead role, and the film's continued cult popularity. It shows a surprising amount of bitchiness that went on behind the scenes. Co-star Peter Masterson comes across as very arrogant as he tells how he would go behind the director's back to discuss the script with William Goldman--who was no longer involved with the movie in any way. The original widescreen theatrical trailer is on hand, though it's in scratchy condition. Two 30 second radio spots shed some more light on how this film was marketed. Also included is a lengthy talent biography of Forbes. The disc probably would have benefited from an audio commentary by Forbes or the stars, but no such luck.


When successful television executive Joanna Eberhart (Nicole Kidman) is attacked and nearly killed by a disgruntled reality television show contestant, she is immediately fired and experiences a nervous breakdown. With her loving husband and work colleague Walter (Matthew Broderick) and their two children, they move from Manhattan to Stepford, a quiet Connecticut suburb for a change of scenery. Eberhart becomes friends with Bobbie Markowitz (Bette Midler), a writer and recovering alcoholic, and Roger Bannister (Roger Bart), who is homosexual and has moved to town with his longtime partner. The three of them are suspicious of the other women in the town, who are all placid and blissful and spend their days exclusively on domestic tasks.

After witnessing a quickly covered-up incident in which one of the Stepford wives, Sarah Sunderson (Faith Hill), violently malfunctions, and later, the increasingly bizarre behavior of their own spouses, Joanna, Bobbie, and Roger are moved to investigate the strange going-ons in Stepford. In the process, Roger and Bobbie are transformed into bland, unnatural, domestic versions of themselves. The inhuman nature of these new Stepford spouses is revealed to Joanna when she attempts to confront the newly-transformed Bobbie, who unknowingly places her hand on a lit stove, but does not react to the flame. Joanna attempts to flee, only to discover that her children have been taken hostage by the men of Stepford. She storms the Stepford Men's Club, angrily demanding her children to be returned, and is entrapped by the men who have been lying in wait for her. She is forced into the transformation room with her husband. Next, we see her calmly purchasing groceries alongside the rest of the Stepford wives, having apparently become one of them.

Soon after, Stepford hosts a formal ball to celebrate the full assimilation of the town, with Eberhart and her husband Walter as guests of honor. During the festivities, Joanna distracts Mike Wellington (Christopher Walken), the apparent leader of Stepford, and entices him into the garden while Walter slips away. Walter returns to the transformation room where it is revealed that the Stepford Wives are not robots after all, but cyborgs. The original human beings remained, but were put under the control of brain-implanted microchips. Walter destroys the software that controls the microchips, and all the Stepford Wives revert to their original personalities. When Walter returns to the ball, a crisis has broken out between the puzzled husbands and their vengeful wives.

Joanna and Walter reveal that Joanna had never been transformed but only pretended to be in order to assist in the destruction of Stepford. Mike threatens Walter, but before he can attack him, Joanna strikes him with a candlestick, decapitating him, and revealing that he is the only real and complete robot. Distraught over the loss of her Stepford husband, Mike's wife Claire Wellington (Glenn Close) reveals that she was the one who had created Stepford as a refuge from the evils of the world in a fit of despair after discovering the real Mike had been having an affair. Claire accidentally electrocutes herself using the remains of her Stepford husband, and the irate wives take over Stepford and force their husbands to atone for their crimes by becoming completely subject to the women's wills, placing them under house arrest, and making them complete many of the same banal domestic tasks they had forced the women to do previously. After 29 years, the Stepford wives finally have vengence.

Frank Oz brought his black comedy/science fiction remake to screens in 2004, a film that managed to waste the talents of Nicole Kidman and Bette Midler and made a mockery of both Levin’s original novel and Forbes' superior film. The first half is disappointing, but it does pick up nicely for the last half. Most of the film was shot in Darien, Connecticut and New Canaan, Connecticut. This film is notorious for the numerous production problems that occurred throughout its shooting schedule. The tension started when both John Cusack and Joan Cusack, originally slated to star in supporting roles, pulled out of the project and were replaced by Matthew Broderick and Bette Midler. After filming was initially completed, several changes were made to the new script, which created a number of plot holes, and the cast was called back for reshoots. Reports of problems onset between director Frank Oz and stars Nicole Kidman and Bette Midler were rampant in the press. Kidman was reportedly so dissatisfied with the new screenplay that she considered pulling out of the project. In recent interviews, Kidman, Matthew Broderick and producer Scott Rudin have all expressed regret for participating in this project.

In an interview with Ain't It Cool, Frank Oz's take on the film was: "I f**ked up... I had too much money, and I was too responsible and concerned for Paramount. I was too concerned for the producers. And I didn't follow my instincts."

The film was largely panned by critics. Rolling Stone wrote, "Buzz of troubles on the set... can't compare to the mess onscreen." Entertainment Weekly commented, "The remake is, in fact, marooned in a swamp of camp inconsequentiality." The New York Times wrote, "the movie never lives up to its satiric potential, collapsing at the end into incoherence and wishy-washy, have-it-all sentimentality." However, critic Roger Ebert called Paul Rudnick's screenplay "rich with zingers" and gave the film three stars. But in the "Worst Movies of 2004" episode of Ebert And Roeper, he admitted that he gave the film a "thumbs up," but said it wouldn't be "the first movie that I would defend."

The film was a commercial flop. The US opening weekend's gross was a respectable $21,406,781. However, sales fell off quickly and that one weekend would ultimately represent over a third of the film's domestic gross of $59,484,742. The film grossed $42,428,452 internationally. Its budget was an estimated $90,000,000.

Differences between the 2004 film and the 1975 version:

* The town's women were formerly successful and powerful figures in their industries--scientists, politicians, television moguls. In original film of 1975, when most women were only just beginning to attain power in the workforce equal to men's, and the feminist movement was in full swing, the men of Stepford husbands were trying to supress the freedoms feminism gave women.
* Among the couples who had recently moved to Stepford was a gay couple. In the original novel, the newest couple to move in after the protagonist is the town's first African American couple.
* Unlike previous versions, the head programmer of the wives, Mike Wellington is revealed to be a robot himself, a Stepford Husband (a nod to the changing times). The real programmer is his wife Claire.
* In the book and original movie, there is no happy ending: the town's husbands have murdered their wives and replaced them with look-alike robots. In the remake, the women are simply implanted with microchips whose effects are fully reversible.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

The Doors: Live at the Hollywood Bowl (1987) * * *


On July 5, 1968 the American rock band the Doors performed at the Hollywood Bowl. It is the only complete filmed concert of the band and shows singer Jim Morrison at his best. Their performance was captured by four cameras and recorded in 16-track audio, resulting in generally excellent stereo sound that is far better than most archive footage of this band. They play very well. Ray Manzarek's organ is haunting at times, but the drumming of John Densmore and guitar playing of Robby Krieger are good but sub-par. The Doors melded psychedelia, blues, hard-edged rock and poetry from the edge like no other band before or since.

On stage Jim Morrison has the aura of an intense and sexy artist, whose dark voice forms only a part of his complex persona. Guitarist and songwriter Robby Krieger, keyboard player Ray Manzarek, and drummer John Densmore complement Morrison's free-associative outpourings with improvisational, jazz-inspired interjections. Who else could segue effortlessly from Kurt Weill's "Alabama Song" to Willie Dixon's "Back Door Man"? "Moonlight Drive" and "Five To One", which is connected in medley with "Backdoor Man", are especially well-performed. Morrison also recites effective pieces of poetry. And just when he's in danger of becoming too pretentious, Morrison bursts any lurking self-importance with a wry smile, a joking aside, or even a belch. But the seriousness remains throughout as Morrison's sings "When the Music's Over", "The Unknown Soldier" and "The End". Morrison sings, dances, and screams like no one else. However, for all the frenzied activity, the simple and direct lines of his poetry echo softly through the years. Music by the Doors invites questions, daring the listeners to ask them. That's why they remain so fascinating decades later.

The filmed concert feels intimate, close up, and you can see the concentration. Performances are great, especially Morrison's theatrics with Densmore's cymbals on "The Unknown Soldier". Even when Morrison does his improptu poem about the grasshopper/moth the band improvise a seamless accompaniment. The DVD is worth buying just for "The End" and "Light my Fire". Both are fantastic songs, but twice as good when live and in surround sound. This video has stood the test of time and captures the event brilliantly. Audio and video restorer Michael Rubin's first project was for this concert film. There was an intermittent microphone cable fault in Morrison' track that ruined the entire concert. It could not be released until Rubin miraculously fixed it. This film is the second in the MCA 3 VHS tape Doors trilogy. DANCE ON FIRE is the first, and THE SOFT PARADE is the last.

Live at the Hollywood Bowl Track Listing:

1) When the Music's Over
2) Alabama Song
3) Back Door Man
4) 5 to 1
5) Moonlight Drive
6) Horse Latitudes
7) Celebration of the Lizard
8) Spanish Caravan
9) The Unknown Soldier
10) Light My Fire
11) The End


One of the best collections of Doors film material, DANCE ON FIRE contains some unique concert shots, and images of Jim Morrison and the legendary band The Doors. Former Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek compiled and directed this video, which brings together a number of television performances and vintage promotional films of Jim Morrison and the group along with footage of the Doors in concert and previously unseen film of the band at work in the studio. Manzarek also directed a new video for the song "L.A. Woman," which is included in this collection. Other performances include "Break on Through, "Light My Fire", "People Are Strange", "Roadhouse Blues", "Riders on the Storm", and six more. The best one is for "Break On Through," stylish, exhilarating and just as good as any music video today. "Unknown Soldier" is also very interesting and surreal, like something Salvador Dali would have put together. "People Are Strange" is weird and nice. Certain segments such as the original Elektra promo of "Break on Through, and the musical video of "The Unknown Soldier", that was banned shortly after its release, are included.

However, though the music video Ray Manzareck directs for "L.A. Woman" is well-made, it's not very good at capturing the essence of the song. It looks nice, but the images look too modern sometimes for the aged recording. The live performance of "The End" is very good and we get a kick out of seeing Jim Morrison do his primitive shaman-like dance at the Hollywood Bowl in 1968. It's also fun to see a rare film clip of the band recording "Wild Child" in the studio. A performance of "The Crystal Ship" looks nice and dreamy. There's also the fantastic performance of "Light My Fire" on the Ed Sullivan Show.

But there is a lot of filler and not enough of Morrison in this collection of song clips, which are interspersed with voice-overs of Morrison reading his poetry, and images of related subjects, like Native American dancers shown while "Wild Child" is playing. Musically it is choppy and the sound often muddy. DANCE ON FIRE is basically a good collection of great Doors material and images of the band in their prime and how they made themselves musical legends. This is the first in the MCA Doors trilogy.

The Songs:

* "Break on Through", from an Elektra Records promo clip.
* "People are Strange", includes footage taken on the streets of New York City.
* "Light My Fire", from the Ed Sullivan Show telecast.
* "L.A. Woman" is labeled as "a new film directed by Ray Manzarek", but is actually random shots of the LA area and a few clips from the past with the song as "soundtrack".
* "The Unknown Soldier" was supposedly banned for a time. It shows Morrison being bound and "shot" on Santa Monica beach, and some stuff emerging from his mouth. It also includes a few war scenes.
* "Roadhouse Blues". Clips from the 1968 tour.
* "Texas Radio and the Big Beat/Love Me Two Times". Includes clips from a live performance for Danish television. This is one of the better selections.
* "Touch Me" is from a Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour telecast, where they have given Morrison a brushed hairdo and tanned pancake on his face, leaving his neck white. The Doors have a back-up band for this, giving it added interest.
* "Horse Latitudes/Moonlight Drive", from a Jonathan Winters Show telecast, with more of the overdone makeup on Morrison.
* "The End". This is a song that is shown in full and is focused on Morrison, and therefore probably the most substantial part of this video. It was filmed at a 1968 Hollywood Bowl concert.
* "Crystal Ship" is from American Bandstand, the early days.
* Tomasso Albinoni's "Adagio in G minor" theme is used as the music for some clips of the group sailing.
* "Riders on the Storm" is played during the end titles.


This video features footage from The Doors' 1968 European tour through Stockholm, Frankfurt, and London. Paul Kantner and Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane, who shared this bill with The Doors on this tour, narrate this retrospective documentary. Fantastic live performances of the tour de force "When the Music's Over", the antiwar "Unknown Soldier", the revolution-inciting "Five to One", and many others are accompanied by firsthand anecdotes, making LIVE IN EUROPE an intriguing glimpse into the powerful, mysterious world of this seminal band. The onstage performances have a beautiful, timeless quality to them, and the musicianship of the band comes across very nicely. Any lack of polish in this production is pretty much due to the available video and film equipment of the day. That said, much of the old camerawork is quite creatively done. We are shown the band and fans showing their respects to Morrison at his burial site, though even Ray Manzareck believes the poet faked his death. To observe Ray Manzarek hunched over his keyboards, fingering some amazing riffs, is to see a rather amazing illustration of rock performances that were all about music. His organ will shake the walls with home theater.

Track Listing:

1) Light My Fire
2) Love Me Two Times
3) Back Door Man
4) Spanish Caravan
5) Hello, I Love You
6) When the Music's Over
7) Unknown Soldier
8) Light My Fire (2)
9) Five To One
10) Alabama Song


The Doors' final TV appearance in 1969 forms the centerpiece of this concert video tie in to the Oliver Stone film THE DOORS (1991). This very entertaining compilation was Ray Manzarek's retaliation to Stone's biopic debacle which effectively portrayed Jim Morrison's downward spiral, yet basically ignored his more human side. This video at least shows that Morrison cared about some people, and that there was a lot working in his mind before drugs and alcohol took their toll. This is one of the Doors calmer and more laid back performances, and yet it is stronger than the HOLLYWOOD BOWL. The final of the MCA Doors trilogy, it is not as good as DANCE ON FIRE. This video is a well assembled finale that sometimes feels like left-overs from the first two episodes. But they are good left-overs. The opening sequence cut together to "The Changeling" is an entertaining ensemble of Doors footage showing the wild side of Jim Morrison and how epic and crazy Doors concert footage can seem.

The PBS television appearance is very informative and it's interesting to see Jim Morrison give his thoughts on music and poetry. But the best part is seeing The Doors perform. Morrison is especially captivating while singing "The Soft Parade". The most entertaining piece of footage is the scene showing The Doors recording "Wild Child" in the studio. It features previously unreleased backstage interviews and notable versions of "The Unknown Soldier" and "Hello, I Love You". We hear the full version of "Build Me a Woman", which is excised on the "Absolutely Live" album. The video is much more potent because Morrison's heart, although it is obviously filled with sadness and devastation, is completely in it. His emotional connection to the music is so intense that "Wishful Sinful", which is basically a pop song, sounds like a Shakespearean ballad when he is singing it. Richard Goldstein of The Village Voice chats with the band about their music, poetry and improvisation. Morrison, with a beard and hiding behind sunglasses, smokes a cigar, and is commanding while speaking softly.


THE BEST OF THE DOORS is basically a collage of videos featured in all three of the MCA Doors trilogy with a few new additions and editing changes. Rather than relying solely on the hits, this collection also mines the darker, and often richer, recesses of The Doors material resulting in a fairly representative statement. Compiled by former Doors keyboard player Ray Manzarek, this home video collects rare live film, television appearances, unreleased footage of recording sessions, and little-seen promotional clips to provide visual documentation of 14 of the group's classic songs. The first video is "Strange Days", which is not in any of the other three. It is a surreal, Fellinisque sideshow to one of the band's darkest, most evocative songs. Doors fans will have a blast with the video's opening, which is the illusion that the cover to the "Strange Days" album has sprung to life. Ray Manzarek, the band's organist, makes a few appearances, most notably as a priest. This is followed by the video for "Break On Through", a publicity clip done for the band's debut album. It is Jim Morrison's first appearance in the video and he makes his presence known.

Next comes an interview clip from 1969 where an older-looking, bearded Morrison talks about poetry and how it is woven into the band's music. The video borrows clips also from LIVE AT THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL and we get footage of Morrison reciting "The Celebration Of The Lizard" and following it with a part of "Spanish Caravan". This is said to be one of The Doors' calmest, least-visceral concerts and aside from the great music, it shows. There is a well-assembled music video for "The Unknown Soldier" which skillfully mixes war footage with Doors concert sequences showing Morrison faking an execution and vomiting blood. "The Changeling" follows, showing the band in super-star mode as they walk through air-ports, perform concerts and talk to fans.

One of the more interesting pieces is footage of the band recording "Wild Child" in the studio. It's interesting to watch them put together the song and sometimes disagree on certain parts. Drummer John Densmore calls the song's ending "the stupidest thing I've ever heard". It's also fun to watch Robby Krieger play his trademark slide guitar for this song. Doors fans will especially want this video for the "Gloria" piece which was banned by MTV when first released but not anymore considering on the 30th anniversary of Morrison's death VH1 aired it. It's a fun, dirty video showing Morrison acting erotic on stage and clips of him with whom I suspect is Pamlera Courson getting intimate in a room. The video is never "pornographic" and it's a fun song. The medley of "Whiskey Bar", "Backdoor Man" and "Five To One" is one of the interesting concert moments, showing the band's ability for some good hard rock.

The "L.A. Woman" video Ray Manzarek directed never amounts to anything as interesting as the others. "Wishful Sinful" could have been left out. It's a good song by Robby Krieger, but not exactly a timeless Doors tune. However, the Ed Sullivan performance of "Light My Fire" is featured and truly evokes the Doors spirit, showing Morrison in black leather defying the Sullivan people and singing "higher" on network TV. Morrison was told backstage, "You'll never be on the Ed Sullivan Show again!" He replied, "Man, we just did the Ed Sullivan show." The real problem was that one of the band members shouted "F**k" at the end of the song. It is loud and very clear, but I AM THE ONLY ONE IN HISTORY WHO HAS EVER MENTIONED IT!

Morrison's last known interview is featured, conducted when he was getting ready to go to trial for supposedly exposing himself at a 1969 Miami concert. This is followed by an atmospheric, stylish and very recent music video done for a cut from "An American Prayer" titled "The Ghost Song". The band members, in their present aged form, perform the song to images of Morrison and dancing Indians. The ending is a fun rendition of "Hello I Love You" showing the band performing in London and a young woman dancing to the tune.

Track Listings:

1) Break On Through
2) Light My Fire
3) Crystal Ship
4) People Are Strange
5) Strange Days
6) Love Me Two Times
7) Five To One
8) Waiting For The Sun
9) Spanish Caravan
10) When The Music's Over
11) Hello I Love You
12) Roadhouse Blues
13) LA Woman
14) Riders On The Storm
15) Touch Me
16) Love Her Madly
17) Unknown Soldier
18.) The End


This is the ultimate critical review of The Doors, on record, on film and live on stage. Drawing on rare film and television archive material, this independent and highly authoritative review revisits and critically reassesses the work of this band from their 1967 debut album "The Doors", to "Strange Days" and "Waiting for the Sun". A leading team of music critics, musicologists and working musicians considers and re-evaluates vintage performances by The Doors and traces the secrets of the bands success. Using archival footage of the band and examination of their music and image, the program's panel seeks to explain the group's success outside the realm of management and labels. Featured tracks include: "Light My Fire", "Break on Through", "The End", "Love Me Two Times", "People are Strange", "When the Musics Over", "Hello I Love You", "Back Door Man", and many more.


Jim Morrison supposedly passed away in 1971, not long after the release of the album "L.A. Woman". Ray Manzarek says on this DVD's liner notes, "This is the tour that never was." The music from "L.A. Woman" was never performed live by The Doors until now and this DVD gives fans small glimpse of what it might have been like to hear these songs live on stage. The Cult’s Ian Astbury was chosen to replace Jim Morrison as singer. The performance was recorded in Houston, Texas, during the band's 2003 world tour. It has a runtime of 102 minutes, which may seem a little short, but there are enough Doors classics like "Light My Fire" and "Riders on the Storm" for the casual fan and the more obscure but equally cool songs like "Hyacinth House" and "The Changeling" to keep the diehard Doors fans glued to every note.

However, this is not The Doors. The project with Astbury fronting the band is a kind of tribute band that they have dubbed The Doors of the 21st Century. They are very upfront about the fact that they are paying tribute to Morrison and this is not an attempt to revive the actual Doors band. Unfortunately missing from the lineup of The Doors of the 21st Century is drummer John Densmore. A very capable drummer named Ty Dennis was chosen to handle the drumming duties for the tour and Angelo Barbera is the bassist for project. Most people don't realize that the Doors did not include a bass player, although a bass player was usually hired for their studio recordings.

As the show kicks off with the gritty riff from "Roadhouse Blues", the adrenaline in the crowd and on stage starts flowing. Astbury, with his convincing Morrison haircut and clothes, takes his place at the microphone stand with two hands on the mic in the famous Morrison pose. His voice is not a dead-on impression of Morrison, but the moves and the look are so strikingly similar that anyone in the front seats at the show might think the ghost of Morrison had leapt into Astbury's body. The mannerisms, the yelps and screams coming from Astbury seem to be coming from somewhere beyond the grave.

As the night progresses and the band rolls through almost the entire L.A. Woman track list, throwing in a few classics from other Doors albums, Astbury's voice warms up and he begins to sound more and more like Morrison. Keyboardist Ray Manzarek, during the extended jam session solo of "Riders on the Storm", pours every once of soul and musical feeling he has into the keyboard and the crowd and band eats it up. As the song transitions, guitarist Robbie Krieger plays a shredding rendition on his signature Gibson SG guitar of one of the most famous solos in all of classic rock. Krieger started as a Flamenco guitarist and never recorded guitar with a pick. This fingerpicking style, combined with a lightly distorted tone, gives Krieger his signature sound that is unmistakable.

The songs "When the Music’s Over" or "The End" would have seemed like obvious choices for the closing song of the night, but the band opted for the tune "Soul Kitchen" from their self-titled debut CD. The lyrics of the songs are so fitting for the end of a show and its upbeat, jamming nature was so infectious that fans started flooding the stage to dance with the band in numbers so large that the security guards were overwhelmed and just let the people rock to the music. This was the ending on a magical evening and the audience was completely in the moment as they were transported back to the tour that should have been in 1972.

The video quality of the DVD is above average for this type of production. It's apparent from the menus and amount of extras on this DVD that it was done on a fairly small budget, but the music and the performance makes this disc a winner. Other than a few short interview clips with Astbury, Krieger and Manzarek, and a photo gallery, there aren't a whole lot of extras on the disc. There is a killer DTS 5.1 mix, as well as a Dolby digital mix that sounds pretty good, too. The performances by the band members are all great. There are a few musical blunders, but that is the nature of this kind of raw, emotional music. Although not a "jam band" by today’s standards, The Doors broke musical ground with their improvisational style that was inspired by jazz. They can go off on musical tangents and then bring things back in one fell swoop. Morrison was a poet first and a singer second. To have his words brought to a live audience again in the form of Ian Astbury is a treat. The set list contains over a dozen classic Doors numbers including "L.A. Woman", "Light My Fire", "Roadhouse Blues", "Love Me Tow Times", "Love Her Madly", and "Riders on the Storm".


This entry features live performances from three rare TV appearances during the height of The Doors' career. Material also includes personal commentary and perspectives by band members Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger, John Densmore and manager Danny Sugarman. It includes 12 songs and extensive interview footage of the band. There are never before seen live TV performances from Canada, Europe, and the US, from 1967-69, including the epic show stoppers "The End" and "When The Music's Over", Brecht-Weill's "Alabama Song" and the Willie Dixon blues "Back Door Man" among others. Also included is one of Jim Morrison's only on-camera interviews, shot not long after the notorious March 1969 Miami concert where the charismatic front man was arrested for "lewd and lascivious behavior." Additionally, the film includes latter-day exclusive commentary from the surviving Doors. With their genre-colliding sound and boundary-breaking poetic exploration of psychological, sexual, and political frontiers, the Doors are a fascinating gem in the 1960s rock crown.

In the interview with Jim Morrison, not long after he was arrested in Miami, he has a full beard. The film includes footage from Toronto in 1967, Denmark in 1968, and New York City in 1979. Former Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek compiled and directed this video, which brings together a number of television performances and vintage promotional films of Jim Morrison and the group along with footage of the Doors in concert and previously unseen film of the band at work in the studio. Manzarek also directed a new video for the song "L.A. Woman," which is included in this collection.

Tracks Listing:

1) Break On Through
2) People Are Strange
3) Light My Fire
4) Wild Child
5) L.A. Woman
6) Roadhouse Blues
7) Texas Radio And The Big Beat
8) Love Me Two Times
9) Horse Latitudes
10) Moonlight Drive
11) The End
12) Crystal Ship


This documentary of The Doors is less accessible to non-rock fans than the 1991 THE SOFT PARADE, but more reliable and coherent than Oliver Stone's self-indulgent THE DOORS. This hour long video is based on the Danny Sugerman/Jerry Hopkins biography "No One Here Gets Out Alive". The authors are interviewed extensively, as well as producer Paul Rothchild, and the other Doors: John Densmore, drums, Robbie Krieger, guitar, and Ray Manzarek, keyboards. They discuss the impact of their music and the influence of leader Jim Morrison. Interspersed throughout are rare glimpses of Doors concerts and TV appearances, including the notorious Ed Sullivan Show gig. Musical highlights include "The End", "Moonlight Drive", "Back Door Man", "Crawling Kingsnake", "People are Strange", and "Touch Me". THE DOORS: A TRIBUTE TO JIM MORRISON packs an awful lot into its brief 60 minutes. It's an exhausting trip backward, but a fascinating one.

John Densmore once called Jim Morrison a "Media God". It's too bad that this video is not currently available because it's a revealing look at the Media God. Densmore said that at first he wondered if Jim would be able to perform because he was so shy that he mumbled into the microphone. He also said that Jim would never pace himself. If he had a concert to do, he would show up after being up all night. Sometimes he would roam in the concert halls before a concert, talking to all the fans. After the concert, Jim was known to continue to party. He lived each moment like it was his last, and gave every performance like it was his last. This video also shows Francis Ford Coppolla's "Apocalypse Now" section of "The End," commenting that Jim would have loved how Coppolla used the song.

This is a rough sketch of Morrison's life, with many gaps, but nonetheless interesting. He comes across in the interviews as very intelligent, but somewhat spaced out and naively innocent. By contrast, the other three Doors seem down to earth, and serious, and while they were busy making music, Morrison was experimenting with life itself, even to go as far as sometimes messing up the performances. They reveal how difficult he was to live with: traveling to airports, tours, etc. He was always living on the edge, possessed with a vision of madness and fire and the road to self-destruction. He "packed 50 years of living" in 27 years, and left us a sizable musical and poetic legacy.

The video ends with this Morrison quote from 1969: "Let's just say I was testing the bounds of reality. I was curious to see what would happen. That's all it was: Just curiosity".


This 1968 concert at The Roundhouse in London's Chalk Farm by The Doors was filmed for a British television special and was released in 1991 as director John Sheppard's documentary and concert film THE DOORS ARE OPEN. The Doors are at their peak musically for this concert film, and don't even appear to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. It's just a straight forward G-rated set of killer tunes delivered with tight precision. The concert film is photographed in moody black & white which helps contribute to the bleak tone of the group’s compositions. Director John Sheppard integrates newsreel footage with the band’s political warnings. Some may find this irksome or distracting from the overall performance of the band.

Also interspersed between songs is interview footage with the band and the media blitz surrounding their arrival in London. Most of the songs on here contain extended jams especially on the sizzling opener "When The Music’s Over", which runs about twelve minutes. Jim Morrison and his haunting lyrics are always a treat, and watching the poetic frontman deliver his messages as only he can--with a wailing and violent anguish will send chills down your spine. Robby Krieger's guitar skills provide the impetus for the band. John Densmore's primal drumming fills out The Doors bottom end. And the band would not be the same were it not for Ray Manzarek, whose keyboard driven precision has become the signature of The Doors. The band plows through their fan favorites like "Five To One", "Spanish Caravan", and "Unknown Soldier", together with their hits "Light My Fire", "Back Door Man", "Hello I Love You", and "When the Music's Over".

THE DOORS ARE OPEN DVD is presented full frame (1.33.1) from a fairly worn print that exhibits an abundance of grain. It's obvious that Pioneer has performed absolutely no clean-up work to this decades old concert footage. The interspersing of the interview snippets and newsreel shots match well with the performance footage because it's all murky black & white. All in all, not a bad transfer given the age and recording technology, but you would think that a company like Pioneer would clean things up a bit. At least they went through the trouble of remastering the soundtrack to Dolby Digital 5.1. Though not quite true CD fidelity, this is quite an improvement over the original mono sound. The production is not overdone and still sounds quite raw and hollow at times. The drums are tinny, yet the bass guitar has plenty of depth. The Roundhouse supposedly has great acoustics and listening to the ambiance here it's easy to hear why. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio imaging allows for some separations effects but don't expect anything truly dynamic. Jim Morrison's vocals are clear and undistorted and well-placed in the mix. Overall a strong acoustic effort considering the 2 track recording originally used to capture the energy and aura of the band.

Despite the minimalisitic approach to THE DOORS ARE OPEN, this concert documentary is more of an accurate portrayal of the band than Oliver Stone’s motion picture. Too bad this performance does not have more classic Doors songs. The major disappointment with this timeless concert event, possibly The Doors best concert film, is that Pioneer didn't put up the cash to improve the visual aspects of the DVD transfer. Also missing are any extras. Thankfully, Pioneer’s audio Dolby Digital 5.1 remastering is superior to their visual presentation, which makes this disc worthy for fans of The Doors.

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