Updated: Aug 14, 2019
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
“THE DOORS: THE FINAL CUT”
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital copy; 1991; R for heavy drug content, and for strong sexuality and profanity; streaming via Google Play (4K), iTunes (4K), YouTube (4K)
Best extra: A new 4K interview with writer/director Oliver Stone
ALTHOUGH Oliver Stone was already a major force in American cinema, racking up Academy Awards for his screenplay for “Midnight Express” (1978), and for directing “Platoon” (1986) and “Born on the Fourth of July” (1989), “The Doors” was Stone’s first big-budget feature.
It was bankrolled by high-roller Mario Kassar, who turned his independent studio Carloco into a major Hollywood player with box office hits during the 1980s and early ‘90s: “First Blood,” “Total Recall,” and “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” released four months after “The Doors.” He told Stone: “Go for it. This is Fellini time,” a reference to surrealist Italian director Federico Fellini.
When Jim Morrison died in Paris in 1971, a screenplay written by a young Oliver Stone,“Break,” was found in his apartment. It was Stone’s first script, and his first attempt at the story he would ultimately tell in “Platoon,” winner of four Oscars including Best Picture. Stone was obsessed with The Doors upon his return from Vietnam, identifying with the darkness and freedom their music represented. Years later, when the producer offered Stone the film, he accepted immediately.
(1) Jim and keyboarder Ray Manzarek (Kyle MacLachlan) come up with the name The Doors. (2) The band writes the classic song "Light My Fire." (3) The camaraderie of the band during a rehearsal break at a Venice, Calif. beach house.
With $33 million at his disposal, Stone took Kassar’s advice and made a visually stunning, kaleidoscopic biopic of The Lizard King. There has never been before or since anything quite like “The Doors.” This is the film that pushed Stone and cinematographer Robert Richardson towards the bold visual style that would define future projects including “JFK,” which won Richardson his first Oscar, and for “Natural Born Killers.”
Like a Fellini film, “The Doors” is a dazzling, sensual delight, riding Morrison’s famous snake through a spectacularly recreated 1969 Sunset Boulevard and Roxy, to a mind-bending Death Valley peyote trip and The Factory in NYC, where Jim wanders through one of the most impressive shots in Stone’s whole canon. Did I mention the concert scenes?
The new 30-minute Stone interview captured in 4K exclusively on the 4K disc (without HDR), opens with the director recounting how it all started in 1988 when the music rights for The Doors became available. “They were my dream group and I felt a strange allegiance to Jim and his way of thinking,” he says during the interview.
“The Doors” script was written over the summer of '89, while Stone edited “Born on the Fourth of July.” He based the storyline on 130 interviews Rolling Stone writer Jerry Hopkins accumulated on The Doors lead singer and lyricist. It became the definitive best-selling biography of Morrison, “No One Here Gets Out Alive.” It explored Morrison’s early years, his rise and fame with The Doors, his relationship with girlfriend Pamela Courson and others, and his battles with alcoholism and drugs.
Stone structured the storyline around 30 songs, opening with “An American Prayer,” which Morrison recorded toward the end of his life. “It’s a poetic memoir in the style of French poet Arthur Rimbaud, who he respected a lot,” Stone says. “In other words, it’s melancholy introspective and haunting poetry all about Jim.”
During the interview, Stone stops for a moment and holds up his personal copy of the script, revealing the index of songs and their corresponding script page number. No. 1 – “American Prayer,” No. 2 – “Riders on the Storm” (used twice in the film), No. 3 – “Hello, I Love You,” No. 4 – “Love Street,” No. 5 – “Gloria,” No. 6 – “Awake,” No. 7 – “Soup Kitchen,” No. 8 – “Moonlight Drive,” No. 9 – “Break on Through” (3x), No. 10 “Light My Fire,” all the way to No. 30 “Roadhouse Blues.”
The Doors experimented with hallucinogenic drugs during a desert retreat.
Summer 1966 - The Doors are the house band at the famed Whisky A Go Go bar on Sunset Blvd. During a second set on a Thursday night, Morrison improvs during the song "The End" while tripping on acid. His comments onstage leads to him and the band being fired by co-owner Phil Tanzini. Two days earlier, the band had signed a record contract with Elektra Records.
Originally, Stone felt Tom Cruise would be perfect as Jim Morrison, “since he was young and dynamic.” The two had just finished “Fourth of July,” but over time, Stone realized Cruise didn’t have the qualities he was looking for. “Tom comes off too pushy, while Jim was more laid back,” he says.
Val Kilmer got the part; he had those “recessed qualities,” Stone explains. Kilmer desperately wanted the role, approaching Stone and telling him, “I’m Jim Morrison.”
The only other competitor was impersonator David Brock, who was touring the U.S. at the time with a small band impersonating Morrison. But it was Kilmer’s performances in “Weird Science” and “Real Genius” that convinced Stone he was the right choice. Stone was determined to shoot and record the five-concert scenes live, without lip-synching to make it REAL.
“I had been through the music so many times, and those songs are sung by Val Kilmer. Or we would use Jim’s voice for a bar or two or something, then Val’s voice would come in. It was groundbreaking at that time.” — Oliver Stone
For the role of Jim’s girlfriend Pam, Stone first considered Heather Graham, who auditioned several times with Kilmer. Ultimately, Meg Ryan was hired. She had already become a star in “Top Gun” and “When Harry Met Sally.” Stone says she basically, “[wanted] to let it go and be someone else. I want sex; rock ‘n’ roll, and I want to tear my hair out.”
Stone recalls how he and the producers wanted the blessing of the families before they began filming. Executive producer Bill Graham paved the way to get Morrison’s parents on board. He set up a meeting in San Diego with Jim’s father Admiral Morrison, who was head of the Pacific Fleet for the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War. “In a strange way, I think he was proud of his son,” Graham told Stone. He also remembers how Graham felt Jim’s parents saw a piece of their son in the director.
The hardest approvals came from Pam’s parents, “who were scared the story would paint their daughter as a drug addict,” Stone says. Also The Doors organ/keyboarder Ray Manzarek, who, “felt the script was ugly and only brought out the dark side.” But eventually, Graham got his okay.
The five-concert scenes, which are spectacular using a cast of thousands, are the foundation of the film. Still today, people come up to Stone telling him how they were an extra in the film. His relationship with Kilmer was extremely tense and strained during production. “He was tired and he was working his ass off and he basically told me to go f**k myself,” after the cameras stopped rolling Stone says. Years later, they patched up their relationship and became close friends.
(1) September 17, 1967 - The Doors arrive in New York City to play The Ed Sullivan TV Show on CBS. (2) An unnamed magazine photographer played by Mini Rogers makes the iconic "Young Lion" portraits of Jim Morrison. In reality New York photographer Joel Brodsky made the photographs. (3) Kathleen Quinlan plays journalist Patricia Kennealy, who was one of Morrison's lovers. On the summer solstice of 1970 Jim and Patricia marry in a Celtic pagan hand fasting ceremony.
When “The Doors” was released in March of 1991, its reception was surprisingly mixed from critics and moviegoers. Stone was shocked the film didn’t do better with the over-30 crowds. “Silence of the Lambs” was the box office winner that spring.
Additional bonus features on the 4K disc include a new 15-minute interview with original sound editor Lon Bender, who details the process of upgrading the audio from a six-channel soundtrack to the enveloping Dolby Atmos environment. The 4K also includes two edits of “The Doors” with Stone’s “Final Cut” in which he shortens one scene reducing the overall length by two minutes, and the original Theatrical Cut, which includes his running commentary recorded years ago for the DVD 10thAnniversary two-disc set.
Stone supervised the new 4K restoration in concert with Studio Canal and Lionsgate. The original 35mm camera negative (2.39:1 aspect ratio) was first scanned stateside in 4K, while the color toning was handled at a specialized restoration lab in Italy.
The 4K (disc & streaming) is a major leap of onscreen resolution compared to the old and tired HD master. Wide shots get the biggest bump in clarity from foreground to distant objects, while natural film grain dances across the screen. Several composite shots reveal even larger film grain when applied. A number of Richardson’s close-ups are less dynamic with the added resolution, but the real difference comes from the HDR10 and Dolby Vision toning achieving intense, vibrant contrast levels – especially during the concert scenes with super-bright spotlights. The color palette becomes far more expansive, with varying shades of reds and orange dominating.
The remastered eight-channel Dolby Atmos track is extremely active, with varying levels of music, vocals and ambient sound providing the overall soundstage a more inclusive experience. Bender used two duplicate masters to pull sounds into the spatial plane above normal ear height for the Atmos mix – especially during the concerts.
Finally restored to all its glory, “The Doors” is a blazing masterpiece from Oliver Stone’s ten-picture streak taking him from “Salvador” (1986) to “Nixon” (1995).
— Josh Boone, director/screenwriter, and Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch, producer
December 9, 1967 - New Haven Conn. concert
Jim Morrison is arrested onstage during the New Haven concert. He was charged with "breach of peace, resisting arrest and indecent or immoral exhibition."
San Francisco concert 1968
March 1, 1969 - Coconut Grove concert
(1) A police officer tells Jim to stop smoking weed on the stage. (2) The concert was held at the 7,000 seat Dinner Key Auditorium, but reports estimate over 12,000 were in attendance and mayhem over takes the stage and crowd. (3) Jim Morrison was on trial at the Miami-Dade County courtroom, accused of lewd and lascivious behavior, drunkenness, profanity and indecent exposure.