Johnny Depp Narrates When You're Strange: A Film About the Doors
Featuring stage and studio footage (much of it rare) as well as home movies and photos, When You're Strange tells the history of the Doors and their music with fan/narrator Johnny Depp.
But with all respect to John Densmore, Robby Krieger and Ray Manzarek - whose organ/keyboard sound, for Eyeballin', is the band's true calling card of the band's sound - the doc should have just been titled A Film About the Jim Morrison.
Whether you think of him as a unique and powerful talent or an overrated poet whose stature is mainly due to his early death, Morrison and talk about Morrison utterly dominates the screen, though often for bad behavior. How the rest of the band put up with his drug-and-alcohol crazies - not just in the studio, but onstage - means they must have had more collective patience than a Biblical tribe of Jobs.
When Morrison suddenly passes out at one show, the band continues to play without interruption as Manzarek takes up the vocals. Others are even wilder - during one show, Eyeballin' lost count at 10 cops onstage with the singer.
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While the Doors' music is utterly unique and so much of it incredible, clearly the Morrison Spectacle had overridden the music. But he was hardly an unwilling player, doing outrageous things "brilliantly, or brilliantly calculated for effect."
When he appears glassy-eyed and mumbling among a group of fans, he may not be high as much as he is - in his own words...which you should remember from Val Kilmer's turn as the Lizard King - "...testing the bounds of reality. I was curious to see what would happen. That's all it was: curiosity."
The film does suffer occasionally from some ham-handed narrative wording ("The days of Ricky Nelson and Leave it to Beaver were over." Really?) and some filmed drop-ins of a Morrison look-alike driving through the desert.
Eyeballin' would have also liked to have seen more contemporary interviews and complete live performances, though we totally understand that director Tom DiCillo's vision was aiming for a more atmospheric (thus "A Film About the Doors") than documentary/historical nature, and that's why it works so well on that level. Bonus footage includes an extremely rare interview with Admiral George C. Morrison, Jim's father.
Eagle Rock, 96 mins, $14.98.
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