Jim Morrison, Still Breaking On Through

Jim Morrison, Still Breaking On Through

Static Mass Rating: 3/5
THE DOORS (Blu-ray)
Optimum Home Entertainment 

Release date: April 18th 2011
Certificate (UK): 18
Running time: 131 minutes

Year of production: 1991

Director: Oliver Stone

Cast: Val Kilmer, Frank Whaley, Kevin Dillon, Meg Ryan, Kyle MacLachlan, Billy Idol, John Evans, Michael Masden, Kathleen Quinlan, Dennis Burkley

I remember growing up listening to The Doors records, in candlelit rooms with red walls where incense cast shadows as they burned with spiralling smoke plumes moving swiftly through the night air.

Jim Morrison’s lyrics echoed and urged the rebellious nature of my adolescence to break on the through to the other side. Along with Lou Reed, they effortlessly persuaded me kiss those boots of shiny leather while watching soundless reels of Warhol films starring Joe Dallesandro. The Doors, or rather Morrison, the self-professed The Lizard King, and his lyrics, played a large part in my reckless, misspent youth.

The Doors

But long before his words spoke to me, they spoke to Oliver Stone, back when he was 21 years old and serving in Vietnam. Although directors like Brian De Palma, Martin Scorsese and William Friedkin toyed with the idea of making a film about the band, none of them did. In 1991, Stone would be the one to deliver.

The film begins with Morrison (Val Kilmer) arriving in California in 1965 where he follows a beautiful young woman, Pamela Courson (Meg Ryan), to her home and subsequently integrates himself into the Venice Beach scene. After meeting fellow UCLA student, Ray Manzarek (Kyle MacLachlan), he then goes on to form a band with him, Robby Krieger (Frank Whaley), and John Densmore (Kevin Dillon), calling themselves The Doors.

The Doors

It then charts the band’s rise from their first rehearsals through to their sell-out shows, right up to Morrison’s untimely death at the age of 27 on July 3rd, 1971.

Rather than being a straightforward biopic, Stone commingles Morrison’s poetry with hallucinogenic imagery to give us a sense of the ideas that fuelled his indomitable spirit, his growing obsession with death and his induction into pagan rituals with writer Patricia Kennealy (Kathleen Quinlan). Yet the writer/director also takes some liberties with the truth and the portrayal of events in the film do not posit their actualities in real life, running counter to John Densmore’s 1990 autobiography Riders On The Storm and the documentary When You’re Strange (2009), which Ray Manzarek described to Billboard magazine in 2008 as “The true story of the Doors”.

The Doors

Kilmer’s portrayal of the rock legend is compelling; he not only resembles Morrison, but after spending a year learning everything about him, he managed to perfect his walk, stance, mannerisms and nearly a hundred other nuances, but most of all, his voice.

Stone peppers the film with numerous songs from the band including the haunting Oedipal epic, The End, Light My Fire, People Are Strange, You’re Lost Little Girl and Break On Through, along with two Velvet Underground songs, the unearthly Venus In Furs and Heroin. They appear at key moments and add to the narrative, as opposed to them being randomly inserted.

But aside from the film’s lead performance, superb cinematography and ethereal music, there are some flaws. The script edges toward lustreless at times and the story moves painfully slow. Morrison is depicted as a rather one dimensional character, prone to tantrums and coming across as a stoner.


  • Jim Morrison: A Poet in Paris (52.08)
  • Back to the Roots (55.53)

We rarely catch a glimpse of him outside of his persona and as a result we learn nothing much we didn’t already know. Stone eschews telling this side of the story in favour of his own.

The Doors

Yet there are fascinating insights. Morrison’s meeting with Warhol for example, where he takes off the artist’s glasses. How did the universe not combust when these two met, I don’t know, but this scene, as short as it is, told much while Warhol babbles on about giving Morrison a telephone so he can talk to God.

The picture quality is very good; the colours are bold, edges are sharp and overall it looks very crisp as the day it was released.

For a Blu-ray release, commemorating the 40th anniversary of Morrison’s death, there isn’t a wealth of special features included. 2 lengthy documentaries which look back on his life and the making of the film with Kyle MacLachlan and Oliver Stone, but I felt they could have done more, a lot more. Rather than something which honours Morrison’s life and legacy, the release seems more like an attempt to cash in on it.

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