"It's a fictional documentary," Jim Morrison says in a clip from the lost 1968 Doors tour documentary A Feast Of Friends. "I can't say too much about it, because we're not really making it. It's just kind of making itself."
Forty-six years later, the restored and remastered film is finally being released in all of its free-form glory. Funded by the band and directed by Paul Ferrara, one of Morrison's film-school friends, A Feast of Friends doesn't stick to typical rock-doc territory, expanding to focus on interactions with fans, friends and bystanders. The climate of American politics and fashion, circa '68, is also captured along the way, as A Feast of Friends veers off the beaten path to tell its story.
That's in keeping, of course, with the unconventional career of the Doors, but could also explain why some film-goers were left confused during this movie's limited initial screenings. A Feast of Friends had been shown at a handful of festivals many years back, but never received much in the way of accolades and was, more or less, forgotten by all but the most diehard of Doors fans.
"The movie might not even be about us for all well know," Robbie Krieger said, while Morrison added that he hoped the film would leave their audience "puzzled." Mission accomplished. The results amount to more of an elaborate snapshot than a detailed portrait. Still, A Feast of Friends isn't all bad.
Without having to bother with typical documentary fare, it's able to present the band in much more open terrain. Even though the Doors obviously knew they were being filmed, there is a casual manner on display throughout. The live footage within is simply incredible, and the remastering of both audio and video is as good as it gets. The down side, however, is that a snapshot can only give you so much information.
Over the decades since this shoot, the legend of the Doors has risen far above the concrete reality of the band. A Feast of Friends serves as a down-to-earth reminder of just how revolutionary and radical this group was in its prime. The Doors were all about drama, both musically and visually—and that is certainly captured within this 40-minute feature, even if you're left wanting more of the concert performances and less of the interaction between band members and hangers on.
A DVD-extra featurette titled Feast Of Friends: Encore adds 30 minutes of behind-the-scenes outtakes, though they add little to the storyline for anyone other than the most dedicated. Also included is a 1968 British documentary called The Doors Are Open. Weaving politics, the Vietnam War and other social scenes in and out of performances from the Doors, it too is a cinema-verite Polaroid of the era, with the Doors' music as the perfect soundtrack. In contrast to Feast Of Friends, The Doors Are Open was shot in stark black and white.
An additional clip from a Canadian television special called The Rock Scene: Like It Is, however, is worth the price of the entire DVD.
Hosted by singer Noel Harrison, the program was filmed in the summer of 1967 and originally aired in October of that year. The band was young, hungry and full of edge, captivating the studio audience for the 12-minute journey with Morrison as ringleader. To think, only a couple years earlier, elders were flipping out about the Beatles' long hair. The Rock Scene, in contrast, confronts them with a lengthy, free-form, jazz-inspired, oedipal odyssey—and in beautiful full color.
There is also a brief interview segment to enjoy with Krieger, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore and band manager Danny Sugarman.
When I first encountered the music of The Doors it was quite a different experience from anything I had come across musically. For me the British Invasion was a refreshing reminder of innocence in America and around the world, while on the other hand, The Doors were desire awakening. The front man for the Doors, Jim Morrison, was a film student attending UCLA, which at the time was known for its Avant-garde film studies. Morrison's rise to fame as a poet, lover and musician overshadowed his exploration of non-linear film form.
The Doors' 1968 documentary Feast of Friends, which the band produced themselves and never officially released, will finally get a proper unveiling on November 11, when Eagle Rock Entertainment issues DVD and Blu-ray versions of the ultra-rare work. Although the film did screen at film festivals during Jim Morrison's lifetime, it has only been available in bootleg form until now.
Shot during the band's 1968 summer tour, the film intercuts concert performances with behind-the-scenes footage of the group doing whatever it is rock stars do when they're not on stage. A press release describes the movie as "sometimes playful, sensitive, chaotic and touching." Sounds like The Doors! Watch the trailer below.
In addition to Feast of Friends, the DVD and Blu-ray packages will include The Doors are Open, a British documentary also made in 1968. Although Jim Morrison had problems with how the latter film came out, he conceded that it was a vital document of his band.
"The thing is, the guys that made the film had a thesis of what their film was going to be before we ever came over [to England]," Morrison said. "We were going to be the 'political' rock group. It also gave them the chance to whip out some of their anti-American sentiments, which they thought we represented. So they had their whole film before we came over. But I still think they made a very exciting film."
The film First Love was made by Jim Morrison fifty years ago in Los Angeles, California and has barely seen the light of day. Morrison made several known films while studying at UCLA, and this is the only remaining print of the two. Morrison apparently burned his other film that was highlighted in Oliver Stone's The Doors, out of frustration with its rejection at UCLA.
Jim Morrison's life and work will be explored in both a new book and an upcoming documentary film.
The Finn brothers, who are still working on the project, say they hope to premiere it at a film festival next year, and then release it on DVD and video-on-demand.
Here's a preview.