Blu-ray Review: The Doors -- R-Evolution

A visual evolution of this classic band.
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For all of Jim Morrison's poetry and The Doors' unique blend of the blues with the psychedelic music of the times, The Doors were equally innovative visually, pushing the envelope with their promotional films. That should come as no surprise as both Morrison and keyboardist Ray Manzarek were graduates of the UCLA Film School. This combination made The Doors unlike any band before them and, arguably, since. While The Doors were making cutting edge music and films, American television hadn't quite caught up, still seemingly stuck in more milquetoast days. A number of these films and TV appearances are collected on R-Evolution, which takes a look at the visual history of the band.

The stark contrast between the Door's artistic vision and the reality of American television is apparent in the first two clips. The promotional film for "Break On Through (To The Other Side)" finds the group dimly lit, casting an ominous presence while a mimed appearance on Shebang finds a very disinterested group on a brightly colored stage, complete with plants. The song is the same, but the setting strips it of much of its menacing appeal.

Two songs from the group's American Bandstand appearance follow, including a performance of their breakthrough hit, "Light My Fire." Dick Clark interviews the band, with Manzarek giving a very heady, late 1960s answer when asked how he would classify their music. "Light My Fire" appears again in a color clip from Malibu U that has to be seen to be believed. Morrison did not show up for the initial shoot (Guitarist Robby Krieger's brother doubles for him on some shots) and it's hard to blame him as the band performed on top of an old fire truck on the beach, mixed with girls in bathing suits. It's as if the show's producers thought they were booking a pre-Pet Sounds Beach Boys on the show instead of the band that wrote such heavy songs as "The End."

The Doors fit in better in their December 1968 appearance on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. The fact the Smothers Brothers were certainly more hip than most TV hosts of the era certainly helped. The band mimes to "Touch Me," while Morrison offers a strong, live vocal on the track. Like many bands of the era, The Doors offered their opinion on the Vietnam War via the powerful promotional film for "The Unknown Soldier." Images of domesticity clash with actual war footage and scenes of Morrison being tied up and shot. It was too much for television at the time, but is presented here.

As the 80s approached and music entered the MTV age, The Doors' music made a quick and obvious transition to the video medium. New clips for tracks such as "Gloria" and "People Are Strange" were compiled for this reason and are included here. It is the promotional video for "L.A. Woman" that is of note, not only for its popularity, but also because it was directed by Manzarek. The former film student had come full circle.

The Blu-ray is presented in 1080i High Definition Widescreen 16:9, though (thankfully), the original videos retain their 4:3 aspect ratio. Audio options include DTS HD Master Audio and LPCM Stereo. The audio has been restored and mixed by the band's former engineer Bruce Botnick. Bonus features include a Ford training film from 1966 with music by The Doors, additional videos, Malibu U outtakes, commentary and a documentary titled Breaking Through The Lens.

The Doors blended their film sensibilities with a quest for audio experimentation in a way few other bands could match. While not all of their TV appearances are included here, R-Evolution shows the great progress the band made in such a short time, not only with their music, but with their films as well. Well worth owning to get the bigger picture about this legendary band.