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Eagle Vision presents
The Doors: Soundstage Performances (2002)

"I really admire poets that can get up with or without a microphone just in front of a group of people and start reciting their poetry. I really admire that. But, I find that the music gives me a kind of security that makes it a lot easier to express myself, whereas it's kind of hard just to read it dry. I wish I could, I'd like to work on that a little bit more."
- Jim Morrison

Review By: Brian Calhoun   
Published: November 25, 2002

Stars: Jim Morrison, Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger, John Densmore
Director: Various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (language)
Run Time: 02h:02m:32s
Release Date: October 22, 2002
UPC: 801213001798
Genre: music


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ B+CB D

DVD Review

With the combination of Jim Morrison's sultry voice and poetic lyrics, Robby Krieger's arpeggiated guitar riffs, John Densmore's manic yet tactful drumbeats, and Ray Manzarek's classically influenced keyboard/bass lines, The Doors pioneered what is perhaps the most unique rock and roll sound ever created. While I will refrain from pontificating about my disdain for Oliver Stone's dramatized vision of this band, I will assert that anyone who has limited their knowledge of The Doors to his film has never seen an accurate representation of this timeless band. Thanks to The Doors: Soundstage Performances, viewers are now offered an honest depiction of The Doors, their music, and their legend.

Soundstage Performances consists of three classic Doors performances and a series of candid interviews with the surviving members. Most of the performance footage is in poor visual shape, but the fact that these rarities even exist is a treat that any Doors fan will certainly appreciate. Other than a fantastic 1967 performance of The End in Toronto, the rest of the material is performed specifically for television with no audience present. While this footage lacks a traditional concert vibe, it does provide an up close and personal view of The Doors. I often got the feeling of being on stage as I watched fantastic close up shots of the gifted Ray Manzarek playing lead keyboard with his right hand while his left hand handles the bass lines.

The Denmark performance in particular features almost continual close ups of the late Jim Morrison, who I find to be the most intriguing of the four members. His stage persona is nothing like that of the "wild child" for which his reputation seems to be based. Quite the contrary, Morrison gives three very subdued performances, often closing his eyes and emoting while delivering his strong tenor voice or speaking his eccentric poetry. He remains very calm and collected throughout, assuring that he is remembered for his unique lyrics and not any sort of stage antics. Being able to see Morrison so candidly, it becomes ever so apparent what a sad and lonely individual he truly was.

The most satisfying of the three performances is the New York Critique performance, shot for PBS television in 1969. In addition to performing classic songs such as Whiskey Bar, Back Door Man, and Build Me a Woman, all four members participate in a revealing interview session. Though Morrison seems a bit lost, Doors fans will find delight in watching his only on camera interview. After the interview, history is made as The Doors execute their one live performance of The Soft Parade.

The performance footage is strong enough to earn a recommendation, but Soundstage Performances takes it one step higher with the inclusion of interviews conducted with Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger, and John Densmore in 2002. These interviews do not dwell on typical boring elements such as how they decided on the band name, but rather elaborate on the archival footage we see throughout. The PBS Critique performance receives a terrific set up, as the surviving members explain that they were not allowed to play live performances so soon after Morrison was arrested for indecent exposure at a concert in Miami. Going in with this forehand knowledge, I was able to notice the withered emotions of the band that manifested in the Critique show. The last half-hour of Soundstage Performances is all interview material that finds The Doors dissecting the individual songs of each performance. Their keen insight adds substantial depth to the performances and makes for a great round trip experience.

My only criticism of Soundstage Performances is that I would have liked to have seen more concert footage, particularly that which was performed for a live audience. Though the interview segments are a terrific companion piece to the three performances, they ultimately become a bit heavy handed. Nevertheless, Soundstage Performances offers a straightforward and sincere look at an often misunderstood rock band. Anyone hoping to catch a glimpse of the crazy and lascivious Doors will undoubtedly be disappointed. Instead, we discover The Doors as a surprisingly restrained group of talented and professional individuals. Their musicianship alone is worthy of earning them a prestigious place in rock and roll history.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: I have somewhat mixed feelings towards the image transfer. The older footage is presented full-frame and is in dismal shape, particularly the New York Critique performance, which appears to have gone through several VHS generations. However, aside from the bootleg quality of the New York performance, the majority of the video deficiencies appear to be source related. The 2002 interview segments are presented in 1.85:1 nonanamorphic widescreen and are visually pleasing, although they appear a bit murky, as if black level is set too high. While I cannot exuberantly compliment the overall picture quality, I found the archival footage to be in fairly decent shape, given the age of the material. The distractions are not enough, however, to undermine the impact of the performances.

Image Transfer Grade: C

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Those who are expecting reference material from the 5.1 soundtrack will undoubtedly be disappointed. However, I must honor the intelligent nature in which the dynamic capabilities of the 5.1 format have been utilized. Instead of adding superfluous surround gimmicks, the 5.1 soundtrack is merely used as a method of beefing up the bottom end and the overall tonality of what is otherwise sonically identical to the original monaural and stereo audio mixes. When comparing the 5.1 to the original 2.0 track, I was amazed to find a nearly 20-decibel drop in sound pressure level, as well as a dreadfully dull tonal quality. While bass on the 5.1 track is quite distorted and overblown, fidelity is otherwise decent with all three instruments and Morrison's vocals coming through loud and clear. The 5.1 soundtrack is a very admirable inclusion, proving an attractive alternative to the lackluster 2.0 mix.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 36 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Packaging: Nexpak
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 01h:10m:19s

Extra Extras:
  1. Photo Gallery
Extras Review: Considering the wealth of Doors based material that could have easily been included, I found the scant number of extras to be a major disappointment. The only offerings are extremely limited biographies for each band member, and a photo gallery consisting of 26 images. Though the photographs are interesting, the inability to view them individually is a major letdown.

Extras Grade: D

 

Final Comments

A Doors fans delight, Soundstage Performances is like having three official bootlegs cleaned up and served onto one fantastic DVD. In addition to the rare concert performances, the abundance of intriguing interview material proves incredibly interesting and informative. Thanks to the tasteful utilization of 5.1 audio, the original audio tracks now shine with charisma and clarity. Though the image quality leaves a bit to be desired, the spirit of these performances has been admirably preserved.

 


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