The Doors
directed by Oliver Stone
(Ixtlan, 1991)

When The Doors was released in 1991, I had the opportunity to see it in a theatre for free, but I passed it up because I had no interest in the movie. I was not a fan of the band; indeed, I knew nothing at all about their music, and although I like Val Kilmer, Meg Ryan and Kyle MacLachlan, I was not about to subject myself to 138 minutes of boredom just to see their pretty faces. The only reason I first watched the movie, after it had been out on video for some time (it had already been moved to the 99 cent rental shelves), was because I had heard that Patricia Kennealy had a cameo in it. As a fan of her Keltiad series, I was curious to see what she looked like.

Ms. Kennealy, for those who may have never heard of her, is the author of a highly popular series of science fantasy novels, and also wedded Jim Morrison in a Celtic pagan handfasting ceremony the year before his death. In addition to serving as a consultant on the movie, she played the High Priestess who performs the handfasting rite. So I rented the video for what amounts to about 30 seconds' worth of film nearly at the end of the movie. Dumb, right?

Yup. After about 20 minutes of the movie, I started fast forwarding and didn't stop until I found the scene I wanted. And then I rewound the tape and returned it.

Now, here it is several years later. I've just read a memoir written by Patricia Kennealy about that time and I decide to rewatch the movie (only I bought it this time!) to see if it's as awful as I remember.

It is.

The character of Jim Morrison generates no sympathy whatsoever, except possibly in the last 60 seconds of the movie with the stark shots of his grave. By then it is far too late to care. He is portrayed as an abusive loser; in one scene, he throws girlfriend Pamela Courson (Meg Ryan) into a closet and sets fire to it. When not being abusive, he alternates between mystic poet and drunken clown, with the clown predominating. Morrison is haunted throughout the movie by the ghost of an Indian shaman, an allusion to an incident in Morrison's childhood which supposedly affected him deeply. Perhaps director Oliver Stone was trying to convey some deep and mystical meaning, but I must have missed it.

Stone's unique sense of history (already fodder for stand-up comedians) is admirably displayed here. For instance, in a scene late in the movie, Jim Morrison (Val Kilmer) and Patricia Kennealy (Kathleen Quinlan, with a very peculiar haircut) are fooling around in a shower room backstage at a Doors concert in New Haven, Connecticut. Ms. Kennealy has stated that she did not attend that concert, let alone get caught backstage with Morrison.

Meanwhile, Pamela is shown as a long-suffering victim. Although in real life, Pamela Courson was a heroin addict who died of an overdose in 1974, here her drug use is minimized. In fact, the few times she is shown to take any type of drug, it's because someone else gives it to her.

On the other hand, the acting is quite good and Val Kilmer supplies his own vocals, but neither is enough to save the movie. You need a good story to go with the good acting.

The Doors is boring, plain and simple, and if I still had the receipt, I'd take the tape back.

[ by Laurie Thayer ]

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