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4.4 out of 5 stars
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4.4 out of 5 stars
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By no means perfect, "When You're Strange" reminds me of the cheap and tacky ripoffs that clog up Poundlands across the UK, though this is much much better than that tat. Depp narrates a mythological text, and the film revolves around this narrative. The film footage shown is woven around the story with tact and care, showing much that even to a hardened Doors fan has never been seen before : fragments from recording sessions, backstage footage, live material (and it is more than frustrating that only one Doors concert has been released in full visually thus far), and period interviews are skilfully interspliced with rarely seen footage from Morrison's amateur films (the largely plotless "Hwy") all restored to immaculate quality. Where this film does suffer, is that there is no retrospective footage, no post-1970 interviews, no historical context included, and thus, the major players, including the surviving members of the band have no opportunity to clarify, or detail, any of the events unfolding in this story apart from fragments of at-the-time discussion caught on camera. This is the films major weakness ; that it relies solely on archival material - and fails to use the important voice of memory to aide the story. It is the best Doors documentary ; and probably the best one there is going to be, and that is this films weakest element. To a relative newcomer to Doorsville, it's a necessary step - to the experienced and stoned immaculate, it's a case of being told what you already know, by Johnny Depp.
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on 2 January 2011
I mainly echo Barriebb3 and DoorsMike's comments. I would give this 5 stars for the uninitiated and 3 for the more hardcore fan so i've compromised on 4 stars. Visually and sonically beautiful, and a great start overall, particularly with the hitchhiker film footage and early photos of the boys in the band (they should have played their early demos over these), but from there it's a familiar retread with a little bit of chronological sloppiness in the last couple of years. I think this is really set up as the 'official version' to counter Oliver Stone's artistic liberties with his film. Johnny Depp's narration is nicely stoner relaxed but seems a tad monotonous by the end and there's no mention of any alternative theories about Jim's death.
Probably just about worth the fairly cheap price, and if you're a casual fan you'll love it. I would have liked the 90 minutes that's already there plus another 30 minutes with something more in-depth. To end on a positive note, the Doors' music sounds wonderful and they're still pretty relevant 40 years on.
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Film has not served the Doors well and for many Oliver Stone's biopic of the band which concentrates on the train wreck of hallucinogenic and alcoholic excess from Jim Morrison has hardly helped. Morrison by any standards was someone who could be a vain, egotiscal and a complete prat. His dabbling's in Dionysian myth, Celtic pagan witchcraft, Indian shaman rituals and most of all the Lizard King persona remain as embarrassing today as they were at the time. Thus Stone's picture reinforced all this guff and tended to concentrate on the more salacious aspects of Danny Sugarman's hagiography "No One Here Gets Out Alive" with out any real attempt to get properly underneath the "live fast, die young" personality of a very complex figure. For if nothing else Morrison had one of the greatest baritone voices of rock, huge charisma, impossible magnetism and his best songs remain unimpeachable and sublime. The Doors, particularly through their magnificent debut album, more than any other band introduced violence, sex, and drugs to the American Top 40 and opened up a huge space for others to follow.

"When your strange" is a documentary compiled by feature director Tom DiCillo and narrated by Johnny Depp. While it has it moments it doesn't really advance the cause that far. Many of the clips in the film are well known not least the performance of "Light my fire" on the Ed Sullivan show or the incendiary Whisky show with Morrison ringed by the police. More interesting are the clips from the little known Morrison's road movie "HWY: An American Pastoral" which consist of the great man driving somewhat aimlessly through the Southwest desert. The quality of the filming is superb but precisely what they tell us is debatable and frankly Johnny Depp's narration is about as much help as a blurred train station announcer and hits the centre of the "cliche" target with such regularity its laughable (e.g. "This much is true: You can't burn out if you're not on fire." - oh give me a break Johnny!)

As such the film finds itself caught bang in the middle of the troublesome legacy of the Doors namely whether the Morrison myth should dominate or whether more energy should be spent on what was a rock n roll band of the highest order. Its not all bad since there are fascinating 8mm film clips of the teenage Jim Morrison as a UCLA student where the film he produced for his class was booed. The footage (while mostly old) is excellent and on their night the Doors could whip up a level of intense and dangerous excitement that few bands today could even dream of. That said there are no interviews from the other band members and when this documentary finishes you flash yourself a mental note that you are unlikely to watch it again. Having recently watched the brilliant Beatles Anthology DVD you witness an approach which should be the absolute definitive template model of a band history. One that is impeccably researched and contains copious insights from all of the Fabs and their close friends and colleagues. While the Doors probably don't merit such a meticulous or exhaustive history they do really deserve something better to capture the whole of what made them so special. If "When your strange" is an attempt to be definitive it fails badly. For the most part it is muddled assemblage of clips which fail to work out why the Doors (as opposed to just Jim Morrison) are such an iconic and influential band. Approach with care.
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on 12 September 2010
i'm a massive fan of the doors and was looking forward to this documentary.for the most part it's good - johnny depp's narration is fine,the rare footage of jim and the band is fascinating but for me it's all over too quickly ,more in depth interviews with ray manzarek,john densmore and robbie krieger would have been fascinating especially talking about the aftermath of jim's untimely death.still if your a fan of the band it's a must see.
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on 28 July 2010
First of all, the USA release of this title is region free so you can import now if you can't wait...

I was a big fan of the Doors almost 20 years ago and this blu ray has re awakened my interest, by using only actual footage of interviews and concert performances as well as a very enjoyable and well chosen narrative by Johnny Depp this brings to life the story of Jim Morrison's short but eventful life.

Really great documentary, even my Husband who is not and never will be a Doors fan liked it.
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on 3 September 2011
I am a Doors fan, I have read books on Jim Morrison and because I have done my research this dvd was so disappointing for me. I had such high expectations but couldn't believe how short it was and how biased it was. Until I saw the end credits and the Courson family are credited so don't expect any dialogue concerning Pams Heroin addiction, the financial drain she was on him with her boutique in LA, the Count De Breteuil who was the "drug dealer to the stars" supplying Keith Richards and others who had died, (allegedly supplying the heroin that killed Jim accidently as he took Pams line instead of his coke). She had an affair with this guy when Jim was sleeping with other women too, abortions were had by girls who slept with Jim.
No mention of the OD in the Rock and Roll Circus on the toilet. No mention to why when he died did she ring the Count who came over and broke into the toilet to get him out. No mention of why they didn't tell the police who he was and why they buried him first then released the story after. Jim was put on dry ice in the apartment for a couple of days as they couldn't bury him without his documents from America and it was 4th July holidays over there. Everthing was closed.

It was good to see the Feast of Friends footage and Jims film HWY. But if you want to know about Jim and the Doors then read a book. Don't watch this. Just remembered something else. Jim apparently rang John Densmore from Paris to say he was coming back. Jim hated JD why would he ring him? This has been disputed many times but we only have the accounts of those who are alive now and don't want their association with Jim to be tainted. This film could've been so great.
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on 29 October 2015
Having been kinda fascinated by the doors for 25 years or so I've listened, watched and read alot into the band and so rate this DVD based on the intriguing footage of Morrison and narration of Jonny Depp, it's not particularly deep and focus's mainly on Jim's decline, a one for the fan.
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on 8 July 2010
When You're Strange is not so much a documentary as a collage of film footage recorded during the rise, fall, and subsequent continued [Mr Mojo] rising of one of rock's most notorious legends. Although some of the video used has appeared elsewhere, candid moments and extended scenes never before released (except as unwatchable bootleg tapes or severeley truncated clips) breathe life into the quintessential tale of sex, drugs and rock & roll. The story is held together with Johnny Depp's affectionate narration, himself no stranger to the documentary style having previously narrated the Hunter S. Thompson documentary 'Gonzo'. The story is further backed up by sixties news footage of Vietnam and America's civil unrest, a reminder of a time when the counterculture actually had a purpose.

The star of the film is undoubtedly Morrison, whose performance in his independent film 'Hi-Way' is used to great effect as a running thread which ties together the Morrison myth. Polished outtakes from this film are edited to give the impression of Morrison's spirit existing beyond the story of The Doors; gunning his black Ford Mustang through the American desert. One memorable scene shows the singer tuning in his car radio and listening intently to a news broadcast announcing his own death. Despite the sombre tone, the viewer is treated to rare images of Morrison laughing, smiling and having fun with his friends. As the narration leads us inevitably towards Morrison's alcohol-soaked demise we are shown scenes of the young poet as the mask gives way to the demons inside.

The film does have a number of flaws, most notably a tendancy to move out of chronological order and jump back and forth in time. Critics of the film have also attacked Tom DiCillo's sycophantic take on the 'genius' and 'intelligence' of Morrison, which perhaps fails to materialise in the snippets of poetry seen on screen. However, Jim's lyrics and style more than illustrate his power as a poet, and he will certainly be remembered as the original prototype for the wild frontman in rock music.

If you are not into the Doors' music you probably won't find much to enjoy here, but if you are one of those who (as the film reminds us) have enjoyed listening to some of the one million albums The Doors continue to sell each year, you're in for a treat.
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on 17 August 2012
Documenting the principal milestones of both the Doors as a band and Jim Morrison as their iconic and chaotic frontman, this documentary is well produced, highly engaging and also long overdue.

Covering much of the same ground, it also sits rather nicely alongside the artistic vision of Oliver Stone in the biopic 'The Doors', against which it stands as a welcome balance (and, some might say, antidote). I also rather like the involvement of Johnny Depp, whose laid-back narration is well suited to the general feel of the film.

With a running time of only 86 minutes, it could have been considerably longer, and the film-makers seem to have missed a trick by not including a whole host of special features on the DVD. Personally speaking, I could also have done without the footage of what looked very much like a fatally injured coyote that had clearly been hit by a vehicle, and I struggle to see the relevance of this and why it was included - give the poor animal some dignity!

In summary, whilst I can't help feeling that the film itself is a bit on the short side, with the overall package somewhat lacking in terms of DVD extras, this is nevertheless a very good film, which I would highly recommend to both curious onlookers and Doors fans alike.
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on 26 September 2010
I, like many no doubt; have been waiting for this for a while now. Let's get the easy stuff out of the way first: 1. Johnny Depp's narration is laid back and enjoyable, easy on the ear and to the uninitiated, informative. 2. The archive footage is nice to see, and compared to my personal copy of HWY; it's great to finally see it without the time code and poor picture quality. Feast of Friends is also a welcome addition. However; and it is big however; the most obvious question hangs heavy in the air "what is the purpose of this documentary"? Is it likely to woo a new generation of fans? Will it offer more to the informed fan? No, a resounding NO on both counts. 'When You're Strange' looks good, up to date, clean, modern and fresh and yet it's content is a very familiar path. Read 'No One Here Gets Out Alive' and you know far more than this film will tell you, god forbid; watch Oliver Stone's film (I like the film, shame it's not the whole truth or accurate) and you'll be pretty set. I've waited for a long time for this film and was expecting rare and unseen footage, new revelations from archive footage of Jim, or Ray, Robbie and John, I was expecting insights on their legacy and impact, new discussions about Jim's mysterious and untimely death; and as if without saying; an in depth look at the music. I was suprised and disapointed that from putting the film on to putting the kettle on was less than an hour and a half. Whilst it hinted that Jim was in fact more than just a drugged up drunken fool 24/7, it didn't exactly go out of it's way to show it and in this vein the film rattles along at an incredible pace and skirts over details like a plasterer doing a new wall. The music is mentioned only really to give a fixed date in the time line and when the end finally does come you are left feeling very short changed. This is a documentary that whilst it looks good within itself, it offers very little. I'm not for one minute suggesting it had a duty to contain a huge reveal, or startling footage of something so good it's practically religious, but a break from the same old footage would've been nice and certainly a bit of depth wouldn't have gone amiss. The Doors are one of the most important and interesting bands in history who contributed a lot of very good music and discussion points during their too brief lifespan; 'When You're Strange' is the merest tip of the iceberg. Maybe that then is it's point; maybe this documentary is the door of perception to not only the music, but the films, footage, writing and gossip about the band? Maybe it is in fact a clever film that offers nothing but itself and it's up to you to take from it what you will. Personally; I think I'm being polite there. Please, watch this, but don't expect to see things as they are; infinite; afterwards. "The Crystal Ship is being filled...a million ways to spend your time" spend it wisely.
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