“There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the Doors.” – Jim Morrison
Feast of Friends is a messy, glorious tribute to the Doors and their charismatic singer, unearthed deep from within their film archives. Aside from a brief run at film festivals back in the 1960s, only bootlegged copies had existed in circulation for the past four decades until now with this very release. Filled with rare backstage footage and concert performances from their 1968 summer tour, it’s an inside look into the private world of the Doors in their prime. For my money, Jim Morrison was the best front-man in Rock history. He proves it once again in this unearthed footage as he gyrates wildly on stage as the Lizard King, thrilling audiences with fantastic performances of Five to One and The End.
Filmed by Paul Ferrara, a fellow student whom Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek had both met at UCLA before the band had existed, its loose narrative allows the Doors to relax on camera. He was not the outsider many rising bands feel cautious about when allowing access. There are surprisingly intimate, friendly moments captured on film. Anyone that calls themselves a fan of the Doors or Jim Morrison has to see Feast of Friends. It is absolutely required viewing, one of the more important archival releases we’ve seen from the Doors in some time. Even if one owns all of their released live material, this new addition is an important marker in their history.
Shot on rough 16mm film stock, Feast of Friends is a fragmented vision of the Doors, pieced together using their more popular hits to connect the dots. We get fly-on-the-wall coverage of the band members and their girlfriends, as they joke around backstage. Watch as guitarist Robby Krieger messes around on guitar and Jim Morrison has an improvised moment on piano, hamming it up for the camera as if he were on stage.
Despite the film getting canceled before completion, Feast of Friends is a rare treat for devoted fans. After the Miami incident in which Jim Morrison was arrested, the tour was suddenly canceled and funding for the film ran dry. Paul Ferrara took the assembled footage and did the best he could with it, producing this chaotic mix of sight and sound that feels true to the band’s original spirit. Far removed from Jim Morrison’s death, legends and myths have grown up around the fabled group and its legendary singer. He had the movie star looks, the magnetic charisma, the incredible showmanship, and most importantly, the songs, that marked him for the annals of history.
Feast of Friends is a pure rush for Doors’ fans. Getting a glimpse of their inner world and featuring electrifying archival performances in their prime, makes it compulsory viewing. If the Doors had kept on touring in 1968, one wonders how much better the piece could have been if properly finished? It is not the best introduction to the Doors or their music; this one is purely for their hardcore fans.
Feast of Friends arrives in suitable condition for a 16mm film that had supposedly gone missing when Jim Morrison took off for Paris. Shot on a 16mm Arriflex camera, it arrives in a newly color-corrected transfer from the best possible, extant film elements. Blu-ray distributor Eagle Rock Entertainment, purveyor of many fine music releases, restored the film as best they could. The overall video quality is not going to wow anyone, but I was fearing the worst after the Doors’ Hollywood Bowl Blu-ray had been released with massive levels of DNR. Feast of Friends has received a far better, more authentic film transfer than Hollywood Bowl.
The transfer shows no sign of having been processed with sharpening or filtering, revealing solid levels of high-frequency content in the frequent close-ups. This is not the sharpest image, the scattered 16mm cinematography was often done on the fly with one or two assistants, supposedly including a young Harrison Ford. Spread over a BD-50, the relatively short main feature has a generous AVC video encode in 1080p resolution. It is presented in its native 4:3 aspect ratio, displaying no motion artifacts or other compression artifacts.
Don’t expect crystal-clear, digital-quality footage. Everything on this set is sourced from weak film elements at best, so its ultimate resolution is far less than new concert footage. There was less overt print damage than I had anticipated. Aside from a little wobble in a couple of shots, this is consistently steady cinematography. On a side note, bonus feature The Doors Are Open is fairly obviously upscaled from a SD source to 1080i video. Far more attention and care was paid attention on this set to restoring the audio by Bruce Botnick.
The audio on this release is a different story from its video. Careful attention was paid to restoring its audio by record producer and engineer, Bruce Botnick. Botnick has been involved with the sound of virtually every major Doors’ archival release in the past couple of decades, ensuring consistently excellent treatment for the most part. Audiophiles will dream about the included 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack that runs at 96kHz/24-bit. Not leaving stereo systems out, the original stereo mix is included as well in an excellent 2.0 PCM option at 96kHz/24-bit. Don’t have a lossless decoder? The lossless MA soundtrack has a core 6.1 DTS mix for those unfortunate souls.
Almost everyone will want to experience the 5.1 lossless surround mix on a quality home theater system. It packs more punch and showcases far greater separation in its soundstage than the stereo mix. If you’ve heard any of the Doors’ Bright Midnight live releases on CD, you’ll be instantly familiar with the typical recording quality in Feast of Friends. While it’s a bit short of pristine fidelity, fans will have no complaints. This is a very enjoyable listen for the music sequences. The dialogue is somewhat low in the mix, but remains intelligible. All in all, I was immensely satisfied by the audio’s presentation for archival concert footage.
Eagle Vision, an imprint of Eagle Rock Entertainment, has provided English, French, German, and Spanish subtitles for everything on this set, including the special features. They display in a white font.
Feast of Friends is a little short for a primary feature. Eagle Rock has compensated by including three lengthy bonus features, all compelling in their own right. I own practically everything the Doors have ever released and had never seen this electrifying Canadian television broadcast from 1967. The companion piece to Feast of Friends, titled Encore, is practically a separate film in its own right. This is an incredible collection of new, must-see material about the Doors.
A handsome 10-page color booklet, replete with rare photos of the Doors and new liner notes, offers additional context for the included features. Paul Ferrara’s liner notes details making Feast of Friends in a fairly complete manner. Len Sousa provides background on the included special feature, The Doors Are Open. Short of a commentary, I found them invaluable in establishing the proper context for this material.
Feast of Friends: Encore (34:44 in HD) – Footage that didn’t make the main documentary gets new life in this companion piece, newly put together by John Albarian. I found this as entertaining as the main feature, especially amazing footage of the Doors recording Wild Child in the studio! They largely used rare and less known songs as the soundtrack to this unseen footage.
The Doors Are Open (53:49 in upscaled 1080i HD) – A British television documentary which originally aired in December of 1968, it contains concert footage from the Doors performing at London’s Roundhouse. The live music has been fixed and cleaned up by Bruce Botnick. As a documentary, it’s a strange piece that cuts together the Doors performing on stage with newsreel footage of the Vietnam War, and other political footage from the 1960s. The filmmakers clearly were hoping to portray the band as politically driven.
The End (16:01 in possibly upscaled 1080i HD) – This live television performance of The End from 1967 blew my mind. It is an absolutely riveting performance by the band, despite removal of the infamous Oedipal section. The band is smoking, Krieger and Manzarek play with an inspired passion. Broadcast on a Canadian show, the performance was filmed before Light My Fire had become a monster hit and made them stars. The audience looks shocked, I don’t think they had ever heard anything like the Doors on this Pop show. There is a short introduction to the television footage, featuring fairly modern interviews with surviving band members at the time.
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Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. All screenshots have been taken from The Doors Are Open, a rare performance from British television.