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Four Chances to See Jim Morrison, the Doors in Action

TIMES STAFF WRITER

With director Oliver Stone’s film “The Doors” as the driving force, a new generation of fans is turning on to the rock band, which thrived in the late ‘60s.

Those inspired to see how the Doors lead singer, Jim Morrison, who died in 1971, really looked in concert can select from four videos that show the band in action. The videos also enable viewers to compare Val Kilmer’s performance with Morrison and to gauge how much of the film is fact and how much Hollywood glorification.

Unfortunately, all four of the videos suffer by comparison with the film, which does a better job--for those who actually saw the Doors live--of capturing the excitement of the group’s concerts.

Stone’s film benefits from first-rate sound and modern cinematic techniques, which give the concert sequences an MTV-like feel. The music sequences in the videos all seem primitive--particularly the footage from TV shows. In those days, when rock was still relatively young, cameramen weren’t skilled at shooting concerts.

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So if you’ve seen the movie already, these videos may seem very tame. The four:

“Live at the Hollywood Bowl” (MCA/Universal, $19.95). Filmed in July, 1968, this isn’t one of Morrison’s more dynamic performances. Morrison fed off the crowd’s energy as much as any performer in rock history, but there’s no sense here of audience involvement; it almost seems like it was shot in a studio. The remixed and remastered stereo sound, though, does give the music an unusually vibrant quality.

“Dance on Fire” (MCA/Universal, $19.95). Also boasting remixed and remastered stereo sound, this features footage of some of the livelier moments at Doors concerts--like Morrison being led off stage by the police. Some of the songs are arranged in conceptual video form, closely resembling MTV-video clips, though the Doors were around long before MTV. Atmospheric and impressionistic, the concert and off-stage footage play up Morrison’s enigmatic quality--one of his biggest assets.

“Live in Europe 1968" (A-Vision Entertainment, $19.98). A repackaging of a 1989 HBO Video release, the biggest failing here is inferior sound--which is flat, slightly augmented Hi-Fi, not real stereo. Also, most of this is old black-and-white footage, some of which is very grainy. Filmed during the Doors’ 1968 European tour, it includes both concert and off-stage footage--some of it interesting, most of it not. Nor is the commentary by former Jefferson Airplane members Grace Slick and Paul Kantner--who knew Morrison--particularly enlightening.

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“The Doors: A Tribute to Jim Morrison” (Warner,$14.98). If you’re looking for information about the Doors, this video provides the most, with interviews of colleagues, including the other band members. But the information, which may have been new when this was released in 1981, is now old hat. The cassette does not feature stereo and the music footage is presented in unsatisfying snippets.

MCA/Universal reportedly has more Doors footage that it may package in a video this year. Warner Reprise also has tentatively scheduled a video for release at the end of April, which includes some previously unreleased performances.


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