Judge Gordon Sullivan would like to be considered excessive at something.
"Don't ya love her madly?"—The Doors
The Doors were an unlikely band. Their lead singer was a failed filmmaker/poet, they didn't have a bass guitarist, and, from the first, their blend of blues-inflected rock went full tilt boogie towards excess. Hounded by critics for what was deemed excessive sexuality (and really, excessive everything), The Doors embodied a particular strain of West Coast decadence in the late Sixties and very early Seventies. Looking back, it's amazing they lasted as long as they did. From the vantage point of the twenty-first century, The Doors are ultimately a singles band (pick up their Greatest Hits for pretty much all of their best songs) and a live act of some repute. Their album career charts like an inverse bell curve. They started strong with their eponymous first album, then gradually produced less impressive records (due mainly to the speed of their recording) before going out on a high with L.A. Woman. Though it wasn't intended as a final Morrison-led Doors record, L.A. Woman was an expansive, blues-oriented record that moved away from some of the band's poppier tunes.
The Doors: Mr. Mojo Risin': The Story of L.A. Woman takes a long look back at that record that became the last of the original Doors. Combining performance footage, archival photos, and new interviews with surviving band members Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, and Robby Krieger, Mr. Mojo Risin' presents the history of the album from a brief tour of the band's early years up through the album's success and afterlife.
Mr. Mojo Risin' borrows its structure from a lot of music documentaries that offer a track-by-track breakdown of the album in question. Given the 60-minute running time for the album's ten tracks, we get an average of 6 minutes devoted to each track. That's a little misleading, though, because the film does give us a bit of the leadup to the making of the album, and ends with reflections on the untimely passing of lead singer Jim Morrison. Sandwiched in between we to hear the thoughts of the surviving band members on each of the tracks (including some bits of them playing their parts). We also hear from others, including record execs. In addition to the contemporary interviews, we get various performance footage and archival photographs to illustrate the story of the album.
For what it is, this is a very strong documentary. The interview subjects are all engaging (though some a bit more pretentious than others), the archival footage well-chosen, and the choice of album to laud absolutely appropriate. Considering how much myth and craziness surrounds the band (see Oliver Stone's excellent The Doors for a sample) it's nice to see a relatively straight forward look at the band and its legacy. Sure there are some tales in this doc, too, but the structure of song-by-song remembrance and reliance on archival footage keeps the film grounded.
This Blu-ray set is pretty solid as well. The 1.78:1 AVC-encoded transfer is only 1080i, but no serious interlacing issues crop up. The contemporary interview material (evidently shot on video) looks clean and sharp, while the archival material varies widely in source quality. Despite the variability in source quality, the transfer handles those shots with ease, never breaking down into noise or artifacts. Similarly, the DTS-HD track varies quite a bit in quality as well. The contemporary interview material is clean and clear, while some of the music tracks go from pristine to distorted depending on recording conditions. Clearly, though, whatever problems that exists in the audiovisual presentation start with the sources, not the track and transfer here.
There are two extras available on this disc. The first is 35 minutes of extra footage, including additional interviews and archival material. Since this was originally made as a TV-style documentary, the material was cut for time instead of quality, making it a nice addition. The second extra is a new Doors song that has been uncovered. The case claims it is played over a collection of stills. I don't know why they don't just call it a music video, but it's an interesting curiosity in the band's catalogue, even if the recording fidelity isn't great.
There are so many myths and legends surrounding The Doors and their time period that we'll likely never get a full picture of what happened. While it's nice to hear from the individual band members, it's their recollections that are most likely to be suspect. Of course they were there, but they also have a vested interest in projecting a particular picture of The Doors (one that still sells their records), so while everyone seems candid here, I don't think we're getting a full picture of the recording of L.A. Woman.
The Doors: Mr. Mojo Risin': The Story of L.A. Woman is a solid little music doc. Since the album is deserving, the praise doesn't feel excessive, and the interview subjects and archival material are well chosen. It's likely only to appeal to those already fans of The Doors, but that's not a problem for a doc like this.
Though I don't love it madly, Mr. Mojo Risin' is not guilty.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
Studio: Eagle Rock Entertainment
• Deleted Scenes
Review content copyright © 2012 Gordon Sullivan; Site design and review layout copyright © 2015 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.