By Chris M. Junior
Their concerts could be unpredictable, and the same can be said of The Doors whenever they appeared on television.
Whether engaged or indifferent, though, the band was always worth watching, and “R-Evolution” (now available on DVD and Blu-ray from Eagle Rock Entertainment) collects many prime Doors TV appearances, plus music films made during and after their heyday.
“R-Evolution” is sequenced chronologically, starting with the no-frills, effective January 1967 film for “Break on Through (To the Other Side)” and ending with 1995’s “Ghost Song,” a video for a track on 1978’s “An American Prayer” album (for which keyboardist Ray Manzarek, guitarist Robby Krieger and drummer John Densmore recorded music to support late singer Jim Morrison’s poetry readings). Seven of the 19 clips are from 1967, the year The Doors broke through nationally, including a stiff, unenthusiastic lip-synch performance of “Break on Through” on “Shebang” (hosted by Casey Kasem) and a strong live-Morrison-vocal rendition of “Moonlight Drive” from “The Jonathan Winters Show.”
Just like with Eagle Rock’s 2012 release of “Live at the Bowl ’68,” it’s the bonus features that make this video collection a worthwhile purchase for diehard Doors fans. In the documentary “Breaking Through the Lens,” Manzarek, Krieger, Densmore, engineer-producer Bruce Botnick and Elektra Records founder Jac Holzman provide recent commentary and insight into the clips. Krieger talks about his brother standing in for Morrison when the singer failed to show up with the rest of the band to shoot a lip-synch performance of “Light My Fire” for the short-lived show “Malibu U.” (Krieger’s brother was filmed from behind, and afterward, Morrison — wearing the same striped shirt for continuity — was filmed from the front and edited into the clip.) Other bonus features include “Malibu U” outtakes and “Love Thy Customer,” a 1966 Ford training film with Doors music.
Noticeably absent from “R-Evolution” are clips of The Doors doing “People Are Strange” and “Light My Fire” on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in September 1967 (most likely due to licensing issues), and there are no performances from the band’s 1969 appearance on the PBS series “Critique.” Even so, “R-Evolution” does a good job tracing the video arc and growth of The Doors.