Booze Revooze: A Drinker’s Skewed View of WHEN YOU’RE STRANGE

[Click here for a guide to Booze Revooze and the rating system used]

From the juiced-box and the soundtrack: The Doors – Alabama Song (Whisky Bar)/Texas Radio/Love Me Two Times

[Press ‘play’ to find the next Whisky Bar]

Ramblings: Behind Closed Doors

Final Proof: 3½ Shots

You know how you get drunk with old ghosts? They’re shadows of their former selves and were cooler when they were younger, newer ghosts and you’ve been drinking for a long time with these ghosts you grew up with but who never grew up themselves and they were cool when they first appeared out of nowhere to save you from your mundane existence but a while back you grew past them and they’ve become as tedious as the childhood they pulled you out of and as trying as the drinks they poured you in your youth. Once the ghosts of heroes, they’ve since become human and their valorous vices are now nothing but banal bents. Still, having that ghost beside you as you drink is reassuring in a reminiscent sort of way and When You’re Strange is kinda like that ghost.

It’s impossible for me to review this movie without also reviewing my kinship for Jim Morrison. i’ll try not to dwell, but i’m quite the dweller. See, when i was around 17 i was president of my church youth group and a regular, upstanding kid in an ultra-conservative family. And then i read No One Here Gets Out Alive. Inside 6 months i was addicted to The Doors, out of the church and writing angst-written songs and poetry. i had successfully exchanged one savior for another. You might even say i have Morrison to thank, in part, for my drinking.

Thirty years later, i’ve kept the addictions but the sheen has lost its shine. Morrison is no longer my idol, just a talented guy who wrote some awesome songs and some of his lyrics are poetic but there are some silly lines as well. i no longer worship at the altar of Morrison; as sad as it seems, i simply outgrew him.

Now that i got that off my chest, let’s talk about the movie.

You want the good news or the bad news first? Let’s start with the bad. The narration is pretty much totally and entirely crap. The text is lifted almost word for word from No One Here… and Johnny Depp, as cool as he is, reads it like a pre-school easy reader. “This is Jim. See Jim sing. Sing, Jim, sing. See Jim Drink. Drink, Jim, Drink. See Jim swallow chunks of black tar heroin. Swallow, Jim, swallow.”

The good news for those of us hardcore Doormen (and women) is the footage. There is tons of new, never-seen-before stuff (awesome behind the scenes concert images, Jim’s UCLA film school final, an explanation to the infamous Miami show fiasco) and what we’ve already seen (HWY, notably) has been fully restored and looks awesome.

What really tilts the scales in favor of this, though, is what’s it’s always been about since the beginning: The Music. When You’re Strange is a great excuse to listen to some great tunes and look at some great images of one of the coolest guys ever lucky enough to die too young.

Buzz Kills (Watch Out for Spoilers)

Sex: ½ Shot

No big surprise here. This movie, after all, is about four guys hanging out together pretty much all the time. Still, i gotta give half a shot for all the shots we got of those doe-eyed hippy chicks ripe with optimistic innocence and bursting with ingénue naiveté.

Click to Grow It

On top of these (i wish), we also got Jim’s girlfriend / kinda wife, Pamela Courson.

For those of you who are more into Door keys than Door locks, here’s a shot of Johnny Depp (47), the narrator:

And of course, here’s some of the man himself:

Click On The Shot For Wallpaper Size

A Smoke

Drink: 4 Shots

No one was more surprised than me, believe me. i mean, i knew Morrison was a drinker but obviously i’d forgotten how much. (Miss Demeanor, who has recently read No One Here…, tells me the bio is full of his drinking and they maybe even toned it down in the movie.) Anyway, drinking played such a pivotal role in the second half of the film i’m pretty sure it’s gonna show up in the Barcademy Awkwards (The Alkies). Here’s what i mean:

  • [Morrison] Drinks whiskey and beer on the [private] plane
  • Jim drunk in studio
  • Ray w/ a beer in the studio
  • Freaks with boda bags
  • Morrison moves from drugs to booze at Soft Parade
  • “Sometimes alcohol helps Morrison. Sometimes it doesn’t.”
  • “I drink so I can talk to assholes. / This includes me.” [From his book of poetry]
  • Professional drinkers are hired to look after him but they can’t keep up
  • The Janis Joplin story [when Morrison and Joplin party together, they both get drunk, he jams her face in his crotch, she hits him on the head with a whiskey bottle and breaks down in tears]
  • Drinking binge with Michael Mcclure [see photo]
  • Drinking breaks up the band
  • Beer in studio of L.A. Woman
  • Morrison dies in the tub after a night of heavy drinking
  • Drinking wine out of a screw-on jug under a tree at lakeside
  • Jim drinking Bud on a sailboat
  • Jim’s alter ego is “Jimbo” and everyone’s afraid of him

i especially like the last one ’cause Al K Hall is my alter ego and he likes it when cool people have alter egos, too.

A Smoke

Rock & Roll: 5 Shots

Yeah, no big surprise here. Babes, we’re talking about the Doors.  i’ll give you a taste of the soundtrack. In a shotglass what we got is either Doors’ tracks (and the bummer is that they didn’t find many outtakes or live tracks but, for the most part, went straight with the album versions) or Johnny Depp reading Jim’s poetry.

Heeeerrrrreeeeee’s Johnny: Johnny Depp reading Morrison’s poem, “Cinema”

Heeeerrrrreeeeee’s Jimmy: The Doors – Break On Through (To The Other Side) (Live at the Isle of Wight-1970)

Heeeerrrrreeeeee’s the track list on the soundtrack:

1. Poem: Cinema – By Johnny Depp
2. Poem: The Spirit Of Music – By Johnny Depp
3. Moonlight Drive
4. Poem: The Doors Of Perception – By Johnny Depp
5. Break On Through [To The Other Side] [Live at The Isle Of Wight 1970]
6. Poem: A Visitation Of Energy – By Johnny Depp
7. Light My Fire [Live on The Ed Sullivan Show] [Mono]
8. To Be A Real Superstar [Interview Segment] – By Jim
9. Five To One
10. Poem: Wasting The Dawn – By Johnny Depp
11. When The Music’s Over [Live on Danish TV]
12. The Four Of Us Are Musicians / I’d Like Them To Listen
13. Hello, I Love You
14. Dead Serious [Interview Segment] – By Jim Morrison
15. People Are Strange
16. Poem: Inside The Dream – By Johnny Depp
17. Soul Kitchen
18. Poem: We Have Been Metamorphosized – By Johnny Depp
19. Poem: Touch Scares – By Johnny Depp
20. Touch Me
21. Poem: Naked We Come – By Johnny Depp
22. Poem: O Great Creator Of Being – By Johnny Depp
23. The End
24. Poem: The Girl Of The Ghetto – By Johnny Depp
25. L.A. Woman
26. Poem: Crossroads – By Johnny Depp
27. Roadhouse Blues
28. Poem: Ensenada – By Johnny Depp
29. Riders On The Storm
30. Poem: As I Look Back – By Johnny Depp
31. The Crystal Ship
32. Poem: Goodbye America – By Johnny Depp

Boring Technical Crap

Written by: Tom DiCillo

Directed by: Tom DiCillo


Jim Morrison – Himself (archive footage)

John Densmore – Himself (archive footage)

Robby Krieger – Himself (archive footage)

Ray Manzarek – Himself (archive footage)

Pamela Courson – Herself (archive footage)

Johnny Depp – Narrator (voice)

Bottom Line

This is one of those times it pro’lly makes more sense to wait for the DVD. i saw this bad boy twice (once with Miss D and again with my 15-year-old son) and could stand to see it again, plus there’s gotta be some good extras they could tack on.

Click Here If You Wanna Check Out Other Booze Revoozes

8 thoughts on “Booze Revooze: A Drinker’s Skewed View of WHEN YOU’RE STRANGE

  1. old stories don’t get better with time, they just get old, but there is comfort in the familiar and somewhere a need to pass them on to the next generation, maybe not as the causionary tales they were for us, but more of an explanation of who we once were. It is important that we remember our gods in the context that we created them.

    I’ve not even seen the VAL KILMER/OLIVER STONE movie, so this would be a treat for me. Ray plays the bay area a lot, either solo or supporting a collection of other old geezers from that time who want to jam together like they all still had bands

    • It is important that we remember our gods in the context that we created them.”

      Excellent sentiment! Just what i was trying to say.

      i’d definitely recommend this movie over the Oliver Stone one. i’d like to se Ray, actually, just to say i did. It might be fun to get drunk to and then act all nuts and freak him out because he’d think i was channelling Jim and all that. Next time i’m in your neck of the woods, i’ll let you know!

      Thanks for patronizing me, Brother!

      Al K Hall

  2. Great review Al. I never really got into the Doors myself, probably due to being of a younger generation. I did happen to watch that Val Kilmer/Oliver Stone film about them, but it still left me cold.

    I love the way the automatic possible related links lists a review of Saw VI! That’s hilarious!!!

    • Yeah, it’s true that the rebirth of the Doors was in the early 80’s, so i can see how you mighta missed that. As for the biopic, i’m not a big fan of Stone’s (the only thing i really liked by him was Natural Born Killers) and pretty much hated his Doors’ movie.

      From a cinematic point of view, i pro’lly shoulda mentioned, When You’re Strange is interesting from a documentary point of view (which explains why it was premiered at Sundance). If you ever plan to make a documentary about my life, this movie might give you some ideas. 😉

      Saw VI…The Doors…Saw VI…The Doors. Yeah, i can see that. lol

      Thanks for patronizing me,

      Al K Hall

  3. ” “This is Jim. See Jim sing. Sing, Jim, sing. See Jim Drink. Drink, Jim, Drink. See Jim swallow chunks of black tar heroin. Swallow, Jim, swallow.””


    Yes, it was like that, wasn’t it…

    God Jim was such a beautiful asshole.

    *pauses in thought as “beautiful asshole” sums up in my head so very much how I feel about him*

    This was a wonderfully-written review because it so tightly summarizes your personal connections to Jim, Jimbo, and The Doors along with succinctly explaining just what the movie was like — spot on.

    I am really glad we saw this one, though. I can’t help but feel this love/hate relationship with Jim, and I have to say I adore going to his gravesite just for this reason. He was a progressive artist along with the rest of the group. He changed things. He was a total prick, but he was a pretty prick and talented to boot. Like I wrote up there, a beautiful asshole…

    I love the photos you found for this review, too. Perfect.

    I had no idea that what we were watching with all those road trip scenes was “HWY” and actually was Jim Morrison! I thought it was this weird re-creation, a symbolic motif in the movie, but with an actor that just happened to *look* like Morrison. Okay, I was underwhelmed with the movie as a whole, for the same reasons as you wrote here, but now that I know that footage from “HWY” was the real deal, the movie footage actually just went up a notch in my head. I’m really impressed with what was done with the visual part of this film and the editing that was needed to tie it together. It’s an editing masterpiece, really. Good work to those archivists and editors who pulled this together.

    I have to say, too, that this movie really made me respect Ray Manzarek about a billion percent more than I already did. He’s the one person in The Doors that I find myself wanting to know more about from having seen this. How he managed along with John and Robby to keep this band together as long as he did was a real feat.

    *off to Google Ray now, something I had meant to do after seeing the movie*

    And Al, I am going to print this one up. I think it is one of my favorite movie reviews you have ever written. You really “have it” in this one…

    • *Whispers conspiratorially to Al*

      Hey Al, I think *somebody* has a big mad-on for Mr Morrison!!!

      But he’s dead, so it won’t matter too much.

      People Are Strange.

      • Oooh, i’m not jealous. When she says “beautiful asshole”, there’s a big emphasis on asshole. She’s aware what a big influence he was on me in my youth and how he led me to start partying and kinda fathered my Al K Hall persona in a sense…and Miss D has her issues with Al just like many people had issues with “Jimbo”. So yeah, she sees that Morrison was attractive and talented but she’s also very keenly aware what a prick he could be and so, no, i don’t think she’s gonna be running away from me to join the rock and roll circus anytime soon.

        Al K Hall

    • Hi Angel,

      Thanks on the props for the review… Like i said, i was kinda surprised you set this one aside as i thought it was an average one, but thanks anyway!

      You weren’t the only one to be confused by the use of HWY. Many other people thought it was a re-enactment as well (and the fact that Dicillo dubbed in actual radio broadcast announcing Morrison’s death into the scene where Morrison was driving added to the confusion, i think). Check this out from Dicillo’s blog:

      Something odd is happening. No one believes the footage of Jim Morrison is real. 10 minutes into the 1st screening a distributor walks out cursing, furious that we’d used a “re-enactment.” I find him later and explain nothing was re-enacted. It really is Jim, from his own film called HWY. This makes the guy even angrier, as if I’d played another trick on him.

      But the disbelief persists. At the next screening I introduce the film and state very clearly that all footage in the film is real. I explain that it is from Morrison’s film HWY in which he plays a bearded loner hitch-hiking through the desert. I ask the audience to repeat after me, “There are no actors or re-enactments in this film.” Laughing, they do.

      After the screening I answer a few questions. I make the point again; “Everything in the film is authentic. Nothing is re-enacted. Do you see?”

      “Yes!!” the audience returns. A woman raises her hand. “I understand there are no re-enactments,” she says. “But in the desert scenes why did you use an actor to play Jim Morrison?”

      [From Writer/Director Tom Dicillo’s blog]

      Thanks for patronizing me, my love,

      Al K Hall

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