It’s become a cliche of pop music that at a certain point in their career, a popular enough act will have to make a movie about themselves in order to give their audience an “unguarded” (but in reality heavily mediated) look at their life offstage. But when the Doors decided to self-produce their own film in 1968, it was still a fairly novel idea. That film, entitled Feast of Friends, was never officially released, although clips of it have been used in documentaries and music videos, and bootleg copies have been passed from Doors fan to Doors fan for years. In fact it came close to being a quite literally lost project—rumor has it that those bootlegs were all duplicates of a print that Jim Morrison left in a paper bag at a friend’s house just days before he died.
Now, Feast of Friends is finally getting a proper release by Eagle Rock Entertainment on Nov. 11. The DVD/Blu-Ray edition includes not only a complete cut of the film but a companion compilation of outtakes called Feast of Friends: Encore, plus a 1968 Doors doc produced for British television called The Doors Are Open, as well as a 1967 performance of filmed for a Canadian TV pop-music variety show where they drop a full 10-minute version of “The End” on a group of stunned Torontonians.
For a band as steeped in mythology as the Doors (a mythology they actively helped create), Feast of Friends and Encore offer a refreshingly casual and candid view of the group at their commercial and creative peak. Yes, Morrison does at one point declaim poetry straight into the camera while wearing a frilly poet’s shirt, but more of the film’s given over to offhand moments like Morrison playing cards with the crew in a hotel room or Robby Krieger messing around on an unplugged electric guitar. It strips away a half-century of frenzied, quasi-religious mythologizing to remind viewers that underneath it all they were just four frequently goofy guys making really good rock music together.