Late in March 1968 (the exact date is unknown) The Doors decided to film a documentary of their forthcoming tour. The idea may have come about because Bobby Neuwirth, who was hired to hang out with Jim and try to direct his energies to more productive pursuits than drinking, produced a film, “Not to Touch the Earth”, that utilized behind the scenes film of The Doors.
The band set up an initial budget of $20,000 for the project. Former UCLA film students Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek hired film school friends Paul Ferrara as director of photography and Frank Lisciandro as editor, plus Morrison friend Babe Hill as the sound recorder. The first show shot for what will later be named “Feast of Friends” was the April 13th show at the Santa Rosa Fairgrounds. Shooting of the film lasted for five months between March and September and captured the riots in Cleveland and the Singer Bowl. Filming culminated in Saratoga Springs, NY, where backstage Morrison goofed around improvising a hilarious ode to Frederick Nietzsche.
After filming started, the concept grew and “Feast of Friends” was to incorporate fictional scenes (some version of “HWY”?). But problems started to arise. The live sound, in parts, was unusable so the decision was made to use the album cuts of The Doors’ songs. The budget grew by another $10,000 and the film still wasn’t finished. A decision was made by Ray, Robby, and John to pull the plug on the film, but Paul Ferrara appealed to Jim and a compromise was worked out. The fictional scenes would be dropped and another $4,000 was added to the budget to complete the editing.
The completed film runs to about thirty-eight minutes and is a pastiche of images from different shows and the band prior to or after a show. “Feast of Friends” includes footage from the Singer Bowl, which shows the riot in full flower, the stage crowded with fans and policemen. Occasionally, Morrison comes out of nowhere to encourage it all. The centerpiece of the film is “The End” from the Hollywood Bowl show. The film suffers a bit from not using live sound, and the superimposition of album cuts of songs (except for the Hollywood Bowl footage) removes the viewer from the immediacy and impact of The Doors.
“Feast of Friends” was later accepted at five major film festivals including the Atlanta International Film Festival that Frank Lisciandro describes in “An Hour For Magic.” Other entries in the Atlanta Film Festival included George Lucas’ student film “THX-1138” (in 1971 Lucas would make a feature length film of it), and Steven Spielberg’s “Amblin’.”
In later years the film was shelved, missing the late ’70s midnight movie showings of rock films. In the ’80s, with the advent of music video, Ray Manzarek started producing videos of Doors songs for MTV that relied heavily on the “Feast of Friends” footage. Chances are that even if you haven’t seen “Feast of Friends” you’ve already seen a lot of the footage. The film is now available in remastered form on DVD and Blu-Ray.
Note: This article has been revised and updated and appears in “The Doors Examined”.
Sources: “Break on Through” by Riordan and Prochnicky, Other Voices Calendar.
Originally published March 27, 2013.