The Doors’ Ray Manzarek was known as a skilled keyboardist and respected music producer (his credits include seminal albums by X), but he was also a knowledgeable movie buff, having graduated from UCLA’s film program and receiving his MFA in cinematography in 1965. Forty days after school let out, he met Jim Morrison by chance on Venice Beach and the rest is rock ‘n’ roll history.
The Doors provided musical psychedelia that the youth of 1960s America, staring down a war in Vietnam that proved tragically futile, yearned for. And the four members — Manzarek, Morrison, drummer John Densmore and guitarist Robbie Krieger — did so while espousing the use of mind-altering substances like marijuana, LSD and other hallucinogens. All of which was reason enough to include Manzarek in a book called “Reefer Movie Madness,” which this author co-wrote with Steve Bloom ten years ago to serve as a guide to “more than 420 mind-bending flicks.”
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In it, Manzarek listed the films he felt were essential to know as a lover of the medium, bearing in mind the audience the book was targeting. As we spoke during our interview for the book in 2009 (he died four years later), he recalled a truly hilarious story of moviegoing in Los Angeles — to see Stanley Kubrick’s extra-sensory epic “2001: A Space Odyssey” during a 1968 screening at the Cinerama Dome with his bandmates and future wife Dorothy Fujikawa.
In the wake of recent news that Pacific Theatres plans to close the iconic structure, it felt worth retelling here, in Ray Manzarek’s own words.
“It was the opening night of ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ and somebody got the Doors about a half-dozen tickets. There was a 7 o’clock showing and we had rehearsal in the afternoon. So John, Robbie, Jim, Dorothy and I forget who else, we hop in the car and head over to the theater in Hollywood, which had a Cinerama screen.
We smoked a joint, and when we walk in to the theater, the place is packed. The only seats left are in the front row. That’s the last place you want to be to watch a movie — everything’s out of proportion! Ideally, you want to be sitting right in the middle. So we’re sitting in the front row going, ‘ah shit. … what the hell, we’re stoned, we’ll just sit down and watch the movie.’
Turned out to be the best seats in the house. Sitting in front of that screen with nothing in front of you but outer space — then those apes and the sunrise, however Kubrick did that was absolutely overwhelming. We sat there with our mouths agape. It was so brilliant — that opening with that music. Morrison stood up after the first two minutes, when it went black after that sequence right before the apes, and said, ‘Well, that’s the best movie I’ve ever seen; we can go now.’
‘Jim, sit down, you comedian.'”
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