If you’ve ever seen Oliver Stone’s bananas retelling of Jim Morrison’s life in The Doors, you probably have an idea of what Jim Morrison’s brief foray into professional filmmaking was like. A listless young man of indeterminate origin obsessed with the darker side of culture and spirituality makes lascivious films that earn the scorn of his classmates before he dramatically quits to embrace life as a poet.
That’s not quite how it shook out. Morrison was the son of a career military man and found solace from his restrictive, disciplined, and frequently uprooted lifestyle through literature. Tall and bumpkinish, Morrison attended Florida State University and was either kicked out or he dropped out after a drunken incident at a football game.
Morrison departed Florida for Los Angeles, where he enrolled at UCLA and eventually received a degree in Theatre Arts, and while he participated in film classes, he never registered, nor left, the film program. During his time at UCLA, Morrison began to adopt a countercultural persona, starting the initial transformation into the Morrison that remains burned in the public psyche.
The first student film that Morrison ever made was entitled First Love, which remains the only one of Morrison’s films from UCLA that have survived to the present day. The 1964 short film was inspired by his friend Max Schwartz and Schwartz’s girlfriend at the time, Liz, who were going through a rough patch during the filming. Schwartz claims that Liz was the first person that Morrison ever did LSD with.
The film is a black and white art picture that has no sound. It mainly features Liz walking around campus and Schwartz attempting to take pictures of her. Schwartz is unsuccessful in his voyeuristic pursuit, and the conclusion finds him simulating masturbation with the camera lens in place of genitalia. That might sound crude, but it’s all relatively innocent, even naive in retrospect. It feels very much like a film made by a young college student, but it has a certain charm in its lack of sophistication.
Eventually, a mini-documentary entitled Obscura was made about Schwartz and the film. In it, Schwartz claims that the other films Morrison made were burned in a fire Morrison made after graduating from UCLA. As it stands, First Love is the only verified film of Morrison’s college years to have survived due to Schwartz being in possession of the only copy.
Check out the documentary Obscura, with First Love at its conclusion, down below.