Purple Rain appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Shot on a low budget, Rain showed some rough edges but mainly came across well.
Sharpness was perfectly fine. Given many difficult lighting conditions, parts of the film lacked terrific delineation, but that was inevitable. The majority of the image seemed solid, though, with appropriate definition.
No problems with jagged edges or moiré effects occurred, and I saw no edge haloes. Print flaws also failed to appear, which left this as a clean presentation.
With a pretty wide palette – albeit one that inevitably embraced purple – the colors seemed fairly good. Low-budget 80s films didn’t excel in this regard, so don’t expect the movies hues to dazzle, but they showed more than acceptable range and vivacity.
Another film stock-related area, black levels could be slightly inky at times, but they worked reasonably well. Shadows fared the same – the many low-light sequences didn’t boast great delineation, but they gave us fair clarity. Though the movie remained a product of its era, the Blu-ray made it look about as good as I could expect.
On the other hand, I anticipated a lot more from the movie’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio, and the mix usually lived up to those hopes. Not surprisingly, music dominated the soundfield. The audio emphasized the forward channels, where the songs and score presented very fine stereo imaging.
Other effects spread out the image acceptably well, though they didn’t play a substantial role in the proceedings. Nonetheless, they gave the mix a good feel of atmosphere, despite some moderate “speaker specific” tendencies for the effects.
The surrounds didn’t do much. They added general reinforcement of the front channels and created a decent sense for the club scenes. Not much occurred in the rear speakers, but given the film’s age, they worked fine.
The quality of the audio also appeared good for a 32-year-old movie. Dialogue occasionally sounded slightly flat – and some iffy looping became an issue - but the speech mostly came across as fairly natural and distinctive. I noticed no issues with edginess or intelligibility.
As already mentioned, effects didn’t have much to do in Rain, but they were reasonably accurate and clear. These elements occasionally added good life, such as with the rumble of the Kid’s motorcycle.
Of course, I expected the most from the music, and it delivered, as both score and songs sounded quite good. I’ve listened to the Purple Rain album eight jillion times over the years, and I felt the disc replicated that material accurately.
The mix presented the music with bright highs and positive low-end. I found little about which to complain from the quality of the music on the disc, and that factor led me to give the audio of Rain a “B+”.
How did the 2016 Blu-ray compare to the 2004 20th Anniversary DVD? Audio showed better range and clarity, while visuals were tighter, cleaner and more vibrant. No one will ever view this as a demo movie, but the Blu-ray gave us a nice reproduction of the movie.
Note that Rain initially came out on Blu-ray in 2007. Unfortunately, I never saw that disc, so I can’t compare it to the 2016 release.
The Blu-ray replicates the 2004 DVD’s extras, and it opens with an audio commentary from director Albert Magnoli, producer Robert Cavallo, and cinematographer Donald E. Thorin. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific discussion.
The participants mostly stay with technical issues. We hear a lot about locations and sets as well as the cold weather conditions in which they shot. We also learn about deleted shots, editing, and visual design. They chat a little about working with Prince but don’t provide much insight there; you definitely shouldn’t expect that they dish dirt about him.
More than a few instances of dead air as well as the mostly dry content make this commentary drag at times. I don’t think it’s a bad discussion, but it lacks much zest and doesn’t give us a great feel for the production.
After this we get the 12-minute, 24-second First Avenue: The Road to Pop Royalty. It provides info from producers/former members of the Time Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, First Avenue manager Steve McClellan, Revolution members Dr. Fink, Bobby Z, Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman, Suicide Commandos member Chris Osgood, Suburbs member Chan Poling, First Avenue DJ Mike Bosley, Prince’s former tour manager Alan Leeds, radio DJ Walter “Q Bear” Banks, club promoter “Cowboy”, author/journalist Neal Karlen, and Jim Walsh of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
“Road” goes through the club’s history as well as its layout, its attached club Seventh Street Entry and acts who played both, the diversity of the audience and acts, Prince’s appearances at the club, and the place’s representation in the film and the way the flick affected it. It’s too bad we don’t get footage of Prince there, but otherwise this provides a good look at the subject. We receive a nice feel for the location and its facets in this tight little piece.
Next we go to Purple Rain: Backstage Pass, a 29-minute, 45-second documentary. It includes interviews with Jam, Lewis, Coleman, Melvoin, Fink, Leeds, Bobby Z, Robert Cavallo, Albert Magnoli, Time member Jellybean Johnson, actor Jill Jones, journalist Kurt Loder, Minneapolis filmmaker Craig Rice, and co-writer William Blinn.
They go into the development of the film, finding a director, acting challenges and the reality behind the story, the film’s music, casting Apollonia, shooting in Minnesota, working with Prince, real-life band rivalries, “When Doves Cry” and some of the other songs, filming the performance shots, and the movie’s reception.
A smattering of material repeats from the commentary, and more than a little happy talk pops up, mostly from the relentless praise for Prince. Nonetheless, the show gives us a reasonable amount of good information. The notes about the music seem cool, and the perspectives of the musicians open up the topic. It’s not a really deep documentary, but it seems useful and fun.
The disc follows this with Riffs, Ruffles and a Revolution: The Impact and Influence of Purple Rain. It goes for 10 minutes, two seconds as it presents remarks from Rice, Leeds, Fink, Banks, Bosley, Coleman, Karlen, Melvoin, Bobby Z, Lewis and Jam, Loder, costume designer Marie-France, costumer Sonya Berlovitz, musical artist Macy Gray, and music journalist Amy Linden.
They discuss the tour that followed the album and movie, the immense popularity of all this, the impact on fashion and music, A lot of this comes across as little more than praise for the whole project, but we get some good notes on other subjects.
The discussion of fashion seems particularly interesting, especially when Melvoin says what we’re all thinking about how absurd the outfits now look. While you shouldn’t expect much insight, it’s still an entertaining look back at the era.
A more direct evocation of that occurs in the MTV Premiere Party. It fills 27 minutes, 52 seconds with the original 1984 broadcast.
Hosted by VJ Mark Goodman at the Hollywood after-party, we also see shots from the Mann’s Theatre premiere, where Goodman briefly chats with Eddie Murphy and Shelia E. Back at the party, he talks with Melvoin, Coleman, Little Richard, Sheila E, Murphy, John Mellencamp, Weird Al, Lionel Richie, and Ann Wilson of Heart.
Not surprisingly, we get much praise for the Purple One and little substance. Sheila becomes possibly the worst interview subject ever; when asked if Rain is autobiographical, she replies, “whatever you think”. Murphy provides a funny bit, though, especially when he mocks the egotistical Little Richard. Though glossy and superficial, this still is kind of cool to watch as a period piece.
The set ends with eight music videos. We find clips for Prince’s “When Doves Cry”, “Let’s Go Crazy”, “Purple Rain”, “I Would Die 4 U/Baby, I’m a Star”, and “Take Me With U”. We also get pieces for the Time’s “Jungle Love” and “The Bird” as well as Apollonia Six’s “Sex Shooter”.
Truthfully, only two of these count as true music videos: “When Doves Cry” and “Sex Shooter”. The former tosses in some film clips but mostly consists of footage - lip-synch and otherwise - shot specifically for the video. The latter tries to tell a story in which Apollonia tells off Prince and moves on, but it mainly shows lip-synch shots of Apollonia 6, ones not taken from the movie.
”Let’s Go Crazy”, “Purple Rain”, “Jungle Love” and “The Bird” simply provide conglomerations of film clips and aren’t very interesting. “I Would Die 4 U/Baby I’m a Star” comes from a 1985 concert in Syracuse that came out on video back in the Eighties. At almost 18 minutes, it’s way too long and becomes pretty tedious, but it’s still nice to get a look at part of that show since it’s not out on Blu-ray or DVD.
“Take Me With U” is even more intriguing. It’s another live performance, and I assumed it would be from the Syracuse show, but it isn’t. Whatever its origins, it’s a great addition to the set.
The disc concludes with the trailer for Rain. Unlike the DVD, it doesn’t feature promos for Prince’s films Under the Cherry Moon or Graffiti Bridge, but those still appear on their respective Blu-rays.
A career-making success, Purple Rain seemed great in 1984 but now comes across as dated and fairly silly. The performance scenes still rock, and a few glimmers of good moments appear due to the banter of Morris Day and Jerome Benton, but otherwise the flick’s something of an amateurish mess. The Blu-ray presents fairly strong picture audio as well as some nice extras. Prince fans will definitely want this one, as it represents his milestone work well, but I can’t push a recommendation to others.
To rate this film, visit the DVD review of PURPLE RAIN