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Albert Magnoli
Prince, Apollonia Kotero, Morris Day, Olga Karlatos, Clarence Williams III, Jerome Benton, Billy Sparks
Writing Credits:
Albert Magnoli, William Blinn

A young musician, tormented by an abusive situation at home, must contend with a rival singer, a burgeoning romance, and his own dissatisfied band, as his star begins to rise.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$7,766,201 on 917 Screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French Dolby 5.1
German Dolby 5.1
Latin Spanish Dolby 2.0
Latin Spanish
Castillian Spanish
Supplements Subtitles:
Latin Spanish
Castillian Spanish

Runtime: 111 min.
Price: $14.98
Release Date: 10/4/2016

• Audio Commentary with Director Albert Magnoli, Producer Robert Cavallo, and Cinematographer Donald E. Thorin
• “First Avenue: The Road to Pop Royalty” Featurette
• “Backstage Pass” Documentary
• “Riffs, Ruffles and a Revolutio” Featurette
• MTV Premiere Party
• Eight Music Videos
• Trailer


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Purple Rain (Remastered) [Blu-Ray] (1984)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 28, 2016)

A true career-defining moment, 1984’s Purple Rain took Prince from a level of good popularity – 1982’s 1999 spawned a lot of sales – to the heights of rock megastardom. It was the kind of enormous hit that almost no artists experience more than once.

And with Rain, Prince wowed on two levels. The album remains the most successful and significant element of the package, as it moved over 13 million copies to become the biggest record of 1984 as well as one of the biggest-selling albums ever. If we eliminate live and greatest hits releases from that last, Rain jumps even higher on that chart.

As a movie, Rain wasn’t quite such a smash, but it did very well anyway. With a small budget, it took in $63 million in 1984, a figure that would certainly be well over $100 million these days. Given that the studio feared it would only appeal to a very narrow demographic, that made Rain a serious money-maker and a sleeper hit.

Don’t expect much plot from Rain as a film, though. It revolves around the Kid (Prince) and his band the Revolution, a staple at a Minneapolis club called First Avenue. The Kid competes with preening peacock Morris (Morris Day) and his group the Time.

Apollonia (Apollonia Kotero) comes to Minneapolis to get her break as a singer. She meets the Kid at First Avenue, where he acts like his usual elusive and mysterious self. We see he lives with his parents and we also observe that his father Francis L. (Clarence Williams III) - a failed musician - abuses both his mother (Olga Karlatos) and the Kid.

Things aren’t going well professionally for the Kid. Club owner Billy (Billy Sparks) gets mad when the Kid stands him up for a meeting, especially since the performer no longer packs in the crowds very well. Morris makes a deal with Billy: if he puts together a hot girl group, Billy will boot the Kid.

We also learn of band tensions within the Revolution. Guitarist Wendy (Wendy Melvoin) and keyboardist Lisa (Lisa Coleman) write songs but the Kid ignores them.

However, the main story revolves around the love triangle of the Kid, Morris, and Apollonia. Morris wants Apollonia in his band and also as his romantic interest, and the Kid also pursues her in his own quirky way. The movie follows these various threads as we see whether the Kid will finally get both his personal and professional lives together.

Without Morris Day and his partner in crime Jerome (Jerome Benton), Rain would be much tougher to watch. They seem so confident and amusing that they almost make a fairly lame “who’s on first” rip-off funny, and they offer the best performances of the main cast. Williams also brings a nicely haunted and tragic quality to the Kid’s father, but he’s not in the film very much.

Otherwise, the acting ranges from mediocre to bad. Apollonia occasionally shows some glimmers of slight talent, though not much, and only as an actor. Her singing skills are absolutely atrocious; her warbling rendition of “Sex Shooter” remains arguably the worst-sung hit song… well, maybe not of all-time, but maybe for the Eighties.

The acting complaints extend to Prince himself. Actually, he does fairly well with a few of the scenes, mainly when he needs to seem distant and strange, like when he further alienates Wendy and Lisa. Other sequences in which he needs to appear natural and human fare less well; freaky Kid/Prince is much more convincing.

The film’s problems extend to the script. Not only does the story itself rarely rise above the level of melodrama, but it seems fairly amateurish at times.

We find a number of examples of awkward exposition and not much depth to the tale. Doesn’t it seem odd that the Kid is this mysterious hot-shot/serious ladies man who still lives with his parents? One could argue that he does so due to a lack of funds as a struggling musician, but I think the writers made this choice simply to make sure the Kid had a lot of contact with his troubled family.

And don’t forget the rampant streak of misogyny that runs through the film. Possibly the film’s most notorious scene comes from one in which a woman who Morris stood up for a date confronts him and Jerome throws her in a dumpster.

Apollonia receives a lot of bad treatment as well, though I suppose this serves the story; the Kid has learned that from his dad, so he needs to evolve and grow beyond that. Still, all the abuse of women leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Despite all these flaws, Rain remains moderately engaging. Mostly that comes from the music and performance sequences. The movie doesn’t hold up well, but the album sure does; I still think it’s Prince’s best work, and it’s fun to see the live performances.

Knowing how successful the album was makes the constant attacks on the Kid’s music unintentionally amusing. During the movie, people bitch about how uncommercial his material is, even though in the real world, Rain sold more than 13 million albums.

30 years ago, I really liked Purple Rain as a movie, but now I can’t muster the same enthusiasm. The film has some good moments but meanders and suffers from weak development outside of the excellent performance sequences. It’s an interesting nostalgia trip and that’s about it.

The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio B+/ Bonus B+

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

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main