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PRINCE: MOVIE COLLECTION
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Norman Kelsey

Purple Rain

Stars: Prince, Apollonia Kotero, Morris Day, Olga Karlatos, Jerome Benton and Clarence Williams III
Director: Albert Magnoli
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 111 Minutes

Go crazy. Punch a higher floor!”

Film ***1/2

The quintessential funk-punk musical from the singular artist we knew as Prince. After A Hard Day’s Night, probably the best semi-fictionalized account of the life of a pop artist. However, Prince’s rise to stardom in 1984 was not as inevitable or swift as the Beatles in 1964. To watch Purple Rain and only remember the music is to watch Saturday Night Fever and recall only the Bee Gees and the white suit. Because Purple Rain has more in common withFever than the Fab Four’s giddy romp. 

The film is quite dark in tone, dealing in depression, domestic abuse and rampant misogyny. There is humor, though, and all of that glorious Oscar-winning music from Prince and the Revolution and Morris Day and the Time. 

More than 30 years later, the songs wield a kinetic power over the proceedings. Hard not to get chills as the applause builds and the keyboards swell under the opening credits.

Purple Rain is the story of the Kid, leader of a band, nay gang, called The Revolution who try to hold their own against their more popular rivals The Time while keeping club owner Billy at bay. Set against the backdrop of a steel-skied, frosty season in Minneapolis, the movie pivots from the pulsating First Avenue nightclub to the Kid’s dreary home life, where the twenty-something struggling musician still camps out in his parents’ basement. 

As Apollonia, a new girl desperate to become a star in her own right, arrives in town the battle between The Time, led by ladies’ man Morris Day and his sidekick Jerome, and The Revolution is intensifying. It doesn’t help that the members of the Revolution, chiefly Wendy & Lisa who want to contribute music to the act, begin to revolt against the Kid. All the while, the Kid and Morris take turns wooing Apollonia with varying degrees of success. 


Faced with the prospect that his star is no longer ascendant, that he’s going to lose the girl and perhaps one or more of his parents, and even his tenuous hold on his band, the Kid begins to unravel; until he discovers that life and the music aren’t all about him. The song that plants the seeds of redemption is the tune Wendy & Lisa begged him to consider playing. The song becomes the anthem that might just guide the Kid and everyone else in First Avenue through the Purple Rain. 

Video ***

Warner Bros. has considerably improved the image quality for the Blu-ray release of the film. It is superior in every way to the DVD release, however there is still room for improvement, especially in darker, dramatic sequences in low lighting. What really pops are the musical numbers. They are vibrant and put you right in front row of the club.


Audio ****
This film sounds amazing. You are in the club. We are still waiting for the record label to remaster the album soundtrack (and all of Prince’s records). The film sounds ferocious and every musical number roars, whether it’s Apollonia 6, the Time or the Revolution. This is the reason why Purple Rain brought Prince an Oscar.

Trivia: many of Prince and the Revolution’s performances in the club were recorded live. The band played a real concert on the First Avenue stage, were recorded, then mimed to those tracks in the film. This created a very dynamic presentation of the pre-recorded music, giving the numbers that pronounced, dynamic feel.

Features ***

The features are outstanding, but remove one star for freshness. Key players, including members of the Revolution were interviewed for reminiscences. Mini-docs about First Avenue, vintage MTV footage and the original music videos are time capsule treats. The fantastic audio commentary was provided by director Albert Magnoli, producer Robert Cavallo and cinematographer Donald E. Thorin. The problem is all of the features were previously presented on the 20th Anniversary DVD release in 2004. Anyone wishing for posthumous insight following Prince’s untimely passing in April of this year will be sorely disappointed. 

Summary:
Purple Rain is a wild trip featuring some of the greatest musical performances ever captured on film from one of the great icons of rock. Even if you had the special edition DVD before, upgrade; you weren’t here for the bonus material anyway.

Under the Cherry Moon

Stars: Prince, Jerome Benton, Steven Berkoff, Kristin Scott Thomas and Francesca Annis
Director: Prince
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 100 Minutes
 

If you wanted to buy a Sam Cooke album, where would you go?”
“The wrecka stow.”


Film ****

Under the Cherry Moon is an unfairly maligned movie. In part, because it was not Purple Rain 2, which we discovered a few years later was an incredibly bad idea. In part, because it was seen as a vanity project on a Wellesian scale after the mercurial star fired the director. 

However, revealed in sumptuous Black & White, set on the French Riviera, with a deliciously jazzy score, with fabulous costumes and fingerwaves for days, and an inscrutable screwball screenplay, this is Prince's finest cinematic moment. Granted Under the Cherry Moon often feels like one big in-joke, but ten minutes in, all of the guy-liner and every one-liner will have you hooked.

This is the melodramatic story of Christopher Tracy (Prince, in rare form - he was never this loose or funny on film before or after) and his best friend Tricky (Jerome Benton, Morris Day’s sidekick from Purple Rain, now holding his own), two hip gigolos living a swank fantasy life in Nice until they meet their match in spoiled heiress, Mary Sharon (Kristin Scott Thomas, in her big screen debut) and her thuggish father, the nefarious Isaac Sharon. 

As the plot goes, Christopher and Tricky are trying to make enough money by seducing rich widows to get back to Miami; although they look pretty comfortable in the South of France. When they discover that 21 year old Mary is about to inherit a fortune, they zero in on her. What ensues is a mashup of 1930s sensibility and 1980s flair wrapped around a palpable romantic triangle. The shipping-magnate father is furious and threatens the life of our heroes while the mother clutches her pearls with the best of them. What’s not to love?

As the music goes, there is only one musical number in the movie proper and one over the end credits featuring a performance by the Revolution. However, the soundtrack features many of Prince’s most adventurous songs, “Girls & Boys,” “Under The Cherry Moon,” “Sometimes It Snows In April” and the brilliant “Kiss.”

You will be dazzled, amazed and confused by this surreal work of art. And that is what sets it apart. When it arrived in 1986, the teen audience it was marketed to didn’t really know what to make of it. Why? Because it was made for an audience of one. Prince. You just had to buy the ticket and take the ride, as they say.

After a brief prologue, the movie’s lead song from Prince and the Revolution is called “Christopher Tracy’s Parade.” You can join the parade, but Prince holds the baton and he looks like a million-dollar dandy in full control, so you’re just going to have to follow wherever he’s going to take you with abandon. 

Video ***

Warner Bros. made a major improvement for the Blu-ray release of “Under The Cherry Moon.” You can see it in the lavish makeup and costumes, mostly worn by Prince. The detail in the art direction and design is impeccable and every bead, rhinestone and gilded headband shimmers like the Roaring 20s never went out of style. Some lowlight scenes are still a touch murky, but overall, it’s a sensational upgrade.

Audio ****
Prince fans will want to turn up the volume for this one. While we wait for Warner Music to do right by the albums, the movies sound terrific. Under the Cherry Moon features great songs, but it also has wonderful ambient sound and orchestral work by Clare Fischer that comes to life further on this release. 

Extras 1/2*

Unbelievably, WB has actually removed items from the DVD release. The vintage 1986 music videos for “Kiss,” “Girls & Boys” “Mountains” and “Anotherloverholeinyohead,” are missing here. Why? This Blu-ray has only the trailer as a bonus feature. 


Trivia: Welsh actor Victor Spinetti, who appears in this film, co-starred in all three of the Beatles live-action movies.


Summary

Under The Cherry Moon is Prince’s best narrative movie in terms of rewarding repeat viewing. This is one of the hidden gems of 1980s cinema. It has crisp dialogue, interesting characters, beautiful cinematography, outrageous costumes and great music. Best of all, it features Prince at his most fabulous, curious and audacious. This is how you want to remember him.

Graffiti Bridge

Stars: Prince, Morris Day, Jerome Benton, Ingrid Chavez
Director: Prince
Audio: DTS HD 2.0
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 90 Minutes

We can talk all we want to but the world still goes around and round.”

Film *


After the success of Purple Rain, the quirky charm of Under The Cherry Moon, and the critical acclaim of the Sign ‘O’ The Times concert film, Prince returned to the big screen with the supposed next chapter in the life of the Kid, Graffiti Bridge. How this film relates to Purple Rain beyond Prince telling us it does and the presence of Morris Day and Time is a mystery.

The story takes place after the death of Billy, who ran First Avenue in the original and each band inheriting a nightclub. Morris is attempting to take over all of the clubs for financial gain and show off his musical prowess simultaneously. There is a character called Aura that is a quasi-love interest, who turns out to be uninteresting. That is about the most one can make of the plot. All of the realism, craft and charm that went into Prince’s initial movie is gone.

The less said about this film, the better. 


The most redeeming feature of Graffiti Bridge is the soundtrack. There are some amazing songs presented here by Prince, Morris Day and the Time, George Clinton, Tevin Campbell and Mavis Staples. Tracks like “Joy In Repetition,” “Still Would Stand All Time” “Round & Round” and “Melody Cool” are among some of Prince’s finest compositions, but without a memorable movie (or performances in the film) to support them, they are lost. The Time suffers most as Morris Day and company released music on this soundtrack (“Shake!”) and their own album “Pandemonium” that same year that should have been smashes on the scale of “The Bird” and “Jungle Love” from Purple Rain.

Video **

Time has not been kind to 1990; the way Prince shot the film, scenes are either garish and harshly lit or dim and undefined with a very stagey feel. On Blu-ray, the film image is improved from previous releases.


Audio ***

If Graffiti Bridge has anything going for it, it’s the sound. The audio is fine and the performances, and there are plenty, rock. However, they are better listened to than viewed.

Extras 1/2*

Only the trailer for the film.

Summary
Even for this lifelong Prince fan, Graffiti Bridge is nearly unwatchable. Calling it a sequel to Purple Rain is a travesty. It is one of the rare times Prince played it safe and failed. 

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