Purple Rain: 40th Anniversary Edition (Ultra HD 4K Blu-ray)

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.

June 24, 2024 8 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

The Kid (Prince) has dreams of being a rock star, taking the stage and dazzling a massive audience with his performances. He has talent to be sure, but his problems at home often pose a threat to his musical career. His father is an abusive man with a short temper, who isn’t beyond physical violence at a moment’s notice. The fights heard from The Kid’s room in the basement are loud and explosive, as his father beats down his mother. When this all bears down on him, The Kid has to escape to a safer, more sane place. Inside of his music is the only place he can hide, because he can let his performance speak for itself. So when he needs to release some pressure, he heads downtown and takes over the Minneapolis music scene. In fact, he and his band are one of the main attractions in the music scene, so his career has real potential. The crowds turn out in huge numbers to see The Kid perform his musical magic. He has burned some bridges, thanks to his temper and obsession over his music, but his musical genius keeps his band in place. He soon meets the potential woman of his dreams, but his bad attitude lands him in trouble and not long after, she moves into the arms of his rival, Morris Day. Can The Kid manage to put his life back together and make it big, or has he let his chance slip through his fingers?

Purple Rain isn’t so much a motion picture, instead is plays like an extended music video with a passable storyline. As a cinematic 80s rock musical, Purple Rain is solid and is a time capsule of the time period. Prince is at the pinnacle of his fame here, before he renamed himself after a symbol and turned to sexually graphic material. In Purple Rain, he performs to the best of his abilities and even shines at times. He doesn’t have to act much though, most of his screen time is spent on stage in his own musical element. This was a wise choice however, as it allows to him to showcase his talents, but doesn’t detract from the movie itself. So for rock musical fans, it’s a passable movie in all respects. But as a standard motion picture, Purple Rain is laughable and stands as an example of why most musicians should stick to music. Prince is a poor actor and struggles with even basic lines and situations here, especially his sex scenes. That adds up some to decent camp value, but if taken at face value, the film is a joke. The plot is paper thin, the performances are lackluster, and the polish isn’t that impressive. But the music is good and in truth, that is the main draw here, with Prince and his “rival” Morris Day involved. If you like the flick, this Special Edition is the one to own, but for first timers, a rental should be sufficient.

Video: How’s it look?

This is the first proper release of Purple Rain, as it marks the first time the film has been issued in its original theatrical aspect ratio (so long 1.78:1 open matte transfer, we hardly knew ya). That alone is reason for fans to be delighted, but the good news doesn’t end there. This new treatment offers a world of improvement over all previous editions, with a cleaner, more refined presentation. The print has some signs of wear, but these are mostly mild and never distract from the movie itself. You’ll see some light grain and occasional nicks, but again, nothing serious. The image has more depth than before, which allows subtle visuals to come across in fuller fashion. The colors look great too, with rich and vivid hues, while contrast remains consistent throughout. So Warner has done right by fans here, with a better than expected presentation.

Audio: How’s it sound?

This movie relies heavily on audio, with live performances and a nice soundtrack. The included DTS HD Master Audio option is impressive, as it brings the music to life and also maintains presence in the calmer sequences. The music has depth and sounds terrific, which is crucial, since this movie is so reliant on the musical soundtrack. The performances pack the most punch of course, but all around, this is a solid audio treatment. The dialogue is easy to hear, even when the music is blaring and effects are full-force. So all the elements are well handled and in truth, we couldn’t ask for a much better overall presentation. As much as this film screams for a next generation audio format, what’s included isn’t bad by any means.

Supplements: What are the extras?

There aren’t any new features to be found, in fact we seem to have lost a few of the featurettes found on previous discs. Nevertheless, ’tis better than nothing.

  • Audio Commentary – Director Albert Magnoli, producer Robert Cavallo and cinematographer Donald E. Thorin. This proves to be a decent session, but I wasn’t that impressed. Even with three participants, there was a lot of silence and not a lot of real insight was offered. 
  • First Avenue: The Road to Pop Royalty – We get a look at the First Avenue nightclub that gave birth to Prince, Soul Asylum, The Replacements and some other notable bands. Interviews with manager Steve McClellen, and various other musicians, journalists and DJs.
  • Music Videos
    • Let’s Go Crazy
    • Take Me with U
    • When Doves Cry
    • I Would Die 4 U/Baby I’m a Star
    • Purple Rain
    • Jungle Love
    • The Bird
    • Sex Shooter

The Bottom Line

I never really “saw it” with Prince. I won’t deny his talent, but I could simply never get into his music. However, plenty of others did. It’s now been (as of this writing) four decades since the film and we get the best-looking version yet. This screams for an Atmos track and it’d have been nice if they’d have given us all the features. But die-hard fans will certainly eat this one up.

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