Blu-ray
Worth a Look
3 stars
Overall Grade
3 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
2 Stars
HD Video Quality
3.5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
4 Stars
Supplements
3 Stars
High-Def Extras
0 Stars
Bottom Line
Worth a Look

Prince: Movie Collection

Street Date:
October 4th, 2016
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
December 19th, 2016
Movie Release Year:
1984
Studio:
Warner Bros.
Length:
301 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
R
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

Purple Rain

At the height of his success while his hit album 1999 remained a best-selling sensation, Prince made his big-screen acting debut in 'Purple Rain.' Proving his immense popularity at the time, this led to another smash album and two chart-topping singles while the musical drama grew into a box-office hit, a feat that only he accomplished and has never been repeated again. And while none of this has anything to do with the quality of the film, it nonetheless is an interesting side note worth mentioning. It also explains the reasons behind a major Hollywood studio investing money on a production that, on the surface, is clearly meant to showcase the talents of its star. It was a risk betting a good amount of money on an untested 25-year-old actor, an original album to coincide with the movie's release, and two of Prince's side-projects, The Time and Apollonia 6. Amazingly, the venture paid off and gave us one of the most popular movies of the 1980s, which continues to be watched and celebrated to this day. But again, this has little to do with quality and my own reasons for enjoying the film 30 odd years later.

Supposedly semi-biographical, the script by television writer William Blinn and director Albert Magnoli is a surprisingly smart tale about the pursuit of fame and success, the self-destructive scars often resulting from those pursuits and learning to override one's ego. Rumored to have modeled the character after himself, Prince stars as "The Kid," a talented musician with a rock group frequently performing at the famous First Avenue nightclub. The music and the club scene is his escape from his troubled and abusive home, much of which seeps into his songs. Part of what makes this particular plot stand out from others which have repeated the formula is the level of depth given to the "Father." He's not simply an abusive drunk, but a failed musician who takes out his disappointment on his family, serving as a some kind of warning for the kid. With Apollonia entering the picture, he also discovers the damage his ego can have on others, especially those closest to him. It's a much smarter the film than it initially leads us to believe, though the directing, editing and acting is admittedly shoddy. Still, it remains quite entertaining, featuring some of the best songs I grew up listening to on a daily basis. (Movie Rating: 4/5)

Under the Cherry Moon

Warner Bros and Prince immediately followed the success of their first film collaboration with another musical drama in 'Under the Cherry Moon.' However, after revisiting it twenty years later, it would seem the highly-talented musician ignored the lesson learned from the plot of his first movie. Rather than showcasing, once more, his genius for music and his flair for stage performance, this film ultimately serves to only feed his vanity. As if believing everything he touches immediately turns to gold, Prince takes self-centered stage in a story again about a man conquering his ego while featuring several characters aiding him on his journey. As the con-artist Christopher Tracy hustling wealthy women while working as a pianist in a high-class saloon, he takes every opportunity to display his range of dramatic chomps, but all he proves is that he confuses his panache for ostentatious dress and flamboyant theatrics for acting talent. Count the amount of close-ups and push-ins, amounting to nothing more than a parlor trick.

After two massively successful albums back to back and an award-winning drama, Prince was practically walking on the clouds, which apparently went sent straight to his head because he even started believing he could direct a movie production. Taking the reins from music video director Mary Lambert ('Pet Sematary') for creative differences, the swashbuckling singer makes clear, pretty much from the opening moments, he's inexperienced and lacking the creative talent for visual storytelling. If Becky Johnston's script wasn't already a laundry list of clichés based on the most blatantly formulaic plots, then this movie might have had a chance. But Prince only makes matters worse by asking future award-winning cinematographer Michael Ballhaus to shoot this overtly pretentious production in black and white. All the while, it's obvious Prince takes inspiration from Michael Curtiz's 'Casablanca,' or rather, he imitates Curtiz's style with a few scenes practically feeling like direct rip-offs. To this day, I wonder how Kristin Scott Thomas feels about making her big-screen debut in this hugely embarrassing flop. (Movie Rating: 1/5)

Graffiti Bridge

By the time we come to Prince's third and final film appearance in 'Graffiti Bridge,' a very loosely related pseudo-sequel to 'Purple Rain,' we can actually see the evolution of the musician and almost predict the direction of his musicality going into the 90s. As in real life and told in the story written and directed by Prince — still trying to prove his musical talents extend into filmmaking — the Revolution has disbanded and The Kid once again is back to his ego making bad decisions, risking his livelihood and those who work him continuously at jeopardy. As though inspired by personal events and demons, both the character and Prince believe their songs to be more valuable than this physical plane of existence and never need validation from the mainstream masses flocking to his rivals, like Morris (Morris Day). For these artists, music should transcend our conscious awareness and lift the listener into the metaphysical. When done right, good music should be tantamount to sexual gratification in the eyes of The Kid.

As anyone will be quick to predict, one of only two things will happen here. Either The Kid will learn a lesson not unlike what he went through in the last movie, or the world will finally come around and appreciate his genius. I'll let those willing to sit through this unintentionally hilarious schlock discover which is the more likely scenario. But for anyone old enough to remember Prince's transformation or progression or maturation, as he probably would have preferred, into the unpronounceable symbol referred to as "Love," it's easy to see the direction this tale takes because it's pretty clear the artist genuinely put a good deal of himself in the character. And to distinguish this project from its predecessor, the amateur filmmaker situates this plot in some fantastical, dreamlike neighborhood where nightclubs at every corner are in competition, despite the majority of them being owned by Morris. But just as before, a talented stranger (Ingrid Chavez) enters the picture to disrupt things and not-so-surprisingly become The Kid's muse. Unfortunately, this is nowhere near as entertaining as its predecessor. (Movie Rating: 1/5)

The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats

Warner Bros. Home Video brings the 'Prince: Movie Collection' to Blu-ray as a three-disc package. Housed inside a purple, eco-elite keepcase with a center spindle that holds two discs on either side, all three discs are Region Free, BD50s, and the whole thing comes with a purple side-slipcover with the same picture as the cover art. At startup, all three take viewers to a static menu screen with a generic selection of options along the bottom and music.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

Purple Rain

Made from a brand new remaster, this 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode of 'Purple Rain' is the best the musical drama has ever looked. Sadly, the way the movie was originally shot and given the age of the source, it's never been much of a looker and doesn't offer much of an improvement over its 2007 predecessor, looking fairly soft and blurry for a majority of the runtime.

Still, the video is better resolved here with slightly sharper definition of the clothing, surrounding foliage and in many of the daylight exterior shots of the city. Faces are more revealing and healthy complexions of everyone in the cast. Since many sequences take place at night, inside The Kid's home and the smoke-filled, poorly-lit interiors of the nightclub, we can better make out the background information, the furnishings and the faces in the crowd. Black levels are true and accurate without sacrificing any of the finer details. Contrast is well-balanced and comfortably bright with crisp, clean whites throughout, making for a brighter, more vibrant presentation than before. Colors benefit the most, offering more vivid, rich primaries and often dramatic secondary hues during the musical performances. The picture also comes with an attractive layer of natural grain, which tends to alternate in thickness depending on the scene but nonetheless gives the 1.85:1 image a welcomed film-like appeal. (Video Rating: 3.5/5)

Under the Cherry Moon

Swindling its way to Blu-ray for the first time, the AVC-encoded transfer shows clean, distinct details in the extravagantly ornate outfits, the baroque furniture inside the mansions and the surrounding French architecture. Fine lines in the faces of the cast are revealed with close-ups exposing pores and minor blemishes. Except for a few softer moments, the presentation is a significant upgrade over its DVD counterpart. Contrast and brightness are very well-balanced and consistent, allowing for excellent visibility in the distance in any given scene. Whites are crisp and brilliant throughout while blacks are inky rich with deep, penetrating shadows that don't ruin delineation. The 1.85:1 image is also awash with a thin layer of grain, giving the black-and-white photography a lovely cinematic feel. (Video Rating: 3.5/5)

Graffiti Bridge

The sequel opens its doors with a strong but also pretty average AVC encode, making it the worst looking title of the bunch. The 1.85:1 image is awash with a noticeably heavy grain structure that tends to be more pronounced during certain scenes. Although appreciably sharper than its DVD counterpart, much of the picture falls on the blurrier side of things and softer than the other two movies. It's not clear if the look is the result of intentional photography or the condition of the source. Contrast and brightness levels are well balanced, displaying crisp, clean whites and mostly accurate blacks. However, there are several instances of mild blooming and hot spots while shadows can appear murky and grayish, making the overall video flat and unattractive. On the plus side, primaries are full-bodied and vibrant, and secondary hues are cleanly resolved and bright. (Video Rating: 3/5)

The Audio: Rating the Sound

Purple Rain

Like the video, the film's sound design also receives a new remaster and packaged in a DTS-HD Master Audio codec. It doesn't exactly blow the previous Dolby TrueHD track out the water, but it offers some notably improvements that make this the preferred way of enjoying the film.

Despite the claim of it being in 5.1, the lossless mix remains faithful to the original stereo design, delivering precise dynamics and warm acoustics with discrete off-screen effects exhibiting convincing directionality. With a detailed and impressively extensive midrange, the satisfying quality of this high-rez track is evident during the many song selections and Michel Colombier's score. The soundstage comes with a wonderful sense of space and presence while channel separation provides terrific, expansive balance and dimension. The low-end provides appreciable weight and depth to the music. With excellent, intelligible dialogue reproduction from beginning to end, this soundtrack is sure to rock anyone's house. (Audio Rating: 4/5)

Under the Cherry Moon / Graffiti Bridge

The audio of the last two movies arrive with similar results. On both, the DTS-HD stereo soundtracks deliver an expansive and broad soundstage, continuously displaying excellent channel separation and convincing off-screen effects. The music and song selections benefit the most from the jump to lossless audio, spreading across all three channels with appreciable clarity and detailing in the midrange. With the surround upmixer function of the receiver turned on, the music and a few atmospherics in a couple scenes convincingly bleed into the front heights and side speakers, giving the tracks a nice spacious feel. The vocals are distinct and well-prioritized in the center while low bass delivers adequate thump and oomph to the music, making the tracks seem all the more dynamic and warm. Neither film may be any good and feel all-around shoddy, but their stereo design of both are their best feature. (Audio Rating: 4/5)

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

All three discs contain Trailers (HD) for their respective movies, but only 'Purple Rain' comes with the same set of special features from the 2007 Blu-ray release.

  • Audio Commentary — Director Albert Magnoli is joined by producer Robert Cavallo and cinematographer Donald Thorin for a somewhat disappointing and rather boring chat. Riddled with frequent pockets of silence, the three men spend most of their time simply commenting on the conditions of specific scenes and telling what they remember. For even the most loyal Prince fans, the conversation is of little interest.
  • Purple Rain: Backstage Pass (SD, 30 min) — Typical EPK-like making-of piece with various cast and crew reminiscing on the production. Along with standard chats on the casting, the overall production and comparing story aspects to Prince's personal life, participants also share their insights into the creation of the film's soundtrack and song selections.
  • MTV Premiere Party (SD, 28 min) — An awesomely entertaining promo piece hosted by the original MTV VJs that includes various stars from the era.
  • First Avenue: The Road to Pop Royalty (SD, 12 min) — A nice collection of interviews with the musicians and artists who played at the famous nightclub during the height of the Minneapolis scene which gave rise to various pop sensations like Prince.
  • Riffs, Ruffles and a Revolution: The Impact and Influence of Purple Rain (SD, 10 min) — Though brief, this look back at the pop-culture maelstrom and massive influence of Prince, the film and the associated best-selling album is a great piece for those who remember and live through the Purple hysteria.
  • Music Videos (SD) — A collection of eight music videos start with Prince's "When Doves Cry," "Let's Go Crazy," "I Would Die 4 U," "Take Me With U" and "Purple Rain." After that, we have Morris Day and the Time performing "Jungle Love" and "The Bird" while Apollonia 6's "Sex Shooter" rounds out the set.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

There are no high-def exclusives.

Final Thoughts

The musical legend and fashionably unique artist Prince made three film appearances in his career. Unfortunately, only the first film is really any good and worth remembering while the other two are schlocky, box-office flops that only served to feed the musician's ego. Nevertheless, they are worth watching for devoted, loyal fans wanting to remember Prince's lasting legacy and massive influence to various music genres. All three films have been remastered and collected in a three-disc Blu-ray package featuring improved picture quality and slightly better audio presentations. The only available supplements are sadly the same set seen in previous home video editions and found on the 'Purple Rain' disc. Still, the overall package is worth checking out for those who never purchased previous Blu-ray release and can now collect all three Prince movies as one collection set. 

Technical Specs

  • Three-Disc Combo Pack
  • 3 BD-50 Dual-Layer Discs
  • Region Free

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/AVC MPEG-4

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 1.85:1

Audio Formats

  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo
  • French Dolby Digital 5.1
  • German Dolby Digital 5.1
  • German Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
  • Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo

Subtitles/Captions

  • English SDH
  • French
  • German
  • Italian
  • Japanese
  • Spanish
  • Swedish

Supplements

  • Audio Commentary
  • Featurettes
  • Music Videos
  • Trailers

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