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Purple Rain Print E-mail
Thursday, 01 November 2007

Image 1984 was one of most culturally important years in popular culture. Musically, bands like Van Halen, Genesis and Michael Jackson were at the top of their game. On television, Miami Vice was raising the style benchmark for most of America, and on film, musical all-time classics, such as This Is Spinal Tap were making waves in theaters and eliciting some of the best reviews to grace a feature film. Yet, no one film/album may have been more important than Prince’s Purple Rain.

Released in 2007 on HD DVD, complete with 1080p video and Dolby True HD 5.1 audio, Purple Rain is the semi-autobiographical story of Prince and his rise to musical fame in Minneapolis. Set around the now famous First Avenue night club, (note: in 1984 – people actually went to night clubs to hear music - not buy a $450 bottle of Absolute Vodka in order to get the right to sit at a table and show off their bling) the movie is built around the concept of making it big in music in the mid-1980s. Prince’s band, The Revolution, struggle through the typical ego battles and immature tiffs that often define the dynamics of an up-and-coming band trying to make it to the national stage.

Morris E. Day plays himself as an unbelievable, over-the-top pseudo-promoter/performer in a competing band named The Time. Morris and his band, who quietly include super-producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, are constantly making fun of Prince, his songs and even his tumultuous family life, which 23 years later seems somewhat absurd considering nearly every song featured in the movie, still to this day, pass the musical test of time. Prince, literally wearing a blouse, looks a little dated, but you have to leave some room for creative interpretation. Back to Morris, his performance defines the concept of over acting. His antics with his sidekick, Jerome, are so beyond reason that they make Quentin Tarantino’s role as Jimmy Kimmick in Pulp Fiction seem Oscar worthy – yet somehow it all works. Fans of Day’s performance range from Jay and Silent Bob to yours truly, and if you are looking for a true guilty pleasure buy yourself a copy of The Time’s record Ice Cream Castles. The schick is nothing short of hilarious, and songs like “The Bird” and “Jungle Love”, written by Prince of course, are sold funk/rock powerhouses. The love interest in Purple Rain is Apollonia (Apollonia Kotero), a brunette bombshell who leaves New Orleans to find fame and fortune in off all places, Minneapolis, as First Avenue had developed a reputation for being a hot spot for bands and artists who took it to the next level. Immediately upon meeting Prince at First Avenue, the two hit it off. Early on in their relationship, Prince takes Apollonia out of the city where the budding female vocalist asks Prince for his help. Smugly he refuses, telling her that she couldn’t handle the ritual of purifying herself in Lake Minnetonka. Without hesitation, and like many star-hungry singers before her willing to do whatever it takes to make it big, she strips down and jumps into the lake. The problem is, as Prince spells out for her mere seconds later, the lake wasn’t Lake Minnetonka.

The film comes to a dramatic climax as Prince is dealing with a number of family problems that are distracting him from both of his loves: music and Apollonia. During this troubled time, Morris makes a move for Apollonia under the guise of putting her in an all-girl band called Apollonia 6. Prince is far from pleased, but her musical career is on the launch pad and loaded with songs, which music fans know are written by Prince and were top 40 smash hits outside of the film. She starts to gain some traction for her musical career. Prince and Morris fight for the affections of Apollonia, resulting in an epic battle of the bands at First Avenue with Morris lighting up a packed house and with Prince’s career looking like he has more potential and real talent. With a pregnant pause and a dedication to his father, a talented local musician whose muse was more a bottle of Night Train than a popular melody, Prince rips the title track of the film "Purple Rain." Supposedly written by Wendy and Lisa (as the screenplay would like you to believe) from The Revolution, the track brings down the house in an emotionally charged performance that shows Prince has musically made it and emotionally transcended the limitations of his father. He storms off the stage only to return and rock some of the better songs from the movie to a crowd that eats up the performance. As one of the pundits on VH1 put it, it is “the best rock performance in a movie where nobody ever plugs their instruments in.” With that said, "Purple Rain" still rocks the house and stands the test of time. showing the now lost, enslaved or unnamed (now renamed) artist currently know as Prince at his creative finest. Make no mistake, when you think of the absolute best, most talented and most prolific musical artists of the 20th Century, you should think of names such as Igor Stravinsky, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and yes – Prince. "Purple Rain" is an intimate look at the life of one of the best musical artists of the last 100 years at his absolute best.

Older movies do well in HD but are often limited by the film stock and older cinematography. In comparing the 1080p HD video on the HD DVD versus the DVD release in 480i unconverted to 1080p via a Faroudja native rate video processor, there is no question, the native 1080p video looks better than the unconverted 480i video. The depth of field is deeper and more resolute. The colors are just a bit more vivid, however the haze that often clouds the stage thanks to the fog machines makes the image look a little less than crisp.

The 5.1 mix for Purple Rain is nothing to write home about. Even in Dolby True HD (only accessible via HDMI connection on the latest of equipment) the mix is designed more for a theatrical feel than the all-encompassing sound we sometimes hear from a purpose built 5.1 music mix.

If you are looking for a time machine back to late 1984, look no further than the MTV Premier Party for Purple Rain. At the time, Prince was one of the biggest artists on the planet and along with Michel Jackson, the driving force behind the cultural phenomenon of MTV. Mark Goodman, now a DJ on Sirius satellite radio’s 80s channel, interviews Wendy and Lisa from The Revolution along with luminaries like Eddie Murphy, Shelia E, Little Richard, Weird Al, John Mellencamp and more. While Goodman makes Larry King look like Walter Cronkite, the A-list crowd that showed up to see the film in its day was impressive. The music videos from MTV are a total let down in standard definition. They look so blurry that they are nearly unwatchable if you just watched the film in HD. There are also trailers, commentary tracks with the producers and more designed to provide the true fan hours of additional entertainment for your HD disc investment.

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