Purple Rain (40th Anniversary 4K UHD Edition Review)

There is often debate who was the biggest Pop star of the ‘80s era. Was it Michael Jackson? Was it Madonna? Or, was it Prince? A worthy discussion which could keep you busy for hours, if you look at the rise of Prince in particular, it is really quite spectacular.

Out of Minneapolis, Prince created a sound that was a mix of Funk, Pop, Rock, R&B, Jazz, Blues, and New Wave all in one. Beyond this, it is common knowledge that he also was the predominant writing and producing force on nearly everything he put out there. Aspects which make you consider how much of a musical genius he really was, in all, Prince has sold over 100 million records worldwide, making him one of the best-selling artists of all time. 

However, it is easy to forget the impact of Prince at times; because for a lengthy period, between 1993 and 2000, he would become known as The Artist Formerly Known as Prince due to a contractual dispute with Warner Bros. Something you cannot overlook – because mainstream listeners often rely on branding for recognition – the extremely talented artist still managed to sell a bundle of albums during this period, and if anything, this wrinkle in time makes his legacy even more compelling.

All aspects that make Prince who he is, tragically he passed on at only 57 years old back in April of 2016. Gone entirely too soon, within a week of his death nineteen different Prince albums charted on the Billboard 200 all at the same time! Something that leads you to believe that sometimes, even with a top-selling artist like Prince, artistic brilliance is not really appreciated until after someone is gone. Nonetheless, with an amazing outpour of love, posthumously, Prince became the first and only artist ever to have five albums in the Billboard top 10 simultaneously.

Purple Rain
Purple Rain / Warner Bros (1984)

Now over eight years since Prince left the material world, fans still revel in his extensive body of work. A discography that includes an epic forty studio records, one other boldest aspect of it all would have to be Prince’s theatrical debut in the 1984 feature film Purple Rain. Something of a career defining moment, the story goes that after the massive success of Prince’s 1982 album 1999 he told his then-manager Robert Cavallo he would not renew a contract with him unless he got to star in a feature studio film. An extremely bold demand, nearly every studio declined the concept, which resulted in Cavallo producing the project himself. From here, Prince began to work on basic plot points, they brought on award-winning Writer William Blinn, before selecting Albert Magnoli to direct.

With many other moving parts taking place in between – including screenplay shifts, and Prince’s key cast member selection Vanity replaced by a then unknown Apollonia Kotero –  filming began on Halloween of 1983. Shot almost entirely in Prince’s hometown of Minneapolis, Minnesota for over a month, historically, some may look at Purple Rain merely as a vehicle to sell music. A fair argument, more than 90% of the film is based around the soundtrack… and what a soundtrack it is. So good it would become Prince’s first album to reach number one on the Billboard 200, it broke all sorts of record sales, and is one of best-selling albums ever.

Truly astounding, you could even say that Purple Rain’s impact began and ended with the music, but that is simply not true, because the film itself grossed well over $68,000,000, and against all odds, ranked in the top 20 box office films of 1984 right up there with Ghostbusters, Gremlins, The Karate Kid, and Beverly Hills Cop. Kind of makes you wonder why all those big Hollywood studios passed on the project in the first place, right? Anyway, Purple Rain held a lot more water than one would think in terms of substance. Yes, it is centralized around the music, but there is a level of realism within the story that makes it that much more engaging.

Prince, who assumes the lead role of The Kid, does a fine job of creating a believable character; one which you have to consider tapped into his own personality as well. The Kid, a talented yet troubled young guy who may come across as self-centered in his approach, is not without merit…. and you can see the potential in him. Furthermore, as the story unravels you see it is really about facing adversity, overcoming a rough home life, all while finding inner peace and becoming triumphant in the process.

Purple Rain / Warner Bros (1984)
Purple Rain / Warner Bros (1984)

Really the heartfelt message of Purple Rain, which makes it a balanced Drama and Rock-n-Roll epic, now as it celebrates a 40th anniversary, Warner Bros Pictures present the film in 4K for the first time ever. Set for release on June 25, 2024, the 4K edition of Purple Rain (digitally and in a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray format) marks the first time the film is being released in any home media format since the remastered edition was put out there back in 2016 as part of the Prince Movie Collection. That release, featuring a highly clarified sound and visual quality, is actually improved even further with this brand-new transfer. Hard to imagine it could get any better, Purple Rain is now completely restored digitally from an 8K scan of the 35mm Original Camera Negative (OCN). With this, the picture is also conformed to the original theatrical release aspect ratio of 1.85:1, thus providing you with the most authentic theatrical presentation framing ever to be released to home video.

Beyond the overall impeccably richer imagery, the sound is also outstanding thanks to the restoration from the original Dolby Stereo (LCRS) archived 35mm magnetic film source elements containing the separate dialogue, music, and effects (DME) tracks. A lot of technical language to sift through, in short, this new edition is perhaps the best visual and audio experience of Purple Rain that you will ever experience. 

Which leads us to the actual packaging itself. Rather cut and dry, you get the 4K disc, which has previously released commentary from both Albert Magnoli, Robert Cavallo, and Donald E. Thorin, as well as the well-worth watching featurette First Avenue: The Road to Pop Royalty. Furthermore, there are also eight music videos from songs associated with the film, and while this is nothing new, is still really great if you do not feel like searching through YouTube to watch them. 

When it is all said and done the 40th anniversary 4K edition of Purple Rain is a great addition to your collection. Continuing to celebrate the film and the album itself, NPG Records and Paisley Park Enterprises, in partnership with Warner Records, recently announced the release of a brand-new Dolby ATMOS Mix of Purple Rain; which is available to stream now through participating digital partners. Something to check out, if you really are someone who appreciates physical format, fret not, because later in 2024 a Blu-ray audio will be put out there as well. Much to look forward to, it is recommended to pick up the 4K 40th anniversary edition of Purple Rain, because based on the quality transfer alone, Cryptic Rock gives it 5 out of 5 stars.

Purple Rain 4k
Purple Rain / Warner Bros (1984)

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