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Sunday, July 14, 2024

Purple Rain (4K UHD Review)


The Film
The Video (Overall)
HDR Effect
The Audio
The Supplements


A young musician with a dysfunctional family life deals with unhappy bandmates, a rival band, and an unsatisfied new girlfriend while his music goes misunderstood.

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

In the summer of 1983 and fresh off his biggest commercial success, 1999, Prince set out to work on the film Purple Rain, a showcase for his talents that was his ultimatum to resign with his manager Robert Cavallo. It was a hard sell to Hollywood, but Prince and Cavallo soldiered on. They found Albert Magnoli (who would go on to become Prince’s manager) to direct the film from a William Blinn screenplay based on story ideas from Prince after Blinn passed on directing it.

Billed as a semi-autobiographical story, it follows the Kid (played by Prince), a struggling young Minneapolis musician in a band, The Revolution, who has a dysfunctional family life and serious competition at the club, First Ave., where his band plays from The Time, fronted by charismatic Morris (Morris Day).  The two acts battle for their place in the lineup, but it comes to head when Appollonia (Appollonia Kotero), a beautiful singer looking to make it big, comes into town and sets their rivalry into overdrive.

This film hit at the right moment in history. It is like the MTV generation personified in a major motion picture, with its thin storyline and stilted dialogue surrounded by glitzy musical performances with often frenetic editing. The music from Prince (and even the songs of The Time and Appollonia 6 are Prince’s songs and productions) combining the perfect slurry of rock, pop, R&B, gospel, and angst. From the eerily prophetic line in the opening “Let’s Go Crazy” (“If the elevator tries to bring you down, go crazy, punch a higher floor”) to the celebratory stomp of “Baby I’m a Star,” perhaps no film captured the musical and visual moment of the 1980s as perfectly as Purple Rain.

Purchase Purple Rain 4K Ultra HD + Digital on Amazon.com

  • Prince in Purple Rain (1984)
  • Appollonia Kotero in Purple Rain (1984)
  • Prince in Purple Rain (1984)
  • Prince in Purple Rain (1984)
  • Prince in Purple Rain (1984)
  • Purple Rain 4K Ultra HD + Digital (Warner Bros.)
  • Purple Rain 4K Ultra HD + Digital (Warner Bros.)

The Video

Purple Rain has been completely restored digitally from an 8K scan of the 35mm original camera negative. The film has been presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio in a 2160p (4K UHD) HDR10 encodement. This film looks stunning. Period. The opening “Let’s Go Crazy” sequence is gorgeous…drop dead, gorgeous, with a stunning array of colors and dazzling specular highlights. The HDR10 grading throughout provides lots of color nuance and pop, where one can not only see excellent highlights, but there is so much detail one can make out the bulbs in stage lights and headlights on cars. The film’s grain structure is organic and very satisfying. Where we can see minute details in the elaborate costumes and the outdoor scenes, the grain is there, and basically consistent, only showing a bit more grittiness in some scenes likely due to age or light levels and film speed. The famous (infamous?) “Lake Minnetonka” scene has a gorgeous amount of detail and color, with the clear blue daytime sky and glistening lake waters.

The Audio

Purple Rain is presented in lossless English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Original Theatrical English DTS-HHD Master Audio 2.0 Surround. The audio was restored from the original Dolby Stereo (LCRS) 35mm magnetic film source elements containing the separate dialogue, music, and effects (DME) tracks.  The restored elements along with the 20th anniversary’s 5.1 multichannel print master were used to complete a newly remastered 5.1 presentation for this 4K release. The new 5.1 track has never had this film sounding better on home video, and I owned it on VHS and the 20th anniversary Blu-ray releases. The spread of sounds, the dynamic range, and the bass and fantastically presented. The big thumping kick drum really bumps during the performance sequences, maybe way more than it ever did even on the soundtrack album since this was a somewhat thin sounding album in comparison to the album that preceded it. Finger cymbals during “Take Me with U” chime far off on the sides often resounding in the surrounds. Dialogue is intelligible, but there are a few scenes where clipping/crackle can be heard in the louder dialogue, which is the only thing that keeps this from getting a perfect score. The original theatrical English DTS-HD MA 2.0 surround mix also sounds better than it ever has, with cleaner instrumentation, and more presence in the atmospherics.

The Supplements

This release is disappointingly barebones for a 40th anniversary release of such a classic film with one of the biggest albums of the 1980s from one of the most legendary musicians of all time. There are no new featurettes or commentaries, and not even a newly restored and remastered Blu-ray is included.

Bonus Features:

  • Movies Anywhere Digital Code
  • Commentary by Albert Magnoli, Robert Cavallo, and Donald E. Thorin
  • First Avenue: The Road to Pop Royalty (1080p; 00:12:22)
  • 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 Final Assessment

The acting may be camp, but the music and visuals of this classic from Prince remain one of the highlights of the 1980s. Warner Bros. have resuscitated this film giving it a major upgrade over the less than stellar Blu-ray release. It has never looked or sounded better. Highly recommended.

Purple Rain is out on 4K Ultra HD + Digital June 28, 2024 from Warner Bros.

Purchase Purple Rain 4K Ultra HD + Digital on Amazon.com

  • Rating Certificate: R
  • Studios & Distributors: Warner Bros. | Purple Films | Warner Bros. Discovery Home Entertainment
  • Director: Albert Magnoli
  • Written By: Albert Magnoli | William Blinn
  • Run Time: 111 Mins.
  • Street Date: 28 June 2024
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Video Format: HEVC 2160p (4K UHD)
  • HDR Format: HDR10
  • HDR10 Metdata:
    • MaxLL: 1176 nits
    • MaxFALL: 286 nits
    • Max. Luminance: 1000 nits
    • Min. Luminance: 0.0001 nits
  • Primary Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1
  • Secondary Audio: Original Theatrical English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Surround | French DD 5.1 | German DD 5.1 | Spanish DD 2.0 Mono
  • Subtitles: English SDH | German SDH | Spanish (Castilian) | Spanish (Latino) | French | Italian SDH | Dutch | Chinese | Danish | Finnish | Norwegian | Swedish

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A young musician with a dysfunctional family life deals with unhappy bandmates, a rival band, and an unsatisfied new girlfriend while his music goes misunderstood. Purple Rain (4K UHD Review)