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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

The Color Purple (4K UHD Review)


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


A Black woman in the Jim Crow south suffers abuse from her father and husband over the span of four decades in this Steven Spielberg film adapted from the Alice Walker novel.

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

When I was a young man in high school, I was brought before the headmaster by my English Literature teacher because I had an uncanny ability to get away with not reading the books she had assigned yet still manage to pass the written exams. It was not because I was using Cliff’s notes or anything like that, I just knew that all literature followed certain fundamental themes and it was easy for me to piece those together, but I digress. When facing down my teacher and my headmaster and asked why I wouldn’t read the books, I quite bluntly responded, “because I don’t like them.” Which was true, I did not like the majority of the books I was assigned to read in junior high and high school, so I had a personal policy of reading only the ones that piqued my interest. They were few, but they were good ones, like The Catcher in the Rye, Ragtime, Tom Sawyer, The Count of Monte Cristo, and the one we are covering here, The Color Purple.

Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel compellingly captured the often-harrowing experience of Blacks in the post-Civil War, turn of the century era south. Written almost completely in letter form, she captured the cadence of the dialect, mood of the era, and the spirit of a generation.

I do not know that Steven Spielberg’s film adaptation is completely successful at converting that story to the big screen, but what film is ever as good as its source novel? What I do know is that The Color Purple on film is filled with one riveting performance after another, from then relatively unknown Whoopi Goldberg to a yet to be as influential Oprah Winfrey and a much more youthful Danny Glover.

The story follows Celie (Goldberg), a southern Black woman, sexually abused by her father, raised to believe she is ugly, and forced into a marriage of servitude and physical abuse with Mister (Glover). Celie has nothing but her hopes that one day she will see her sister again to keep her going, but along the way she finds champions in a juke joint singer named Shug (Margaret Avery) and her son-in-law’s wife Sofia (Winfrey), eventually coming out of her shell and freeing herself from the prison that is the marriage into which she was forced.

The Color Purple is a somber and poignant look at the Black experience in the rural south and it garnered 11 Academy Award nominations in 1985, including Best Picture, Actress in a Leading Role (Goldberg), and Best Cinematography.

  • Whoopi Goldberg and Margaret Avery in The Color Purple (1985)
  • Whoopi Goldberg and Margaret Avery in The Color Purple (1985)
  • Danny Glover and Margaret Avery in The Color Purple (1985)
  • Danny Glover, Adolph Caesar, and Willard E. Pugh in The Color Purple (1985)
  • Oprah Winfrey and Willard E. Pugh in The Color Purple (1985)
Danny Glover and Adolph Caesar in The Color Purple (1985)
  • Rae Dawn Chong in The Color Purple (1985)
  • Whoopi Goldberg in The Color Purple (1985)
  • The Color Purple 4K Ultra HD + Digital (Warner Bros.)

The Video

I have yet to be disappointed with a Steven Spielberg film restored on Blu-ray or 4K Ultra HD and that is not going to start with The Color Purple. This film looks gorgeous in its 1.85:1 HEVC 2160p (4K UHD) HDR10 encodement. There is a natural layer of grain throughout that provides some crispy, three-dimensional textural information on clothing and skin. The HDR grading is stunning, giving glowing sunsets, sepia tone lamplights that glow warmly against dark backgrounds, and lots of color gradients. The specular highlights ‘pop’ nicely, but not in a gimmicky way, in a suitable manner for the subject matter. Check out the scene in the juke joint with Shug Avery’s sequined red dress and how it catches the light.

The Audio

The English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix for The Color Purple is all about the sweeping score by Kris Bowers and the atmospheric sounds like birds chirping through the surround channels and breeze blowing through trees. It is subtle, but well done with the right amount of dynamic range, balance, and delicacy for the material.

The Supplements

There is nothing new on disc provided and one bonus is offloaded for the digital version, which is a trend I am not onboard with, especially considering the fact that TV shows people have paid for are disappearing from people’s digital libraries and in the case of The French Connection, stealth edits are being made to streaming versions. There is also a Movies Anywhere digital code included.

Previously available bonus features on 4K Ultra HD Disc:

  • Conversations with Ancestors: The Color Purple from Book to Screen (upscaled 1080p; 0:26.39) – Alice Walker talks about writing the Color Purple and the process of bringing the story to the screen.
  • A Collaboration of Spirits: Casting and Acting The Color Purple (upscaled 1080p; 0:28.40) – Spielberg and others discuss the task of casting the roles for The Color Purple.
  • Cultivating a Classic: The Making of The Color Purple (upscaled 1080p; 0:23.34)
  • The Color Purple: The Musical (upscaled 1080p; 0:07.34) – Steven Spielberg, Quincy Jones, and others discus the film’s musical aspects.
  • Teaser Trailer #2 (upscaled 1080p; 00:01:26)
  • Teaser Trailer #3 (upscaled 1080p; 00:01:14)
  • Theatrical Trailer (upscaled 1080p; 00:01:24)

Also on Digital, all of the above plus:

  • The Color Purple: A Bold New Take – featurette on the 2023 The Color Purple film

The Final Assessment

This poignant classic of survival under the worst of circumstances still holds up thanks to the majesty of Allen Daviau’s cinematography, Spielberg’s direction, and superb performances from Goldberg, Glover, and Winfrey. The 4K Ultra HD transfer from Warner Bros. looks beautiful and captures all the detail and nuance this film deserves. Highly recommended.

The Color Purple is out on 4K Ultra HD + Digital December 5, 2023, from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

  • Rating Certificate: PG-13
  • Studios & Distributors: Amblin Entertainment | Harpo Films | Scott Sanders Productions | Warner Bros. | Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
  • Director: Steven Spielberg
  • Written By: Menno Meyjes | Alice Walker
  • Run Time: 153 Mins.
  • Street Date: 5 December 2023
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Video Format: HEVC 2160p (4K UHD)
  • HDR Format: HDR10
  • Primary Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1
  • Secondary Audio: French DD 2.0 Stereo | German DD 2.0 Stereo | Italian DD 2.0 Stereo | Spanish (Castilian) DD 2.0 Stereo | Spanish (Latino) DD 2.0 Mono | Czech DD 2.0 Stereo
  • Subtitles: English SDH | German SDH | Italian SDH | French | Spanish (Castilian) | Spanish (Latino) | Dutch | Chinese | Korean | Danish | Czech | Finnish | Norwegian | Swedish

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A Black woman in the Jim Crow south suffers abuse from her father and husband over the span of four decades in this Steven Spielberg film adapted from the Alice Walker novel.The Color Purple (4K UHD Review)