Blu-ray Review: Prince Movie Collection - Purple Rain, Under the Cherry Moon, Graffiti Bridge

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The Prince Movie Collection arrives via Warner Bros. Home Entertainment nearly six months after the untimely passing of musical genius Prince Rogers Nelson on April 21, 2016. The three-disc set collects all three narrative feature films starring Prince: Purple Rain (1984), Under the Cherry Moon (1986), and Graffiti Bridge (1990). The theatrically-released concert film Sign O' The Times (1987) is not part of Warner Bros.' catalog and is therefore not included in in this set.

Each of the three films is available separately. Bear in mind, the Collection is housed in a standard-sized Blu-ray keep-case (itself housed inside a cardboard slipcase). Fans wanting the original cover art on separate cases will have to buy the individual releases. Both the single-case Collection and the three separately-packaged titles feature purple (instead of the standard blue) BD cases.

Of the three films, only Purple Rain has appeared on Blu-ray before. This release, however, boasts a fresh transfer that improves on the previous edition. For many, the box office hit that galvanized Prince's career is considered to be the only one of his films worth owning. To be sure, it's a thrilling backstage musical about rising rock star The Kid (Prince), soundtracked by Prince's most commercially-accessible set of songs. The live performance segments are so well staged, they do feel truly live, making Purple Rain a spectacular tribute to Prince's unique skills. The presentation is bolstered by an aggressive, though well-balanced, DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround mix.

But the real forgotten gem of Prince's brief filmography is Under the Cherry Moon. Shot in color but converted to black-and-white during post-production to meet Prince's directorial vision (he fired the film's original director Mary Lambert just days into the shoot), the film is a romantic comedy with a tragic twist. It's poor commercial reception was largely due to how dramatically different it is from Purple Rain. Though Christopher Tracy (Prince) is a musician, he's a solo piano player at a lounge. This mean there are none of the full-blown concert sequences, despite a soundtrack loaded with first-rate material from Prince's Parade album.

Kristen Scott Thomas debuts here as heiress Mary Sharon. On her 21st birthday, Mary receives a multi-million dollar trust—the catch is that her father Isaac (Steven Berkoff) expects her to marry the son of a fellow business magnate in order to merge two powerful families. Gigolo Christopher and his "business partner" Tricky (Jerome Benton) seek to upset these plans for their own benefit but get more than they bargained for after befriending Mary. Prince delivers a radically different performance as Christopher than he did as The Kid in a film laced with screwball comedy. There's also an interesting examination of platonic love between two adult male friends in Christopher and Tricky's relationship. 
rsz_prince_movie_collection_bd.jpg The new 1080p transfer for Cherry Moon is an clear improvement over the decade-plus old standard DVD. Michael Ballhaus cinematography looks richer than ever. Also a definite upgrade is the DTS-HD MA lossless soundtrack. Though nowhere near as exciting as Rain's 5.1 mix, this 2.0 stereo track packs a far wider dynamic range than on the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 found on the old DVD. The oddly-mixed film sometimes gives priority to obtrusive instrumental score over actual dialogue, but it's always been that way.

File Graffiti Bridge under the "For Rabid Fans Only" category, much like other superstar vanity projects like Paul McCartney's Give My Regards To Broad Street. A quasi-sequel to Purple Rain, with Prince returning as The Kid and Morris Day-led funk outfit The Time as his adversary, Bridge is little more than a series of music videos connected by a vague plot. Though the soundtrack hasn't aged as well as Rain's and Cherry Moon's, the music is tremendous and serves as the primary reason to spend 90 minutes with this film. The Kid and Morris are co-owners of their respective nightclubs Glam Slam and Pandemonium. They battle it out through their songs, each artist vying for sole control of their own club, while the mysterious Aura (Ingrid Chavez) attempts to provide spiritual guidance.

Unlike the natural, realistic concert scenes in Rain, similar sequences in Bridge feel stiff and obviously lip-synced. The Time's Morris Day and Jerome Benton steal the show with their comic interplay, while Prince barely speaks this time around as The Kid. As Prince wrestled more and more creative control of his films (he is not only the director of Bridge, but also the screenwriter), he clearly had a harder time effectively telling his story. Revel in the music of Graffiti Bridge and accept that there's not much else to sink your teeth into.

Another A/V upgrade, Graffiti Bridge's Blu-ray debut is cleaner and sharper than its DVD predecessor. Bill Butler's cinematography is inherently a bit soft focus, but the neon colors and shadow detail look far more vivid here than they did in standard definition. Just as with Cherry Moon, this Blu-ray boasts a very good, but basic, DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo track rather than a 5.1 surround mix.

Special features: surely disappointing news for Prince fans, the selection of music videos found on the Under the Cherry Moon and Graffiti Bridge DVDs have not been ported over to Blu-ray. This leaves only each of those two film's theatrical trailers as the discs' sole supplement.

Everything from the previous Purple Rain Blu-ray (including eight music videos) is present (note: all this material originated on the special edition Purple Rain DVD). That means you get director, producer, and DP commentary, three good featurettes (totaling about 52 minutes) with lots of interviews with the filmmakers and Prince's Revolution members (Prince himself did not participate in any of these), and the original "MTV Premiere Party" special.

As a lifelong Prince fan still numbed by his tragic passing, I offer a heartfelt "thank you" to Warner Bros. for allowing us to remember him through the Prince Movie Collection.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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