Movie: Purple Rain
Release Date: July 27, 1984
Director: Albert Magnoli
Starring: Prince, Apollonia Kotero, Morris Day, Olga Karlatos, Clarence Williams III.
Tag Lines: “This is what it sounds like when doves cry.”
Relevance: Sometime in early 1983, I saw a video on MTV for a song called “1999.” I was instantly hooked. Soon after dancing in front of the TV to that song, I saw another video by the same artist on the music channel that kept me dancing. “Little Red Corvette” became a top ten hit that year in the United States and I became a huge fan of Prince and the Revolution. Little did I know that I was watching an artist that would become one of my all time favorite musicians and influences of all time.
At twelve years old, I bought, or should I say my mom bought for me, the cassette to “1999.” It instantly became a favorite of mine. It was a dance-pop filled album that made me not only dance and sing but blush as well. There was a song called “Let’s Pretend We’re Married,” which was very explicit and of course it became my favorite track on the album. My mom did not like that song. After listening to “1999” non-stop for months, I saw another video on MTV by Prince called “Controversy” from his previous album of that same name. Like his other music, I fell in love immediately.
One Friday night I went to the mall with a friend of mine. After being dropped off by my parents, with cash in my hand we headed directly to the music store. I saw two cassettes by Prince, “Dirty Mind” and “Controversy,” and snatched them up. When my parents picked us up, I told my mom what I bought and started reading the song titles on the albums. When I got to the last song on “Controversy,” a little gem called “Jack U Off,” my mom instantly whipped her head around and said, “You should not be listening to that!”
Despite my mother’s outrage, I listened. I listened and loved. Prince was becoming a huge part of my life and the more my mom, friends or other family members protested and ridiculed, the more I listened. In June of 1984, while watching my favorite television station, MTV, I saw a new video by Prince, “When Doves Cry.” I was thrilled. My mom saw him crawling on the floor naked and just rolled her eyes. (She did end up liking some of his music over the years, just not all of his sexually charged antics.) That song was the “song of the summer” and became Prince’s first number one hit on the Billboard charts, a place it remained for five weeks straight. It eventually became the best selling song of 1984 as well. The song was part of the soundtrack to ‘Purple Rain,’ a movie that Prince himself was starring in. Unfortunately, I was only thirteen and although I was bopping along to the soundtrack, I wasn’t allowed to go see the R-rated film in theaters.
‘Purple Rain’ the movie was released in July of 1984. It received decent reviews, more so for the music and stage performances than its plot and acting, but it was a box office success. You couldn’t go anywhere without a mention of Prince which of course put me in a constant state of glee. His music was all over the radio, his face was all over MTV and he was now a bona fide movie star. Luckily for me, a VHS of the movie was released for rental even while the movie was still playing in theaters. Blockbuster was not around at the time and our renting of videos was through our local grocery store. When ‘Purple Rain’ was released, it took me a few attempts to successfully nab a copy as they only had one or two at the time, but thankfully I finally did.
There was no question that I was going to like the movie. But I didn’t. I loved the movie. It was an energetic, flashy, loud rock musical filled with a slew of hit songs and a very charismatic performance by the purple one himself. Sure, he was perhaps playing “himself,” but he played it very well and completely dazzled the camera when performing on stage. The melodrama of the script was nothing too original, but I loved it and every aspect of the movie. When the movie finally started playing on HBO, I recorded it on a blank VHS tape and watched it over and over again. I would stand in front of the television and mimic and memorize all of “The Kid’s” moves and became even more obsessed with the star.
‘Purple Rain’ went on to win an Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song Score, the last to win that category as they have since removed it. I remember him showing up and receiving the award in his purple hooded cape and I was convinced he was the coolest man on the planet. That was a sentiment I carried through for the rest of his life. Sadly, Prince Rogers Nelson passed away on April 21, 2016. It was devastating to me. I was a fan since 1983 and remained one through 2016. He was part of the soundtrack to my life and I always list him as one of my biggest influences and heroes. ‘Purple Rain’ and its soundtrack will always remain one of my favorite eras from his illustrious career.
Today’s Thoughts: “Ladies and gentlemen… The Revolution!”
Even at forty-nine years of age, I still want to be like Prince. He was one of the hippest dudes on the planet and a musical genius to boot. ‘Purple Rain’ gets criticized a lot for its acting and story. When I hear that criticism, I always say, “You mean the Academy Award wining movie ‘Purple Rain?'” Regardless what others may think, I have always and will always love this movie.
The energy and electricity that blasts through the screen from the stage performances in ‘Purple Rain’ are unparalleled. It is a fun, humorous, at times melodramatic musical and I just can’t get enough of it. Prince is a force you just can’t take your eyes off of. Sure, he is not Laurence Olivier, but I’d like to see Mr. Olivier perform “Darling Nikki.” Regardless, Prince gets the job done as The Kid, creating a character that everyone in my generation wanted to be.
‘Purple Rain’ will of course be celebrated (and should be) by any Prince fan. But any fan of rock musicals should watch it and applaud its originality on how to make a “star vehicle” movie. Its brash and loud and one that shouldn’t be taken too seriously, just enjoy it. If anything, ‘Purple Rain’ captures an artist at what some might say was the peak of his career. He is forever immortalized on screen and for that I am extremely grateful.
Awards: Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song Score, Prince (winner), Golden Globe for Best Original Song – Motion Picture, “When Doves Cry,” Prince (nomination), National Film Registry (2019).
Ways to Watch: Amazon Prime, YouTube, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, DVD Availability.