A purple paradox if ever there was one, the Prince vehicle Purple Rain remains a great fusion of archetypes, picking and choosing from several decades' worth of musical dramas, youth-rebellion sagas and dysfunctional family epics. The end result is as schizophrenic as one would expect from as dualist a pop icon as the Purple One, especially at his early-'80s peak of creativity.
Torn between the sacred and the sleazy, Prince avatar "The Kid" struggles to make the public dig his freakier aspects; learn how to work well with others and accept their input; and try not to hate women as much as his abusive father does. "Never get married," says Father (Clarence Williams III)and you damn well believe it, since the movie's misogyny taints even transcendent moments like the glorious "Take Me With U" montage. The movie's casual degradation of women is appalling, but at least his long-suffering mother (Olga Karlatos, whom gorehounds will recognize as the splinter victim from Lucio Fulci's Zombie) and feminist rock icons Wendy and Lisa teach him to purge his resentment through music rather than by getting slappy.
The music, of course, is the star of the film. "The Beautiful Ones," "Computer Blue," and "Modernaire" aren't the singles that everyone remembers, but they are just as flawless. There has never been a film this packed with five-star songs. Every track, even the throwaways ("Sex Shooter"), is a deserved classic. And it must be said that there is no rockshow-as-hatefuck in all of cinema as impressive as "Darling Nikki."
Available for the longest time as a featureless full-frame budget-line entry from Warner Bros., Purple Rain finally gets some digital love in this spiffy little two-disc set. Finally presenting the film in widescreen and with more improved compression, this edition also includes a technically oriented commentary with director Albert Magnoli as well as the cinematographer and one of the producers. They give lots of production info but few of the salacious tidbits people want to know.
The supplements are fairly extensive. The diverse featurettes include an interesting look at First Avenue, the Minneapolis club where much of the film takes place, and an exhaustive music-video section. The five videos from Prince & the Revolution range from the classic ("When Doves Cry") to the relatively unseen ("Take Me With U," taken from a live performance), and the two Time videos are well known. But words can barely encompass the video for Apollonia 6's "Sex Shooter." Campy cheesecake at its most daffily surreal, this is a video you certainly won't have MTV memories of.
What you won't find is involvement from Prince, Morris Day, or Apollonia. That's okay, though, because the rest of the Revolution is all in, and the good dirt is in the "Riffs, Ruffles, and a Revolution" mini-documentary on disc two. Purple Rain the movie is not for everyone, but this disc is certainly the essential version of the film for fans and for newcomers to the Prince experience. The album, of course, is the best album ever, and everyone should have it.
♦ The '90s only produced one enduring new global horror franchise, which sprung from the imagination of Clive Barker and adapter/director Bernard Rose (who made Paperhouse, one of the finest children's suspense films ever). Rose transposed Barker's short story "The Forbidden" to Chicago's Cabrini Green housing projects for a cross-cultural fusion of urban legend and inner-city horror. The result, 1992's Candyman, remains a stunning achievement for all involved, and the proliferation of sequels in no way diminishes its rightful place as a modern horror classic.
The Candyman (Tony Todd) is the spiritual incarnation of a murdered man named Daniel Robitaille, a death-dealer whom urban legend says will appear should his name be said five times in a mirror. Grad student Helen Lyle (an award-caliber Virginia Madsen) and her friend Bernadette (Kasi Lemmons, from The Silence of The Lambs and director of Eve's Bayou) are researching the historical details behind the Candyman legend, little suspecting to what extent the Candyman will come to dominate their lives.
Rose goes for the gusto with this film, combining horror, gothic romance (notice that Helen's scenes with the Candyman are shot in softer focus than either of their scenes apart), and social documentary into a super-rich text. You can't help but learn about the racial and social structure of Chicago just by watching the film, and few scenes in horror history surpass Helen's confrontation with a psychiatrist who doesn't believe her story of a hookhanded spirit. "I can call him," she says. And oh, does she ever.
Columbia TriStar's old disc had both full- and widescreen transfers and the film's trailer. For this new special edition, the main additions are a great look at the Candyman story and mythos, a Clive Barker featurette, and a commentary with Rose, Barker, Madsen, Todd, Lemmons, and cinematographer Anthony Richmond. All are well done, and would elevate the disc to a must-have or must-upgrade if it weren't for the fact that Columbia TriStar used the same transfer and sound mix as the old disc. That seems especially perverse, seeing as how the old transfer wasn't exactly reference quality. No special edition should display this much speckling, and the company should be ashamed. Nevertheless, the film is still worth having, even in this mixed bag of a presentation.