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Blu-ray Reviews

HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: The Color Purple

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#1 of 4 Cameron Yee

Cameron Yee

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Posted January 27 2011 - 04:41 PM


The Color Purple
Release Date: Available now
Studio: Warner Home Video
Packaging/Materials: Single-disc Digibook
Year: 1985
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 2:33:00
MSRP: $34.99

Video 1080p high definition 16x9 1.85:1 Standard definition
Audio DTS-HD Master Audio: English 5.1 / Dolby Digital: French 2.0, German 2.0, Italian 2.0, Spanish 2.0, Castellano 2.0, Portuguese 1.0, Polish 2.0, Stereo
Subtitles English SDH, French, German SDH, Italian SDH, Castellano, Dutch, Chinese, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, Danish, Finnish, Russian, Hebrew, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Swedish Same

The Feature: 4.5/5

Growing up with a sexually abusive father in rural Georgia in the early 1900s, sisters Celie and Nettie Harris (Desreta Jackson and Akosua Busia) must rely on each other to get through life. Even when Celie is effectively handed off to "Mister" (Danny Glover) - a handsome but mercurial widower with a house that needs cleaning and kids that need looking after - the two girls can't be kept apart. Nettie eventually comes to live with them and admonishes her sister to stand up against Mister's physical and verbal abuse. Celie's response is simply heartbreaking - "I don't know how to fight; I just know how to survive." When Mister eventually goes after Nettie, she takes her own advice and squashes his advances, but at the cost of being banned from her sister's life for as long as Mister has the power to keep them apart. It's a separation that will forever haunt the girls' lives, though it's apparent from Celie's circumstances that she is the one in greatest need of a lifeline. Nevertheless, she does prove skilled at survival, reaching a working relationship with Mister, his unruly children, and the mistress he has a genuine passion for, Shug Avery (Margaret Avery). In fact it's Shug who gives Celie (as an adult played by Whoopi Goldberg) as her first glimpse of a life consisting of more than just getting by, but of truly living - of being able to see there is more than just darkness in the world, there is the color of royalty and dignity. There is the color purple.

As much as Steven Spielberg's film adaptation of Alice Walker's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel breaks your heart, it just as effectively lifts your spirits as it tells Celie's often painful story with honesty, dignity and sometimes humor. Though Spielberg was an unexpected and unconventional choice to helm a film about the struggles of young black women in the rural South, his ability to tell a story ultimately won out over the need for a common experience. Indeed, it's the delicacy with which he handles the material that makes the film so moving,  neither veering too far into maudlin sentiment nor pulling up short on the emotional resonance of the characters' life journeys. Finely balancing those elements, it becomes a film that while specific to a time, place and people - and sure to resonate deepest with those who know of those things first hand - also hits home with anyone who has known struggle and heartbreak, hope and joy. Though the breadth of that 25-year experience winds up being a little too much for the film to handle within its two-and-a-half hour run time (specifically in the final act, which feels too rushed), the film is an impressive work and an adaptation worthy of its award-winning source material.

Video Quality: 4.5/5

Presented in 1080p with the AVC codec, the transfer approximates the film's original 1.85:1 aspect ratio by filling the entire 16:9 frame. Black levels are deep and inky and contrast shows the full range of values with no signs of compression. Colors exhibit great depth and saturation with no technical problems to speak of. Fine object detail is also excellent - remarkable in close up and medium shots with hair, skin texture and fabrics, but also holding up well in wide shots and backgrounds. Visible grain structure indicates the judicious use of noise reduction measures, though the image does exhibit some haloing along high contrast edges, usually with things like black suits set against the sky.

Audio Quality: 4/5
Dialogue in the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is consistently clear and intelligible. Surround activity is minimal, with only some very light support for the film score and some mild localized effects. However the front sound stage is quite expansive and includes some pleasant directional and ambient activity. LFE is non-existent, but the track has sufficient depth and fullness, along with some great detail in the upper frequencies.

Special Features: 4/5
The four-part retrospective documentary - produced in 2003 for the DVD special edition - is thorough and well made, with plentiful interviews with those involved in the project. Archival materials round out the package, offering a glimpse at the film's marketing and production.

Conversation with the Ancestors: The Color Purple from Book to Screen (26:39, SD):  Alice Walker talks about the inspiration, motivation, and various themes of the novel and Steven Spielberg shares how he was introduced to the book, how he came to work on the film, and the adaptation process. Particularly interesting is when the two identify specific examples of the changes and share the rationale behind them.

A Collaboration of Spirits: Casting and Acting the Color Purple (28:40, SD): Spielberg and the core cast members talk about the casting process and their experiences working on the film. Stories from Oprah Winfrey - who played Sofia -  are particularly interesting since it was her first acting in a major motion picture.

Cultivating A Classic: The Making of the Color Purple (23:33, SD): Members of the crew talk about locations, costuming, cinematography and props. Highlights include the challenges of using actual clothing from the time period (people's bodies have changed since then, not just in terms of weight) and lighting the set for varying skin tones and complexions.

The Color Purple: The Musical (7:34, SD): Spielberg and producer/composer Quincy Jones talk about the use of music and musical sounds throughout the film.


  • Behind the Scenes (3:28): Twenty-six still images from production.
  • Cast (9:04) Sixty-eight still images of the cast during production.
Teaser Trailer #1 (1:16, SD)

Teaser Trailer #2 (1:28, SD)

Theatrical Trailer (1:25, SD)

Collectible Book: The nicely produced book-that-is-the-packaging includes cast and crew biographies, background on the production and numerous photographs.

The Feature: 4.5/5
Video Quality: 4.5/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Special Features: 4/5
Overall Score (not an average): 4.5/5

Warner Home Video turns in an excellent audio and video presentation for Steven Spielberg's film adaptation of Alice Walker's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. The special features carry over the items from the previous DVD edition, along with a nicely printed commemorative booklet integrated into the packaging. Owners of the title on the DVD should find the Blu-ray release a worthwhile upgrade. For those who have yet to add the title to their collections, it's an obvious choice.

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#2 of 4 Cees Alons

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Posted January 28 2011 - 04:28 AM

Excellent review, Cameron. I agree with most of your conclusions, including the feeling that the film should have been a little longer for the sake of telling the story. On the other hand, it could have proved to become just too long for a movie. I must admit I never read the novel it's based on.

I'm also glad that the quality of this version is great. I ordered it some months ago (Amazon/US) and it was sent last Monday, but didn't arrive yet.

(I'm trying now to find the best way to start selling my VHS- and DVD collections in the case a BD replaces what I have. It's probably much too late for the tapes.)


#3 of 4 TravisR


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Posted December 13 2011 - 02:46 AM

I don't think this actually out of print already but according to Amazon, it's only available from third party sellers. OOP or not, Best Buy (the store and online) currently has it on sale for $10.99.

#4 of 4 bugsy-pal


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Posted August 26 2013 - 05:43 PM

I watched this movie the other day - I had never seen it before. The cinematography is magnificent, and the bluray conveys it beautifully. A really lovely disc. The film has some typical Spielbergian touches. I think he was well suited to direct this story. And the acting was excellent.

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