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HTF REVIEW: "The Color Purple" Special Edition (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED) (with screenshots)

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Ronald Epstein, Feb 3, 2003.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    The Color Purple
    Special Edition

    Studio: Warner Bros.
    Year: 1985
    Rated: PG-13
    Film Length: 153 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (1.85:1)
    Subtitles: English, French and Spanish

    It's about life. It's about love. It's about us.

    No other director has been able to pull my emotional
    strings quite like Steven Spielberg. Growing up
    during the 70s and 80s I witnessed a man create
    memories of pure movie magic with such films as
    Jaws, Close Encounters and Indiana Jones.
    It wasn't until Spielberg's first dramatic effort,
    The Color Purple that I realized the true
    genius of this man. It was this film alone that
    earned him my respect as my all-time favorite director.
    More importantly, the film stands amongst my top
    10 favorites of all time.

    The Color Purple is nothing short of a
    triumphant masterpiece. It was Spielberg's attempt
    to go deeper than his normal escapism film and
    create a rich, heartfelt epic that was extremely
    true to Alice Walker's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.
    The film was an exercise of great storytelling, so
    brutally honest and touching that I never cease to
    cry every time I see it. The film managed to raise
    the eyebrows of just about every film critic alive,
    yet in perhaps the biggest upset in Oscar history,
    the film earned 11 Academy Award nominations and
    walked away with none.


    The film begins in 1909 in the setting of rural
    Georgia with two young girl's named Celie (Desreta
    Jackson) and Nettie (Akosua Busia). On one horrific
    night, Celie is raped by her father, and produces
    two children, Olivia and Adam. The children are
    immediately taken away from Celie, leaving her
    with the only salvage in her life, her younger
    sister Nettie.

    When "Mister" Albert (Danny Glover) comes along
    looking for a wife, he originally chooses the
    younger and prettier Nettie. Her father decides
    that he will only sell his uglier older daughter,
    Celie, promising she will make a better, hard-working
    wife for him.


    Celie (Whoopie Goldberg) marries Albert and so
    begins her life in utter hell. She's left to raise
    his rotten children, take on all the chores of the
    household, and even worse, beckon to his sexual
    needs. The only light in her life is Nettie, who
    has come to stay with her sister, that is, until
    she refuses Albert's sexual advances and is
    immediately thrown off the property. As the young
    sisters part, Nettie promises to write, but a
    letter never seems to arrive.


    For the many decades to come, Celie endures many
    trials and tribulations, culminating in a beautiful
    self-awareness thanks to the inspirational people
    she meets along the way including Shug Avery
    (Margaret Avery) and Sofia (Oprah Winfrey).

    Spielberg doesn't sidestep the social injustice
    of violence and racism that existed in that era.
    This film is a very true-to-life portrait of the
    black experience in the early 1900s. Though the
    director would eventually gain Academy recognition
    for his look at the injustices against the Jewish
    people in Schindler's List, it's amazing
    that Academy members didn't recognize his efforts

    How is the transfer?

    Before I wanted to talk about this brand new 2002
    digital transfer, I had to first compare it to
    the original 1997 release. The transfer on the
    original release is not as bad as I had thought
    it would be. There is a noticeable amount of film
    dirt and occasional background shimmer. Some have
    complained about compression artifacts, but scanning
    through the disc I saw none. Actually, I was
    quite surprised as how well the original transfer
    has held up after all these years.

    Of course, if you own the original release, you
    are going to want to own the best available transfer
    there is, and this 2002 version is it! Here is a
    gorgeous print that has been totally cleaned,
    containing none of the blemishes and dirt of the
    original. Since The Color Purple was filmed
    very soft, picture often seems more hazy than
    extremely sharp, although there is still lots of
    image detail here. There still seems be some slight
    background grain in the picture and most of the
    skyline shots exhibit a noticeable amount of noise
    in them. Still, the film has a very natural look
    to it, with nice warm colors that include lush green
    fields and foliage. There is no doubt in my mind
    that this is the best the film has looked on any
    format to date.


    The 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack does little justice
    to the rear channels, but excels in the front with
    crisp detailed audio, tremendous stereo separation
    and dialogue that is always clear and firmly placed
    in the center speaker. This soundtrack is definitely
    front-heavy, as the surrounds do little more than
    provide ambient noises from time to time. Even
    the film's beautiful score by Quincy Jones only
    occasionally extends itself across the entire
    listening area. I don't really find this a
    problem for a film that doesn't need to have an
    active surround mix. In fact, I was so impressed
    with the overall clarity in the front channels that
    I soon forgot that the rear channels existed.

    Special Features


    I am so proud of Warner Bros. for releasing this
    film in a brand-new two-disc Special Edition,
    arriving in a very attractive cardboard slipcover
    which contains a pull-out that opens to a 3-pane
    inner gatefold. Inside this gatefold sits two
    purple discs that reside in plastic housing placed
    above photos of young Celie and Nettie. On the
    far left pane sits the entire scene index of
    Disc One.


    Disc One contains the entire feature. The
    Special Features on this disc include the
    film's original theatrical trailer as well
    as two teaser trailers. A Cast and Crew
    page lists all the principles, but does not allow
    you to click on anyone's name to get an extensive
    filmography, which is a real shame. Perhaps the
    reason for this is because this film was full of
    newcomers. An Awards area lists the many
    awards the film received outside of the Oscars
    where it was sadly snubbed.


    Let's take a look at Disc Two which contains
    four new behind-the-scenes documentaries and a
    handful of additional material....


    Conversations with the Ancestors: The Color Purple
    from book to screen
    begins with author Alice
    Walker who talks about writing her book out of
    love for the people that represented her parent's
    and grandparent's generation. In fact many of the
    characters in this film are loosely based on people
    in her family. For instance, Celie was based on
    her Grandmother, a woman who had 2 children that
    died and was forever stuck in the house with her
    Grandfather. The character of "Mister" was based
    on her two Grandfathers who were horrible people
    in their youths, but later managed to mellow out.
    Walker goes into great depth in describing her
    characters, particularly their relationship to
    God who becomes an important figure in this film
    as he is the one Celie turns to when there is
    no-one else. Walker talks about writing the book,
    and being in utter disbelief when she found out
    it had won the Pulitzer prize. It was Producer
    Kathleen Kennedy that brought the book to the
    attention of director Steven Spielberg, urging him
    to read it over a single weekend. In an interview,
    the director reveals he was immediately taken by
    the journey these two sisters endured. It was a
    story that haunted him for a long time and when he
    found out that Quincy Jones and Warner Bros. was
    set to make the film, he set out to audition to direct.
    Spielberg obviously won the audition, but the next
    hurdle was finding a person to write the screenplay.
    That person was Menno Meyjes who showed such
    enthusiasm for the project. Spielberg talks about
    some of his own personal touches in the film, most
    of which showed transitions in many of the characters.
    Spielberg was a man that wanted to rely on symbolism
    instead of being specific about situations, many of
    which I am sure you have caught while watching the
    (length: approx. 26 minutes)


    A collaboration of spirits: casting and acting
    The Color Purple
    introduces us to Casting Director
    Reuben Cannon who talks about how he came to be in
    the company of Spielberg and Quincy Jones. Through
    an interview with Whoopie Goldberg, we hear how this
    virtually unknown stand-up comic showed up at
    a star-studded audition and totally blew away Steven
    Spielberg to the point where he demanded that she
    either be in the film or he wouldn't direct it.
    In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, she talks about
    her obsession with wanting to be part of the film.
    You'll hear her remarkable story as to how she came
    to finally audition for the film. From hereon in,
    we hear other audition testimonials from Margaret
    Avery, as well as Danny Glover who is thankful that
    he didn't have to do an audition at all. In an
    interview with Akosua Busia (Nettie), the actress
    recalls the riveting scene where Danny Glover is
    separating her from her sister. It was a very
    difficult scene for everyone involved because of
    its overall intensity. Whoopie Goldberg talks about
    her admiration for Spielberg who not only understood
    film, but how to communicate with his actors in order
    to pull the best emotions out of them. Poor Oprah
    Winfrey -- she was so absolutely terrified that
    Spielberg would change his mind about casting her
    in the film, but managed to pull off a totally
    ad-libbed dinner table scene at the end of the
    movie, which turned out to be one of the most
    memorable scenes in the entire film. As this
    featurette comes to an end, cast members reflect
    upon the film and the ever-lasting friendships they
    made with each other afterwards.
    (length: approx. 28 minutes)

    Cultivating a classic: The making of The Color
    begins with a wonderful revelation...not
    only did Steven Spielberg's first wife give birth
    to their son on the exact day he was filming the
    birth of Celie's baby, but Steven later recorded the
    cries of his own newborn and added them to the film.
    Next up is a conversation with production designer
    J. Michael Riva who talks about the task of finding
    the film's farmhouse that had to be situated on a
    large piece of land. Costume Designer Aggie Rodgers
    talks about her task in recreating wardrobe that
    reflected that time period. Director of photography
    Allen Daviau talks about the various weather changes
    that happened over the course of the Summer's filming
    and how they were used to creatively depict passage
    of time. We learn how pink flowers were spray painted
    purple or how snow-like material was sprayed all over
    the set to create a wintry setting. We also see how
    transition and various lighting techniques help set
    the proper mood to the story. And what about all
    those letters that Celie receives? We learn how they
    were originally penned and aged. Finally, Spielberg
    talks about the criticism that the film had received,
    mostly for the fact that people felt the director
    sugar-coated the original novel. Still, Spielberg
    is very proud of his work to this day -- and so
    are we!
    (length: approx. 23 minutes)

    The Color Purple: The Musical takes us through
    the film's musical numbers, some of which were a result
    of a collaboration between Quincy Jones, Lionel
    Richie and Rod Templeton. This is music that covered
    a span of 30 years, and we learn how various styles
    of each era were introduced to the film. One of the
    film's most interesting musical sequences involves
    rain falling in various pots that suddenly turns
    an African beat with percussion instrumental.
    (length: approx. 7 minutes)


    There are two separate still galleries. The
    first takes you behind-the-scenes while the
    second concentrates on the cast members.
    Unfortunately, the folks at Warner still haven't
    realized that putting these pictures on a timed
    rotation is a lot more inconvenient than letting
    viewers scroll through the pictures one-by-one
    using their remote.

    Final Thoughts


    From opening to finish, The Color Purple is a
    sheer masterpiece of a movie, which has received
    nowhere near as much recognition as it should have.
    This movie manages to pull so many emotional strings,
    and I warn you, the ending is one of the most beautiful
    ever witnessed. I dare anyone to watch it and not be
    moved to tears. Of all the films that Spielberg has
    made in his long career, this is my personal favorite.

    Warner Bros. has done an exceptional job with the
    release of this two-disc Special Edition giving us
    a transfer that looks terrific, and four new
    documentaries that are really inspiring to watch.

    I cannot give a film nor a DVD a higher recommendation
    than this one.

    Release Date: February 18, 2003

    All screen captures have been further compressed.
    They are for illustrative purposes only and do not
    represent actual picture quality
  2. Joshua_Y

    Joshua_Y Screenwriter

    Dec 19, 2002
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    I own the original disc, bought it right before this one was announced. Ron, you sold me on the new one.
  3. Jon Sheedy

    Jon Sheedy Stunt Coordinator

    Jun 30, 1997
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    I agree that the original release of The Color Purple didn't look too bad...can't wait to upgrade though!

    Keep these Special Editions comin' Warner Bros!!!

  4. Jake Lipson

    Jake Lipson Screenwriter

    Dec 21, 2002
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    Is this one worth buying blind?

    After all the good I've heard about it I'm considering it, but I'm still not sure if I should rent it first.

    Oh, and if anyone from Warner happens to be reading this - why can't you give Harry Potter this type of great special editioN? ::sigh::
  5. Brian Kidd

    Brian Kidd Cinematographer

    Nov 14, 2000
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    Jake, it's more than worth a blind purchase. It's one of the finest films Spielberg has ever made. It's wonderful in every respect.
  6. Joel Vardy

    Joel Vardy Supporting Actor

    Oct 20, 1998
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    I personally lost a lot of respect for the Academy when they snubbed this film (even though it did get 11 nominations). Has there ever been a film that has totally been neglected at the ceremony after so many nominations?

    I was not only moved by the film but also tried to reflect on its teachings for years to come. I'm glad this film is getting this kind of treatment so that rewatching it will not be compromised. It's good to see that the extras are worthy complements to the film rather than just random add-ons. Even though I own the original release, it will be handed down to other family members when this edition comes out.

  7. Neil Joseph

    Neil Joseph Lead Actor

    Jan 16, 1998
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    This has been a very long wait. I agree that this film was a masterpiece that did not get its due recognition. It will be finally nice to tget the entire movie on one side without flipping. Thanks for the review Ron (and you are correct about the heart strings. Even now I have dust in my eyes [​IMG] thinking about the end of the film.
  8. Mark Bendiksen

    Mark Bendiksen Screenwriter

    Mar 16, 1999
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  9. Chuck L

    Chuck L Screenwriter

    Feb 12, 2001
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    Thanks for the great review...this is one of the top disc of the year that I am waiting for along with Mildred Pierce, Laura and WB's SE of Friday The 13th...strange combo I know!
  10. oscar_merkx

    oscar_merkx Lead Actor

    Apr 15, 2002
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    I have not seen this before and thanks again Ron for a great review. Looks like I will be buying this after all.

    Thanks again WB for this

  11. kevin_asai

    kevin_asai Stunt Coordinator

    Mar 12, 2001
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    I am curious now. Why Steven Spielberg didn't work with his best friend, John Williams, on Color Purple?
  12. Rain

    Rain Producer

    Mar 21, 2001
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  13. Kevin Porter

    Kevin Porter Supporting Actor

    Jan 10, 2002
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    I thought there was going to be an audio commentary with Whoopi and Oprah. Where did it go?
  14. Douglas R

    Douglas R Cinematographer

    Dec 30, 2000
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    London, United Kingdom
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  15. Guy_K

    Guy_K Second Unit

    Aug 14, 2001
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    I'll probably get this one. How come this didn't get a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED stamp on the header?
  16. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Ronald Epstein

    It should have had a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED put in
    the title. I put the review up shortly after 4am
    this morning and 'da noggin' just wasn't thinking.

    You'll see a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED status added.
  17. Jeff_HR

    Jeff_HR Producer

    Jun 15, 2001
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    Nice review! I've owned the CAV Laser for years, & it will be a pleasure to retire it.

  18. greg_t

    greg_t Screenwriter

    Jan 18, 2001
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    I had a theater class in college where all we did was watch movies, and The Color Purple was one we saw. It was a very moving film that I thought was just incredible. I will be picking this one up.
  19. Tim RH

    Tim RH Second Unit

    Nov 20, 2001
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    Thanks for the review Ron (and the high praise of an underrated film)! Spielberg deserves more credit than he gets sometimes, IMHO. Anyway, I can't wait to pick this one up. [​IMG]
  20. BrettB

    BrettB Producer

    Feb 1, 2001
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    Thanks for the review Ron. Can't wait to get this.

    Re: the supplement curiously/confusingly titled The Color Purple: The Musical I found this in the review at spielbergfilms.com;


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