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Ultra HD : Recommended
Ranking:
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Release Date: December 5th, 2023 Movie Release Year: 1985

The Color Purple (1985) - 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray

Overview -

Of the attempts (fewer than you’d think) in Hollywood to mount adaptations of Alice Walker’s classic novel The Color Purple, Steven Spielberg’s 1985 adaptation still proves to have incredible staying power. The Color Purple arrives in 4K Ultra HD courtesy of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment with a 4K Blu-ray release that offers a gorgeous, filmic new transfer of the film and a collection of archival supplements from previous releases. Nothing new has been added for the purpose of this release, however it’s easy to share this Recommended release if you’re looking for a terrific video upgrade of the feature.

An epic tale spanning forty years in the life of Celie (Whoopi Goldberg), an African-American woman living in the South who survives incredible abuse and bigotry. After Celie's abusive father marries her off to the equally debasing "Mister" Albert Johnson (Danny Glover), things go from bad to worse, leaving Celie to find companionship anywhere she can. She perseveres, holding on to her dream of one day being reunited with her sister in Africa. Based on the novel by Alice Walker.

OVERALL:
Recommended
Rating Breakdown
STORY
VIDEO
AUDIO
SPECIAL FEATURES
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
Video Resolution/Codec:
2160p/HEVC
Release Date:
December 5th, 2023

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

Ranking:

Steven Spielberg, the guy that made JawsIndiana Jones, and 1941? That’s the guy you wanted to helm The Color Purple? Alice Walker was deservedly very nervous at the prospect of Spielberg rather than having a filmmaker with deeper ties to the story of Black suffrage in the South. Even with those reservations, producer/music genius Quincy Jones insisted that Walker watch E.T. first before casting aspersions. Watch it she did, and she was won over by Spielberg's vision. I think Spielberg’s method of wide-eyed wonder in unconventional, imaginative spaces was a good fit for The Color Purple, and although I do feel that some of the material is warmed over in exchange for that vision, this is still a very sturdy Hollywood epic that showcases Spielberg’s mastery of large-scale filmmaking and gaining incredible performances from the talented cast.

The Color Purple tells the story of two sisters in early 20th-century Hartwell, Georgia. Celie (Whoopi Goldberg) is a teenage girl who is constantly raped and abused by her father (Leonard Jackson), even birthing two children and having them swiftly taken away for her father to sell. Nettie (Akosua Busia) is the younger of the two sisters and avoids her father’s ire thanks to Celie, but all that is thrown into upheaval when a widower named Mister (Danny Glover) asks her father for Nettie’s hand in marriage. Father decries that she’s too young, but offers Celie up wholesale if Mister is willing to take her. Thus begins years upon years of psychological, emotional and physical abuse done to Celie at the hands of Mister, and the movie skips years ahead to show how Celie has now developed into this meek, scared woman who lives on the boundaries of her own home.

That is until Mister’s first wife Shug Avery (Margaret Avery) arrives and is nursed back to health by Celie. Celie tries to escape with Shug back to Memphis, but Mister catches her and puts an end to that. Oh, and there’s the matter of Sofia (Oprah Winfrey), a strong-willed woman abused by one of Mister’s lousy sons who encourages Celie to leave Mister in the first place. 

Full disclosure: this is my first experience with Steven Spielberg’s The Color Purple after waiting a long time for it to play on the big screen locally. As with all of Spielberg’s films of that era, I was taken by Allen Daviau’s breathless, gorgeous cinematography, keeping Black faces in focus always. There’s a great story about how Daviau worked closely with production designer Michael Riva to achieve this, and it was difficult considering the production design opted for darker set interiors than normal. And understandably so, as much of the film takes place in these broken-down, barely-held-together houses made out of a patchwork of different colored wood. Using “magic lights” was needed to shine the actual light on the stars. That big moment of Celie’s eyes lighting up the screen in Harpo’s bar? Wouldn’t be possible without those “magic lights” being planted on set.

Needless to say, I was constantly reckoning with Spielberg’s approach throughout the film. At times, I felt he dipped far too much into the schmaltz that’s better used in his sci-fi work, though Spielberg’s own uncertainty behind the camera on this project proves to be a good match for a filmmaker who recognizes he’s dealing with material that he can easily screw up. It’s something we rarely see from the Hollywood legend. All in all, though, The Color Purple is no less a stunning achievement on both a technical and narrative scale.

Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-rays
The Color Purple comes home in 4K Ultra HD with a one-disc (UHD 100) 4K Blu-ray release from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. The disc is housed in a standard amaray case and comes with a slipcover while supplies last. The disc boots up to a standard menu screen with options to play the film, set up audio, explore bonus features and select chapters.

NOTE - we haven't been able to pull 4K-sourced images or video as of yet, but aim to as soon as possible. 

Video Review

Ranking:

It’s important to note here that no new source details were given about this release, but after watching, it’s clear this is a brand-new high-definition remaster of the film. This HEVC-encoded 2160p presentation is supported by HDR10 and immediately impresses once the title cards finish with healthy, beautiful film grain and an abundance of sun-baked textures to marvel at. Flesh tones are tuned in just right, and it’s remarkable to be able to see how the humid air on set softens highlights ever so beautifully, especially in exterior close-ups. Contrast is balanced very well, and I was particularly floored by the clarity achieved in all the wide-angle shots that Spielberg is well-known for. Black levels are terrific, achieving inky perfection and enabled by the HDR10 treatment to bring out the minute gradations in those sets. I’ll say that HDR is definitely applied lightly here, and I can imagine that being a choice to match filmmaker intent as well. This is a very pleasing presentation of a gorgeous film.

Audio Review

Ranking:

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment recycles the DTS-HD MA 5.1 track from the previous release, although it’s still a spacious surround track given it’s a dialogue-driven film. Bass is used lightly, giving minor boosts to certain moments and heard most strongly when supporting Quincy Jones’ score for the film. Those big song numbers sound terrific as well, and you’ll have fun hearing how well the soundscape is opened up in the surround channels to bring the most out of those numbers.

Special Features

Ranking:

Alright, time for some disappointing news. This new 4K Blu-ray carries over the archival supplements from the previous release and adds nothing else. Thumbing through those old features in SD, I was surprised to hear that Spielberg actually used a recording of his newborn baby for the opening sequence in which Celie gives birth. There’s something in there about a white man using sound effects from his white baby to depict a scene of Black trauma, but I reserve that argument for people who know better than me.

  • Conversations with the Ancestors: The Color Purple from Book to Screen (SD 26:40)
  • A Collaboration of Spirits: Casting and Acting The Color Purple (SD 28:39)
  • Cultivating a Classic: The Making of The Color Purple (SD 23:35)
  • The Color Purple: The Musical (SD 7:36)
  • Teaser trailer 2 (SD 1:26)
  • Teaser trailer 3 (SD 1:15)
  • Theatrical trailer (SD 1:24)

Final Thoughts

Steven Spielberg’s The Color Purple makes the jump to 4K Ultra HD with a terrific new 2160p transfer from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment that brings out all of Allen Daviau’s incredible work behind the camera and all the wonderful performances that fill this film. Although no new supplements have been added, I’m sure fans will agree that the new transfer is the star in this Recommended release.  

Order your copy of The Color Purple on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray