The Color Purple (1985) [4K UHD/Digital]

What with Warner Bros moving forward with their highly anticipated musical remake of Alice Walker’s 2023 musical remake of “The Color Purple,” the 4K UHD release of Steven Spielberg’s 1985 classic just made sense. With the continued push for the 4K UHD format, this re-release includes the original dramatic masterpiece on 4K UHD only. For hold outs the 1985 masterpiece arrives in a more restored and crisp picture quality. Spielberg seemed like an unusual choice to steer the adaptation of Alice Walker’s iconic novel, but his film has aged pretty well even if it has some very rough narrative choices it never quite topples.

Based on Alice Walker’s iconic novel, “The Color Purple” spans forty years in the life of Celie, 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, 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.

“The Color Purple” is a very good movie to this day and it’s one that works as a compelling often hypnotizing drama about one woman’s just sheer amount of suffering. Steven Spielberg endured a lot of criticism for his adaptation of Walker’s novel accused of being incapable of understanding the novel’s struggles. What’s more significant is that Spielberg tends to downplay a lot of the more sexual aspects of the narrative. A lot of the overtones about LGBTQ and lesbianism are sanded down a lot, in favor of a more sentimental and somewhat hokey plays on strong friendships. Spielberg too often opts for melodrama rather than subtlety which can make “The Color Purple” feel overbearing and overwrought more times than not.

Spielberg in many ways doesn’t quite know how to handle this material, forcing a lot of his own sensibilities as a filmmaker and storyteller rather than opting to work outside of his comfort zone. In either case, the film is saved a lot by the gripping story and pretty excellent performances by the collective cast. While Whoopi Goldberg often gets the glory for her turn as Celie Harris Johnson, she never quite manages to match up against Desreta Jackson who is just mind blowing as the younger Celie Harris Johnson. Jackson just creates a high bar that Goldberg is never quite capable of hitting, despite her inherently gripping take on the character. While it’s by no means what I’d consider a masterpiece, “The Color Purple” is still a fascinating and compelling adaptation worthy of experiencing at least once.

The extras are all ports from the 2011 Digibook release, so sadly this re-release is strictly for the sake of long format hold outs and or people that want to catch up on the film before the impending big budget musical. I think we can expect at least a few more re-packagings/re-releases once the musical makes it to home media. The new release includes a 2160p/HDR transfer along with a redemption slip for the Digital Copy.

If you missed out (or held out) on the 2011 Blu-Ray, the features are Conversations with Ancestors: The Color Purple From Book to Screen, a twenty seven minutes documentary covering the development of Pulitzer Prize Winner Alice Walker’s iconic novel, Spielberg’s interest in it, and their initial meetings and the eventual production of the film. Spielberg and Walker are the center of the documentary. A Collaboration of Spirits: Casting and Acting The Color Purple is a twenty nine minutes follow up documentary with director Spielberg and casting director Reuben Cannon discussing many of The Color Purple’s central cast.

As well they discuss a majority of their actors on the film, the reasons behind their casting and the performances that make the movie so effective. Cultivating a Classic: The Making of The Color Purple is a twenty four minutes behind-the-scenes documentary is more a technical, standard segment with looks behind the shooting aspects and whatnot. The Color Purple: The Musical is a brief eight minute look at the music of the film, as well as the efforts of Quincy Jones and his collaborators. Finally there are the original teaser trailers and the original theatrical trailer.