The Color Purple appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Across the board, the film looked strong.
Sharpness looked quite good for the most part, as the majority of the film appeared to be crisp and accurate. A smidgen of softness occasionally crept into a few shots, but those instances remained minor. Most of the time, the image remained concise and well-defined. No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects materialized; both edge haloes and obvious use of digital noise reduction failed to appear as well. Source flaws seemed to be absent. Natural grain came through during the film and no specks, marks or blemishes marred it.
Colors looked consistently warm and vibrant. Spielberg gave the proceedings a rather lovely tone – sometimes inappropriately so – and these hues seemed to be nicely vivid and lush. Sensibly, purples were best of the bunch; they came across as quite gorgeous. Red dresses also presented lively and rich hues. Black levels seemed to be deep and dense, and shadow detail was clean and appropriately opaque with no signs of excessive thickness. The Blu-ray presented a consistently lovely transfer.
I didn’t expect a slam-bang soundfield from this kind of drama, but the DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix of the film complemented the action well. The track featured a fairly strong forward emphasis, and the front channels added a very nice layer of ambience and involvement. Music displayed fine stereo separation, and quite a variety of effects also cropped up in the front side areas. These sounds could be a little “speaker specific” at times, and they didn’t always blend together terrifically well, but I still found them to offer a clean and engaging atmosphere.
Surround usage seemed to be less positive, but it appeared good for a film of this era and scope. For the most part, the rears provided little more than general reinforcement of the music and effects heard in the front spectrum. During a few scenes, they came to life more forcefully, such as in a thunderstorm, but as a whole, they functioned as environmental elements. Overall, the mix complemented the film to a nice degree.
Audio quality also seemed to be good for its age, though a few concerns existed. Dialogue showed occasional signs of edginess, but most of the speech sounded rather warm and natural, with no problems related to intelligibility. Music appeared bright and vivid; I thought the soundtrack could have provided greater depth, but the clarity seemed fine for the most part. Effects were also a little thin, but they came across as reasonably accurate and distinct, and I heard no signs of distortion or other issues. In the end, the audio of The Color Purple worked well despite some minor concerns.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the 2003 Special Edition DVD? I thought audio was a wash. The lossless track was a little warmer than its Dolby Digital counterpart, but the age of the material limited the amount of growth that we could get, so the pair seemed similar.
On the other hand, the visuals demonstrated nice improvements. The Blu-ray was clearer and tighter than its DVD counterpart. The latter looked quite good for its format, but the Blu-ray came as a good step up in quality.
Almost all of the SE’s extras repeat here. We get four documentaries, and we start with Conversations with the Ancestors: From Book to Screen. It lasts 26 minutes and 38 seconds and focuses on writer Alice Walker for the most part. It combines movie clips, archival stills and new interviews with Walker, director Steven Spielberg, producer Kathleen Kennedy, producer/music producer Quincy Jones, and producer/second unit director Frank Marshall.
The first portion of “Conversations” focuses on the novel. Walker discusses her familial inspirations as well as other aspects of the book, and she gets into reactions it provoked, both good and bad. From there, Spielberg discusses his involvement and how the story got to the screen. We learn of Walker’s power of approval over the director, her initial attempt to adapt the story into a script, changes made between the two and other elements. We even get a little material about an unused “forgiveness scene”. Some may find “Conversations” to seem a little heavy on “talking heads”, but it conveys a lot of information. It gets across all these notes in a concise manner and seems like a useful discussion of the topics.
After this comes A Collaboration of Spirits: Casting and Acting The Color Purple. The 28-minute and 39-second program uses the same format as the prior – and subsequent – pieces. Here we hear from Spielberg, Walker, Jones, Kennedy, casting director Reuben Cannon, and actors Whoopi Goldberg, Oprah Winfrey, Margaret Avery, Danny Glover, Akosua Busia, and Rae Dawn Chong. “Acting” stays true to its title, as it concentrates wholly on that side of the production. We find out how Goldberg, Winfrey, Avery and Glover earned their parts, and we get lots of good information about the challenges they faced on the set. This includes various anecdotes as well as insight into the characters. Compelling and lively, “Acting” covers its subject well.
Next we find Cultivating a Classic: The Making of The Color Purple, a 23-minute and 35-second program that covers more of the technical aspects of the movie. We get remarks from Kennedy, Spielberg, Marshall, production designer J. Michael Riva, costume designer Aggie Guerard Rodgers, and director of photography Allen Daviau. Not surprisingly, they mostly delve into sets, locations, clothes and cinematography. We learn about challenges related to the period costumes, Spielberg’s initial idea to film Purple in black and white, lighting the dark-skinned actors, the importance of Mister’s mailbox, Spielberg’s reactions to the public attitude toward the movie, and more. The driest of the three documentaries to date, “Classic” seems a little flat and slow at times, but it offers enough interesting details to make it worth a look.
For the final documentary we get The Color Purple: The “Musical”. No, this doesn’t discuss a Broadway adaptation of the story; instead, it discusses some of the movie’s music. We listen to material from Spielberg, Jones, Avery, Walker, and Kennedy in this seven-minute and 32-second program. At times, we find some nice details about the songs and their connection to the material. Unfortunately, too much of the program simply relates praise for Jones and his work, and “Musical” ends up as the least useful of the four documentaries.
In addition to some trailers, the disc ends with two stillframe collections. In the Behind the Scene Gallery we locate 26 images from the set, while the Cast Gallery includes 69 shots. None of these seem especially fascinating, but the offer some decent images.
We also get a hardcover book. This comes as part of the package; open up the disc’s casing and the book appears on the left half. It features a mix of components. We discover some production notes, cast and crew bios, trivia and photos. It’s a nice complement to the package and completes things on a positive note.
The Color Purple enjoys a positive reputation, but I can’t imagine why, as the movie suffers from a vast number of flaws, most of which result from the work of its director. Steven Spielberg desperately tried to escape his reputation as an action-fantasy auteur, but the sweet and sugary vision of black sisterhood seems less plausible than anything seen during E.T. or Close Encounters. As for the Blu-ray, it presents the movie in fine fashion. It delivers excellent visuals, good audio and an informative batch of supplements. Though neither audio nor bonus materials surpass what we found on the 2003 DVD, the improvements in picture quality make this a worthwhile upgrade for fans.
To rate this film please visit the original review of THE COLOR PURPLE