On July 27, 1984, Warner Bros. unveiled Prince’s R-rated Purple Rain in theaters for moviegoers. The Hollywood Reporter’s original review is below.
Purple Rain, starring rock star Prince, may create a surprise and sudden box office storm for Warner Bros. Sensitive and highly visual, this Albert Magnoli-directed film is an accomplished and sophisticated example of storytelling. Even those who aren’t Prince fans are likely to be captivated by its energy, enamored with its simple, often poignant storyline.
Prince stars as a headstrong, vulnerable young musician. He’s self-destructive, submerging his music in his anger and insecurities. In short, his music is indulgently personal, and Prince soon finds himself losing his standing in the club where he and his band, the Revolutionaries, are on the verge of hitting the big time. His rival, funker Morris Day, taunts him, “You’re just like your old man. You don’t have what takes to be on top.”
The catalyst to turn Prince’s direction is an alluring, young singer (Apollonia Kotero) who comes onto the scene. She’s mysterious and dazzling, and if Prince is to survive personally as an artist, it will be through his love for her.
While the story is structured as a simple tale of survival through love, its rhythmic variations (through the editing and soundtrack), as well as its highly articulate visuals, touch emotions and sympathies that rock movies often don’t reach.
Credit Magnoli’s fluid, evocative direction as well as his and co-editor Ken Robinson’s superb orchestration of shots. In this regard, special praise must be given to director of photography Donald L. Thorin, production designer Ward Preston and set decorator Anne McCulley, whose efforts have added texture and depth.
Despite a slightly slow beginning, Purple Rain builds to a satisfying and climaxing crescendo with Prince’s performance of the title tune an emotional dedication to his father. In short, the story (scripted by Magnoli and William Blinn) jells, both as a romance and as a story of personal triumph.
The charismatic Prince and strikingly attractive Apollonia Kotero as his love interest are (in the best traditions of musicals) a pair you root for. Morris Day, lead singer of The Time, and Jerome Benton as his sidekick add notes of humor to his emotionally charged production. Technical credits, in two words, consistently superb. — Duane Byrge, originally published July 3, 1984