Sad news arrived last Thursday when it was announced that the artist forever known as Prince was dead. Already, tributes abound. So instead of penning another, here’s a list of 30 nifty things you’ll notice, should you be lucky enough to make it inside for tonight’s free showing of Purple Rain at the Orpheum.
Like the man who made it, Purple Rain is full of contradictions. One one hand, it’s not a great film. The acting is spotty, and the dialogue is occasionally cringeworthy. But each scene is lovingly shot, and as a vehicle for Prince’s music, and style, it’s very close to being a masterpiece.
1. Before the film starts in earnest, you can hear crowd noise. Over the Warner Bros. logo, a deadpan emcee makes the film’s first introduction: “Ladies and Gentlemen, The Revolution.”
2. An opening montage that includes Prince putting on makeup and Morris Day vacuuming in a do-rag and red short set.
3. Themes of mortality and immortality in “Let’s Go Crazy.”
We're all excited
But we don't know why
Maybe it's 'cause
We're all gonna die
And when we do (When we do)
What's it all for (What's it all for)
You better live now
Before the grim reaper come knocking on your door
Just try and get through that without getting all verklempt.
4. The Revolution’s space-age patriot costumes. Prince was 26 when Purple Rain came out. That means he would have been 18 in 1976, the year of America’s bicentennial celebration, when it was hard to go anywhere without seeing somebody dressed up like Ben Franklin.
5. Morris Day observing the girl band he’s putting together: “I’m gonna need a drink.”
6. As the Kid, Prince plays a maple Telecaster but pines for a more Princely-looking guitar in the shop window. Though he occasionally broke out some elaborately designed guitars, throughout his career Prince played that same maple tele with the leopard print strap and pick guard.
7. With its easy groove and intimate conversational tone, “Take Me With You” is the perfect song for a romantic motorcycle ride montage.
8. Prince to Apollonia: “That ain’t Lake Minnetonka.”
9. Morris Day and Jerome perform an updated Abbott and Costello routine: “The password is what?”
10. A snippet of Dez Dickerson’s “Modernaire” that’s about as long as Jesse Johnson’s solo career.
11. Wendy’s righteous mullet.
12. Prince using his puppet to say mean things like some kind of Batman villain. Foreshadowing?
13. Morris Day: “Keep the change.” (Aside) “Get my change, would you.”
14. Everything about “The Beautiful Ones.”
15. The Kid’s room is decorated with dolls, porcelain masks, and album art from the Purple Rain soundtrack’s dust sleeve.
16. The ridiculous amount of extra buttons and zippers on '80s-era clothes made them harder to get on and off than Purple Rain might lead one to believe.
17. Wendy and Lisa working through the opening chords of the song, “Purple Rain.”
18. Errol Flynn lookalike on drums. With a righteous mullet.
19. The “When Doves Cry” montage sets up a Shakespearean dichotomy by flashing back and forth between claustrophobic cityscapes reflected in the windows of moving vehicles and bucolic rural scenes. The urban environments are linked through violence, confusion, and decay. The countryside’s all about sex. This scene also included “the Elvis silhouette” wherein Prince pays tribute to the King.
20. The shirtless Zoro look for “Computer Blue.” Incidentally, in 1984, the year Purple Rain was released, Apple introduced the Macintosh personal computer with a Super Bowl commercial comparing IBM to Big Brother, the fascist leader in George Orwell’s1984. But seriously, who cares about the impending digital explosion when you could be experiencing simulated guitar felatio? That happens too.
21. “Darling Nikki,” deployed like a weapon. Dick move, Kid.
22. Poetic justice: Morris Day, who had a girl thrown into a dumpster, ends up in the trash.
23. One earring to rule them all…
24. All those righteous mullets.
25. The scene following Francis L.’s suicide attempt when the Kid is being questioned by police harkens back drugsploitation films from the 1960s, and man, it is one bad trip. Police lights flash in the windows. The kid sees bad visions and ends up smashing all of his mama’s home-canned vegetables.
26. Morris Day: “Chili sauce!” And the whole band slides.
27. After performing “The Bird,” Morris Day and the Time make fun of The Revolution. Wendy: “Let’s get 'em.”
28. Apollonia catches the earring.
29. In its last 20 minutes, Purple Rain morphs into a concert film as the Kid performs the title track, “I Would Die 4 U,” and “Baby I’m a Star” back to back. Best moments include gratuitous crotch-rubbing, meaningful pointing, and “DOCTOR!”
30. Best of all, the audience.
Purple Rain at the Orpheum Theatre, Tuesday, April 26th. Doors open at 6. Free.