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Blu-ray Review: The Color Purple (Digibook)

Posted on Friday, February 11, 2011 5:23 PM

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Front Cover ArtworkThe Color Purple
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
153 Minutes

List Price: $34.99 (Check Price at Amazon.com)

This movie is also available from Amazon on DVD.

Available 1/25/2011

Rated PG-13

Click here for additional movie details, including the full plot summary, cast listing, trailers and videos, photos, reviews of the movie, and links to the official movie web site and more.

  TheatricalThis Disc
Video Format:
1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 1.78:1


DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1


Movie: BD-50 (x1)

Disc Contents

  • No Upfront Ads!
  • Movie
  • Extras
    • Behind the Story (AVC SD DD2.0)
      • Conversations with Ancestors: The Color Purple from Book to Screen (26:39)
      • A Collaboration of Spirits: Casting and Acting The Color Purple (28:40)
      • Cultivating a Classic: The Making of The Color Purple (23:33)
      • The Color Purple: The Musical (7:34)
    • Galleries
      • Behind the Scenes
      • The Cast
    • Trailers (AVC HD, DD2.0)
      • Teaser Trailer #1 (1:16)
      • Teaser Trailer #2 (1:28)
      • Theatrical Trailer (1:25)

About the Movie

Celie. Mister. Sofia. Nettie. Shug. The unforgettable characters of Alice Walker's Pulitzer Prize novel brighten the screen in this rhapsodically cinematic adaptation directed by Steven Spielberg. At the story's center is Celie (Whoopi Goldberg in her movie debut), whose search for fulfillment in a world closed to her becomes a triumph of cruelty overcome by love, of pain eclipsed by joy.

The Color Purple went on to garner eleven Academy Award nominations for almost everyone in the production (but not for Spielberg as a Director), but came away empty on the night of the ceremony (Out of Africa won seven statues that night). The movie introduced Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey to movie audiences, and set the stage for Steven Spielberg to make more than just the blockbusters he was best known for.

On the 25th anniversary of the movie's theatrical release, Warner Bros. has released this Digibook Blu-ray title. The book contains 40 pages of notes and photos about the movie, with the single Blu-ray disc mounted in a plastic spindle holder on the inside back cover.

A technical review of this title appears below. Check out the Reader Reviews page for The Color Purple to read my thoughts of the movie itself.

How Does it Look?

Still from the movie (not an actual screenshot)

This movie is 25 years old, so it's not going to have the shine of something brand new, but excellent releases of older movies like Casablanca and The Searchers have shown that a movie doesn't have to look bad just because it's a got a few years on it.

A good job has been done transferring this movie from film to Blu-ray. I did not notice any distracting artifacts like excessive edge enhancement or noise reduction, which allows the artistry of the movie to take center stage.

In the extras, Spielberg mentions that he didn't want to shoot the movie in black and white because that would be odd for a movie called "The Color Purple." There are many opportunities in this movie for color to make an impact, and this transfer allows it do so very well. The showiness of Shug's outfits, the blandness of Celie's outfits, purple flowers in the fields, and bright flowing silk garments all tell part of the story without it a word being said.

Another mention is made in the extras about Spielberg's desire to light the movie so that the actors' faces were lit properly, and the efforts that were taken to achieve that goal. I have to say that I didn't notice it during the movie, but going back through some of the scenes showed that what could have been challenging lighting situations were handled very well.

How Does it Sound?

Since the movie was originally a 2-channel stereo release, the lossless DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is mostly front-channel. There is very little for the surrounds to do, and one has to purposely get up close and personal with your surround speakers to hear anything at all through most of the movie. While scenes like those in the juke joint could have benefited from some ambience, this movie is first and foremost a story told by the main character, and every part of that story was understandable. Quincy Jones' music also came through very well, and fairly numerous musical numbers are very enjoyable to listen to. There is no evidence that this is a movie that is a quarter-century old!



This disc contains three sections of extras in the Special Features menu. There are four behind-the-scenes featurettes, two photo galleries, and three movie trailers. All of the extras appear to be the same as those included on the The Color Purple (Two-Disc Special Edition) DVD release from 2003, so nothing new was created for this release.

The behind-the-scenes featurettes are the best of the extras, as they provide the viewer with some context for the movie. Not everyone is familiar with Alice Walker's novel, and interviews with Walker are valuable in understanding the process of taking her novel and making it into a movie. We find out that Spielberg wasn't sure if he was the right person to be making this movie, and that Oprah Winfrey was constantly worried about her ability to carry the role of Sophia and how she overcame her fears and delivered a very strong performance.

The two photo galleries are odd inclusions of limited value. While archive photos can have value, it's difficult to get very much enjoyment when the photos are relatively small in proportion to the screen and have no captions. If you watch the behind-the-scenes materials, some of the photos are used in them, so you may be able to recall what you are looking at, but then if you're watched those videos, you've already seen those photos. It would have been nice to have seen another gallery for advertising. I would have liked to have seen the movie poster(s) included, as well as any ads that were run for the theatrical release and surrounding the Academy Awards.

I like to see the theatrical trailer included with movies, so I was definitely happy to find not one, but three included here! Being able to watch the trailer helps one to appreciate how the movie was marketed during its theatrical release, and it's unfortunate when such a simple and obvious extra is not included. While the video and sound quality reflects the age of the movie, I am still very happy to have them included and they are definitely fitting for this package.

Other Aspects

In a trend that we're seeing, and one that we whole-heartedly applaud, this disc supports resuming playback. If you stop playback and resume (as you would if you were watching the movie in multiple sittings), you'll resume the movie where you last left off.

This feature is great for those of us who are not able to watch an entire movie in one sitting (especially since bookmarking is not provided on this disc), and I wish that more studios would implement it on their releases. Resuming playback is one of the biggest usability problems with the Blu-ray format that studios need to recognize and support.

Bookmarking is not supported, but the resume capability provides the most significant functionality that bookmarks provide.

Given that the music played such a large part of this movie, I would have liked to have seen the inclusion of an isolated score on this disc. It would have made for a nice companion, highlighting Quincy Jones' work and how it interplayed with the on-screen scenes. Considering that all the other extras are carried over from a DVD release done eight years ago, adding something new would help those that bought the Special Edition DVD justify the purchase.

Lastly, I was very glad there were no upfront ads! Advertising on a disc that someone has purchased is a slap in their face, and I'm hoping that this is a trend and not just a one-time situation.


For fans of the movie, this title is definitely worth picking up! The transfer is good and the booklet and included extras make for a nice addition to a home video library. Between the movie and all the extras, you can spend more than five hours enjoying all that is offered here, and more if you go back and revisit some scenes after watching the extras.

While I'm glad to see Warner Bros. dropping the upfront ads and including the trailers in the extras, the book is the only new extra (and I'm not sure if there were similar materials in the 2003 Special Edition release). The transfer is very good, but it should be, considering that this is a Steven Spielberg movie being released on a milestone anniversary. We have lots of good transfers being released, so putting in some extra effort would sweeten the deal and it would probably push a few fence-sitters into making the purchase.

If you are not a big fan of the movie, but would like to experience it again, you may want to consider renting it if the purchase price makes you hesitate. That may be difficult, however, as I could not find it on Blu-ray through either Netflix or Redbox.

Recommended Reading

Don't just take our word for it, check out these resources for more reviews of the movie and of the disc.


Check Prices on Amazon.com

A copy of this title was provided at no cost by the movie studio/distributor for the purpose of this review. No expectation of the results of this review were set as a condition of receiving the item.

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