The Color Purple - 4K Blu-ray Review

Michael Scott

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Apr 4, 2017
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The Color Purple

Movie: :4stars:
4K Video: :4.5stars:
Audio: :4.5stars:
Extras: :3.5stars:
Final Score: :4stars:

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Warner has really spent most of their Centennial anniversary remastering, restoring and re-releasing some of their biggest classics on 4K, and they decide to wrap up the year with the 1986 Golden Globe winner, The Color Purple. Steven Spielberg is known for his epics, but I was never that big a fan of The Color Purple back when I was younger. That was probably because the film was very heavy for a teenager back in the the 90s when I was into films, and it also wasn’t filled with sharks, spaceships and other awesome things that a teen like me was actually interested in. It actually wasn’t until the special edition DVD came out back in the 2000s that I decided to re-invest some time into watching the sweeping epic, and ended up changing my mind. While The Color Purple is a brutally harsh take for a Spielberg films (of course outside of Schindler’s List), it features some stunning performances by Whoopi and Oprah, and by far one of the most uncomfortable non horror films I’ve ever sat through. While that may not sound like a resounding thumbs up from yours truly, I saw that with pleasure. The 40 year life of Celie (Whoopi Goldgerg) is rough to watch, but oh so rewarding if you actually take the time and un peel all of the layers back that the film gives the audience.

As the back of the case states, The Color Purple is a sweeping epic spanning forty years of the life of poor black woman Celie and the pain she suffers from. Celie’s abusive father (intimating that he took advantage of Celie’s sister sister) pawns her off as a child bride to slimy farmer “Mister” Albert Johnson (Danny Glover in an absolutely disgusting villain role) so that she can raise Albert’s orphaned kids. Albert is no picnic either, as he beats Celie, tries to sleep with her sister before throwing her out of the house, and constantly cheats on the poor girl with a local flapper named Shug Avery (Margaret Avery). Knowing absolutely nothing else but suffering, Celie seaks comfort in whatever friendship she can acquire, from the sassy and outspoken Sophia (Oprah Winfrey), even to Shug Avery herself (who has her own problems).

As time goes on Celie learns to adapt to the pain. Taking the beatings from her husband in stride she steels herself and makes the best out of what meager life she has, all the while dreaming of her escaped sister and wishing one day to be reunited with her. But as the years fade it seems like her sister Nettie (Akosua Busia) is not coming to save the day, until she and Shug find a secret in the bottom of Albert’s personal chest that changes the remainder of her life forever.

The Color Purple is a BRUTAL thing to watch. I don’t mean that in a bad way, but it is still a tough film to choke down. The amount of pain and suffering that Celie bears is incredible, and you can literally see her pain written across Whoopi’s face throughout. However, this film would not be so beloved if it wasn’t for the ensemble cast that absolutely give it their all. Oprah is great as her friend Sofia, and Margaret Avery is stunning as the enigmatic Shug Avery. But out of the bunch I have to hand it to Danny Glover. The man has made a career on playing upstanding characters (or at least comic book villains such as Shooter with Mark Wahlberg) and he plays such a despicable character as Albert Johnson that I almost didn’t recognize him. Every time Danny’s face comes on screen you just have this irresistible urge to punch him in the face for everything he’s done. Which, to be fair, is a credit to Danny’s acting as he’s almost always such a likable character in his films.

Again, I came into The Color Purple a bit later than most people, but I still find it to be a worthwhile watch 15+ years later (since I first saw it, 35 years since it came out), even though it’s not something I always enjoy sitting down and viewing. The film dances a fine line between just enough humor and wit to keep the audience engaged and not depressed, and enough crushing weight of racism, sexism and utter evil to make you feel like you’re getting beaten and abused right along with these poor women. Spielberg was pure magic in the 70s and 80s, and The Color Purple is probably the worst of his best films if you know what I mean. It’s not perfect, the film has undergone a lot of criticism on how it handles certain race relations over the years, but it is still a fantastic watch.


Rated PG-13 By the MPAA

4K Video: :4.5stars: Video:
While the new remaster for The Color Purple is not advertised by Warner as coming from a new scan, it looks LIGHT YEARS better than the old Blu-ray, and looks to be from at least a newish scan in the last several years at least. The 2011 Blu-ray was impressive, but this 4K UHD disc just handily outclasses its 1080p counterpart. The contrast levels and skin tones are richer and more vibrant, and the colors just simply pop a lot better with the HDR application (sadly no Dolby Vision). Fine details are superb, with noticeable bumps in clarity on clothing, facial details and the surrounding backdrops of Celie’s farm life. There’s still some dreamy softness to certain shots (such as Celie and Nettie playing near the end, or in the beginning) that is definitely intentional by Spielberg, but overall this is a very impressive leap over the 2011 disc. I noticed that colors are definitely a bit warmer and brighter than said 1080p disc, with blues and reds showing the biggest increase. While the film may not “pop” as much as a modern day film due to Spielberg’s gauzy dreamlike visual aesthetic, this is still a superb looking disc.

Audio: :4.5stars:
According to several other people in the know, while the 5.1 DTS-HD MA looks like an identical track to the 2011 Blu-ray’s 5.1 track, but supposedly it IS a new mix with some subtle differences. Personally I had a VERY difficult time hearing any difference between the two mixes, but there’s mild boost to the score that sounds fuller and richer, but honestly...I very well could have a placebo effect going on. Whichever way you slice it, if it’s a new mix, or the old mix, they are so similar as to be nearly indistinguishable from each other. Dialog is strong and clear in the center, and the score by Quincy Jones takes the brunt of the surround activity with the Oscar nominated music. Bass is a bit anemic, but does add in some background weight with the music, and a few intense moments (such as Millie crashing her car repeatedly).

Extras: :3.5stars:
• Conversations with the Ancestors: The Color Purple from Book to Screen
• A Collaboration of Spirits: Casting and Acting The Color Purple
• Cultivating a Classic: The Making of The Color Purple
• The Color Purple: The Musical
• Teaser #1
• Teaser #2
• Trailer

Final Score: :4stars:

Maybe today’s sensibilities would have done something different with The Color Purple, but 35 years ago it was a staggering film that impacted a LOT of people. The film is still wonderfully acted, and while it’s not perfect, it still provokes conversations and critical thinking about some of American’s past indecencies. But even more importantly, Warner Brothers has done a fantastic job restoring and remastering this film to peak glory, giving us a stunning 4K UHD disc with some nice extras as well. Definitely check it out if you’re into epic dramas, and worth a buy if you enjoy the film.

Technical Specifications:

Starring: Danny Glover, Whoopi Goldberg, Oprah Winfrey, Willar E. Pugh, Margaret Avery, Rae Dawn Chong
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Written by: Menno Meyjes, Alice Walker
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 HEVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, French, German, Italian, Spanish (Castilian), Czech DD 2.0 Stereo, Spanish (Latin American) DD 2.0 Mono
Sugtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Studio: Warner Brothers
Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 154 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: December 5th, 2023

Recommendation: Good Buy

Last edited:


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Jul 13, 2017
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Thanks for the review. I remember watching this movie. Very good movie woth having for sure. :)
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