Warner Bros. | 1985 | 153 mins. | PG

When The Color Purple hit theaters back in 1985, I didn’t quite know how to feel about it. Though I was only twelve at the time, I had read Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name and I was conflicted about some of the changes made. Age and time has softened my stance. While I still don’t care for some of the sentimental touches applied to the story by director Steven Spielberg and screenwriter Menno Meyjes’s adaptation, it’s hard to argue that The Color Purple shouldn’t be considered a classic and was unjustly snubbed at the Oscars.

The Color PurpleWhoopi Goldberg made her stunning film debut as Celie Harris, an uneducated African American woman forced to endure tremendous physical, sexual and emotional abuse in rural Georgia in the 1920s and ’30s. At just fourteen, her father gives her to much older widower named Albert Johnson (Danny Glover); a big, short-tempered fellow who shows the girl little kindness and little mercy, beating her regularly. As the years pass, she forms important  friendships with her younger sister Nettie (Akosua Busia), jazz singer Shug Avery (Margaret Avery) and defiant housewife Sofia (Oprah Winfrey)  that sustain her through the years of cruelty. Most importantly, she finds the courage to escape the men who have kept her captive all her life.

More than a tale of female empowerment, The Color Purple is a deep, complex tale about the African American struggle in the early 20th century. While slavery was a thing of the past, the scars of that time—poverty and bondage—still ran deep. Celie’s life is a mass of physical abuse and imprisonment. At times, the it’s difficult to bear witness to Celie’s torment, it makes the story all the more effective.

On the rare occasions that Spielberg and his screenwriter don’t quite reach the emotional core of Walker’s novel, Goldberg and Winfrey fill in the blanks. Both actresses do a tremendous job, capturing every emotion of their characters. With the help of their performances, Allen Daviau’s cinematography and Quincy Jones’s jazz-addled score, Walker’s words leap off the page and onto the screen. The shift from written correspondence (the original story is told via a series of letters and diary entries) to a more traditional film narrative hardly matters and, if anything, allows Spielberg to avoid potential pitfalls.

In the end, The Color Purple is an inspiring story that resonates as much today, as ever. Aside from the obvious plot, Walker’s story is about us, the ways we treat each other. While there are a few flaws, this is a film that transcends race and time, in favor of a wider message about humanity.

The Color Purple arrives on Blu-ray with a fairly solid 1080p/1.78:1 transfer t. Spielberg’s warm, lush palette is well-captured by this disc, which offers impressive depth and solid detail. Occasionally, the image is a bit soft, but this is likely because of the way the film was shot. No flecks or specks are present, and the film looks better than you would expect it to considering its age.

The audio isn’t what you’d call remarkable, but Quincy Jones’ sentimental score mostly sounds very good (a couple of cues sound a bit wobbly) and the dialogue is clear throughout.

The special features are mostly those found on the earlier, two-disc DVD edition, and presented in standard definition. First, the featurette “Conversations with the Ancestors: The Color Purple from Book to Screen,” twenty-six minutes, where novelist Alice Walker talks about the screen adaptation of her book. Then, there are “A Collaboration of Spirits: Casting and Acting The Color Purple,” twenty-eight minutes, followed by “Cultivating a Classic: The Making of The Color Purple,” twenty-three minutes, both with interviews of the cast and crew. Next is “The Color Purple: The Musical,” seven minutes, not about a musical version of the book but about how Spielberg says he really makes musicals “disguised” as adventures and dramas.

Things conclude with two photo galleries, one behind-the-scenes and the other of the cast; thirty-nine scene selections; two teaser trailers and one theatrical trailer. The disc comes housed in the back of a forty-four-page Blu-ray Book, with pictures and text.

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