Purple Rain - Movie Review
By Walter F. Kern
I will review the movie, Purple Rain, based loosely on the life of Prince. However, my review will focus more on motorcycles than music.
Prince Rogers Nelson, Prince, was born on June 7, 1958, and died on April 21, 2016.
I watched a program on TV about Prince's life. They said that Prince acted in the movie, Purple Rain, released in 1984. Of course, I knew that. What I didn't know was that he liked motorcycles and owned and rode a 1981 Honda CM400 automatic.
He rode his personal motorcycle in Purple Rain. It had a Craig Vetter fairing that was painted purple. Prince's symbol even appeared on the bike. The bike had a 2-speed transmission that did not require a clutch. The foot gearshift went down to first and up to neutral and then to the second speed, but no clutch was required.
Then I thought, wait a minute, they said: 1981 Honda CM400. That struck a chord in me and then I realized that they were talking about my first bike.
My first motorcycle was a 1981 Honda CM400T. The T meant that it had a Tachometer whereas Prince's bike was a 1981 CM400A. The A meant it had an Automatic transmission. (This model was also called a Hondamatic.) That made me want to take a look at the Purple Rain movie just to see the Honda and compare it to mine. So, last night I watched the Purple Rain movie On Demand and then wrote this motorcycle movie review.
Have you ever gone to a movie and seen the main character suddenly come out of a building in riding apparel and walk over to a motorcycle and get on? Well, when that happens to me, I get a sudden desire to sit up straighter in my seat and wait to see what happens when he or she rides their bike. If I'm lucky, there will be many more scenes of riding to come. If I am exceptionally lucky, the motorcycle will become a major part of the story. Such was the case for me when I watched Purple Rain.
Maybe seeing a character riding a motorcycle in a movie doesn't affect other people as much as it does for me. But, then maybe the same thing happens to you, my riding friend.
Perhaps, my interest was greatly increased because Prince's bike was almost identical to my starter bike.
I bought my 1981 Honda CM400T in 1989. It was a used bike and cost me $600. I've written about that bike on my site and in my newsletters. The picture, above, is my bike.
The major difference between the appearance of Prince's motorcycle and mine was the Vetter fairing on Prince's bike. I just had a simple windscreen. Operationally, Prince's bike had a 2-speed, no-clutch, automatic transmission. Mine had a standard 5-speed manual transmission with a clutch.
Also, there were at least two other 1981 Honda CM400 bikes outfitted to look the same way as Prince's automatic except they were standard 5-speed manual transmission models (like mine). These bikes were ridden by stunt riders.
I counted at least a dozen times that the bike was featured in the movie. Once, he and Apollonia (his love interest) got on the bike and took a trip to a lake. There were closeups of her peering over his shoulder as he rode along. They spent time at the lake where she implored him to help her with her career. He told her that she needed to purify herself in the lake to pass initiation. She stripped naked to the waist and jumped into the icy water. All the time she was getting ready to make the jump, he was trying to get her to stop. When she emerged from the lake dripping wet and cold, he told her that she had jumped in the wrong lake. They had a small dispute and Prince ran to his bike, started it up, and quickly took off over the hill leaving her behind. But, he reconsidered and returned to get her on the bike, and they traveled home together.
There were scenes of Prince riding the bike back home, riding through city streets, riding through the countryside and more of him and Apollonia riding together.
There was a scene where Apollonia and her new boyfriend, Morris, (he was also Prince's competitor in music and with Apollonia) were arguing in an alley when Prince rode to the rescue knocking down Morris with his bike. He then spun the bike around and headed back up the alley. Prince suddenly turned the bike around and sped back to her yelling, "Get on." Then, they sped off together on the motorcycle.
In between the beautifully shot motorcycle scenes, Prince sang many of his songs, danced a lot, got in competition with Morris, saw his mother and father fighting a lot, witnessed his dad trying to commit suicide, and saw his career fall on hard times only to eventually gain increased popularity, recognition, and success.
I learned that there were only three professional actors in the movie. The rest were real people who used their real names and performed in real bands in real clubs.
I was disappointed that nowhere did the bike get recognized for its superb performance in the movie. I wanted to see my first motorcycle get an award of some kind. I did find out that the motorcycle had its fairing repainted black and then featured in the movie, Graffiti Bridge, the 1999 sequel to Purple Rain. It was then retired to Prince's Paisley Park Estate. I'm sure it will be on display, so I guess it did win an award after all.
Well, I thought Purple Rain did a creditable job of advancing Prince's career. I thought his stage numbers were outstanding. His vocal range was not to be believed. I also thought he did a good job riding his bike back and forth across the screen enough times that all the memories of my first motorcycle came flooding back to me.
Thanks, Prince. Your music will live forever. You died way too soon. I'm just glad that you made movies such as Purple Rain and Graffiti Bridge and recorded so many albums that will allow future generations of fans to know you forever. Rest in Peace.
Buy the Video: Purple Rain