Andrea Swensson with her rare copy of ‘3 Chains o’ Gold’ (Jay Gabler/MPR)
There’s no doubt Prince is best known for his contributions to the music industry, but there’s another side to his career. While Prince released countless music videos, filmed many of his live concerts and composed music for TV shows and movies, he also did some acting of his own, guest-starring in a couple of shows and producing some of his own movies.
Although not all of his films are easily accessible to the public, many are at least familiar with his most popular film, Purple Rain, and last month Showtime announced that it had acquired the rights to Prince’s 1987 concert film Sign O’ the Times. The cable network plans to air the movie on Saturday, the first time it will be broadcast on television in more than ten years.
How hard is it to find Prince’s major movies today? Harder than you might think. Here’s a breakdown of his five biggest features.
Purple Rain (1984)
Purple Rain was Prince’s debut as a lead actor. It follows “The Kid,” who escapes his difficult life at home by spending his days rehearsing and performing with the Revolution at First Avenue. He struggles to not make the same mistakes as his father while navigating a complicated club scene and a relationship with Apollonia — and while all of this is going on, Morris Day looks to steal his spotlight.
When Purple Rain was first released it was an immediate success, opening at the top of the U.S. box office and grossing more than $68 million. Coupled with a blockbuster soundtrack, it earned Prince two Grammys and an Oscar. It’s the most widely available of Prince’s movies today, available on digital platforms (iTunes, Amazon) as well as DVD and Blu-ray.
Under the Cherry Moon (1986)
This musical comedy drama Under the Cherry Moon tells the story of two brothers living in the Mediterranean and making a living off of stealing money from wealthy women. When they hear of a woman who was given a $50 million trust fund on her birthday, the brothers plan to swindle her, but things get complicated when one of them falls in love with her.
Under the Cherry Moon was Prince’s debut as a director, but it was not successful. It won five Golden Raspberry Awards, including Worst Actor and Director for Prince, and tied with Howard the Duck for Worst Picture. Fans who want to watch it, though, can find it on digital platforms and DVD/Blu-ray.
Sign O’ the Times (1987)
The Sign O’ the Times concert film was written and directed by Prince to promote his album after sales began to drop. Filmed on tour and at Paisley Park, Sign O’ the Times was described as a comeback for Prince after Under the Cherry Red Moon‘s failure. One of the reasons the Showtime screening is a big deal is that this one is relatively hard to come by: you can’t stream it or even rent a DVD from Netflix. It’s possible to find a used DVD in the $15 range, if you’re looking to own one.
Graffiti Bridge (1990)
Written and directed by Prince, Graffiti Bridge was the unofficial sequel to Purple Rain. It continues to follow the life of “The Kid” as he works as a performer and co-owner of the Glam Slam club given to him by the owner of First Avenue, but the other co-owner, Morris Day, wants to take over the club completely and does everything he can to make take control of Glam Slam.
Unlike Purple Rain, Graffiti Bridge was a commercial failure. It won five Golden Raspberry Awards including Worst Picture, Worst Actor and Director for Prince, Worst Screenplay and Worst New Star (for Ingrid Chavez). If you want to check it out, you can find it streaming or on DVD/Blu-ray.
3 Chains O’ Gold (1994)
3 Chains of Gold was produced and directed by Prince, who starred in the movie along with the New Power Generation. After Egyptian Princess Mayte’s father is assassinated by seven unknown people, she meets with Prince, believing he is the only person who protect the sacred “3 Chains of Gold” the assassins were after. Prince and Mayte eventually fall in love and Prince organizes the assassination of the people who killed Mayte’s father.
3 Chains O’ Gold is easily the rarest Prince film. It was never released on DVD, and used VHS copies run about 50 bucks.
Simone Cazares is a student at Saint Paul College. Originally from Miami, Fla., she survives Minnesota’s cruel winters by immersing herself in the Twin Cities music scene.