There's Another Incredible Prince Movie, But You'll Probably Never Be Able to See It - Maxim

There's Another Incredible Prince Movie, But You'll Probably Never Be Able to See It

'Purple Rain' was not the iconic artist's only cinematic achievement.
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(Photo: Getty Images)

(Photo: Getty Images)

Just as Prince's music is frustratingly elusive in a digital format, his 1987 concert movie Sign o' The Times — which he also directed — is almost impossible to find.

According to Slate, it was never released on DVD, and any VHS copies are out of print. You can't find it legally online anywhere, and you probably won't have much better luck finding an illegal download either. (Presumably, someone out there must have a VHS copy and also a VCR, but we don't know them. I'd look in Minneapolis first, though.)

Why all the hype over this rare Prince film? Those who have seen Sign o' The Times consider it one of the best concert movies ever made. From Rolling Stone:

"The music ... benefits immeasurably from the live treatment. Prince's performance of 'If I Was Your Girlfriend' was already astonishing, a sensitive plea for understanding paired with the world's most brittle, callous funk. The live version is something else entirely. The tempo picks up, a guitar colors around the original rhythm's emaciated bones, an organ plays sustained chords; the result is lithe groove, Prince walking on water."

From Slate: 

"Here, in 84 incandescent minutes, is proof that all those otherworldly talents—that voice, that guitar playing, that style—somehow all fit inside the same physical being, a circumstance that would have been implausible had he been eight feet tall instead of just a hair over five."

From the New York Times:

"Prince himself, wearing things that only Prince would wear (cutout matador suits with shirred seams up the back; a mad bellhop outfit; a white bunny-fluff coat as a witty touch to accompany ''If I Was Your Girlfriend''), cuts an astonishing figure. Whether singing in falsetto or dancing flat on his back, tripping about in four-inch heels or singing simply with an acoustic guitar, he remains a tough, commanding performer with a sure sense of how to hold his audiences absolutely raptPrince himself, wearing things that only Prince would wear (cutout matador suits with shirred seams up the back; a mad bellhop outfit; a white bunny-fluff coat as a witty touch to accompany ''If I Was Your Girlfriend''), cuts an astonishing figure. Whether singing in falsetto or dancing flat on his back, tripping about in four-inch heels or singing simply with an acoustic guitar, he remains a tough, commanding performer with a sure sense of how to hold his audiences absolutely rapt."

Your best option to view this acclaimed concert film is probably to buy a Japanese Blu-Ray disc on Amazon, which will cost you over $70. As Slate pointed out, there's a good chance you won't be able to play it on a U.S. Blu-Ray player, but I have not attempted this personally. 

With Prince — who was rather controlling of how and where his work was distributed — now sadly gone, it seems possible that his estate will make some of his hard-to-find creations available to his mourning fans. Let's hope Sign o' The Times is among them.