Prince has many titles under his belt. He is an musician, singer, writer, director, producer, humanitarian, vegan, genius and too many other titles to name. He was bold and outspoken and in 1986, his ego was bigger than his home state of Minnesota. When the movie Purple Rain became an unexpected runaway hit, Warner Brothers was blown away. They became so confident in their new star that they green-lit the next Prince film without ever seeing a script. That movie was Under the Cherry Moon.
Prince was at the height of his popularity and it seems he could do no wrong. But while Purple Rain was a box office hit, the script was far from Oscar worthy and the more attention Prince received the more critics were ready to pounce. The inevitable plot twist in his rise to fame came with the film Under the Cherry Moon. Production was riddled with setbacks and cast changes.
Prince had a long bucket list of demands. He wanted to shoot the film in black and white even though the studio was against it. Warner Brothers compromised and agreed to shot the film in color and then use a post production process to transfer the film into black and white. Prince had his pick for director but that also fell through. Prince decided to direct the film himself after having creative differences with the film’s original director Mary Lambert. The cast was also changed during pre-production. Prince wanted Susannah Melvoin, his fiance at the time, to play the female lead, but it quickly became clear that she couldn’t act so she was replaced by actress Kristin Scott Thomas.
Prince also insisted on securing Becky Johnson to develop the screenplay. Johnson had no experience as a scriptwriter but Prince and the studio were willing to take a leap of faith based upon a test screenplay she’d written.
Several weeks after shooting began Terrance Stamp, the actor hired to play Mary’s father, quit and said the role wasn’t what he thought it would be when he signed on. Actor Steven Berkoff quickly replaced him in the role.
The film was listed as a musical comedy drama that followed two brothers who moved from Miami to Nice on the French Riviera in a quest to swindle wealthy French women out of their money. The story ends tragically when the principal character Christopher Tracy falls for one of his marks.
While the movie was a critical and commercial flop, the soundtrack is a must have for any music fan.
Critics were vicious in their criticism of the film. A Chicago Tribune critic wrote; ” Prince falls on his face in his directorial debut with this absurdly bad movie, in which he plays a supposedly irresistible gigolo piano player in Paris.”
In 1986 Under the Cherry Moon also won five Golden Raspberry Awards, including Worst Picture.
But shortly after Prince’s death in April 2016 critics gave the film another look and softened their views. On April 22, 2016 Candice Russell of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel wrote: “The music is great, the direction fast-paced, the whole film a lot of fun.”
Carrie Rickey of the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote: “In Under the Cherry Moon, Prince does more for movie musicals than any performer since Frank Sinatra and more for bared midriffs than any sex symbol since Little Egypt. Forgive me, Madonna, but it’s true.”
However some movie critics remained staunchly committed to their early opinions and didn’t budge one inch.
Under the Cherry Moon earned $3,150,924 in its opening weekend and came in at #2 at the domestic box office. The film’s gross domestic box office total was $10,090,429.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 33% score with the caption: “Under the Cherry Moon may satisfy the most rabid Prince fans, but everyone else will be better served with this vanity project’s far superior soundtrack.”
Under the Cherry Moon was first released on DVD on February 8, 2005. The film was released on Blu-ray for the first time on October 4, 2016.
Under the Cherry Moon 1986
Directed by Prince
Produced by Robert Cavallo, Joseph Ruffalo, Steven Fargnoli
Screenplay by Becky Johnston
Starring Prince, Jerome Benton,Steven Berkoff,Emmanuelle Sallet,Alexandra Stewart,Kristin Scott Thomas,Francesca Annis
Music by Prince and The Revolution
Released July 4, 1986
Box office $10.1 million
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