Wednesday, May 23rd 2012
Just a few years before Purple Rain, Prince and his team decided to make a concert film. Titled The Second Coming, the flick started off as a fairly standard concert documentary until Prince saw the footage. Impressed with what the film crew had captured, His Royal Badness decided he wanted to run with the idea and turn it into a semi-autobiographical film. A prototype Purple Rain, if you will.
The footage was filmed during the last leg of Prince’s 1982 Controversy tour, directed by Chuck Statler. In a new interview over at Wax Poetics, Statler discusses the film, shedding light on a subject that has interested Prince fans for the last few decades.
Here are a few choice quotes along with some stills from the film. Head on over to Wax Poetics for the full feature.
Wax Poetics:”What was their impetus for shooting the Controversy tour footage?”
Statler: “The initial objective was to create a film for the same reason music videos were done at that time. As a promotional tool. Prince’s management wanted to document the concert for possible home video or television distribution. Because there was some concern in specific concert markets about audience demographics and all that, they felt that a film was an easier alternative for people to experience the live show.
After about three days of meetings and discussions with Prince and his management, I spent a few days on the road watching and blocking the live show for the film shoot. We shot it at the Met Center [in Bloomington, Minnesota] on March 7, 1982. That was a very cold night towards the end of the tour. I’m pretty sure we covered it with five principal cameras—16mm color—and a possible sixth rolling camera for audience shots.
But after screening the footage from the concert, enthusiasm propelled conversations about adding material and seeking theatrical distribution. Steve Rivkin was working with me as an editor at the time. We were cutting the concert shots when Prince came in and got really excited about what he saw. He says, “Wait a minute—maybe we should really expand this and really try to make it a film. Not just a concert movie.”
So his management came back to me and said, “Here’s this situation. Prince wants to do this interstitial material within the concert footage. And it’ll be somewhat autobiographical.” Management’s thinking was that a theatrically distributed film with a semblance of story line could demographically broaden the audience and in particular, specific metro markets. In time, this mixture of concert and dramatic interludes would morph into The Second Coming project.“
Unfortunately, Prince seemed to lose interest in the project and it ended up where so many of his projects do — his fabled vault. Statler told Wax Poetics that a few years back he gave Prince the live concert footage, but the singer has yet to do anything with it.
Wax Poetics: “The idea of the film languishing in his archive is disheartening, given his reputation for shelving projects indefinitely. Maybe he’ll reconsider.”
Statler: “I had actually hoped that when he got it, he would try to do something with it. Put it together. I don’t think there’s any kind of document from that timeframe. Not of that professional grade quality from the Controversy tour. Again, it’s always bothersome when you make this investment and for one reason or the other the plug gets pulled.
There were excellent parts of the footage, namely his stage performance. Even though he was in his bikini and trench coat. Not to mention the antics with his guitar, the miming of certain sexual behaviors. Now, I as an artist have complete respect and admiration for the fact that he really is an artist. Not only with his musicianship but the way he approaches things and perceives things. He does have his own designs and concepts about it.”
Wax Poetics: “Purple Rain undoubtedly raised the bar for rock films and romanticized the image of Black musicians on the silver screen. Had The Second Coming been completed and released on schedule, would it have a similar cultural impact?”
Statler: “There’s little question in my mind that The Second Coming would have enjoyed commercial success. I know it’s easy to say now, but the Artist and his music was/is too compelling and powerful. His music is undeniable, and the odds are much better that it would have garnered a large audience. It was the right idea at that point in time. It would have had a reach well beyond what his touring could provide. It’s difficult for me to estimate its critical appeal because the premature abandonment left a large portion of production and the project unfinished and unrealized. It had potential. But it’s just something that’s in his vault, and that’s as far as it will ever go, most likely.“
Head on over to Wax Poetics for the full interview.