The Forgotten Prince Film: Under the Cherry Moon

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

I only remember three parts of Under the Cherry Moon: the very beginning, the ending musical performance as the credits rolled (I think it was to "Kiss") and a very lame joke about pronouncing "record store."

That would probably explain why the 1986 film totally tanked, earning only $10M at the box office (of which a friend and I contributed $5 each to that amount or whatever the going price was for movie tickets in the mid-80s.) By comparison, Prince's first movie, Purple Rain, grossed over $68M and had cost just over $7M to make.

Under the Cherry Moon was a cherry bomb. It even won several Razzie awards, including Worst Picture, Worst Actor and Worst Director (both Prince), and Worst Original Song ("Love or Money").

That's right; Prince directed this movie in addition to starring it in. He'd fair a little better the following year with Sign 'O The Times and later with the semi-sequel to Purple Rain -- Graffiti Bridge -- but it's safe to say that music and not film directing was his stronger talent.

I think part of the problem with this effort, that I was reminded of when watching clips of the movie online 30 years after I first saw it, is that Prince's character in this film is obnoxious. He plays a gigolo named Christopher who, along with his brother Tricky (Jerome Benton), enjoys seducing and swindling rich women of their fortunes. When Christopher meets a British heiress named Mary (played by Kristin Scott Thomas in her big screen debut) he initially plans on robbing her of her inheritance, too -- until he inconveniently falls in love with her. This development causes a complication between the two partners in crime.

Style-wise, the movie is a pretty sophisticated looking film. It was filmed in black and white, takes place in the Mediterranean, and has an Art Deco look about it. Unfortunately, all of that outward appearance lacks serious substance. The acting is often hammy and the storyline is a yawn-inducing one that's been copied many times over. The only highlights are the musical performances, and even those can be appreciated mostly by Prince fans.

One weird detail about this film is that although the costumes, sets, and some of the cars suggest the plot is taking place during the 1930s, Sam Cooke's name comes up in conversation (his career spanned the late '50s and early '60s), and Christopher and Tricky break out a giant 1980s boom box during one scene and start jamming. Maybe the brothers were secretly time travelers?
Roger Ebert called this film "disastrous" and included it on his list of the worst of cinema released during 1986. The only participant that made out the best was Kristin Scott Thomas -- it put her on the map and in a few years she would star in The English Patient.

Here's an interview of her promoting the movie in which the interviewer tries to trick her into admitting that Prince was difficult to work with. As an aside, I would have loved to have had her cool and colorful '80s dress here -- and those EARRINGS -- as a teen during the era!

The movie also gave us "Kiss" on the soundtrack and a few other decent songs, but even then it's not in the same league as Purple Rain.

Here's the trailer to Under the Cherry Moon -- which wisely left out any actual dialogue. Maybe that's why my 14 year-old mind at the time was so duped into thinking this would be a production of quality? However, there are some diehard Prince fans that consider the film to be a cult classic, so to each his or her own.


  1. Under the Cherry Moon - I remember it well! It wasn't great, but it was Prince and it's kinda like when I watched television as a kid. If Bobby Sherman, David Cassidy or any Monkee did a guest appearance, I watched it as if it were an Oscar nominated film. :-)

    1. Hi Cherdo! Thanks for your comment. I agree, movies that star musicians are usually not known for being Oscar caliber. I'll admit that if this one is ever uploaded online in its entirety, I'll give it another whirl.


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