This week's film selection for Rocks Off Movie Nite at the Mink - that's right, we're now officially co-sponsoring this thing - is Tim Burton's 1989 reboot of Batman, starring the third-coolest man to step into the cowl and cape - "Mr. Mom" himself, Michael Keaton. Sorry, Val Kilmer and George Clooney, you make better drunken rock-star buffoons and caper-planning cads than Caped Crusaders. One of the things that go into the curation of these nights is the need for each film to have an iconic, or at the very least hummable soundtrack. Batman is a perfect chance for us to look back at the cinematic oeuvre of Prince, who wrote the film's soundtrack, with composer and former Oingo Boingo frontman Danny Elfman handling the film's epic noir score. By 1989, Prince's career hadn't exactly stalled, but his record label, Warner Bros., was still adamant on attaching him to something commercially viable. It was five years since Purple Rain had decimated the competition in 1984 with a hit film and its crazy monolithic robotic R&B soundtrack. In the interim, Prince had begun transforming himself into the artist we know today: alternately prolific and boutique-like in his creation of new music, confusing many in the mainstream with his strange choices, but never letting the booty down.
His last cinematic role in 1986's Under The Cherry Moon had confounded film audiences, but the album behind it, Parade, was a modest success, yielding one lone hit (but a big one) in "Kiss." When the Batman project began building steam in late 1987 and avant-garde director Burton (Beetlejuice) was announced to be at the helm, WB was more than happy to pair the two enigmatic auteurs together. Prince's album was less a soaring endorsement for the Batman character than a sort of twisted alternate score for Jack Nicholson's Joker. The songs were glossy and filth-ridden, utilizing samples from the movie and even snippets from the original '60s television series, like on "Batdance." Anyone thinking that Prince would be empathizing with the dour anti-hero and not the crazed freewheeling chemically-enhanced villain were sorely mistaken.
"Partyman": "Trust" and "Partyman" have always been stand-outs for us, conveying the campy and visceral mania of Nicholson's Joker, a far cry the anarchistic ideologue that the late Heath Ledger saw in the villain. "Scandalous" was the album's lone sex-jam, which found its way to the top of the R&B charts in the summer of 1989. Prince could have written the soundtrack to
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and still found a way to slip in a baby-making jam somehow.
After the success of the Batman disc, Prince went on to release Graffiti Bridge, co-starring Morris Day. We have only half-seen the film, and we were too half-drunk/stoned to remember anything but Prince's mane of MILF hair, his resemblance to Annette Funicello and the inclusion of Tevin Campbell, Laura Winslow's favorite R&B singer behind Johnny Gill. So tonight, come on out to the Mink for a free movie, a few drinks, and bask in the light of the Dark Knight. Next week's feature will be Stand By Me, and we have a few surprises up our pearl-snap sleeves for you guys. Here's a hint: pie-eating contest.