Thursday, June 15, 2023

Review: "THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW" is Always Waiting For Us

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 25 of 2023 (No. 1914) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
Running time:  100 minutes (1 hour, 40 minutes)
DIRECTOR:  Jim Sharman
WRITERS:  Jim Sharman and Richard O'Brien (based on the original musical play by Richard O'Brien)
PRODUCER:  Michael White
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Peter Suschitsky (D.o.P.)
EDITORS:  Graeme Clifford
COMPOSER:  Richard Hartley
SONGS: Richard O'Brien


Starring:  Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick, Richard O'Brien, Patricia Quinn, Nell Campbell, Peter Hinwood, Jonathan Adams, Meat Load, and Charles Gray

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a 1975 comedy-horror and musical fantasy film directed by Jim Sharman.  The film is written by Sharman and Richard O'Brien and is based based on the 1973 musical stage production, The Rocky Horror Show, for which O'Brien wrote the music, lyrics, and book.  Both the film and stage musical pay tribute to the science fiction and B-movie horror films that appeared in theaters from the 1930s to the 1960s.  The Rocky Horror Picture Show follows a newly-engaged couple who, because of car trouble, seeks shelter at a castle-like country home that is populated by bizarre guests and an even more bizarre host.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show introduces a naive young couple, Brad Majors (Barry Bostwick) and Janet Weiss (Susan Sarandon).  It is late November, and the couple are attending the wedding of their friends, Ralph Haphschatt (Jeremy Newson) and Betty Monroe (Hilary Labow), at Denton Episcopalian Church.  Brad and Janet get engaged after the wedding and decide to celebrate with their high school science teacher, Dr. Everett Scott (Jonathan Adams).

In Brad's car, the duo are en route to Scott's house on a dark and rainy night when they get lost and then get a flat tire.  Needing a telephone to call for help, the couple walk to a nearby castle.  There, they find the place in the throes of a rowdy party.  The guests are both flamboyantly dressed and bizarre.  What is even more bizarre however, is the host, the transvestite scientist, Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry), who is about to unveil his latest creation.  There are two things of which Brad and Janet are unaware.  The first is Frank-N-Furter is from the planet “Transsexual,” located in the galaxy “Transylvania.”  The second is that at some point in the future, their story will be narrated by a noted criminologist (Charles Gray).

When The Rocky Horror Picture Show was initially released in the United States in the early fall of 1975, it was not well-received by either critics or audiences.  However, by the spring of 1976, the film's infamous cult following began, thanks to midnight showings, first in and around New York City, and then, spreading throughout the U.S.  Soon, fans in costume were performing alongside the film.

Dear readers, I must admit that I have never seen The Rocky Horror Picture Show in a theater.  I first saw it in the late 1980s via a Japanese import or bootleg copy at the science fiction, fantasy, and gaming convention, CoastCon (I believe), in Biloxi, Mississippi.  It was a wild screening, and I freaked out when audience members jumped out of their seats and started performing bits from the film.

As some of you may know, Netflix is shutting down its DVD-by-mail service – currently known as DVDNetflix or  I decided to spend some of these final months on this beloved service re-watching favorite films and well as trying some older films that I have never seen.  Watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show seemed like the right thing to do as a sendoff to the service that I used to build my movie review blog, Negromancer.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is indeed a tribute to science fiction, B-movie, and monster films.  There are references to such films as Universal Pictures' Frankenstein (1931) and Bride of Frankenstein (1935), RKO's King Kong (1933), Hammer Films' The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958), Fox's The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), and MGM's Forbidden Planet (1956), to name a few.

However, Rocky Horror's punk rock fashions, colorfully dyed hair, corsets, torn fishnet stockings, glitter, androgyny, and sex and violence are more important than its haunted mansion, secret labs, rival scientists, and sci-fi angles.  For me, this film is about having a good time and being liberated.  Sometimes, the film may seem like it is being outrageous for the sake of being outrageous, but one of its final songs personifies the film for me, “Fanfare/Don't Dream It, Be It.”  It's okay to look like you want to and to be what you want to.  And yes, it's okay to be turned on by both Susan Sarandon in her unmentionables and Barry Bostwick in his Jockey classic Y-front briefs.

I can certainly point to Tim Curry's legendary performance as Dr. Frank-N-Furter, but everyone, from the filmmakers, cast, and crew to the artisans, craftsman, and technicians that brought the sets and costumes to life, made The Rocky Horror Picture Show memorable and, for many, unforgettable.  I can't forget the songs, so I need a soundtrack album.  Meat Loaf makes the most of his short time on screen.  The narrator turns out to be hoot.  Even the passing of DVDNetflix won't stop me from seeing this show again.  The music, the songs, the cast, and the setting seem as if they will never let me forget that part of me belongs, at least for a little while, at The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

8 of 10
★★★★ out of 4 stars

Thursday, June 15, 2023

2005 National Film Preservation Board, USA:  National Film Registry

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