I like musicals, but don’t much care for rock operas, that is, the brand of song and dance motion picture which emerged in the '70s and featured reworked pop rock tunes instead of traditional Broadway-style numbers. So this is not really my cup of tea. But if there was one film I could appreciate in this subgenre it would be this gleeful, irresponsible and audacious cultish schlockfest.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) dir. Jim Sharman
Starring: Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick, Richard O’Brien, Meat Loaf
By Alan Bacchus
Susan Sarandon is Janet Weiss, a virginal small-town girl betrothed to the equally nerdy and virginal Brad Majors (Bostwick). On the night of their engagement they find themselves with a flat tire and stranded in heavy rain. Their nearest respite is an old haunted castle-like mansion off the beaten path. They are quickly welcomed to a group of Transylvanians singing the Time Warp song.
The leader of this cooky gang of strange and swinging group of men, women and trannies is the ultimate tranny, Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry), who has just finished creating his own gay version of Frankenstein’s monster, an Apollo-like beefcake figure named Rocky, who will serve as his own personal sex slave. After Frank beds both Janet and Brad while in disguise, Janet discovers her own repressed carnality and goes sexual haywire. Then Janet's and Brad’s old high school teacher, Dr. Everett Scott, shows up only to get killed and served for dinner to Frank’s guests. Then it turns out the Transylvanians are actually aliens from another galaxy and eventually blast off into space in the castle-cum-spaceship.
Predictable is not the word to describe the effect of watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show - fucked up Quaalude trip or ecstasy bomb might be more appropriate. The plot seemingly gets made up as the film goes along, but mostly it’s a parody of classic b-movie sci-fi from the '50s with a lot of gay sex.
I forgot how gay the film actually was. And I forgot how liberal the '70s were in comparison to the '80s and '90s when material like this would have been scared off by the AIDS epidemic. Few commercial or even remotely mainstream films are as graphic and shamelessly explicit.
For straight dudes, we get to at least marvel at the stunning beauty of Susan Sarandon, including her saucer-cup eyes and ample bosom, which is featured prominently in that white cross-your-heart bra she wears through most of the film.
Stylistically, Jim Sharman’s direction and camerawork embrace all the shlockiness the film is trying to parody. There’s little aesthetic continuity going on. Sharman moves between extreme camera lenses to rough handheld work to traditional locked off photography. As with the story, anything goes.
Though the Blu-ray looks sharp on my 42-inch screen, the small screen is just too small and insular to really capture the magic of this film. Rocky Horror should be a shared experience, preferably at midnight, in a dingy old rep theatre on Halloween night in full regalia and chemically enhanced. Happy Halloween!
The Rocky Horror Picture Show is available on Blu-ray from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.