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The Rocky Horror Picture Show

(25 Years Of Absolute Pleasure!)

review by Anthony D.

 

 

Running Time: 100 minutes

Studio: Fox

Starring: Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick, Richard O'Brien, Patricia Quinn, Little Nell (Campbell), Meat Loaf , Charles Gray, Jonathan Adams and Peter Hinwood as Rocky

Music & Lyrics by Richard O'Brien

Directed by: Jim Sharman

Retail Price: $29.99

Features: Disc One: Seamless Branching Film Presentation (U.S. and U.K. versions), Commentary by Richard O'Brien and Patricia Quinn, "virgin" prompter, "The Theatrical Experience:" audience participation shots from various theaters, Audience Participation Track, Fully Animated Menu Screens

Features: Disc Two: VH1 Behind the Music Excerpts featuring Barry Bostwick, Susan Sarandon, Patricia Quinn, Meat Loaf and Richard O'Brien. VH1 Pop-Up Video "Hot Patootie," "Making of "Documentary, Deleted Musical Numbers, Outtakes, Theatrical Trailers

Specs: 1.66:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono, English Captions, Spanish Subtitles, Chapter Search (36 Chapters)

TWICE upon a time, 20th Century Fox had a small budgeted film adaptation of a small rock-n-roll musical. On initial release, "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" failed to find an audience.

Brad Majors and his only-recent fiancee, Janet Weiss - - a couple of innocent kids from that "home of happiness," Denton embark on a journey that will alter their lives forever. On a dark and stormy night, when caught with a flat, they set off for a castle they had passed along the way. Before they get to place a call to the AAA, they are greeted by Riff-Raff and his sister, Magenta, servants at the castle who introduce Brad and Janet to a band of revelers dancing the night away. Convinced that they have entered a hunting lodge for rich weirdos, they promptly attempt to exit, only to be confronted by the master of the house, one Dr. Frank-N-Furter (the inimitable Tim Curry, in a career defining role) who just happens to be a "Sweet Transvestite." A transvestite of course being the inhabitant of Transsexual, Transylvania - - a world light years away from Denton. Instead of offering Brad and Janet a chance to use a telephone, he invites them instead to visit his laboratory to see his latest creation; it seems that Frank has been building a muscular man for his own sexual cravings. Before they have a chance to refuse this very fortuitous invite, the servants strip them down to their underwear, force them into an elevator and it's up to the lab for Brad and Janet.

Faced now with a surgically attired Frank, our innocent pair witness the "birth" of Frank's creature, a monosyllabic talker, who can sure belt our a rock-n-roll song, but a beautiful specimen of manhood who carries "The Charles Atlas Seal of Approval." Everyone revels in celebration of Rocky's (for that is this creature's name) birthday, until one of Frank's previous experiments, Eddie (Meatloaf), defrosts and crashes the party on his motorbike. Frank dispatches him to oblivion and resumes the partying.

Now forced to spend the night, Brad and Janet are shown to separate bedrooms - blue for boys, pink for girls - which Frank enters in disguise and shows both of them the absolute pleasures of the flesh! Rocky escapes from his own bedroom when tormented by the servant Riff- Raff. Chases and chaos ensue, ending up with the now non-virginal Janet seducing Frank's perfect specimen of manhood, Rocky. Suddenly Brad and Janet's science teacher arrives at the castle, searching for his lost nephew, Eddie! Dr. Scott's arrival does not sit well with Frank, who thinks that Dr. Scott has a hidden agenda for visiting the castle. When dinner is announced, most of the plot threads have been introduced, although Frank still has unforseen plans for his guests.

This lengthy synopsis only reminds us of the elements that it takes to make a phenomenon. Clocking in at a very brief 100 minutes, and shortened further for American audiences, "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" is a plot-heavy vehicle, with an emphasis on music and sexuality. On it's own merits, of which there are a few: the joyful innocence of youth portrayed by Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon, the unbeatable, unforgettable performance of Tim Curry, the tongue in cheek nods to Universal Horror films, as well as the far-too-obvious nod to RKO's "King Kong"; the film tends to bog down in its own excesses. Misdirection from first-time film director Jim Sharman allowed astute audience members to begin talking back to the screen characters and armed with suitable quips for shouting, "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" took of as a midnight movie for the masses. Never before, and never again has a film attained the cult status attributed to "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." The cult may have started small, but soon cinemas across the country were screening "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" at midnight on weekends, as well as adding character costume contests which would lead to the once inconceivable, now inevitable actual audience participatory cash cow that "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" had become for 20th Century Fox.

A musical unlike any other, but more importantly AN EVENT unlike any other "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" is bound to baffle some, bemuse others, possibly even offend anyone not familiar with either the film or the phenomenon. (Are there truly any RHPS virgins out there?) FOX has justifiably issued a deluxe home video treatment of its highest grossing musical film in a package designed to please fans and non-fans alike. Whichever category you fall into, "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" on DVD is bound to have something in its exhaustive contents to bring you absolute pleasure.

"The Rocky Horror Picture Show" arrives on DVD with as positively pristine print unlikely to be disputed as one of the best home video incarnations, ever. From the opening lips of "Science Fiction/Double Feature" the colors are unbelievably accurate, and hold true for the remainder of the film. This is easily verified when viewing the clips used in the Making of Documentary on disc two, there the print is wanting in color, faded and speckled, but even in "Rocky Horror Picture Show's" most difficult moments of color ("Rose Tint My World," Chapter 29) reds are not bleeding, and the contrast is right on the money! Details rarely seen since 1975 are lovingly preserved. The quality of this print is further enhanced when watching the "Easter egg" version of the film. This "Easter egg" is a conceptual cut of the film, with an all-too obvious nod to "The Wizard of Oz," wherein Brad & Janet's strange journey to the Frankenstein Place is made even stranger when their balck and white (!) world suddenly erupts into a blaze of colors. Richard O'Brien's concept is presented in a glorious hi-definition black and white print until Riff opens the door to the Transylvania's "Time Warp" (Chapter 7), which makes the stunned expression on Janet's face ever so much more meaningful. The "Easter egg" cut of the film is easily accessable through the Main Menu Screen. While we're on THAT subject, these are far and away the most entertaining menus I have ever encountered!

Audiophiles delight! FOX has not only produced a brand new Dolby Digital 5.1 track, but has also included "The Rocky Horror Picture Show's" original mono soundtrack, cleaned up and presented in Dolby Digital as well. As much as I like the rawness of the mono track, the 5.1 mix really rocks with bass and a very active .1 channel. Ambient sounds abound, not limiting the surrounds to the music alone. FOX's mixer deserves credit for creating a spacious, often directional soundtrack all taken from various sources. As expected, Meatloaf's "Hot Patootie" (Chapter 14) makes the most of the new mix, enveloping the viewer with multi-directional effects, and a bad-ass bass. Dialogue is clean in both formats, but the 5.1 track is quite a breakthrough, sonically speaking.

Many of the bonus features on Disc Two are holdovers from the Laser Disc 20th Anniversary Edition: the outtakes, the sing-a-longs, the trailers and the documentary. The new material, though is very pleasant: VH1 interviews with Richard O'Brien (one with him strumming his guitar and revisiting "The Frankenstein Place"), Patricia Quinn, Meatloaf, Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon. Meatloaf is quite the raconteur, Quinn details her role's shortening from the stage production, O'Brien basically covers material in the documentary, Sarandon estimates the values of the film experience and Bostwick advises everyone to get on with their lives.

O'Brien and Quinn offer up a wickedly funny, and often ribald commentary track; unlike the movie however, the commentary would be rated "PG-13," for language.

Though not billed as a "bonus feature," the seamless branching allowing the viewer to choose from THREE versions of the film, the third being the hidden "concept cut," should be considered a very special feature.

Rounding out the already bountiful bonuses are three worthy audience participation additions. Like "The Matrix's" "Follow the White Rabbit" feature, "The Theatrical Experience" allows viewers to watch real Rocky Horror Participants doing their thing in theaters across the country. When accessed for the first time, these clips are introduced by "The Rocky Horror Picture Show's" number one fan, Sal Piro, himself. Rocky Horror "Virgins" are given their due as well, with an on-screen prompter advising would-be participants what to do with their plethora of props. This feature should come in handy for all those upcoming Rocky Horror Halloween party - - though I would advise guests NOT to throw rice or squirt water in MY viewing room! An another available audio option is the audience participation track, mostly confined to the rear speakers, with a theater full of Rocky-philes shouting the standard audience/film repartee. It's one of the features that wears out its welcome quickly.

"Whew!" Enough is as good as a feast, and FOX has served up quite a banquet of bonus material; not to mention the packaging - - like "Fight Club's" cardboard fold-out, "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" is on high gloss cardboard, enclosed in a high gloss cardboard case, complete with a twelve-page collector's book.

 

Is it the movie or is it the phenomenon that the movie spawned that makes converts of "Rocky Horror Picture Show" virgins? It's obvious from FOX's packaging that this dvd is aimed directly at those of us who have ever participated in the "don't dream it, be it" world of Rocky. For nearly two years, in my not-so-distant youth, twice a week I was a paid participant in the midnight run of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" for the King's Court Theater in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. So for those two decadent years, I rarely had the opportunity to actually VIEW the film - -I was part of it! So, naturally when The Rocky Horror Picture Show was first released on videotape, and later, laser disc, I had my copy the very day it was released. Viewing "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" on its own merits, in the confines of one's home theater, it is easier to be critical of the film's major flaw: it's pacing. This musical needs to move at lightning speed, and sadly, it doesn't. At times it virtually crawls across the screen, leaving a casual viewer to wonder what all the fuss was about. The songs from the original stage musical have all been slowed down dramatically, as anyone who has ever heard either the London Cast Recording, or the definitive Ode Recording of "The Rocky Horror Show"s" Roxy Cast will confirm. Richard O'Brien's three-chord songs are over so quickly that the listener doesn't have the time to tell that it's the same three chords over and over again. The opening credits of the film, visually stunning as they are - - those ruby red lips against a solid black background - - telegraph the pacing of the rest of the film with it's slowed-down, string oriented arrangement of a solid little rocker like "Science Fiction/Double Feature." Sure, at other times the arrangements do work brilliantly - - "The Time Warp" and "Sweet Transvetite" being the best use of new orchestrations - - but for the most part lay dead in the water, so to speak, and use an image from the film.

Nor does the acting do much to liven the pace, save for Tim Curry, who had done the role so many times onstage, that he could more than likely perform the role in his sleep, likewise this hold true for MeatLoaf, whose solo of "Hot Patootie," breezy as it is, has been emasculated by a slowed-down arrangement. Patricia Quinn relates an interesting anecdote in her VH1 interview, where she states that she was asked by a fan IF they had filmed the movie with its deliberate pauses and pacing SO THAT THE AUDIENCE COULD talk back to it!

So, in the final analysis, what is it that draws us into the world of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show?" When the film was initially released, we were a naive lot. There were no spectres of AIDS looming over our heads, no sexual misdeeds occurring the White House - -hell, we were just trudging through the aftermath of Watergate, as mentioned in the film, there was no readily available porn on the world wide web, no high speed chases through Beverly Hills in a white Bronco, "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" entered the nation's consciousness fortuitously at a time it was most needed. The whole "Don't dream it, be it" philosophy in the 80's, when Rocky was at its peak, applied to a citizenship of sexual adventurers; unafraid to let their hair, and their inhibitions down for a midnight rendez-vous or two. "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" enabled a generation to bravely plunge into the pool, swim with the sharks, and emerge dripping with new-found sexual identities. In today's world of Matthew Shepherds and Brendan Teena's, a release of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," fresh from the camera as in 1975's initial release, would not be met with the same enthusiastic audiences needed to make it a cult film. We've grown up, and as Barry Bostwick puts it, "It's time to hang up the stockings and get on with life."

An important film? Undoubtably, any film that has such a positive message cannot be written off as UN-important. Any musical film that has made as much money, cannot be written off, either. Next to "The Sound of Music," this is FOX's highest-grossing musical film, as well as it's longest running. A film for the ages? No. "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" belongs to a specific era that no matter how many extra bells and whistles - - as great as they are - - can ever hope to duplicate. As Frank-N-Furter so neatly puts it, it's "One from the vaults."

Target audiences be damned! This is a brilliant disc, crafted into the digital domain with loving care, a stunning revisit to a film near and dear to many a heart, a journey to where there's always a light, and a sweet transvestite scampering from bedroom to bedroom, urging virgins to not dream, but BE! If you've not seen "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" before, prepare yourself for a ride unlike any other; if you are one of the lucky ones ("He's lucky! You're lucky! I'm lucky!" We're all lucky!") to have been a part of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show's" phenomenon - - as audience, or performer - - FOX's illustrious DVD will keep you dancing "The Time Warp," and reliving all those moments of rapture that brought you to the Frankenstein place to begin with. Don't dream it, BUY IT!

(3.5/5, NOT included in final score. The film ranks a 5/5 phenomenon-wise.)

(5/5)

(5/5)

(5/5)

(5/5, NOT an average)

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