I once made a statement to a group of friends that one cannot just watch The Rocky Horror Picture Show on a TV. I now stand corrected.
When this movie was first unleashed upon a lost generation of kids having just missed the counter culture revolution of the late 60’s it quickly grew a cult following of moviegoers that did not go to ‘watch’ the movie, but to ‘experience’ it unlike any movie before or since. Based upon the theatrical musical “Rocky Horror Show”, it wasn’t any movie studio gimmick like William Castle’s famous vibrating theater seats for 1959’s The Tingler or the Smell-O-Vision used in 1960’s Scent of Mystery. No, in the case of The Rocky Horror Picture show, the participation factor was provided by an ever growing group of fans that not only developed their own list of store bought props that were to be utilized at timely moments of the film, but also an entire dialogue either mimicking, mocking or directing the onscreen characters and events. You simply did not watch the movie as much as fulfilling your own role in one huge party.
The story itself is an outlandish tale of a recently engaged couple, Brad and Janet (Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon), lovingly referred to as “Asshole” and “Slut” by participants, who stumble upon a gothic mansion inhabited by rouge lipstick and corset wearing transvestite Dr. Frank N. Furter (Tim Curry). The hired help includes butler Riff Raff (Richard O’Brien) in a remarkable imitation of Uncle Creepy from the vintage Creepy horror magazine and maid Magenta (Patricia Quinn). Frank N. Furter has just resurrected his own boy-toy ‘monster’ Rocky Horror (Peter Hinwood) and while exploring his sexual fantasies with Brad and Janet, I mean “Asshole” and “Slut”, disposes of delivery boy Eddie (Meatloaf), but only after Eddie performs a tune (bless his soul) along with the inhouse singing-dancing fan club led by the ever jealous Columbia (Nell Campbell). If all the above isn’t enough, the finale that tries to explain it all is literally out of this world and punctuated by most of the cast singing and dancing in lingerie on stage.
Brad and Janet meet ‘the help’
And that last scene is indicative of the real magic of The Rocky Horror Picture Show
, namely the incredible musical spectacle that glues the zany dialog and stylized action. The music is of the highest caliber and stands the test of time, even sweeter for those like myself who can add on the nostalgia factor. From the moment the screen flickers we are treated to “Science Fiction/Double Feature
”playing tribute to everything from Michael Rennie (“The Day The Earth Stood Still
”) to Leo. G. Carroll (“Tarantula
”) and oddles of more science fiction and horror classics. Other musical highlights include “Dammit Janet
”, “Hot Patootie – Bless My Soul
” Eddie’s/Meatloaf’s swansong, and the jewel in the crown, “Time Warp
” which has become the de-facto Rocky Horror theme song. What most people do not know is that most of the music was created by none other than O’Brien himself, the real star of the show.
We’re going home.
The bug caught on soon after the movie was released and most major cities developed weekly or even nightly showings of the film where the fanbase returned time after time to take part in the ritual experience. A craze, that while diminished, still goes on in those few repertory movie theaters around today. I myself was a mere novice having only gone a half dozen times in the span of a year around 1979, but those The Rocky Horror Picture Show
nights were always memorable and fun. Other fans viewing numbers run in the tens or even hundreds.
He’s just a Sweet Transvestite
As I said at the beginning, I thought that watching it alone without all the atmosphere would be a let down. But as soon as I started watching my 25th anniversary edition DVD (old itself now), I was immediately immersed back into that world. To my astonishment, after watching the film I was checking out the ‘extras’ on my DVD and, lo and behold, it contained not one but two remarkable features. The first is a dialog/heckling option to hear virtual crowd enjoy and provide the requisite crowd chants while the second option was to have ‘on-screen’ prompting for all the cues to ‘prop’ usage. What else could anyone ask for?
If you still have the chance to go see it on the big screen with the crowd some day, you must do so. But if not, at least you know that it can still be enjoyed on DVD with at least some interaction.
Let’s do the Time Warp
As the immortal words in “Time Warp
” teach us, time is fleeting… so “Let’s Do The Time Warp” while you can.