The Rocky Horror Picture Show Reviews
Fox's decision to remake The Rocky Horror Picture Show - albeit with Tim Curry on board - has naturally incurred the wrath of the fanbase, of which I count myself as a member. But notwithstanding the cynical commercial motivations of the remake, the trailers would lead us to believe that it has misunderstood something crucial about the original. The original wasn't perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but like so many great cult films its flaws and shortcomings are part and parcel of what makes it so compelling and distinctive.
The creakiness of Rocky Horror is rooted as much in its limited budget as in its deep-rooted desire to have fun by impersonating or parodying old B-movies. You don't have to get all the references buried in the film to appreciate it, but you're more likely to enjoy it if you cotton on to the fact that little if any of it is designed to be taken seriously. Film critics spend a great deal of their time trying to persuade the public to pick and judge films on deeper grounds than whether or not they are entertaining, but this is one film which only works if you "give yourself over to absolute pleasure".
It's no surprise at all that the film underperformed when first released. Much like its cult contemporaries (Night of the Living Dead, Pink Flamingos, El Topo and Eraserhead), it is very hard to sit through Rocky Horror in complete comfort the first time round. Part of this is intentional: several scenes are scary and the visuals are striking enough to send the uninitiated reeling. But part of it is an acknowledgement of the film's limitations, which have been present from the beginning.
Richard O'Brien conceived the original stage show as a love letter to old sci-fi and horror B-movies; he described it as a means to relive childhood memories of Frankenstein and Nosferatu, and to escape from the reality of being out of work. True to form, the opening song pays lip service to a host of such films, from the original versions of Flash Gordon and The Day The Earth Stood Still through to Universal horror (The Invisible Man), British supernatural horror (Night of the Demon) and more campy American fare (It Came From Outer Space).
The plot of Rocky Horror plays out like a jumble-sale of B-movie plots, restaged with maximum camp value and more than a little affection. The creation of Rocky is a witty riff on Frankenstein; the monster remains largely mute and afraid of fire, but the master designs him as a source of pleasure rather than a means to make mankind immortal. There are clear hints of King Kong in the final third, as Frank N. Furter wonders "Whatever happened to Fay Wray?" and Rocky dies from falling off the RKO Tower. The film also tips its hat lovingly to Hammer in the casting of Charles Gray, in what is by far his best performance since The Devil Rides Out.
But by far the biggest influence on Rocky Horror is The Wizard of Oz, something which O'Brien readily acknowledges. The film was originally intended to be filmed in black-and-white right up until Frank N. Furter's entrance, to mimic Dorothy's journey from Kansas via the tornado. Moreover, the central story of Brad and Janet is one of innocent, pure individuals being whisked off against their will to a world they don't understand - and like Dorothy, they have to deal with many evils in their desperate bid to get home.
While it retains many aspects of the L. Frank Baum story, Rocky Horror subverts or departs from key elements in a way which reveals its deeper message (if it has such a thing). While Oz has a cop-out ending where everything returns to normal, the lives of Brad and Janet are shattered forever; there is no going back to their previous lives of whitewashed churches and pastel dresses. Likewise Dorothy retains her purity or innocence throughout, while both Brad and Janet give in to temptation and find out that they actually quite enjoy it. The final song is a duet between the conflicting desires of Barry Bostwick's 'bleeding' heart and Susan Sarandon's promiscuity. One could almost liken the final scene to a sexualised restaging of the Fall, with Charles Gray looking on as a jealous God who is criminally disappointed in his "insects".
Rocky Horror has been hailed as many things in its lifetime, from a call for sexual liberation to some sort of Brechtian challenge to the role of an audience. Most of these accolades have an ounce of credibility but were not the intention of the filmmakers; no-one ever planned that audiences would start dressing up as the characters or talking back to the screen. Its sexual politics are incredibly liberal, with the message being one of accepting each other's identities and preferences rather than encouraging the 1970s equivalent of 'free love'. To suggest that Rocky Horror is a non-ironic advert for sexual promiscuity is to foolishly ignore the film's more sophisticated side.
If Rocky Horror were simply a vehicle to convince people to dress up in fishnets and give in to lust, far less effort would have been expended on the dialogue and the characters. O'Brien's script is witty and in-your-face, and Tim Curry chews his way through every line with relish and panache. The character of Frank N. Furter is much more complex and unpredictable than one might assume; he is not just a mad scientist posing as a drag queen, or indeed vice versa. Like the story he inhabits, he flits from one aspect to another - he is equal parts bawling child, narcissistic drama queen, sexual sadist and English gentleman, and it remains Tim Curry's finest performance.
It's very hard to pin down exactly what makes Rocky Horror such a hoot to watch. Some of it is in the songs, which are brilliantly written with syllable-stretching humour. Some of it is in the action scenes, from Meatloaf riding indoors on his motorbike to Dr. Scott's wheelchair becoming magnetised. But most of it comes from the knowledge that the film doesn't really care what you think, and that the cast were obviously having a ball.
Inevitably, there are things about Rocky Horror which don't work, at least not anymore. In the final third the songs become more medley-based and the plot steadily peters out. Though the ending itself is befitting, there is a lot of filler in the floor show before we get there. This may be intentional, since cabaret shows are not known for being speedy affairs, but there is a still a sense of the film dragging and getting caught up in its own indulgences, particularly in the lengthy dance sequences.
Because the plot is so much of a jumble, the film is incredibly uneven with regard to its tone. Janet's encounter with the monster ('Touch Me') is rather toe-curling, and the increasingly campy tone can become tiresome for the uninitiated. Because everything is so full-on and over-the-top, there will always be some people who won't put up with all the non-sequiturs, and in its darker moments the film wobbles as the desire to laugh begins to falter, and no amount of singing is going to bring that back.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show is trashy cinema at its most deliriously enjoyable. The story is silly beyond belief and assembled in a thoroughly ramshackle way, but the music is great and the film is so cheerfully full-on that you can't help falling in love with it just a bit. It isn't by any stretch a masterpiece, or a particularly rounded work, but it remains a milestone of American popular culture which no remake can ever hope to match.
JT, Whitney, Dustin, myself, & Jessica all had a group movie night last night. We watched Chef, Mulholland Drive, and this movie. And we actually put this movie on a right at Midnight! It worked out perfectly except that we were all pretty tired at this point. But we all stayed up and enjoyed this movie again. We had all already seen it. But it's a classic! Tim Curry's facial expressions are probably the best part. This movie gets better every time I see it.
The film opens at a wedding outside of a church in the idyllic city of Denton Ohio. Friends of Brad Majors (Barry Bostwick) and Janet Weiss (Susan Sarandon) have just tied the knot, and Janet has caught the bouquet. Taking his cue, Brad proposes to Janet and the two decide they must travel to see their former science teacher, now friend and mentor, to share the good news. Along the way, the two experience car trouble and wander upon a mysterious castle to ask for help and use a telephone. What Brad and Janet have come upon disturbs them as they meet a peculiar group of people who have come to see an affair of a transvestite scientist. Brad and Janet are undressed by the domestic of the home, Magenta (Patricia Quinn) and the handyman Riff Raff (Richard O'Brien) and taken up to the master's laboratory. Once they formally meet Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry) they begin to learn that he is a scientist interested in reanimation and has the secret to human life. The affair that they happened upon is one in which Dr. Frank-N-Furter is going to reveal the muscle man he has created. After the reveal of Rocky (Peter Hinwood), things take a turn for the strange, and everyone is escorted to bed as Frank and Rocky get better acquainted. After a night of trysts, it is unsure whom should be paired with whom anymore and everyone, including rival scientist, and friend to Brad and Janet, Dr. Everett V. Scott (Jonathan Adams), who happened upon the night's activities, is invited to dinner. After a raucous dinner reveal/birthday party more sexual liberation occurs and everyone participates in Dr. Frank N-Furter's floor show in full formal attire. After spending time in Frank-N-Furter's palace and submitting to his plans, Brad and Janet definitely don't leave the same way they came in.
From the opening sequence of Patricia Quinn's infamous red lips singing to the audience, one knows they are in for a wild ride. The beginning of the film is filled with fun nods to classic cinema, including The Wizard of Oz as the same characters that are at the wedding will also appear in Transylvania. There are also tons of nods to B-horror movies of the early days of Hollywood making The Rocky Horror Picture Show a treat for fans of classic films. My first experience with a rock musical did not disappoint. Since I first saw this movie just two months ago, I have bought the soundtrack in two different mediums so I can listen to the music anytime I please, yeah, it's that good. Speaking of the music, am I the only one that thinks that, as cute as Time Warp is, Sweet Transvestite is the song that really steals the show? Although, to be fair, any scene with Tim Curry stole the show. It's unbelievable to think that this film was Tim Curry's film debut; what an introduction! He was extraordinary in this role and proved that if he can do Dr. Frank-N-Furter, he can do anything. It's truly unfortunate that he has been so underutilized in Hollywood, with acting ability and a voice like his you would expect him to be in just about everything, alas, this did not turn out to be, although he has an extensive filmography of voicework to his credit. I suppose such is the life of a character actor, it's just so disheartening to see how great he can be (If you need any further evidence check out Three Men in a Boat or Blue Money) and to see him act in the worst American movies imaginable. I wonder if Tim Curry's entrance coming out of the elevator in The Rocky Horror Picture Show isn't the best on film. The Rocky Horror Picture Show does many things that are hard to do well on film. Not only does the film use a narrator which can bog down the storyline and come off clunky and often disjointed, but several of the characters also broke the fourth wall as well. This device is almost never done well but executed flawlessly in this film. What's more, however, is that The Rocky Horror Picture Show encourages rebellion of expectations, tolerance of differences, and acceptance of our own individuality. Of course, sexual freedom is explored in the film but so was rebellion from a meaningless middle-class existence where a new wife is praised for her cooking or a new husband is commended because he has a promotion on the way. The Rocky Horror Picture Show offers viewers the message of sexual freedom, but that's not all. Being true to yourself if the heart of the film, and to go after what you want no matter what it is; don't dream it, be it.
This film is highly erotic.
And even with only brief appearances of nudity, does it manage to convey such a great message on the dictatorship of love.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show is directed by Jim Sharman (Shock Treatment, Summer of Secrets) and stars Tim Curry as Dr Frank-n-Furter, a deranged transvestite scientist who takes the role of host to a young couple seeking refuge in a spooky castle.
The good? I had a great time with this movie, I really did. Firstly, an excellent musical. The songs are feet-banging and hip-twisting and are great to dance to. They are explosive with rock 'n' roll and jive adding charisma and charm to the energy between characters. Let's talk about Tim Curry's character/performance. He is completely and utterly in hyperbolic love with this uneasy, unmoral creature of a person. A sexual, provocative mischief maker. The set design and costumes beckon a pleasure dome of spins and re-takes on classic gothic horrors such as 'Frankenstein's Monster' and 'Dracula'. The main principle of this movie is to give a satirical outlook on human behaviour specifically towards carnal desires. As personas cheat, murder and transform each other using hilarious methods, we see that no one here is comfortable with where they are physically. They want more...and more...and more until they feel completely and 100% in tune with their lust. Unfortunately, and as explained in the film's finale, it is the downfall of their confusion.
I think more in favour that Dr Frank-n-Furter's appearance was already the starting point of the spiral into self-absorbed acceptance rather than a statement crudely proclaiming that 'transsexuals are horrific monsters and this is what happens'. Because all characters here have a ying to their yang proving for me that the transvestite nature was only a ploy to get the audience enthralled into the idea that this is not only intriguing, but also applicable (no characters react to transsexualism negatively, they react to the murderous flamboyance like that).
The bad? This film is out of control in the sense that nothing makes real sense. There is a lot of telling not showing, but for a blend of musical, comedy and horror film, it fits the tone and style. So it's more of a nitpick than a huge critique as it would be for other films. My big issue with this movie is that it had mroe potential to showcase horror and blood and give more references to gothic culture. The slow patches that dwindle take away vibrancy, I want to see more Tim Curry murdering someone with a pick-axe, not more focus on the guy he murdered!
All in all, The Rocky Horror picture show is a musical blast, a good time with good intentions and a time warping wave on homosexual, heterosexual and lesbian obscurities presented at the time. It is accepting, repelling and interesting all at once which may confuse many. But as the movie states 'a mental mindfuck can be nice' ;-).