Halloween ain’t over till someone does the Time Warp. I was fortunate to snag The Rocky Horror Picture Show on Blu-ray and it would be blasphemy not to review it as part of my 31 Days of Horror. I had planned to do it earlier, but outside circumstances forced it into being my closing night movie. Rocky Horror has cemented its status as the ultimate midnight movie, which makes for it a love it or hate it experience. The Rocky Horror Picture Show isn’t nearly as obtuse as other cult classics, and as much as I adore it, I acknowledge its flawed pacing and unconventional storytelling. Regardless of all that, the songs are kicking and you’ll want to take a jump to the left after seeing this!
All-American teenagers Brad and Janet (Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon) get a flat tire and end up in the castle of Dr. Frank-n-Furter (Tim Curry). Left confused by him and his gang, Brad and Janet bear witness to Frank’s unconventional situation as well as the birth of his ultimate creation, Rocky (Peter Hinwood).
I was inducted into the insane world of The Rocky Horror Picture Show in high school, and I never looked back. The movie’s an adaptation of the stageplay which, at the time, was gaining quite the following and transferred over almost all of the original cast for this filmed version; Bostwick and Sarandon were the sole newcomers. The movie plays to large crowds all over the country with midnight showings and a devout fan club.
Rocky Horror is an acquired taste. The movie’s plot revolves around a gaggle of aliens from the planet Transylvania in the galaxy of Transexual (should tell you a lot about our characters sexual orientations), but at its core it’s the story of a mad scientist; Frank-n-Furter is our Dr. Frankenstein and Rocky is his Creation…which he precedes to marry and engage in a relationship with. The movie is peppered with allusions to classic films, most prominently a character climbing the RKO Tower a la King Kong. Our two normal characters, Brad and Janet, become wrapped up in the dark hedonism at a time when the sexual revolution and hippies were all the rage. The story holds little water and seems to pile on impossibility after impossibility including, but not limited to, cannibalism and murder. At a certain point the audience has to stop thinking about the plot and enjoy the ride.
The fact the movie is a musical helps negate a lot of the plot inconsistency. All the actors are accomplished singers in a way removed from the operatic, or overly worked styles of other musicals. Tim Curry and Richard O’Brien (as Riff-Raff) are perfect in the songs they have, and almost all the songs are incredibly catchy. After I watch this I end up singing “Sweet Transvestite” and “Hot Patootie” for the next three weeks. I recall Glee attempting, poorly, to take on the songs from this movie…that’s all I have to say about that.
The cast assembled is perfect, and they’d have to be considering the insane fashions and acts they engage in. Curry, O’Brien, and Patricia Quinn as Magenta are our trio of Transylvanians and their hedonism is contagious. Curry gruesome smile is both inviting and frightening; a combination proving effective when he took on the character of Pennywise the clown in It. Richard O’Brien is mysterious as the unliked Riff-Raff, while Quinn is his maniacal sister. Sarandon and Bostwick know they’re in a camp classic as they chew scenery as our milquetoast definitions of middle America. Sarandon, in particular, says all her lines with a strangled cry as if she’s too overwhelmed to function (and kudos for doing all of this in her bra and panties for 90 minutes). The weakest link, overall, is Peter Hinwood as Rocky. He lacks charisma, and while he’s meant to be the physical embodiment of perfection and masculinity, there’s a total absence of memorable qualities.
The actual introduction of Rocky is what ends up failing the movie. As much as I adore the film, the Rocky moments cause me to tune out because the songs and plot seem to be a repetitious refrain about him, him, him. The hedonism and debauchery of the first 30 minutes is contagious, and when the plot kicks in, it’s hard to get out of that mode. Thankfully, Curry keeps things on an even keel, but there are serious dull spots throughout.
No matter the problems, The Rocky Horror Picture Show is the perfect embodiment of the cult classic. Easier to access than something like Eraserhead, the music is infectious and the actors are sheer fun.
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A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.