Dr. Scott! Judge Patrick Naugle! Brad! Janet! Rocky! Dr. Scott!
"Come on up the lab, and see what's on the slab."—Dr. Frank-N-Furter
Many consider The Rocky Horror Picture Show to be the alpha and omega of midnight movies. Originally conceived as a stage show in London, Fox took a chance with Richard O'Brien's strange musical about a sweet transvestite from transsexual Transylvania and produced one of the most endearing cult movies ever. Fans of this musical/sci-fi/horror/comedy will be thrilled that it's finally in hi-definition, red lips and all! The antici…PATION is over!
Facts of the Case
When newly engaged young lovers Brad (Barry Bostwick, Spin City) and Janet (Susan Sarandon, The Lovely Bones) find themselves stranded in a remote area with no way to call for help (this is pre-cell phone, remember), they stumble upon the freakishly delightful castle of Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry, Stephen King's It). Inside the doctor's weird dwellings, Brad and Janet find a creepy brother and sister duo (Richard O'Brien and Patricia Quinn), a gaggle of delighted guests and, fitting, "The Time Warp." Brad and Janet are about to witness Dr. Frank-N-Furter's newest creation: a sweaty, buff beefcake named Rocky (Peter Hinwood) who is the good doctor's new…err, 'toy.' With song, dance, a little bit of face paint, and Meatloaf, everyone is about to find out the secret behind Rocky Horror!
The Rocky Horror Picture Show is the definition of a cult movie; in fact, you may say it's the grandfather, grandmother, or grandsexual, as it were. Immediately following its release, the film was thrust into the midnight movie circuit. Crowds came out in droves to participate in the experience, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Now, here's the thing about The Rocky Horror Picture Show—take away the flashy audience participation and what do you get? A mildly amusing, kinda-sorta funny, halfway-decent cheese ball movie. As a cult classic running at the stroke of midnight, it's an absolute hoot (I recall seeing it when I was around 13 years old and had a ball having my 'cherry popped' on stage). As a movie running in your home by yourself (the way I watched it), it's…okay. Not great, not horrible, just sort of…okay. I know there are a lot of Rocky Horror fans out there who will cry foul at this statement, because over the years it's become like a second home for them. But really, if we're all going to sit down and be honest with each other, it's just a silly sci-fi horror musical with a few soon-to-be big name stars and some catchy tunes.
In the interest of being categorical, here's a run down of the film's main components (or living 'parts')…
The Story: The plot of The Rocky Horror Picture Show is absolute hogwash. I mean, I know this wasn't conceived along the same lines as Inception, but the whole thing is just a big bowl of goofy served with a side of nonsense. This is, of course, part of the film's charm. Sometimes we don't need a linear, straight forward plot line to enjoy a film's course of action. Although Rocky Horror is a lot of fun, wallowing in its own juvenile affection, the fact remains it's just a lot of weird set pieces set to music. I didn't care what happened to Brad, Janet, Dr. Frank-N-Furter or the rest of the cast by the closing credits. When a movie ends with the lead characters in face paint, swimming half naked in a pool, right before a castle rockets off into space, you know you're not hanging around for the cohesive screenwriting.
The Acting: So there's future Oscar winner Susan Sarandon, but she doesn't show the qualities that will allow her to bring us to tears in Dead Man Walking (she mostly bats her eyes and moans a lot). Barry Bostwick is sufficiently stiff as the male lead Brad, and don't even get me started on Peter "Rocky" Hinwood, who has all the acting range of a sequoia redwood. The rest of the supporting cast—creator Richard O'Brien, "Little" Nell Campbell, Patricia Quinn, and Meatloaf—are all adequate in their roles, and little else. Only Tim Curry as Dr. Frank-N-Furter (one of the great character names in all of filmdom) makes an indelible mark as the cross dressing, mad scientist anti-hero. Curry has always been a funny, eccentric character actor, and with Frank-N-Furter he injects life and zest into The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
The Special Effects: Umm, right…let's just move on.
The Music: One of the most impressive feats of Rocky Horror is that it contains some awesomely awesome musical numbers. The movie itself may not be any great shakes, but that music score is a real hoot. "The Time Warp" continues to get heavy rotation during Halloween. "Over at the Frankenstein Place," "Science Fiction/Double Feature," "Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me," "Sweet Transvestite," and Meatloaf's "Hot Patootie" are all toe tapping oddities that are easy to sing along to. And I still hear the highly quotable song "Dammit, Janet" flowing from various friend's lips from time to time. Say what you will about the movie, you can't deny the genius behind the hip and hot soundtrack.
And there in a nutshell is The Rocky Horror Picture Show. As excited as fans are to have it on Blu-ray, the fact is this 'little musical that could' plays a lot better on the big screen with a group of screaming, singing diehard fans than on your TV alone with a Diet Mountain Dew and a sleeping dog.
Rocky Horror is presented in 1.66:1 1080p high definition widescreen. The AVC-encoded transfer is an all-new master print struck from the original camera negative. Because of this, the image looks excellent, considering its age and budget (the film cost approximately $2.2 million dollars to make). The definition is great, while the colors and black levels are all solid. Fans will notice all kinds of objects and details they've never seen before. Although the image isn't perfect—age has rendered it slightly soft—this is a great looking transfer from Fox.
Audio portions are presented in presented in DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio (along with a mono mix). The great thing about this audio track is hearing all of O'Brien's wonderfully campy songs in 7.1 surround! You can finally "Time Warp" through every speaker in your house! The ambient surrounds aren't as prevalent as the song mixes, but there are still some fun moments, especially during the final sequence. Also included on this disc are Portuguese and Polish 5.1 language tracks, as well as subtitles in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Hebrew, Hungarian, Icelandic, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, and Swedish.
Here is a short rundown of all the Blu-ray extra features:
The Late Night Double Feature Picture-in-Picture Show: A live version of the show with various cast members from around the world.
Trivia Track: Pop-up trivia on the film.
Vintage Callback Track: Subtitles that tell you when and what to yell at the screen (so you too can have the experience of seeing it with a crowd).
Prop Box: Allows you to throw virtual 'props' at the screen (so put your tomatoes away).
The Search for the 25th Anniversary Shadowcast: A two-part competition (sort of like American Idol) where Fox went on a scouting assignment to find the right actors to create a live show where participants act out the show below the actual screen. Barry Bostwick makes a nice cameo judging near the end.
Rocky-Oke: A karaoke style feature that allows you to sing the songs yourself, by turning off the actors voices and throwing subtitles on the screen.
Commentary track with Richard O'Brien and Patricia Quinn: A great listen for fans of the film, though I admit I only got about 20 minutes of the way through it.
Finally there is an alternate black and white opening, an interview with on set photographer Mick Rock, a gallery of Mick's photos from the shoot, some deleted scenes and outtakes, an alternate credit ending, a misprint ending, a retrospective documentary (included on the previous DVD release), footage from the Beacon Theater's 10th Anniversary showing, "The Time Warp" music video, a pressbook gallery, and a poster gallery.
As a movie, Rocky Horror is a cheap, kitschy and entertaining watch. It hasn't aged particularly well, but the music certainly makes up for any deficiencies in the story, acting or effects. Fox has produced a nice package filled with worthy extra features, a very good transfer and a rocking audio track.
I guess it'd kind of be a sin to lock up a beast like The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Just make sure to watch it with the one you love—male, female, or trans.
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