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The Rocky Horror Picture Show (DVD, 2002, Single Disc)
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Hand Me My Fish Nets and Corset; Daddy's Doing the Timewarp!
Feb 19, 2008 (Updated Dec 14, 2010)
Review by Mark Vaughan
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:A Legend! There is no other experience like it.
Cons:It is damn hard to find in the theaters anymore.
The Bottom Line: This is a modern classic. This is THE cult film. Nothing else like it exists, and nothing will ever again.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Richard O'Brien's strange bastard love child of a SciFi B movie and a Crossdresser's Convention is one of the greatest social phenomena of all time.
Recommend this product?
Brad Majors (Barry Bostwick) and Janet Weiss (Susan Sarandon) are on their way home after attending a wedding. Caught with a flat in the rain, they wander a few miles back to use the phone in a castle. Once inside, they find themselves surrounded by strangers who have gathered to witness the triumph of one man's vision to create the perfect dild...boytoy, and because the drugs were really good.
They meat, erm, meet their host, the frightening and seductive Dr. Frank N Furter, (played by the delectably perverse Tim Curry) who invites them up to the lab to see what's on the slab. They witness the birth of new life, cold, frosty even, blooded murder, and are subjected to seduction, debasement, and several great musical numbers.
(God, I wish we could get that kind of entertainment in Texarkana on a Friday night!)
The Characters and Cast
Frank-N-Furter is a self proclaimed sweet transvestite. An alien from the planet Transexual in the Galaxy of Transylvania, he has come to earth for an important mission. What that mission is, we never learn, because Frankie is easily distracted, pursuing affairs of the heart, or other organs with Columbia, Eddie, Rocky, Janet, and Brad...that we know about. Frankie is both the hero and the villain of this piece, a wanton avoracous child in fishnets, who, when called to task for his excesses, elicits our sympathy. Think this through; he has created life, molested it, seduced virgins of both genders, stolen half a brain, killed the donor, and served him for supper, all in the space of an evening, and yet, when he meets his end, we cry.
Only the genius of Tim Curry could have breathed life into this complex character. As my very straight friend said as we left a latenight showing, "Yeah, I'd probably let Frankie do me, for the bragging rights, if nothing else." Frankie's appeal, and repulsion, is universal. He is an incubus, created to tempt mortals into tasting forbidden fruit. We know he is rotten, and will probably hurt us, and we do it anyway.
Brad Majors (@$$hole) is the all American boy. He has just proposed to his girl, been stripped to his scivvies, then had his cherry popped by Frankie. His progress is wonderfully detailed in his solo in the Floor Show;
It's beyond me,
Help me, Mommy!
I'll be good,
Take these dreams away!
What's this? Let's see,
I feel sexy!
What's come over Me?
Whoa! Here it comes again!
Brad is overwhelmed, not only by the weirdness all around him, but also, by his own reactions. Brad is particularly hated by the straight boys in the audience, because they recognise in him the vulnerability we all possess, and he embodies latent homosexuality given expression.
Barry Bostwick brings a sweetness to the character. His physical attributes, his height, healthy build, his big... guns...all serve to build him as the man we want to be. But what does that serve him, in the face of passion? Brad is also the voice of rational conservative value, that small voice that says 'No more tequila!' He is
the square (Do any of you know how to Madison?) who ends up with his feet in the air...literally.
Janet Weiss is his fiance. She is the sweet little girl next door, the kind you can take home to mother. In her little lavender Jackie Kennedy inspired outfit, she simpers and fawns on her man. But then she meets the transylvanians, and nothing will ever be the same.
From Frankie's initial "Enchante" to his little tease about her tattoos (Show him the battleship, Janet) it is obvious she feels the animal potential in their host, despite the fact he is wearing twice as much makeup as she.
Janet's liberation comes quicker, and more fully realized than Brad's. In the words of her solo song...
I thought there's no use getting,
Into heavy petting;
It only leads to trouble,
And seat wetting.
Now all I want to know,
Is how to go.
I've tasted blood and I want more.
I'll put up no resistance,
I want to go the distance,
I've got an itch to scratch!
I need assistance!
Chorus: Touch-a touch-a touch Me!
I want to be dirty!
Thrill me, chill me, fulfill me,
Creature of the Night!
In the first stanza, we see her conservative background, the sexual repression of women, ubiquitous in the world of 1972. The very next lines ask for guidance. I've tasted blood and I want more... (More, more, more.) She admits to herself, and the audience that she is giving up that old tired facade, and looking for that assistance to live life to the fullest. In so many ways, Janet is the stronger of the two lovebirds.
Susan Sarandon brought a freshness and vulnerability to Janet. Even at her most wanton, she never showed the hardness of Magenta, or the jaded cynicism of Columbia. She is the every woman, who only blooms when they stop denying the source of their strength, their own sexual energy. When this movie came out in 1975, woman's liberation was the issue of the day, and Janet Weiss led the way to true freedom, the freedom to express her own desires. Add to this the trivia that she managed to be this sweet little sex kitten, all the while suffering from the flu. That's professionalism, folks!
Columbia is a groupie. Wearing a sequined top hat, and tapping in maryjanes, she was Frankie's former lover. After he left her for Eddie, she remained, and when he threw over Eddie, the two jilted lovers got together. Also, I suspect some hanky and panky with Magenta. Columbia is the jaded party girl; everything about her is over the top (including her nipples during the floor show) from the costume to the voice. She can't even wear pajamas with out something to jazz it up, like Mickey Mouse Ears. She is attracted to Frankie's over the top exuberance, but oddly she is the first to rebel against it, accusing him of being a spounge, taking until mere mortals have nothing left to give. I think it is symbolic that she is the first to die.
Played by Little Nell, Columbia helps balance out the talent, and prevent this little number from becoming the all Frankie review. She has a voice like nails on a chalkboard and yet when she belts out her solo in the TimeWarp, it is one of the best performances, alive with an irrepressable energy. And the b*tch can dance!
Magenta is described as 'A Domestic.' and it is perhaps in that role that she is best cast; she lurks in the background, mobile piece of the set most of the time. In her solo in the TimeWarp she sings;
It's so dreamy,
Oh, fantasy free me!
'Till you can't see me,
No, not at all.
In another dimension,
With vouyeristic intention,
I see all.
And that is true. She hangs in the background and watches. She spies on Frankie's seduction of Janet and Brad through the view screen. All the best servants are invisible.
It is only through her relationship with her brother Riff-raff that we see any of her thoughts, her passions. With a single glance, she gives tactic approval and encouragement for Riff-Raff to torture Rocky with the candleabra. But it is Magenta who first confronts Frankie, not as a person, but as a fellow Transylvainian, "I grow weary of this World! When do we return to Transexual, Huh?"
Patrica Quinn plays the mysterious Magenta, relying on those eyes and body language to convey most of her dialogue. I think she has four speaking lines- not singing- speaking, but she inserts her presence like a dark refrain throughout the movie. One other note; the opening credits and the incestuous spawn of her and Riff-Raff. Richard O'Brien may be singing Science fiction Double Feature, but those are Magenta's lips!
Riff-Raff, the handy man. Half butler, half lab assistant, half madman, half spy. With that many halves, its no surprise he has a hump! Why did Richard O'Brien cast himself in this unflattering role? Well, part of it is typecasting, the other is that this is where a lot of the meat of the movie is hidden. If Columbia keeps Frank-N-Furter from stealing the show, Riff-Raff keeps him from garnering all the creepiness and villainy.
Is Riff-Raff just a simple servant? The beginning of the movie makes one think so. But as time wanders on, you see the more sinister side to the butler, lurking, spying, tormenting Rocky and letting him escape, upsetting so many of Frankie's plans. And at the end, it is Riff-Raff who lowers the boom on his master.
Was Riff-Raff a creep? Oh yes. A sadistic paranoid? Probably. A mere butler? Doubtful. Frank-n-Furter's second in command? This seems likely. And Frankie forgot one very important rule; if you want life to be a party, make sure everyone has a good time. Riff-Raff got tired of getting the short end of the stick, and the long end of the whip. He may also be the only person in the house he did not sleep with. What ever the case, Riff Raff's feelings of being over looked finally proved fatal, at least to Frankie and his creation. And as they lay dead, his dear sister Magenta turns to him and says "But I thought you liked them. They liked you."
Riff-Raff "They didn't like me! They never liked me..."
His subsequent ramblings about society having to be protected were only the justifications of a little boy who knows he has been REALLY naughty. That sisterhumping hunchback couldn't care less about society.
About Richard O'Brien...what do you really need to know? He wrote this thing. That tells you everything you need to know.
Rocky Horror. Born, chased by a man on a motorcycle, seduced by his creator, terrorized by a hunchback, chased by dogs, seduced by Janet, dressed down for taking the invitation, fed slices of his brain donor, turned to stone, made to sing and dance, then killed, all in the space of a day. Rocky was never a person. He was always an object, the object of desire. I think Richard O'Brien has hit on an important truth about desirablity; it can be a curse.
The part of Rocky called for no acting or singing ability only the ability to look damn sexy in gold underwear. Peter Hinwood was up to the task.
Rocky Horror flopped at the box office. That would have probably been it until it was rediscovered by MST3K. No, scratch that, Mystery Science Theater 3000 would never have been conceived of without Rocky Horror. 'It's a show about bad science fiction movies where people yell things at the screen!" "Sit down, Marv, and lay off the cocaine. Think people, we need a show!"
But then one theater needed extra revenue, and came up with the idea of a Midnight Movie. And they needed a movie to get them in the seats, and then the distributers saw a way to turn this turkey into a feast.
Rocky Horror only showed at midnight. No other time was permitted. They marketed to venues with heavy latenight activity, like college towns, and one thing led to another.
The film is filled with pauses; Richard O'Brien used the pause like I use semicolons, and that left space. And people filled that space.
Brad: "Janet, I loved the...."
Audience: "It starts with an S."
Brad: "Skillful way...you beat the other girls...."
Audience: "With a Whip!"
Brad: "To the Bride's bouquette."
Janet: "Oh, Brad."
You get the idea.
Then people started showing up in costume.
And a phenomena was born.
What it all means to me.
My first time was in 1981 at the Melba Theater in Batesville Arkansas. My friend Mona, Arkansas College's only resident punk, dragged me along, stopping long enough to steal a very old ratty tux from the drama department so I would have a costume. I went as Riff-Raff.
I was in love. Here in the middle of the Bible belt, where Queer was for killin', I saw members of the basketball team in bras and slips, yelling and screaming, and doing the TimeWarp. I saw a cop I knew dressed as Magenta. And I saw Frank-N-Furter up on the screen singing "Don't dream it, be it. Don't dream it, be it."
There are few experiences that have ever had a more profound effect on me. I went every time it showed. I took newspapers, rice, squirt guns, cards, the whole schtick. I went as Brad, I went as Janet, I went as Riff Raff, and after I got the costume (Size 13 platform stilletos are hard to find.) I went as Frank-N-Furter. We went to McDonalds after that showing, still in costume. Several rednecks started hastling us, and I heard the refrain, Don't Dream It, Be It! I stood up to my now seven foot height and said, "Boys, I don't know how much of these heels I can shove up your @$$es, but I'm willing to find out." That's when I became a militant faery.
It sometimes saddens me to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show on DVD; I treasure my copy, but that is not the way it was ment to be experienced. It is meant to be seen in a crowded theater, in drag, throwing rice and drinking vodka out of a waterpistol, dancing with a beautiful man in a slip and bra. Those are experiences that one never forgets.
Please, if you have a Rocky Horror Story, leave a comment; I'd love to hear.
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