The Rocky Horror Picture Show is an essential watch for Halloween, it has everything you could possibly want from a film; drama, suspense, romance, music, horror and Meatloaf. Rocky Horror transcended genres, contorted stereotypes and sparked a global fascination for that sweet transvestite from transsexual Transylvania. So come up to the lab and see what’s on the slab. I see you shiver, with antici…
When Rocky Horror first came out in movie theatres, it was met with a wholly unimpressed audience, for this was not a film for your average Joe movie goer, this was a movie for the midnight audience, the underground culture. It wasn’t until midnight screenings of this film started happening in the 1980’s that it started gaining traction as a credible, entertaining piece of cinema and since then it has become an icon of cult film. Even today, midnight screenings still take place all over the world, which are attended by die-hard fans dolled up to the nines, armed with props to allow them to participate in the film.
So what was happening in cinema in 1975, I hear you ask? Well, Jack Nicholson went to a mental asylum in One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, Stanley Kubrick took a lengthy jaunt back in time with Barry Lyndon and Monty Python went in search of The Holy Grail but the biggest release of 1975 was Stephen Spielberg’s Jaws. Well, Rocky Horror was never going to be able to successfully compete with those mammoth films so it’s no surprise that it flopped upon release, however, they used the release of Jaws and gave themselves a tongue-in-cheek tagline of “A different set of jaws” as one of the film’s movie posters was of a very sexy looking pair of lips. This acted almost as a self-acknowledgment that this wasn’t going to be your typical Hollywood blockbuster and it was for a different class of cinema-goers.
If you haven’t seen the film, I will briefly explain it now. Stick with me because it’s a plot like no other. Brad and Janet, an adorable cutesy couple who have recently got engaged, run into to some car trouble amidst a big storm in the middle of nowhere. They see a large, gothic house in the distance and follow a light in the window to the front door. Upon arrival they are stripped down to their underwear and taken into a house full of wacky and strange characters who start singing the Time Warp, thus suggesting that their arrival in the house has taken them to another dimension with voyeuristic intention (sorry, couldn’t resist). The master of the house, Dr Frank N. Furter, arrives shortly after and introduces himself, through song, as a sweet transvestite from transsexual Transylvania. He is dressed in fish nets, high heels, a tight corset, make up – the whole shebang – and he looks incredible. He invites Brad and Janet up to his lab where he has built himself a man to fall in love with. Brad and Janet get sucked into the world of this house and are under the spell of the charming Frank N. Furter you find yourself wondering if they will ever get out…
Richard O’Brian, Susan Sarandon and Meatloaf are some of the big names that make up the cast and all of them are brilliant in their roles but the star of the show is Dr Frank N Furter himself played by the irrefutably brilliant Tim Curry. Everything from his look to his voice to his mannerisms are sheer perfection and he dazzles as a gothic, maniacal transvestite. He is one of my all-time favourite movie characters and his performance is so much fun and so very camp that the second he is on screen, an uncontrollable Grinch-like smile starts spreading across my face. The role was completely transformative in so many ways and portraying an openly gay, transvestite in a risqué and unconventional musical was a brave thing to do, but it paid off and his portrayal has gone down in movie history. Jim Sharman, the films director, is more associated with theatre than he is with film and this comes across in Rocky Horror as it does play out like a stage play and is a stage play.
I will never forget the first time I watch Rocky Horror, I had seen glimpses of it when it was on TV once and was so entranced by Columbia’s sparkly shoes that at the ripe age of 3, I ventured downstairs at 5am and put on my parents battered VHS. My viewing was cut short when my Dad came down and saw me sitting right up close to the TV, watching intently as a certain character (I won’t say who) was getting his head bashed in with an axe. The video mysteriously disappeared after then and it wasn’t until I was 15 that I watched it again, in full this time. You certainly don’t forget something like Rocky Horror, it’s so outrageous and ridiculous that you will either ‘get it’ or you will think it’s a huge pile of tosh.
Whether you are the midnight audience or the daytime audience, The Rocky Horror Picture Show does everything in its power to entertain you, the musical numbers are sensational and the story is ludicrous, it can u-turn to a dark place at the drop of a hat but you can always rely on Frank N. Furter to lighten the mood, not only for his guests at his house but for you as well.
If you want something visual, that’s not too abysmal then sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.
HBO are doing a ‘midnight streaming’ of The Rocky Horror Picture Show on October 31st at…well…midnight!
If my words of persuasion aren’t enough to entice you, watch a clip or two here: