My relationship with The Rocky Horror Picture Show got off to a shaky start back in the mid-nineties. At the tender age of 9, my mother decided that renting RHPS for me was a great idea; she had dressed up as Magenta at the first Greenwich Village midnight screenings in the 70s and wanted to share the experience with me, even if it was just in our living room. About 20 minutes or so into the film, I was really engrossed in the sights and sounds of the B-movie throwback that was playing out before my eyes. Being raised on a steady diet of 50’s sci-fi/horror and everything Harryhausen, it was right up my alley. And then it happened. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry) threw off his cape, revealing his corset and fishnet stockings, and I got “the look.” Seconds later, the “This isn’t appropriate for you” speech was flung around and back to the video store it went.
Of course, some friends and I rented it a week later. But that’s beside the point.
Saying The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a very unique film doesn’t accurately describe the experience you can have with the right people. Starting out as a stage play in London circa 1973, Richard O’Brien’s strange musical caught the attention of Cheech and Chong producer Lou Adler, who bought the film rights and brought the stage production to the states about a year later. In 1975, it hit the big screen, only to be panned by critics and audiences alike. But then something odd happened: it’s small, devoted cult following began putting on midnight screenings and the first shadow casts were born. Fans shout at the screen, use props, dress up like their favorite characters; the whole nine yards. It became the first major Hollywood studio film to become a midnight movie staple, currently holds the record for the longest theatrical run of all-time, and was selected for preservation in 2005 by the U.S. National Film Registry. In other words, seeing RHPS with a theatre full of devoted fans belongs on everyone’s bucket list.
The plot of Brad (asshole!) and Janet’s (slut!) strange journey (How strange was it?) – ok, I’m gonna stop now – is secondary to the visual and musical splendor that makes RHPS, but for the uninitiated (or virgins, as diehard fans would say), it’s basically a really perverse version of Frankenstein, which parallels to everything from The Bible to Barbarella – Rocky (Peter Hinwood) looks a bit like everyone’s favorite blind angel Pygar, no? Sexualities are challenged by a cross-dressing mad scientist (Curry), a beefcake creation in golden underwear and boots seduces everyone he comes across, an Igor-like servant, Riff Raff (O’Brien), and his sister, Magenta (Patricia Quinn), help keep the castle in complete disarray, onlookers break into song and dance every five seconds, and a UFO conspiracy theorist suspects everyone in the castle is not of this earth.
But, in the end, the plot really doesn’t matter; it just gets you along from song to song, almost all of which are toe-tapping, memorable numbers. The costume (Sue Blane, the designer from the stage show) and production design (Terry Ackland-Snow, who later worked on Dark Crystal, Batman, and Aliens) is first rate, creating the B-movie feel that plays wonderfully juxtaposed to O’Brien’s soundtrack. The early sequences will remind viewers of Universal monster flicks, while the latter portions share more in common with Flash Gordon.
Fox’s 35TH Anniversay Blu-Ray of the horror/sci-fi odyssey of sexual proportions features a brand new 2K/4K master struck from the original negative. The 1080p transfer is in the original 1.66:1 aspect ratio, with grain intact and no noticeable DNR, edge enhancement, or compression issues – a miracle, considering Fox’s last big catalog release, Predator, was a huge mess and looked like it was shot yesterday. Colors are deep, especially reds and blacks, and there’s a lot of contrast in the shadows that loom around the castle’s every staircase, elevator shaft, and hallway. The narrator/criminologist’s (Charles Gray) scenes are very soft compared with the rest of the film, and it’s the only real issue the transfer has. Fox also went above and beyond with the audio track, giving RHPS a DTS-HD 7.1 mix. The film was recorded in mono, and while the dialogue isn’t particularly helped by the new track, the music and sound effects have robust clarity. The studio included a wide array of extras, many of which are exclusive to this release, but they left off RHPS‘s Behind The Music episode and supplements, which were included on the 25th anniversary DVD.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a great – though occasionally overwhelming – blend of sci-fi, horror, and sexual revolution for the ages. It manages to cover taboo topics in a fun, raunchy manner that is a lot easier to swallow (…) than many other films that attempt to comment on the same cultural climate. The film’s motto, “Don’t Dream It, Be It,” has inspired legions of people to not only dress up like their favorite character, but also be who they want to be, both in sexual and professional ways.
US And UK versions – The UK version features an extra musical number, Superheroes.
Alternate B&W Opening (20:12) – Intended to be an homage to The Wizard Of Oz, the first twenty or so minutes of RHPS can optionally be black and white for your viewing pleasure. It switches to color when Brad, Janet, Riff Raff, and Magenta enter the ballroom during The Time Warp – originally, the B&W was conceived to end when Frank-N-Furter first appears.
The Midnight Experience – Merely watching RHPS by itself is just half the experience. Fox has included a bevy of in-film features, all of which are worth trying out – you can play as many of them at a time as you’d like. Among these are a Trivia Track (upper left), which is a pop-up box that provides tidbits about the film, and everyone involved with it; Vintage Callback Track (upper right), a pop-up box featuring the 1983 Rocky Horror Picture Show Audience Par-Tic-I-Pation callback dialogue; Prop Box (lower left), a pop-up box which lets you view what prop to use during which scene and even lets you “virtually” throw it at your nice 1080p flat-screen TV; and The Late Night, Double Feature, Picture-In-Picture Show (lower right), a PIP shadow-cast that plays for the duration of the film.
Rocky-Oke: Sing It! – Every song from the film is included in this karaoke feature, which gives you on-screen lyrics to sing-along to and also allows you to turn off the vocals so everyone can find out how badly you really sing.
Commentary – Show creator Richard O’Brien and actress Patricia Quinn reminisce about the film and joke around like Kurt Russell and John Carpenter do on their tracks. It features a good amount of overlap with the information found in the disc’s other special features, but their comradery makes the track a must-listen.
The Search For The 35th Anniversary Shadowcast (58:14) – A companion piece to the PIP shadowcast track on the disc, this featurette documents the process Fox went through to hire the performers for the Blu-Ray. Shadowcast members from all over the world showed up for auditions, making this the oddest episode of American Idol I’ve ever seen. Split into two parts, Don’t Dream It, Be It focuses on all the hopefuls who are trying out (a lot of whom are definitely a little… off), and An-Tic-I-Pation features Barry Bostwick and Patricia Quinn judging auditions and helping finalize the cast.
Mick Rock (A Photographer) (03:36) – An interview with on-set photographer Mick Rock. It’s pretty brief, and he basically just narrates photographs as they flash across the screen.
Mick Rock’s Picture Show (A Gallery) (03:50) – A slideshow of Rock’s photographs (most of which appear in the previous featurette) that changes stills every five seconds.
A Few From The Vault… – A collection of various other bonus materials that includes Deleted Musical Scenes (5:00), featuring Once In A While and Superheroes; Outtakes(10:02), which contains alternate takes of The Time Warp, Brad And Janet Undressed, Janet’s Seduction, and Floor Show Preparations; an Alternate Credit Ending (03:45); the infamous Misprint Ending (01:44), which has the US ending audio track playing over Superheroes; Rocky Horror Double Feature Video Show (1995) (36:25) , a retrospective documentary about the original stage show, how it was adapted to film, and the cult following that ensued; Beacon Theater, New York City (10th Anniversary) (05:26), a montage of clips from a 10th anniversary showing; and Time Warp Music Video (15th Anniversary VHS Release) (04:41), an ancient looking video of a shadowcast performing the song.
Also included are two theatrical trailers, a pressbook gallery, and a poster gallery.