Friday, July 29, 2016
ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, THE
(August 1975, U.S.)
Take very careful note of the time that I've posted this blog for THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (if you can). It's midnight on Friday night (New York time). Yes, I deliberately planned it that way because what could be more fitting for this particular film, yes?
So let's be clear and upfront about something right off the bat - THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW is not a great movie! Hell, it's barely even a good movie! It's cemented reputation in the cinematic history books lies solely on the fact that for four decades, it's been considered the greatest midnight movie of all time, inspiring people to repeatedly return to the theater see the film on Friday and Saturday nights. Devoted fans have come to the movie dressed as the characters, have danced along with the infamous "Time Warp" sequence on the theater stage and have enthusiastically participated with the film's dialogue by shouting out at the screen at just the right moments. It's hard to believe that the film ever even opened as a traditional feature, with matinee times, as well. That brief period of the film's release may as well have never existed. For it was April 1, 1976 when the film was re-launched as a midnight feature at New York City's once-famous Waverly Theatre, that THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW was truly born. I came to know it myself, however, at a different theater years later; the now long-gone 8th Street Playhouse in Greenwich Village, where it played for more than two decades...
(but I'll get into more of this later).
The adventures of Brad Majors (asshole!) and Janet Weiss (slut!), as narrated by a criminologist, find themselves lost on a rainy night and stranded by a flat tire. Seeking only the use of a telephone, the couple make their way to a nearby castle where they discover a group of strange and outrageous people who are holding their annual Transylvanian Convention ("It's one of the Master's affairs."). They're soon invited into the bizarre world of Dr. Frank N. Furter (played beautifully by Tim Curry), a self-proclaimed "sweet transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania". The mad doctor has created a man named Rocky whom he seeks absolute pleasure with to relieve his "tension". As the film progress with song, dance and fun, we soon come to learn that the doctor, along with his servants Riff-Raff and sister Magenta, are actually aliens from the planet Transsexual in the galaxy of Transylvania. This little plot twist (if you really want to call it that) serves as nothing more as a silly, rather cheap homage to classic science fiction films of the 1950s, including THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE and FORBIDDEN PLANET.
The plot, quite honestly, almost doesn't even matter in this case. You don't watch THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW for the same reasons you watch other films; i.e. story content, acting, photography, etc. You watch it because you know of it's reputation and its history and like men climbing mountains, it's there! But even the fun has its limitations, in my opinion. Somewhere around the half-way mark of the film, when the character of Dr. Everett Scott arrives at the castle, the wild fun that we've enjoyed thus far begins to simmer down to a rather dull level. Meatloaf's character of Eddie (the most enjoyable character in the whole film!) is already dead and Brad and Janet's fear has subsided, which has also taken some of the fun away. Their fear and confusion upon arrival to the wild world inside the castle is part of the wicked pleasure we take in watching these two innocent goody-goodies get the crap scared out of them. Once they've adapted to their surroundings and are taking place in the floor show finale, something has gotten lost...or just died completely.
The one constant through all of the years that I've been watching movies is that I always prefer to watch them in the privacy of my living room, usually alone. THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW is the one DVD that just isn't as fun to watch when you're alone. Other people...a whole living room of people...would certainly add to the excitement of this classic midnight madness feature. For my own history, as far as the midnight movie experience of this film, came for the first time in 1985 when I was a freshman up at college in Buffalo, at a campus screening for students only. You see, I lived across the street from a triplex movie theater that had midnight shows every Friday and Saturday night, but they outright refused to screen THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW because they didn't want to have to clean up the theater afterwards (who could blame them, I suppose). It wasn't until I switched colleges and was living in Brooklyn that I finally had access to the famous 8th Street Playhouse (there's actually a scene in the 1980 film FAME that was filmed in that theater). I went to my first midnight screening there in 1990 and made the mistake of making it known that I was a "virgin" to the evening's proceedings. Well, I can only tell you that I got targeted by those who were well experienced at this ritual, along with the other "virgins" in the theater. Hell, it was all in great fun! I enjoyed another midnight screening six years later at a theater in Chelsea with a buddy of mine, both of us long since graduated. I haven't done it again since. Now my only world of THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW lies with just me, myself and I and the DVD I own. Yes, it's boring, but it is what it is. Still, I'm grateful to my limited youthful experiences with the film and I take pleasure in the fact that 20th Century Fox has still never pulled the film from circulation, even after forty years. Tradition (and the "Time Warp") should never die!
Favorite line or dialogue:
Dr. Frank N. Furter (in song): "So, come up to the lab, and see what's on the slab. I see you shiver with antici...pation! But maybe the rain, isn't really to blame, so I'll remove the cause...but not the symptom!"