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The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
Directed by: Jim Sharman
Starring: Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick
Running Time: 1 h 40 m
TMM Score: 4 stars out of 5
STRENGTHS: Tim Curry, Music, Production Design, Comedy, Uniqueness, Acting
WEAKNESSES: It's Not Everyone's Cup of Tea
A newly engaged couple get a flat tire near a castle where the mad Dr. Frank-N-Furter is having a party.
‘It’s just a jump to the LEFT! And then a step to the riiiiiight! With your hands on your hips, you bring your knees in tiiiiight! But it’s the pelvic thrust that really drives you insaaaaaaane! Let’s do the time warp again!’
I remember very well the first time I watched this film; I didn’t make it through- it was too much for high school junior Seth. Now, almost a decade later, I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this movie (probably at least six or seven). It’s a film that has garnered a ridiculously fun cult following, and if you ever get the chance to see a screening where they encourage props, I absolutely recommend doing that. However, I realize that this film is a bit much for some people- when I told my roommate that Michael and I were going to watch this after recording the podcast, he scoffed and said he was glad he was headed over to his girlfriends, because the film made him feel slightly uncomfortable. I understand that. The film has a LOT of sexual material (pansexual material at that) and even if it is never graphic or explicit there are lots of scenes with both men and women dancing in lingerie or various states of undress (though I believe there are only two scenes that show actual nudity, and that passes very quickly). This is a film that doesn’t care what you think of it; it’s unapologetically loud and insane, and truthfully, I wouldn’t have this film any other way.
“Didn’t we pass a castle back down the road a few miles?”
The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a musical tribute to ridiculous B-movies of the 1930, 40s, and 50s. It’s based on a stage play by Richard O’Brien (Dark City), whom, coincidentally, plays Riff-Raff in this film. As far as plot goes, the film is rather simple, though quite bizarre. It’s the story of Brad Majors (Barry Bostwick, Megaforce) and Janet Weiss (Susan Sarandon, Dead Man Walking), a newly engaged couple that breaks down on the side of the road on a dark and dreary night. Cold and wet, they trudge through the night towards a light they see coming from a castle nearby. When they arrive, they find that the castle’s owner is having a strange sort of party, and Brad and Janet soon find that they’re in far over their heads.
First off, Tim Curry (Legend) is the real star of the show. I can honestly say I don’t think anyone else could’ve played Dr. Frank-N-Furter with as much pizazz as Tim. His performance is eccentric and strange, unabashed and emotionally raw, utterly captivating and absolutely hilarious. Dr. Frank-N-Furter is of course the mad scientist that refers to himself as a ‘sweet transvestite from transsexual Transylvania,’ something that just sounds like mumbo jumbo at the beginning of the film, but believe it or not has real meaning at the end. Curry spends 95% of his screen time in heavy makeup and drag- fishnet stockings, panties, lingerie, hair perfectly coiffed- the whole ordeal (as I said, it’s not for everyone). He struts his stuff with attitude and sings his heart out from start to finish. While he’s not exactly a character with high moral standings, he is certainly iconic and memorable. As we watched this again, Michael asked how anyone could like Frank-N-Furter because of some of the tricks he pulls on Brad and Janet (mainly the episodes where he sneaks into their separate rooms), and I found myself unable to satisfactorily answer the question. He’s not a character that I would model my life after, nor his he a character I would want to spend a long time with, but he is a character that makes this movie what it is, and for that I still can say I enjoy his presence throughout (I will say that Michael did seem to enjoy this overall, despite not at first caring for Frank). Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick are both great in their own ways as well, but they don’t stand out as much as Tim.
Of course, I wouldn’t keep coming back to this movie if it weren’t for the music. Many of the songs are catchy and strange, and they include dozens of references to the movies that this film is parodying. However, this is an ‘R’ rated film, and a lot of the songs sung have references to sex and sexual related things. Again, none of the songs are explicit or ridiculously graphic, but there are enough references that I’d feel weird not mentioning it. Some of my favorite songs are D-mmit Janet, Sweet Transvestite, Time Warp, and Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch me, but there are many of catchy tunes in this little story. I will say that on this time through I found a few of the songs to be a bit too long- particularly Hot Patootie- Bless My Soul. Strangely enough, I actually really enjoy the singer Meatloaf (AKA Michael Lee Aday known primarily for his Bat out of Hell album trilogy, he also has a bunch of minor roles in movies, including Bob from Fight Club). But for some reason, his song just doesn’t resonate with me in this movie- it’s just the same chorus for three minutes. Overall though, there are a lot of great tunes to like.
Another thing I really like about this film is the production design. The film has three or four major sets, and all of them are unique in their own ways. Frank’s laboratory is strangely minimalist compared to the rest of his castle, but it works really well for what it’s trying to accomplish. It feels a bit like the laboratory in James Whale’s Frankenstein- which makes sense, as that’s what they’re alluding to. The lower levels of the castle are far more gothic feeling, but of course they add flairs of colors on the costumes and other areas. It’s just a very unique movie, and the production design really elevates that to the next level.
Personally, I really like this film, but I was on the other side of the spectrum when watching this movie for the first time. This film will not appeal to everyone, and that’s all right- there’s a reason this is considered a cult classic and not a critically acclaimed masterpiece. Come for the music, stay for the weirdness and the genius of Tim Curry.
This is part of our 31 Nights of Thrills Series. Not all of the movies we review for this series will be strictly horror, but all will have something to do with the spirit of things spooky or scary. If you like those types of movies, be sure to check back throughout the month of October!
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