Wednesday, 21 March 2018

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

Released in a glorious year that also saw my shining soul gifted to the world, The Rocky Horror Picture Show is the film that you already know all about. Initially a stage show, the success of the film started to grow and grow when it became an adored audience participation event.

I have walked by theatres that were putting on a production of the show, admiring all of the audience members in their variety of costumes (wearing everyday clothes to one of the shows would surely leave you sticking out like a sore thumb), and I am aware of the various cues that get the audience involved with the unfolding events on stage/screen. It looks as if every fan has a bloody good time, letting their hair down and just enjoying the company of kindred spirits who are all there for the full experience.

This is why I have watched the movie about three times now, with this being my third viewing. And, I'm sorry for those who are about to be upset with me, I still don't enjoy it.

Brad (Barry Bostwick) and Janet (Susan Sarandon) are a pair of young lovebirds who end up stranded on a dark and stormy night, leading to them asking for help at the home of Dr Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry). It's a very special night for the doctor and his friends, and Brad and Janet may wish they had never crossed over his doorstep.

Okay, I wasn't entirely honest when I said that I don't enjoy this movie. There are parts of it that I enjoy. The first 4-5 songs are great. In fact, the film maintains a decent amount of momentum right up until Tim Curry sings the last notes of "Sweet Transvestite". It then dips, before lifting back up again with both "I Can Make You A Man" and "Hot Patootie - Bless My Soul". And then it dips again. And just keeps dipping, slumping further and further down towards a whimper of a finale.

The cast all do well enough, with the three leads all fantastic and nice turns from Richard O' Brien (who wrote the show, and adapted it to the screen with director Jim Sharman), Patricia Quinn, Charles Gray, Nell Campbell, and Meatloaf. Everyone stands in the mighty shadow of Curry, who gives one of his most iconic performances, performing every line with great gusto and a sense that he is savouring the taste of every single syllable.

The big problem here is the material. While it's often said that The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a musical parody tribute to the b-movies that all came before it, I have never found enough here to put it in line with those films. Yes, the silly plot and individual elements here and there will ring a bell to anyone who has watched sci-fi and horror films, particularly from the '50s and '60s, but it's all TOO silly and slapdash to feel like a well-crafted homage. The opening title song and details of the closing sequence aside, there's very little in the main body of the film that feels affectionate or indebted enough to the wealth of source material that O'Brien had to draw on.

Everyone will rush to tell me that I am missing out by not watching this with the intended audience, and it's something I will happily try out one day, but a film should also work as, well, a film. This doesn't. It's not absolutely awful, thanks to a few good songs and that amazing turn from Curry, but I have never thought it as anything great. Which didn't stop me buying it, AND Shock Treatment (an odd sorta-sequel that I will be checking out in the next few weeks, hopefully).

Fans can buy the film here.
American fans can buy it here.

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