Monday, October 10, 2011

The Rocky Horror Picture Show

When looking through a list of horror comedies from the 1970s, I figured I had two main choices. The two that stood out the most were Young Frankenstein and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I loved Young Frankenstein, but I decided it was time to give another chance to RHPS, which I've always had a distant relationship with.

Rocky Horror always seemed more like an event than a movie when I was growing up. People would spend their Friday nights putting on costumes and going to one of the more rundown theaters in the area, where I heard they would shout at the screen, throw things, and haze people who were brand new to the experience. This last part guaranteed I would never go, despite how curious I was about the whole thing. I had no interest in being humiliated just because I was interested in what the whole thing was all about. It's possible that the true experience is no where near that bad, but that's certainly how people made you think it was.

At some point (I can't remember the year anymore) VH1 got the rights to show the film, and they started it off by playing it repeatedly one weekend. I tuned in out of curiosity, but quickly turned it off, completely baffled as to what the big deal was. I caught scenes on and off as I flipped through the channels that weekend, but it just left me shrugging. I figured it wasn't for me and I just left it at that.

However with this theme I decided to give it another try, especially since my knowledge of classic horror and B movies have grown quite a bit since then. I was still a bit unsure if this truly counted as a comedy film, so I asked Twitter yesterday, and got an affirmative from nearly everyone who answered.

I think my skepticism for that fact is that The Rocky Horror Picture Show is not the type of film that is meant to make you hold on to your sides laughing hard throughout. It is campy, absurdist humor drawn out to the extreme. The main characters spend the majority of the movie in their underwear, the cast is full of strange looking people, and bizarre things happen throughout.

There are some genuinely funny scenes that made me laugh, but they mostly were all gathered in the middle of the film when Dr. Scott shows up. After the silly dinner party though, we're back to just strange scenes held together by musical numbers. I think perhaps that's what stops me from calling the film truly funny. Musicals are already naturally absurd due to the fact that they are set in a world where people often feel the need to break into song or dance in order to express their emotions. Does the setting of a mad doctor's castle automatically make it more funny than one set in Oklahoma?

As a tribute to B movie films, it handles its job well. Dr. Frank-N-Furter is a fun campy rendition of Dr. Frankenstein, played excellently by Tim Curry. Susan Sarandon does well as both the damsel in distress and the good girl gone bad, and Meat Loaf makes the most of his brief scene as Eddie. For whatever reason I found myself really drawn to the character of Columbia, played by Nell Campbell. Her voice definitely makes her hard to miss, but she also seemed like the most tragic of all the characters and I couldn't help but feel for her.

I think when it comes down to it, how you're going to feel about this movie has everything to do with how you'll feel about the music. "Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me" has been in my head pretty much the entire time I'm writing this review, and it's starting to get a little annoying. I enjoy Tim Curry's performances, but the style of music just doesn't grab me. I'm not a huge musical fan in general, so that shouldn't be a surprise.

So in the end, the result is still the same - this movie is not for me. I'm still glad I watched it though. It's a fun part of both musical and B movie history that I think everyone should watch at least once.


  1. It's true, it's definitely an "experience" rather than a movie, if that makes sense. I saw the movie and didn't really get the appeal until I started participating in screenings and shadowcasts. Now I love it because it reminds me of those fun times. But as it stands on its own, it's just plain weird.

  2. FYI: If you get the DVD you can listen to the audience participation, which is pretty cool. I was not introduced to that part of the film until I was an adult, I originally saw this film at an impressionable age and watching it gives me a real sense of nostalgia.

    That being said, did you know that Anthony Stewart Head was Frank-N-Furter in the stage play for a long time?

  3. Jamie - I can see that. From what I've read, they sound like a lot of fun.

    Bethany - Oh dear. ASH in drag. I'm so confused right now. His voice is so lovely...


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