35 years have passed since Tim Curry changed the future of Halloween forever. For when the beautifully-lipped, velvet-voiced actor donned corset, fishnets and whorish red lipstick, he invited a million straight men the world over to embrace their inner slut, purchase some man-sized fuck-me heels and strut their stuff with reckless abandon. But not one of them could match up to Curry in the lips stakes. Hell, few women even have lips that good looking…
35 years man. That is an incredibly long time in the world of film, and yet nothing can dilute how I feel about the film: it remains one of the most iconic musicals ever committed to film, and its longevity, not only as a movie favourite, but in its many on-stage versions is testament to its genius. And now, the film is set to be loved again as it is re-released this week for the first time on Blu-ray.
Heralded perfectly as a B-movie sci-fi/horror parody, resplendent with generic cliches and quirks, a 1950s nostalgia piece seen through a skewed filter, and as a cutting satire of mainstream America’s reaction to the perceived depravities of the sexual revolution, ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ is still a wonderfully appropriate commentary on what is acceptable and on the beautiful oddities that can exist in the culture of the boundaries. In a funny twist, and thanks to the cult-appeal that has seen Rocky Horror play almost relentlessly every week in colourful midnight screenings, the film experience has become far bigger than the film itself, embracing the way the film celebrates the grubby underbelly of society by inviting the usually straight-laced audience members to dress as the film’s characters and actively participate in the screening. Such screenings are usually a wonder to behold, and there is something incredibly endearing about the way the film flashes its knickers provocatively and sexes everything up a notch.
But beyond the cult appeal, the film is actually still very good in itself. The sign of a good musical is always how memorable its songs are – ‘Rocky Horror’ has a number of excellent songs, including main-stream cross-over ‘The Time Warp’ and the beautifully theatrical ‘Sweet Transvestite’. Every song is an experience to behold, and truth be told it is they that are the major driving force behind the film, as comprehensible plot-lines become a decidedly secondary concern to the musical set-pieces. The somewhat flimsy plot, centred around the allegorical sexual awakening of all-American couple Brad and Janet is merely a vehicle for the iconic songs, but who cares, really? The overall effect is just wonderful, and the enduring strength of the film is definitely down to its quality as much as the way it opens up the possibility of being different, and celebrating that otherness in so raunchy a fashion.
Tim Curry is mesmorising as Dr Frank N Furter, stealing the show in a never-to-be-repeated career high-point, but both Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick are excellent as his naive prey. I have to say, Curry’s Frank N Furter was one of my first cinematic crushes: I didn’t necessarily want to have sex with him, but I was so captivated by his charm, so enslaved to his androgynous lasciviousness and so wholly entranced by the way he flirts with the camera and his fellow actors that I knew I wouldn’t very quickly be able to shake the image of this deviant burlesque magician out of my head. He continues to hold that power, and I strongly believe that is a great shame of the disposable nature of acting talents that Curry has not appeared in more films in the 35 years since he wowed in Rocky Horror.
The final validation of the film’s appeal will come this week thanks to another pop culture phenomenon, when ‘Glee’ goes ‘Rocky Horror’, no doubt opening the floodgates for millions of musical fans to visit the original for the first time, and what they will find is a grand occasion of a film that has stood the test of time and which grows considerably with every subsequent viewing.
Beautiful. Thankfully, the transfer is a fitting tribute to the 35th anniversary: transferred from the original negatives and not from any of the later DVD releases this high-definition version is a treat, devoid of any unnecessary digital manipulation and with the natural grain intact. That may seem like an odd thing to say in a celebration of the success of a high-def transfer, but the faithfulness shown to the film’s grain also shows an integrity and a desire to retain the filmic quality of the original, which is important here because sometimes age means vintage. Had Fox stripped the film back, lathered on some DNR and edge enhancement in an effort to give the film a new sparkle, the effect would have been far less rich, and a good deal of charm would inevitably have disappeared along with the image’s character and imperfections.
Overall, the transfer is exceptional: the richness of colour and black levels are beautiful throughout,contrast is perfect, and the sound is simply fantastic. Fox have added two extra surround channels, adding a distinct richness to the non-musical sequences, but it is in the song sequences that the sound transfer really shines, with each imparted with the kind of quality you’d expect from an album Master tape of the highest quality.
There’s a lot here in terms of extra enjoyment, and Fox have definitely gone all out to offer a package that meets the heady expectations of fans of the film, especially on the auspicious occasion of its 35th birthday. Highlights include the Rocky-Oke sing-along section and the Midnight Experience, which consists of four excellent in-feature components including the participation prompts that make it possible to recreate the Midnight Screening experience in the privacy of your own home- no doubt a new staple of future film nights I run. Overall, an exceptional presentation.
- Audio Commentary with Richard O’Brien and Patricia Quinn.
- A Few From The Vault: Deleted scenes and outtakes.
- Alternate opening (in black & white)
- Two theatrical trailers
- Alternate misprint ending
- Mick Rock (A Photographer).
- Mick Rock’s Picture Show (A Gallery).
- Poster gallery and Pressbook gallery.
- Rocky Horror Double Feature Video Show (from the 1995 Beacon Theatre, New York 10th Anniversary Celebration)
- Don’t Dream It, Be It: The Search for the 35th Anniversary Shadowcast Pt. I.
- An-tic-i-pation: The Search for the 35th Anniversary Shadowcast Pt. II.
- Rocky-Oke: Sing It!
- The Midnight Experience: The Late Night Double Feature Picture-in-Picture Show, Vintage Callback Track, Prop Box and Trivia Track.
‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ is available on Blu-ray from today.
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Simon Gallagher, OWF’s Horror & Comics Writer
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