I would like, if I may, to take you on a strange journey… The cult hit musical The Rocky Horror Picture Show currently holds the record for the longest running release in cinema history having never been pulled by 20th Century Fox since its release in 1975. Chances are if you are in a large city that you’ll be able to find the film on at a midnight screening sometime in the near future. Though in no way a hit on its release, the film has since made one hundred times its original budget and has become one of the most popular musical films in history and my personal favourite.
Brad Majors (Barry Bostwick) and his new fiancée Janet Weiss (Susan Sarandon) are on their way to visit their old college professor when they break down in the middle of nowhere. Spotting a castle not far away they head off to see if they can use the phone but discover on their arrival that they have turned up on the night of an unusual party hosted by transvestite scientist Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry) to celebrate the birth of a creature that Frank-N-Furter has created in his lab.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show is my favourite musical for a number of reasons. The first reason is the bonkers story. It doesn’t make much sense and doesn’t appear to try to. The story is just a device to get from one set piece to the next and if it kind of joins together in some sort of narrative then great, if not then who cares, there’s a man dancing in a basque and stilettos. The plot and script is really quirky, fun, sometimes dark but extremely funny. Even though I was seeing it today from probably the forth or fifth time, I was still laughing.
The second reason I love this film is because of its songs. Not only are the songs funny and very well sung by the cast but they are catchy and much more rock n’ roll than your average musical. The overall genre could probably be described as glam rock but there’s a decent variety included. I couldn’t help but sing along to the likes of Science Fiction/Double Picture, Sweet Transvestite and Damn it Janet while Time Warp is one of those songs which everyone seems to know, whether they are aware of Rocky Horror or not. Tim Curry’s voice is quite incredible and overall he gives a mind blowing performance. His is one of my all time favourite acting performances and I love to watch him strut his stuff while giving knowing nods to the camera. Richard O’Brian who actually wrote the original stage play is another who sounds fantastic and gives a great performance. Susan Sarandon spends most of the film in her underwear which is… nice, and she also sounds really good. Her character arc is also the most interesting, going from shy, demure girl to impassioned and sexually vivacious woman.
I think that the film is extremely bold in some of its visuals and themes given its release date. Cross dressing, transvestism, pansexualism, infidelity and nudity are not the sort of things that you’d associate with mainstream cinema of the period and it’s surprising to me that there wasn’t more fuss and outrage at the film’s release. I can’t find any evidence of it. As much as I love the film, it and the stage show are responsible for one of my most horrendous childhood memories. When I was about thirteen, my parents went to a production of The Rocky Horror Show and went in costume (as many people do) with my dad dressed as Frank-N-Furter. It’s an image which I still can’t shake and I get a reminded each time I go to their house as they have a picture pride of place on their mantelpiece.
As well as the story, performances and songs I also really love the whole look feel of the film. The castle in which it was shot was a regular feature in the Hammer Horror films and matches the B-Movie/horror visuals which the film aims for. The costumes are famously brilliant with Frank-N-Furter’s probably one of the most iconic in film history. The makeup is equally brilliant. To be perfectly honest there isn’t anything that I don’t like about this film and not only consider it my favourite musical but probably in my top ten films of all time.