Dir: Jim Sharman, 1975
A strong contender as the most famous cult film of all time, Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Picture Show continues to gain new fans and delight followers the world over.
Based on O’Brien’s 1973 stage play The Rocky Horror Show, this film adaptation is wonderfully delirious mix of comedy, sci-fi, sex, kink, horror, parody and, of course, music.
After their car has a blow out, Brad Majors and his fiancee Janet Weiss, seek refuge at the castle of Dr. Frank N Furter, a alien transvestite scientist from the planet Transsexual in the Transylvanian galaxy.
As brilliant as the film is, once you’ve seen the stage play the movie feels somewhat diluted. The music is fantastic and the stars are all excellent in their roles. However, that energy that flows through its veins and surrounds an audience, is lacking on celluloid.
To be fair, director Jim Sharman cannot be blamed for that as The Rocky Horror Show thrives on audience participation. Sharman directed the original 1973 play, so it isn’t as if he’s out of his depth. The Australian has a perfect grasp of the concept and knows exactly what to do. But, like many shows, the transition to film isn’t always a successful one.
It’s all about swings and roundabouts. There are elements of the theatre production that don’t work, so the film improves on that. Audience interaction is okay to a degree, but, after a while, some of it begins to grate. The so-called “ad-libs” by the Narrator, reek of being pre-written and often distract from the show, leaving a stench of embarrassment. Being made for the cinema, the asides to the audience are absent which is a good thing.
The Rocky Horror Show, feels more like a fancy dress party as 99% of the patrons arrive dressed as the characters. It’s this, and the enthusiasm for the show that emits a rapturous energy. If you are lucky enough to see a midnight showing of the film on the big screen, with actors re-enacting the action live underneath it, then some of that zest will inevitably encompass the evening. But, in its own, everything seems so flat.
Yet, that doesn’t stop The Rocky Horror Picture Show from being a wonderfully brilliant movie, with an awesome soundtrack. All the classics are here, with The Time Warp being a particular standout.
Thankfully, the original cast of the ’73 production are retained with only the odd change. American’s Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick play Brad and Janet, in which they do a brilliant job. It’s difficult to imagine, the late Christopher Malcolm and Julie Covington as the virginal heroes.
Rock star Meat Loaf, reprises his role as Eddie from the stage production, and is magnificent. The stage show required that the same character portray both Eddie and Dr. Scott but, in a wise move, they have Jonathan Adams as the doctor, leaving Meat Loaf to concentrate on his role.
As a stage play, The Rocky Horror Show was produced relatively cheap, with a small budget. With finances at just over a million pounds, the film is, inevitably, much grander.
But bigger doesn’t mean better. A re-recorded score, encapsulating a brass section and orchestra, takes away from the b-movie feel that O’Brien and musical director, Richard Hartley, was going for.
Listening to the Original Cast Recording album, the music is flat and carried by a minimal selection of instruments. This supports the amateur low-quality that was vitally important to the show’s success. More professional, the movie soundtrack no longer has the feel of everything that The Rocky Horror Show is.
All negatives aside, The Rocky Horror Picture Show is still a blast and rollicking good fun, standing head and shoulders above all other cults and musicals.
Get your suspenders on, bring your knees in tight and pelvic thrust your way into ecstasy.