Movie: The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Production Company: Michael White Productions
Director: Jim Sharman
Producers: Lou Adler, Michael White
Scriptwriters: Richard O’Brien, Jim Sharman
Main Cast: Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick, Richard O’Brien
Release Date: August 14th 1975 (US)
Running Time: 100 minutes
So, with a stage show either currently (or having wrapped up) in Liverpool, why not look at the cult classic film? While it may have bombed back in 1975, Rocky Horror has gone on to become one of the most celebrated cult classic films of all time. This is no small part due to a great cast, excellent songs and some great representation. So, without further ado here is my review of the film.
The film opens with a musical number (Science Fiction/Double Feature). A criminologist tells us about Janet Weiss and Brad Majors (Dammit Janet) who find themselves stranded after getting a flat tire and lost. Helpfully, there’s a castle nearby (Over at the Frankenstein Place) where Brad and Janet go to try and find a telephone. However, inside they discover an ongoing Transylvanian Convention. Here, they meet Riff-Raff, his sister Magenta and a groupie called Columbia (Time Warp). Finally we meet Dr Frank-N-Furter, a bisexual mad scientist, introduces himself to the couple (Sweet Transvestite)
The Reveal of Rocky
In his lab, Frank introduces Brad and Janet to ‘the secret to life’: a tall, muscular handsome man called Rocky (The Sword of Damocles). Frank then promises to improve Rocky into an ideal man in a week (I Can Make You A Man). Until, swerve! A delivery boy, Eddie, breaks out of deep freeze riding a motorcycle, interrupting Frank, and causing the Transylvanians to break out into song (Hot Patootie). As Rocky starts enjoying the performance, Frank murders Eddie with an pickaxe. Somehow, Frank justifies this as a mercy killing then he and Rocky go to the marital suite (I Can Make You A Man – Reprise).
Frank starts sleeping around
Brad and Janet are then shown in separate rooms, where Frank has sex with both of them whilst disguised as the other person. Basically he has sex with Janet dressed as Frank (and vice versa for Brad). Understandably, Janet is upset and emotional after losing her virginity to Frank. This is heightened when she sees Frank and Brad smoking together. She then finds Rocky in his birth tank, who is hiding from Magenta and Riff-Raff. So, obviously while Janet tends to his wounds, she decides to sleep with him (Touch-A, Touch-A, Touch-A, Touch Me). All of this takes place with Magenta and Riff-Raff watching on a monitor.
The arrival of Dr Scott
After finding out Rocky is missing, Frank returns to the lab with Brad and Riff-Raff. However, swerve! An intruder has entered the castle: Dr Everett Scott, who just happens to be Brad and Janet’s former science teacher. Anyway, Scott investigates UFOs for the government which obviously alarms Frank. But don’t worry, Scott and Brad being at the castle at the same time is just a coincidence…. Then everybody in the lab discovers Janet and Rocky together. And at this point, Magenta calls everyone for dinner.
What happened to Eddie?
Obviously, Rocky and his guests share an uncomfortable dinner, which they realise is made out of Eddie’s remains (Eddie). Gross… Janet then runs into Rocky’s arms, provoking Frank to chase her through the halls (Planet Schmanet Janet). Frank then gathers all the guests in the lab where he turns them into statues (Planet Hot Dog). He then dresses them in cabaret costumes and has them perform a cabaret show for him (Rose Tint My World/Don’t Dream It, Be it/Wild and Untamed Thing).
Riff-Raff and Magenta then emerge in space cadet costumes and confront Frank. They tell him he has failed his mission so Riff-Raff shoots him with a ray gun, after a musical number (I’m Going Home) Rocky then takes Frank’s corpse and jumps to his death in a pool. Riff-Raff and Magenta then announce they are returning to their home planet of Transsexual in Transylvania Galaxy. Janet, Brad and Dr Scott just get out of the castle before it takes off. Finally, the narrator announces that the human race is equivalent to insects crawling on the planet’s surface.
Two more songs play over the credits (Super Heroes and Double Feature/Science Fiction – Reprise)
Janet in Rocky Horror
To begin my analysis of Rocky Horror, I’m going to talk about Susan Sarandon’s Janet and how, umm, quickly she adapts to staying in Rocky’s castle. Considering how reluctant she and Brad were when they entered the castle, she ends up adapting to Frank’s antics. And what better example of this is there than her sleeping with Frank and then Rocky in the space of three scenes? If only there was a song that told the audience what to think of Janet….
Anyway, this becomes even worse due to the fact Janet is married to Brad. Even the way both scenes are shot reflects the shadiness of the acts. For the scene where Janet is having sex with ‘Brad’, the scene is shot from the outside of the bed with both figures seen only as shadows. This only enhances the reveal that it is Rocky dressing as Brad for reasons known only to the mad scientist. Anyway, in the two/three scenes after having sex with Frank Janet decides to have sex with Rocky because she sees Frank and Brad in bed together. Does she not understand how that is his entire character?
Songs in Rocky Horror
Continuing my analysis of Rocky Horror, I’m going to discuss the songs featured on the soundtrack. Personally, the best song for me is either Dammit Janet or Sweet Transvestite. Anyway, the songs in Rocky Horror obviously act like songs in musicals, mainly as a way for the characters to express themselves and forcing the audience to question whether they are actually singing or not. Lovely stuff there… Anyway, songs in Rocky Horror also allow for great comedic moments like everything yelling something at Janet, I can’t quite remember. This is further reinforced by Sweet Transvestite, one example of a powerhouse performance from Tim Curry.
Here we learn all about Frank and his lifestyle, all while Tim Curry is putting in an incredible performance, without having to write all the character backstory and development into the script. Another advantage of the musical numbers is how wide the lens and shots are for the numbers. Take I Can Make You A Man as an example. Here, a wide shot is used potentially to mimic a stage setting from an actual musical. Or it could be used to show how Frank has control over the castle, hence the lyrics and the fact that he is clearly in control when he murders Eddie and chases Rocky. Utterly weird yet strangely compelling….
Rocky Horror’s cult status
Anyway, to conclude my analysis of Rocky Horror, I’m going to delve into the film’s cult status and how it evolved over time. As mentioned in the introduction, when Rocky Horror was first released in 1975 it was a box office bomb. How much of a bomb? Well, the film had a budget of $1.4 million and initially pulled in $21,245 on opening weekend. How did it pull so little in? Well, frankly the reviews of the film gave little indication that the film was any good.
However, people soon started flocking to midnight screenings and soon the film became the film that you had to see. Over time, the film became the definition of a cult film and to the day it has grossed a very respectable $226 million. Which for context is more than the best film ever made: Morbius. Anyway, back on topic nowadays Rocky Horror has become a phenomenon with midnight screenings still on in select cinemas to this day.
To summarise Rocky Horror, this is a mad, wild and probably cocaine fuelled musical which was (and still is) genuinely groundbreaking. This is both in terms of its cult status and characters which manage to be progressive in the 1970s. Anyway, if you only want one reason to watch Rocky Horror: Tim Curry. That’s all.
Overall Rating: 8/10
Target Audience: 15+
Content Warning: Mild Frightening and Intense Scenes, Mild Violence and Gore, Mild Bad Language, Moderate Sex and Nudity