Andrew Gonzalez 10/30/10 Theater Arts 7B The Rocky Horror Picture Show For many movies, a tagline can simply sum up what a movie is all about in a few words, along with leaving an impression on whoever is reading the tagline. Sometimes this impression could be distasteful, funny, or possibly thought-provoking. In the case of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the tagline is certainly one you have to read twice. “A different set of jaws” is the tag line found on the poster of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and from the first time I read it I was intrigued.
If one were to take into account that the film was released the same year as the film Jaws, it makes sense that the tag line is poking fun at the commercial box office hit, but there is much more to it than meets the eye. The poster alone suggests that this is not a musical like any other, and the now iconic pair of lips symbolize the mystery behind the film. The Rocky Horror Picture Show was released in 1975 as an adaptation of the British musical The Rocky Horror Show, which was written by Richard O’Brien. It was directed by Jim Sharman and co-written with O’Brien.
The premiere of Rocky Horror was held at the Westwood Theater in Los Angeles, in late September of 1975. Despite being released in a handful of theaters, the film was deemed as a failure which in turn kept the film from receiving a wide release. It was not until April Fools’ Day of 1976 that the film was picked up again for another chance at the box office by Tim Deegan, a young advertising executive at 20th Century Fox. Deegan’s plan was to persuade Bill Quigley of the Walter Reade Organization to reconsider the film and have it advertised at their midnight show at the Waverly Theater in New York.
At the time, the Waverly had already built a reputation for being the heart of midnight movies, along with having great success from showing El Topo and Night of the Living Dead. From that day on, The Rocky Horror Picture Show was “born” and the immense cult following it was beginning to assemble. As time progressed, the popular idea of “audience participation” also arose and became one of the main attractions when viewing the film at a local midnight movie theater.
This idea basically consists of the audience talking back to the movie and acting out pivotal scenes in the film. For example, in the very beginning there is a wedding scene, and at that moment in time the audience would throw rice at each other. To begin, The Rocky Horror Picture Show tells the story of a newly engaged couple, Brad Majors and Janet Weiss (played by Barry Bostwick and Susan Surandon) who stumble upon a mysterious castle on a cold and rainy November night after driving from a fellow classmate’s wedding.
The story is narrated by the Criminologist (played by Charles Gray), and after entering the castle they meet Riff Raff (a handyman played by Richard O’Brien) and Magenta (a domestic played by Patricia Quinn), Columbia (a groupie played by Little Nell), Eddie (an ex-delivery boy played by Meatloaf), and last but not least Dr. Frank N. Furter, an eccentric and cross-dressing scientist (played by Tim Curry) who has found the secret to creating life. From that point on, Brad and Janet enter the ride of their lives as they try to survive the madness of Dr.
Frank N. Furter. Along the way, they witness the creation of Rocky (played by Peter Hinwood) and find their old high school science teacher Dr. Everett Scott (a rival scientist played by Jonathan Adams) who is working for the government in search of alien life forms. 1)After viewing the film multiple times, it is evident that the theme presented is the innocence lost among teenagers when making the transition into adulthood, along with being exposed to the explicit reality of it all and the inherent repressed sexual nature in all of us.
The film also sheds light on the idea of self discovery and taking to heart Dr. Frank N. Furter’s maxim “don’t dream it, be it” which he sings towards the end of the film. There are many instances in the musical numbers that address the two major themes of the film. One example of Brad and Janet being exposed to the explicit nature of adulthood could be found in the song “Sweet Transvestite” sung by Dr. Frank N. Furter where he exclaims that “I’m not much of a man by the light of day, but by night I’m one hell of a lover.
I’m just a sweet transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania. ” From this encounter, Brad and Janet are not quite sure what to expect, but they are aware that if they are going to survive the madness of Dr. Frank N. Furter, they might as well embrace the hedonistic lifestyle that he proposes throughout the film. As for the theme of being one’s self, the song “Sweet Transvestite” can be used again as an example, along with the classic tune “Time Warp” which is all about having a good time and letting go of the image that one tries to project to others. )When Richard O’Brien wrote the music and story, his whole concept was to make a fun show that would appeal to all walks of life and represent the culture of the 70’s. O’Brien’s main idea behind Rocky Horror was to pay homage to the timeless science fiction and B-movies that inspired the film’s music and story. From listening to the introductory song “Science Fiction / Double Feature” one can hear the names of many famous sci-fi movies being referenced such as Flash Gordon, Forbidden Planet, and It Came From Outer Space just to name a few.
The iconic red lips of Patricia Quinn lip-syncing to O’Brien’s voice are seen in the opening credits of the film where it is just them singing with a black back drop. This sequence was not like any other ever used to introduce a film, and it was a unique way of emulating the mysterious nature of the film. As mentioned earlier, Rocky Horror is narrated by the Criminologist who tells the story of Brad and Janet in a linear manner. Every so often, the Criminologist will interject at certain points of the film providing information on the main character’s back stories.
As for the actors who portray the character of the story, they bring a quality of genuineness to the film. For example, Brad and Janet are dynamic characters that change drastically over time within the story. In the scene where Janet sings “Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me,” we as the viewers see her transform from an innocent school girl to that of a sexually frustrated woman seducing Rocky for her own pleasure after being influenced by Dr. Frank N. Furter’s hedonistic lifestyle. The music of Rocky Horror is also something special when taken into account that it is the main device that tells the story behind the film.
The music also intertwines with the way the photography and lighting are presented. The quality of the photography is reminiscent of B-movies from the 70’s, which to some may not seem to be the highest quality, but in reality it adds to the effect of paying homage to those timeless movies. The pace and tempo was at a steady pace throughout, in addition to implementing transitions that did not deter the audience from the main attraction. There were some camera shots that stood out though, which included the scene where Dr. Frank N. Furter sings “Sweet Transvestite” walking down a red carpet.
In this shot, the camera is at level with Tim Curry’s head as he walks towards the audience while he struts his stuff. Another shot that caught my eye was that of Tim Curry swimming in a pool for the tune “Don’t Dream It, Be It,” which featured the camera looking down on him from a ceiling evoking a dream-like state as he sings “don’t dream it, be it” over and over while spinning in the pool. Behind the pool lied a huge cut out backdrop of the RKO Pictures radio tower and a stage made for large productions, and in this case, it was used during the final scene of the film.
The quality of the props and costumes were also magnificent to watch being used to better enhance the experience of The Rocky Horror Picture Show overall, and extenuate the realness of the characters’ time period. 3)The opening credits of “Science Fiction / Double Feature” and the “Time Warp” scene would probably be the best examples of the director’s style. Jim Sharman’s style would be best described as experimental, a style that does not exactly follow the norms of cinematography.
From watching the “Time Warp” scene countless times, it’s clear that Sharman wanted to have the audience feel awkward at first after being exposed to strange people called Transylvanians dancing around in outlandish outfits. After awhile, however, the audience would later feel right at home due to the even more extravagant scenes that come after the “Time Warp” scene which in comparison are not that as extreme in nature. For example, the “Sweet Transvestite” scene is one of the most memorable scenes to come out of the 70’s because it is the first to openly express gay and transsexual themes with a brilliant performance by Tim Curry. )This film is not just like any other musical that came out of the 70’s, but it is one that defined a decade and influenced a movement that defined a generation to be who they wanted to be without criticism. In reality, society would look down upon such extreme forms of self-expression, but that is why Rocky Horror exists, for those who are looking for a temporary escape from reality. Personally, I could relate a little with each character that starred in the film, and it’s highly probably that anyone slightly interested in seeing this film can find someone relatable to them in some way or another.
The ideal environment to fully enjoy this film, however, is not in your living room but in a live setting with a large audience who have the same mindset of having a good time and participating with a live cast. Singing along with people you’ve never met in your life before is an experience that I will never forget, mainly because it did not matter what one looked like or where they came from who participated in the film. Everyone was welcome to The Rocky Horror Picture Show. As long as one had the intention to have fun and be apart of this communal event, everything from there was smooth sailing.