Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that this “undisputed queen of the midnight movies” is “the definitive cult movie”, the “greatest phenomenon” of cinema, and “the one movie that can’t even be discussed without mentioning its fans”, who have “changed it from being an undistinguished, campy horror-SF send-up to a fabulously entertaining multi-media midnight show.” It remains the “ultimate audience-participation film”: cult-viewers who’ve seen the movie hundreds of times “may be dressed like their favorite characters”, “recite the dialogue en masse, shout out their own additions to the script, and, under a spotlight, put on a singing-dancing-mime performance that half-duplicates, half-parodies the action taking place on the screen above them”. In his essay on TRHPS for his Cult Movies book, Peary admits to only sitting through this flick once himself (he writes “I was wary of attending… because of all the bad press about theater violence, but I found the reports exaggerated”), so clearly he’s not a personal fan — but he notes that the “beauty” of live screenings is “that in one row you’ll find gays, transvestites, psychology students, stoned-out viewers from the film that ended at midnight, high-school students out on dates, and people who wonder what they’re doing there”.
By watching the movie on DVD (Blu-Ray is recommended), it’s much easier to get a sense of the film itself and what is has to offer — or not. Peary writes that, in his opinion, “the picture — minus the sing-along — isn’t particularly well made or amusing”, but he likes it “when the stodgy criminologist (Charles Grey)… demonstrates dance steps”, and finds “the big production of ‘The Time Warp'” and “Meatloaf’s wild rock number, ‘Whatever Happened to Saturday Night?'” “a lot of fun”. He also points out that “Curry is dynamic as the cinema’s one” (?) “masculine-acting (sweet) transvestite”. Indeed, Curry’s performance is both iconic and mesmerizing; it’s difficult to keep your eyes off of him whenever he’s on-screen. When he’s not, it’s hit or miss. There is, of course, much, much more to read and learn about this cult classic (see Peary’s Cult Movies essay or the fan website) — and there’s nothing quite like finding a “live” screening near you.
Note: The film’s sequel — Shock Treatment (1981) — is included in the back of GFTFF but dismissed by Peary as “disastrous”.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Tim Curry as Dr. Frank-N-Furter (nominated as one of the Best Actors of the Year in Peary’s Alternate Oscars)
- Truly wild sets and costumes
- Multiple fun homages to classic Hollywood
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)