Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Gender Bending
- Horror Films
- Mad Doctors and Scientists
- Science Fiction
- Susan Sarandon Films
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 Rocky Horror 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
- Cult Movie
- Historically Relevant
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)
2 thoughts on “Rocky Horror Picture Show, The (1976)”
‘RHPS’ should be seen at least once by all ffs. However – subsequent viewings (of this film in particular) will depend on viewer sensibility.
My view is perhaps the polar-opposite of that of the assessment. First…I think Peary makes a huge mistake in critiquing the film almost solely from the view of its fans. He admits to not liking it very much. Fair enough. But judging it from the POV of its fans pretty much negates the film entirely – in an unfair manner.
My appreciation of ‘RHPS’ stems largely from timing. I first saw it at the (old) Waverly Theater in NYC (shortly after I moved there) when midnight screenings had only recently started. It was an experience far removed from the remarkable phenomenon the film would become.
At that time, as opposed to watching it with a mob, it was much more like watching it with close friends. I distinctly remember what it was like in that theater balcony (and I went a number of times with my own friends while the screening experience remained a more intimate one). The focus was on the film – but, to the right or left of you, there would be the odd remark thrown out (the use of props by audiences was still down the road as well) but the remarks came only intermittently, and it was usually something witty and sophisticated. From the beginning, ‘RHPS’ was a film that encouraged verbal feedback (with the theater air full of pot, how could it not?) but overall respect for the film was maintained and people were mostly paying close attention to it.
That all changed later – and that was when I more or less stopped going. That may sound snobbish but (personally) I was less interested in a film experience that had a lot less to do with the actual film – which had become subservient to the audience need for an event.
Over the years, I have seen this film MANY times (and bought the blu-ray not that long ago). I happen to think it is brilliantly executed in every detail. One thing that can make many viewings necessary is that there is simply too much to absorb in a single viewing. Working with a surprisingly modest budget, director Jim Sharman ingeniously used an ‘Everything *and* the kitchen sink’ approach with visual/production design and the way he directed his cast. ‘RHPS’ is a delirious free-for-all.
Clearly, there are those who do not see it that way – and I wouldn’t really try to convert those who resist the film’s endless charms. You’re either in with it or you’re not.
Much has been said and written in many places about the individual performers so I don’t find it necessary to point them out here. But, reportedly, it seems that, overall, the cast had a blast making the film – and it shows (esp. whenever someone has a chance to utter one of the script’s juicier lines – and there many juicy gems in the script). The fun is infectious (again, if one wants to be infected). And I imagine those lyrics are a hell of a lot of fun to sing and perform.
I have always found ‘RHPS’ to be a film fanatic’s dream – there are so many film (and pop culture) references that it’s enjoyable observing how fond the film’s creators are of the influences that inspired their creation. Amazingly, the film continues to work for me every single time I see it. I still find it hilariously funny and endlessly entertaining.
Fave sequence: ‘I’m Going Home’.
As for the film’s sequel (which Peary bizarrely calls ‘disastrous’)…
I also remember when ‘Shock Treatment’ opened – again via midnight shows at the Waverly. (IIRC, what they first did was screen ‘ST’ on Friday nights and then ‘RH’ on Saturday nights – which continued for awhile until ‘RHPS’ resumed Fri. and Sat. showings.) Hardcore ‘RHPS’ fans knew that ‘ST’ received lukewarm critical response – but they were not going to let the critics get away with that; they were going to keep open minds.
Obviously, ‘ST’ was not ‘on all cylinders’ in the way ‘RHPS’ was. In some ways, it was a very different film because it was not trying to…continue…the ‘RHPS’ story. It was going in a different direction, with a different (but, in its own way, still very potent) message.
Reportedly, the making of ‘ST’ was rushed – even more than the making of ‘RHPS’ had been rushed. But, even if the flaws in ‘ST’ are apparent (to me, this consists only of a few of the songs being a bit less inspired musically) – I honestly don’t think ‘ST’ has anything to apologize for. (I also have a copy of ‘ST’…and watch it from time to time. I find it a lot darker than ‘RHPS’ but I think what works in it – which is most of it – works splendidly.)
I’m mostly disappointed that Sharman (apparently) retired from making films. My understanding is that he returned to his first love (the theater) and stayed there.
This should be 1975.
The original midnight movie and a splendid time. I’m not major fan / cultist and like the sequel Shock Treatment (1981) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ equally.