Home Video Hovel: The Rocky Horror Picture Show, by David Bax
The Rocky Horror Picture Show celebrated its 40th anniversary last year with a special edition Blu-ray. Director Jim Sharman, who also helmed the original London stage production, was of course aware of the musical burgeoning cult status when he made the film. Now, four decades hence, it’s difficult to imagine that anyone potentially purchasing this new disc isn’t familiar with the movie’s legendary reputation as an interactive midnight tradition. So, then, how exactly are we to appraise the film? With these multiple layers of self-awareness, is it disingenuous to be objective and imagine watching it with fresh eyes? As it turns out, it doesn’t really matter. Even taken at face value, it’s a blast of campy energy that may be imperfect but is transcendent in its imperfections.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show is the tale of Brad (Barry Bostwick) and Janet (Susan Sarandon) a square couple whose car breaks down in a rainstorm and who have the misfortune of knocking on the door of Dr. Frank N. Furter (Tim Curry) while looking for help. They are swept into the deranged world of this outlandish, cross-dressing madman and his cohort of grotesques and misfits.
In many ways, Rocky Horror is unable to escape its stage-bound beginnings, with long stretches of screen time with multiple narrative developments often unfolding in a single room. At the same time, though, Sharman is able to make filmic choices that allow the work to stand on its own. Mostly, he takes his cues from the cinema fantastique subgenre of European erotic horror, splashing his composition with garish colors and framing the many oddities of the story and the location in handheld shots with wide-angle lenses.
Even the fantastique films are meant to shock the status quo, Rocky Horror goes one step further and openly mocks those who would be outraged. The movie takes great joy in the seduction of innocence and the corruption of morals. The movie is not out specifically to violate your mores because it doesn’t even have enough respect for them to take them seriously. Its chief ambition is pure, hedonistic fun. So, whether you’re sitting down to watch it for the first time or you’re planning to throw toast at your TV screen, its best to just enjoy the ride.
The transfer on this Blu-ray is beautiful. Such a colorful movie is meant to be seen with just this kind of brilliance and clarity. And with its 7.1 audio, it’s enough to make anyone with a good enough home theater system want to start hosting midnight screenings of their own.
The many, many special features include an audio commentary with actors Richard O’Brien and Patricia Quinn, deleted scenes, both the U.K. and U.S. versions of the film, outtakes, alternate end credits, some pre-existing featurettes on the film and on its tenth anniversary screening as well as one about set photographer Mick Rock, the (also pre-existing) “Time Warp” music video and trailers. There are also various options under the header “The Midnight Experience” that allow you to customize the interactivity of your viewing, as well as karaoke for all the musical numbers.