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The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) - Jim Sharman

Related: 1975 - cult film - American cinema - midnight movies

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) - Jim Sharman [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]


    The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) - Jim Sharman [Amazon.com]

    If a musical sci-fi satire about an alien transvestite named Frank-n-Furter, who is building the perfect man while playing sexual games with his virginal visitors, sounds like an intriguing premise for a movie, then you're in for a treat. Not only is The Rocky Horror Picture all this and more, but it stars the surprising cast of Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick (as the demure Janet and uptight Brad, who get lost in a storm and find themselves stranded at Frank-n-Furter's mansion), Meat Loaf (as the rebel Eddie), Charles Gray (as our criminologist and narrator), and, of course, the inimitable Tim Curry as our "sweet transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania."

    Upon its release in 1975, the film was an astounding flop. But a few devotees persuaded a New York theater to show it at midnight, and thus was born one of the ultimate cult films of all time. The songs are addictive (just try getting "The Time Warp" or "Toucha Toucha Touch Me" out of your head), the raunchiness amusing, and the plot line utterly ridiculous--in other words, this film is simply tremendous good fun. The downfall, however, is that much of the amusement is found in the audience participation that is obviously missing from a video version (viewers in theaters shout lines at the screen and use props--such as holding up newspapers and shooting water guns during the storm, and throwing rice during a wedding scene). Watched alone as a straight movie, Rocky Horror loses a tremendous amount of its charm. Yet, for those who wish to perfect their lip-synching techniques for movie theater performances or for those who want to gather a crowd around the TV at home for some good, old-fashioned, rowdy fun, this film can't be beat. --Jenny Brown, Amazon.com

Midnight movies

Midnight movies: films that are off-beat, a bit bizarre and only appeal to a small segment of film audiences. They are dubbed Midnight Movies because most theatres will only exhibit these films on or after midnight. Generally, these are not movies oriented for children in any manner. Constituent members in this genre include Glenn or Glenda (1952), Night of the Living Dead (1967-68), The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), and Eraserhead (1976). --http://video.barnesandnoble.com/search/glossary.asp [Oct 2004]

What makes a cult classic a classic?

by Elizabeth A. Allen (with help from Umberto Eco), http://oddpla.net/frplace/theater/eco.html

Umberto Eco provides an interesting thesis for the appeal of the cult work of art. In "Casablanca: Cult Movies and Intertextual Collage," an essay that comes from his anthology Faith in Fakes: Travels in Hyperreality, Eco talks specifically about Casablanca, but his ideas can extended to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, as well as all other cult media. To succeed as a cult artwork, The Rocky Horror Picture Show has to have the following characteristics.

  1. "It must provide a completely furnished world so that its fans can quote characters and episodes as if they were aspects of the fan's private sectarian world, a world about which one can make up quizzes and play trivia games so that the adepts of the sect recognize through each other a shared experience." In other words, The Rocky Horror Picture Show charges ordinary phrases with almost magical meanings to be deciphered only by the initiates. For example, it can turn an innocent statement of expectation -- "I'm shivering with antici...pation!" -- into an inside joke of sexual innuendo if the speaker and the listener know Frank's lascivious context for it.

  2. "It should not display one central idea but many. It should not reveal a coherent philosophy of composition. It must live on, and because of, its glorious ricketiness. .... [I]t must display certain textual features, in the sense that, outside the conscious control of its creators, it becomes a sort of textual syllabus, a living example of living textuality." This means that it should be messy in an exuberant and enjoyable way, which the film certainly is. Eco even comments on the improvisational production values of The Rocky Horror Picture Show in his essay, but those are part of what makes it fun. (I get the sense that the producers said to each other, "Hey! No one's danced around in a funny outfit for ten minutes! Let's have a costume change and a chorus!") As for the film's being an example of "living textuality," this is shown most dramatically by the whole concept of audience participation, which is, in effect, a parallel script or re-write of the entire thing.

  3. It's got to have so many cliches in it that it transcends banality. This is difficult to conceive of, but Eco explains: "Two cliches make us laugh but a hundred cliches move us because we sense dimly that the cliches are talking among themselves, celebrating a reunion. Just as the extreme of pain meets sensual pleasure [give yourself over to it!], and the extreme of perversion borders on mystical energy, so too the extreme of Banality allows us to catch a glimpse of the Sublime." So because the movie has the archetypical ingenue (Janet), the archetypical ineffectual dweeb (Brad), the archetypical rock-'n'-roll renegade (Eddie), the requisite debauching of the innocents, the requisite alien invasion, the requisite creation of life by mad scientist, as well as many other debts to other films (best accentuated by the opening number "Science Fiction Double Feature," a bunch of allusions to famous B movies), it's a work of great genius! As much as I do like the film, I'm not sure that I agree with that statement. But I must admit that it's a creative and amusing parody.

    I'd also like to add one more reason, the most important, which has made The Rocky Horror Picture Show such a well-loved favorite, something Eco did not address:

  4. . SEX! As Frank says, "A mental mind fuck can be nice!"

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