Written By: Angela DiLella
Edited BY: Grave Reviews Staff
Adapted From: The Rocky Horror Show, a musical by Richard O’Brien
Director: Jim Sharman
Producers: Lou Adler, Michael White
Screenwriter: Richard O’Brien, Jim Sharman
Release Date: August 14, 1975
Tim Curry as Doctor Frank-N-Furter
Susan Sarandon as Janet Weiss
Barry Bostwick as Brad Majors
Richard O’Brien as Riff Raff
Charles Gray as the Criminologist
Patricia Quinn as Magenta
Rating = 4/5 Graves
***May contain some spoilers***
Newly engaged couple Brad (Barry Bostwick) and Janet (Susan Sarandon) find themselves with a flat tire in a rainstorm in an unfamiliar place. Trudging through the storm in search of a telephone, they come across a castle. The rather eccentric help invites them in—and they quickly become wrapped up in the song and plans of mad scientist Frank-N-Furter, who has just created the perfect man.
Although there isn’t really gore on-screen, we do see a murder and some heavily implied cannibalism. It’s easy to forget about these things in the fun of the quirky musical, which makes them all the more shocking.
The Grave Review
What to say about what could very well be the biggest cult movie ever made? Despite bombing at the box office, it is thought to be the longest-running film in history. Supposedly The Rocky Horror Picture Show has always been showing somewhere since its original release. It has a huge cult following that has transformed theatrical screenings into partial stage plays. Forty plus years after its premier, it’s hard to look at Rocky Horror just as itself.
The movie’s greatest strength is that, well, it’s fun. The movie is meant to be a homage to fifties and sixties sci-fi and horror, the really campy B-movie fare, like Tarantula (1955) or Plan Nine From Outer Space (1959), and it revels in it. The set design, the makeup, and the acting are considerably better than most of those sorts of movies combined, but it doesn’t stray from the feel of those kinds of movies. Still, you can tell it’s a homage, it doesn’t go out of its way to emulate the poorer aspects of those B-movies, but it certainly winks at familiar features, like the cheesiness of them.
Of course, this does mean that Rocky Horror is missing some substance that a viewer may be looking for. The characters and story are, admittedly, paper-thin, much like the B-movies it pays homage to. As information is gradually revealed and twists in the story take place, it feels less like the story was planned and more like the writers were scrabbling for a way to solve the story by any means necessary. For the most part, the movie is so loud, fun, and over-the-top, that you don’t really notice. For the sake of this musical, the characters don’t need to be round. Brad and Janet’s extensive backstory wouldn’t really add anything to the plot. Eddie’s place in the overall story is easy to miss but going into great detail would grind the movie to a halt. We don’t need every minor detail, but the lack of some details to fill things out trips Rocky Horror up as it drives towards its conclusion. It’s worth noting that character shallowness is a story aspect, it is not due to a lack of acting talent among the cast.
As said earlier, the energy of the movie carries it along and you don’t really notice that the story is fairly shallow until the twist. In true B-Movie fashion, Riff-Raff (O’Brien) and Magenta (Patricia Quinn) reveal their—and Frank-N-Furter’s (Curry)—true nature. Once you get that information, you can’t help but work backwards with it. It casts a new light on Frank-N-Furter’s famous introduction song “Sweet Transvestite,” which admittedly does tell the viewer outright that he’s a “sweet transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania.” But when you move backwards to try to connect all the dots, things don’t quite come together. It looks like a solid story, but it doesn’t quite hold together upon close inspection. This can leave a viewer with an odd feeling like a rug was pulled out under them.
The catchy music of Rocky Horror is probably its greatest strength, with its sly sense of humor coming in at a close second. The songs are catchy and, even better, mostly danceable, to the point where even if you’ve never seen the movie before, you’ll probably realize you know some of the songs already. Is it really a Halloween party without “Time Warp”? Of course, as with almost any musical, there are a couple clunkers on the soundtrack.
As for the humor, this movie feels like one is in on the gag with Frank-N-Furter. When the movie was first released, its frank discussion and revelation in sexuality and identities out of the binary made it seem rather controversial. Now it gives a viewer a sense of camaraderie with Frank-N-Furter and his crew. Brad and Janet don’t know what they’re in for, but the audience, even a new audience, pretty much knows from the instant Frank-N-Furter drops his cloak. It doesn’t hurt that there are times when Frank-N-Furter literally does wink at the audience.
All in all, The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) does have its flaws—but many are by design. Story flaws are hard to ignore, but they really only come into play in the last few minutes of the movie. The energy and humor of the movie makes up for these eleventh-hour stumbles, and it’s easy to see how it has become a cult classic that is still actively celebrated today. The movie celebrates freedom of character, sexuality, and so on, so many consider it as an emblem. Often, when it is shown in theaters, people dress-up as their favorite character and play along with the show, throwing rice at the opening wedding scene or squirting water guns when Brad and Janet are walking in the rain. It may not be the scariest movie ever made, but it does fit in with the horror’s “fun” subgenre. It’s also considered a rite of passage for teenagers (at least theatre kids), so it’s unlikely that will lose its cult following anytime soon.
Because of the above reasons, Grave Reviews gives The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) Show four graves out of five graves.
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