To be selected for both preservation and induction into the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress, a motion picture must be deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
And perhaps even more than most films that receive the official seal of approval as national treasures, director Jim Sharman's The Rocky Horror Picture Show qualifies to the largest extent in the cultural realm as a work that has transcended simple appreciation to become an actual event.
In fact, Sharman's gleefully campy Picture Show (which was based on Richard O'Brien's musical stage play), remains the closest that Hollywood has come to crafting something that feels the most like a Broadway production. And all the proof you need to reach the same conclusion is to take into account the unparalleled co-dependent effect that it's had on its loyal audience.
On the one hand it's seduced legions of like-minded, devoted fans with what can only be described escapist nonsense in tandem with its core message that all outsiders/misfits and so-called “freaks” are always welcomed without judgment but rather appreciation.
But on the other hand, Rocky relies heavily on nostalgia or the positive reinforcement of the "group experience" to – much like a Broadway hit – keep the show from closing. For, thirty five years after its screen debut, Sharman's flick still can be found regularly playing as a midnight theatrical feature in cities across the country.
Of course, cinematically and structurally there's much to be desired as the intentionally over-the-top B-movie send-up of science fiction and horror classics never truly rivets us with the far-fetched characters' increasingly bizarre plights.
Yet, despite the fact that I just “didn't get it” the first time I saw it and still do feel that the thrill is more than a little gone in our now sexually liberated society with regard to the intended shock, awe and/or titillation we're supposed to experience upon encountering Tim Curry's “sweet transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania,” the film's wacky charm and unexpected sweetness has grown on me over the years.
Bolstered by sing-along show-stoppers and reminiscent of Wizard of Oz, the fantastical heroes journey leads two squares (Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon) over the rainbow as they seek shelter in a castle during a rainstorm that left them stranded with a flat tire.
Over the course of two wild hours, the young newly engaged couple embark on an odyssey of sexual discovery, double-entendre and deception with their Frankenstein inspired guide Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Curry). And in the process, they come face-to-face with characters and situations straight out of classic creature features as the movie becomes a veritable musical monster mash.
While it does seem a bit dated by today's standards since after all, the formerly scandalous Picture Show has become musical fodder for Ryan Murphy's Fox series Glee, the technically dazzling, special feature filled Blu-ray release ties in perfectly well for Halloween.
To be frank though, I still must say that aside from offering a more joyful alternative for Halloween movie-going, overall I'm still puzzled by the film's enormous success. To this end, and much like Woody Allen's belief that preppies attended Lenny Bruce's comedy shows as an attempt to prove how “hip” and naughty they were, I wonder if the same analysis might be used to sum up the attraction to the hedonistic hell-raiser.
Furthermore, since Rocky Horror was released in the me-decade of the '70s, which was an era of gay rights and women's liberation along with glam-rock, harder drugs, Watergate inspired cynicism, and Studio 54 disco decadence, it may have been a case of the right film at the right time.
Nonetheless, whatever your pleasure, rationale, or taste, there's no denying the sheer power of O'Brien and Sharman's pop-culture rock opera, which unlike the blockbusters of today that purely celebrate the box office take around the globe, actually impacted an entire generation, giving back as much as it took in a way that we'd never seen before and may never see again.
Instead of marketing tie-ins with fast-food chains, action figures or endless sequels that prey on viewer addiction a la Star Wars or Star Trek in a cash-fueled show of greed as the films aged, there's something indefinable yet undeniably fascinating about the way that this happily kinky little picture's only goal remained to entertain.
Yet at the same time, you can't help but admire the fact that perhaps under the guise of spoof, Rocky's second intention was to in fact inspire more tolerance about our fellow man, whether they're a time-warping transvestite or just coming in from out of the rain.
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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.
Labels: Blu-ray Review