The Rocky Horror Picture Show: 35th Anniversary (Blu-ray)
Directed by Jim Sharman
Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 100 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1; Dolby Digital 2.0 mono English, others
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish, French, others
MSRP: $ 34.99
Release Date: October 19, 2010
Review Date: October 19, 2010
I was the entertainment critic for a local newspaper syndicate for a bit shy of two years when I first came into contact with The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The film was opening, but Fox hadn’t had any critics’ screenings (never a good sign), so I bought a ticket and went in to the opening day’s showing as a regular patron. I was the only one in the theater. Judging from the dismal box-office returns for its initial release, my situation must have been repeated all across the country since the film didn’t come close to paying back its $ 1½ million production cost. You must remember this was a year before the film took off as a midnight movie cult smash, before water pistols, toilet paper, rice, and newspapers became standard equipment for a Rocky screening. At that first viewing, I was tickled to find that the creators of the piece were doing what other musical theater writers had already done, celebrated an entertainment genre in a stage piece that was both a loving spoof of the form and a satiric comment on the more sophisticated view of the world removed from previous generations (Little Mary Sunshine and Dames at Sea were two American off-Broadway productions which spoofed operetta conventions and 1930s musicals just as Rocky Horror in a small London club satirized science fiction and horror movie conventions only using a rock score instead of the music typical of the scores of those more conventional entertainments). Watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show now to ascertain its quality as a film and not as a communal experience requires that one forget the props, the snappy putdowns and shouted comments that have become required ammunition for seeing Rocky on stage or screen en masse. As a film, it is now as it has always been: a sassy, silly barrel of fun, neither great nor terrible but with some irresistible performances, some entertaining songs, and a devil-may-care air about it that flaunts staid morals and traditions with a wink and a smirk.
After attending a friend’s wedding, engaged couple Brad Majors (Barry Bostwick) and Janet Weiss (Susan Sarandon) must take refuge in an old mansion when their car breaks down during a heavy downpour. They soon learn that their host is Dr. Frank N. Furter (Tim Curry), an omnisexual alien from the planet Transsexual who, with his servants Riff Raff (Richard O’Brien), Magenta (Patricia Quinn), and Columbia (Little Nell), has come to Earth to colonize but has gotten sidetracked by Earth culture and temporarily abandoned his mission. He’s attracted to both Janet and Brad, but he’s also consumed with his latest project, creating a new playmate he’s named Rocky (Peter Hinwood), a stunning blonde muscle boy who has a hard time adjusting to his new surroundings. An intrusion by Brad and Janet’s former professor Dr. Everett Scott (Jonathan Adams) and a mutiny by some of his staff put Frank’s plans in serious jeopardy.
Kudos to the original production team for not trying to make their stage production into anything more on film than it was. It was a small, tacky little show, and while the movie obviously offers production values grander than the original show, the musical has not been blown up out of all proportion and remains more or less faithful to what it was originally. As is typical in stage properties which move into the cinematic domain, there have been minor changes to the original material: songs have been dropped or shifted to other singers or to other places in the show. Where Eddie and Dr. Scott were typically played by the same actor on stage, here there are two very different actors assigned to the roles. None of it matters, however, as the numbers still have the verve of the stage performance present, and all of the best moments survive intact. Highlights certainly include Frank’s introductory song which is simply a showstopper, Rocky’s “Sword of Damocles,” Eddie’s dynamic “Hot Patootie,” and the hilarious kick line for “Wild and Untamed Thing.” Elsewhere, director Jim Sharman manages to work in obvious nods to Esther Williams, Busby Berkeley, Judy Garland, King Kong, and Frankenstein (along with its sequel Bride of Frankenstein), while making Frank’s seduction of both Janet and Brad hilarious and yet oddly and surprisingly tasteful at the same time. Yes, the script tends to run out of steam in the second half, but there is still plenty of naughty fun on display as the piece thumbs its nose at sex roles and Puritanism (well, it was the mid-1970s when the sexual revolution was still at its height).
The film allows Tim Curry, Patricia Quinn, Richard O’Brien, and Little Nell to recreate their original London roles (something not many film musicals adapted from stage works have done) while bringing in Meatloaf (from the first American production), stage star Barry Bostwick (who was the original Danny Zuko in Grease) and Susan Sarandon. Excepting Sarandon (whose singing voice simply isn’t up to the demands of Janet’s musical material though she tries gamely; “Toucha, Toucha Touch Me” is rather painful to endure though she looks great), these performers etch definitive portrayals of these roles and have been forever etched into the memories of those who have seen Rocky Horror one time or hundreds of times. Enough can’t be said about Tim Curry who plays the transvestite Frank with just the right strokes of masculinity and camp humor, a brave performance for an actor trying to get established in films during that era.
The film’s original 1.66:1 theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully delivered in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Color fidelity and saturation is all one could wish, but sharpness isn’t always everything one would hope. The Criminologist’s sequences are most often somewhat soft compared to other scenes, but this isn’t consistently true. Black levels, however, are appropriately inky and impressive. The film has been divided into 35 chapters for the US version and 36 chapters (with the inclusion of the song “Superheroes”) in the UK version.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 sound mix offers a much more impressive spread to the music and sound effects (thunderstorms are especially notable in the surrounds and LFE channels) than one might expect from a low budget mono original from 1975. Though you’ll definitely be able to discern the track’s mono origins, the music still has never sounded as full and rich as it does here. Much credit should be given to the sound engineers who haven’t gone overboard with their spreading out of the music and effects but instead have made the audio sound quite organic to the original low budget origins of the movie.
The disc allows the user to choose to view the original US or UK versions of the movie before taking him to the main menu page. You can also switch to the other version from the main menu.
“The Midnight Experience” offers the viewer numerous ways to view the movie. You may view the film with the originally conceived black and white opening sequences, you may have a trivia track pop-up box engage, you may turn on the 1983 callback track, you may engage the prop box filled with items you’d need if attending the movie in person which you may use at any time in the movie, and there is the picture-in-picture Shadowcast which performs the movie live while the movie is playing.
“Rocky-oke: Sing It!” obviously turns on karaoke lyrics that allow you to sing along with the film.
The audio commentary featuring Richard O’Brien (writer of the book, music and lyrics and also Riff Raff) and Patricia Quinn is repeated from previous releases of the movie on disc. They share memories of the work and impressions of the film that they like or don’t like, a must listen for fans.
“Don’t Dream It, Be It: The Search for the 35th Anniversary Shadowcast” is a 58 ¼-minute documentary (in two parts) detailing the worldwide auditions for fans/performers to perform the show for the Blu-ray disc release. The auditions were held in Los Angeles, New York, London, Paris, and Berlin and performers were judged by a panel that included Patricia Quinn and Barry Bostwick. It’s in 1080i.
“Mick Rock” was the unit photographer on the movie whose stills have been the iconic ones used in all advertising for the movie for decades. This 3 ½ minute piece in 1080i explains how he got the job.
“Mick Rock’s Picture Show” is a gallery of his images in both color and black and white taken during his tenure on the set for the film.
There are two deleted musical scenes: “Once in a While” (3 ¼ minutes) and “Superheroes” (1 ¾ minutes), both in 480i.
There are eleven outtakes which run 10 minutes in 480i.
The Alternate Credit Ending runs 3 ¾ minutes and the Misprint Ending runs 1 ¾ minutes, both in 480i.
“Rocky Horror Double Feature Video Show” is the 1995 making of documentary repeated from the previous releases of the film on disc. It runs 36 ½ minutes in 480i.
“Beacon Theater, New York City” is another tribute video, this time marking the movie’s tenth anniversary as a midnight cult classic. It runs 5 ½ minutes in 480i.
“’Time Warp’ Music Video” runs 4 ¾ minutes in 480i.
A ½-minute TV Spot and a 3-minute theatrical trailer are both presented in 480i.
The pressbook gallery allows you to page through the pressbook for the movie and highlight any article you wish to read.
The poster gallery displays various posters in different languages for the movie.
The disc features Live Lookup via BD-Live and the IMDb.
[A note on the packaging: Fox has adopted a digibook format for this release though text is minimal. It’s more a picture book featuring those famous Mick Rock stills with the disc housed in the back of the book.]
4/5 (not an average)
The Rocky Horror Picture Show remains the most famous cult midnight movie ever presented, but on its own terms as a piece of cinema, it’s silly fun and quite provocative for its era. What’s more, its unadulterated freedom of expression about matters sexual is likely still able to shock and surprise staid audiences not prepared for its free flowing look at sexual temperaments. The Blu-ray offers appealing audio and video and a raft of bonus material both new and vintage. Recommended!