Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #370
Number of Views: Multiple
Release Date: 14 August 1975
Country of Origin: United Kingdom, United States
Box Office: $139,900,000
Running Time: 100 minutes
Director: Jim Sharman
Producers: Lou Adler, Michael White
Screenplay: Jim Sharman, Richard O’Brien
Based on The Rocky Horror Show by Richard O’Brien
Special Effects: Colin Chilvers, Wally Veevers
Cinematography: Peter Suschitzky
Score: Richard O’Brien, Richard Hartley
Editing: Graeme Clifford
Studio: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Michael White Productions
Distributor: 20th Century Fox, CBS/Fox
Stars: Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick, Richard O’Brien Richard O’Brien, Patricia Quinn, Nell Campbell, Jonathan Adams, Peter Hinwood, Meat Loaf Aday, Charles Gray, Jeremy Newson, Hilary Farr
Suggested Audio Candy
 Richard O’Brien, Patricia Quinn, Nell Campbell & Charles Gray “Time Warp”
 Tim Curry, Richard O’Brien, Patricia Quinn & Nell Campbell “Sweet Transvestite”
 Richard O’Brien, Patricia Quinn, Nell Campbell & Charles Gray Time Warp (Reprise)”
It’s not unheard of for me to burst into impromptu verse at any given moment. Historically I reserve such renditions for those times behind the wheel as they pass the time during unforeseen traffic jams delightfully. Many amongst us do so surreptitiously but not I; should I be caught in the act of revealing my tonsils whilst driving then I simply crank the volume up another octane and put even more oomph into my performance. Bath time is transferable also and I often serenade my rubber ducky whilst using any opportunist bubbles sub-aqua blown as percussion. Should you ply me with enough cheap industrial strength lager then, by all means, drag me along to karaoke bars and I’ll gladly recite numerous power ballads just for shits and giggles. I can hold a tune you see. Don’t get it twisted, I’m no Barbara Streisand, but I have been told that my legs are every bit as long and lustrous.
Music is a gift most precious and can be there through the hard times and the good; should we choose to facilitate such. There are songs to mourn a departed loved one, ditties to cheer the soul, audio to murder your mother-in-law to, and Justin Bieber for the tone-deaf and under twelves. However, I am of the opinion that there is no place in film for these stage savvy numbers. In my entire lifetime, only a handful of musicals have been afforded their encore, and fewer still have been forgiven for such heinous crimes against spoken narrative. Should I become trapped in a blazing inferno with the cast of Glee then I would not think twice about hurling myself 200ft to the street below quicker than you could say Hans Gruber. Naturally, I’d hurl them out first to break my fall and watch out for the wheelchair as I plummet towards my soft landing. My point being that I ain’t no fan of musicals.
I made it through Little Shop of Horrors without sprouting an embolism but it was a close cut affair. My cranium was beginning to bulge like Michael Ironside at a Scanners reunion by the time the umpteenth rousing number had been crooned but I escaped with my sanity…just. However, for as much as Frank Oz got by with a minimum of bum notes, it was a little too baritone for my liking. I’ve always been more of a falsetto kind of fellow myself; blame it on the time I sat on my own testicles after climbing aboard a see-saw with a boy of twice my mass. That’s where Jim Sharman’s The Rocky Horror Picture Show gets its chance to exercise its vocal chords.
It took a while but I finally reached a point whereby I feel comfortable within my pelt. My leanings have always been towards the fairer sex but, should an opportunity for hilarity arise, I have been known to don a woman’s stockings and garters… just for recreational pleasure and to show off my shapely pins. I would likely make a damn good transvestite, more along the lines of RuPaul (tell me you wouldn’t hit that guys… guys?) than your To Wong Foo kind of queen so I applaud Tim Curry (Clue, Legend) for pinning his heart to his codpiece and slipping on the scarlet heels. He certainly had the legs for it, while any lack of poster boy good looks made him an even more irresistible choice for the ringleader of the Transylvanians, Dr. Frank-N-Furter.
This was his feature film debut and along with Patricia Quinn and Nell Campbell, he reprised the same role that he’d made his already for extrovert genius Richard O’Brien’s humongously successful stage show of the same name. To this day it still holds the record for the longest running theatrical production in history, a record also shared by its silver-screen counterpart. It actually bombed initially before finding its target audience at midnight movie showings in New York during the mid-seventies and spreading like crabs. Four decades on, it’s still being shown. Now that, my featherless friends, is what I call stamina.
Curry relished the chance to glam it up for the cameras and based his character on Queen Elizabeth II and his very own mother. Hilariously, during one of its early screenings, one patron was ejected from the movie house on account of being too rambunctious and this, of course, turned out to be Curry. That says everything for his loud and proud swagger and he injected every last drip of blood, semen, sweat, tears, and again semen, into the role of transsexual doctor with license to operate beneath his rubber mallet hammock. He was assisted, in no small part, by his band of brother/sisters led by Riff Raff (O’Brien himself) and Magenta (Quinn). What a rowdy rabble they were; but dagnabbit they did know how to belt out a catchy tune or three. Meanwhile, Meat Loaf Aday didn’t have a lick of dialogue and instead sang his loaf off as Eddie.
Ironically, the two principal characters were the only Americans cast. Hopeless lovebirds Brad Majors (Barry Bostwick) and feisty fiancée Janet Weiss (Susan Sarandon) became stranded after their automobile succumbed during a torrential downpour and took up overnight digs at an out-of-the-way rural stronghold. There they met their mad scientist and his musical reprobates and learned of his intention to fashion Rocky (Peter Hinwood), or Frank-N-Furter’s Monster if you will. Spending the night in the House of 1000 Cobblers need not cost you your life as long as you don’t miss your cue during the chorus. However, it soon became clear that the doctor would not tolerate sharing center stage as he was the shining star goddammit. Curry was, indeed, our leading lady and his diva-esque performance ranks amongst the most iconic in motion picture history so he got his nipples tweaked in the process. Who else could have played Beelzebub in Ridley Scott’s Legend and raised it above pretty mediocrity? Curry with a flurry that’s who.
O’Brien’s adoration of science fiction and B-horror movies was evident in every single frame and, most critically, each of the songs actually advanced the story rather than padding out the runtime. This choice of narrative development served The Rocky Horror Picture Show astonishingly well as did the satirical angle chosen which required actors to deliver outlandish dialogue po-faced in a clear nod of reverence to the fifties. Most critically, it united those of all different sexual preferences under one roof and allowed us simply to mingle.
That is where Sharman and O’Brien’s wondrously camp classic resonated most. The pair would attempt to repeat the feat with 1981’s non-sequel Shock Treatment but to significantly lesser effect. It pulled out the aces when the time was right; in 1975 nobody saw it coming and Rocky Horror single-handedly took on the bigots and challenged taboo in addition to entertaining the merry hell out of us like the gracious host that it was. While I would prefer not to be known as Keeper of The Crimson Lip Gloss, I still have a pair of my mother’s old net stockings just in case any clouds burst. I guess it really was worth all the song and dance. Now if you will excuse me, I have a time warp to do, and the good doctor gets most disagreeable if you keep him/her waiting.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 9/10
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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