Rocky Horror Picture Show, The/Shock Treatment (UK - DVD R2)
Paul Greenwood takes a jump to the left with his review of the camp cult-classics
There's a cracking documentary called Midnight Movies: From the Margin to the Mainstream which chronicles the rise of the, erm, midnight movie, through the early and mid '70s. Stuff that was the very definition of cult— Eraserhead, Pink Flamingoes, that kind of thing—would pack out fleapit cinemas every Saturday night for months on end, turning underground films into box office sensations. One of the films featured is The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which was considered a flop on its initial release, but word of mouth and repeat business turned into one of the biggest hits of the decade.
Adapted by Richard O'Brien from his own stage musical, it's styled very much like a '50s B-movie, complete with acting, direction, dialogue and visible microphones that wouldn't be out of place on Mystery Science Theater. Brad and Janet (Bostwick and Sarandon) are the all-American couple, out driving during a terrible thunderstorm on their way to visit an old professor friend. Naturally their car breaks down and they head for a nearby castle in search of a phone. There they encounter a collection of singing weirdoes, led by Frank N Furter (Curry), a mad scientist resplendent in basque and fishnet stockings. He's been working on bringing his pet creation, the Adonis like Rocky, to life and sets about trying to seduce our heroes. But all is not as it seems.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show really is pretty plotless, and its reason for existing is little more than an excuse for one musical set piece after another. But therein lies the hook—the songs are (nearly all) among the most insanely catchy you're likely to hear in a movie....sub Lloyd Webber '70s kitsch they may be, but I've been singing (if not actually doing) the bloody Time Warp all week.
The second factor behind the success and longevity of Rocky (and it may almost be as important as the first) is Tim Curry in an astonishing performance as the sweet transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania. Think 'Stupid Sexy Flanders' multiplied by Freddie Mercury to get an idea of how charismatic, sexualised and downright appealing he is as he lusts after Brad, Janet and Rocky with equal ardour.
Elsewhere, there's not that much to get excited about. The best songs (Time Warp, Sweet Transvestite) come early but the rest—and there are many of them—are still good fun if not quite as memorable. O'Brien himself camps it up as Riff Raff the butler and Meatloaf pops up briefly as one of Frank's creations—if you've ever ached to see him share the screen with Christopher Biggins, this is the film for you.
Shock Treatment is the little-seen sequel of sorts that followed in 1981. Brad and Janet return but are now played by Cliff De Young and Jessica Harper. Back in their wholesome town of Denton, they take part in a TV show called ‘The Marriage Maze’ which ends with Brad in a straitjacket receiving the shock treatment of the title while the show's sponsor, Farley Flavors (also De Young), tries to steal Janet by making her into a star.
The quality of the songs is highly variable—some are fine, peppy and fun, but some are just terrible and there certainly aren't any that come close to the best of the first film. Some of the cast return (O'Brien and Quinn as doctors on a soap opera) but a lead with the presence of Curry is sorely missed. The film as a whole is horribly flat and just trying too hard to be bizarre without ever managing to achieve the perverse attraction of Rocky.
The standard of the picture is really pretty good for the most part, with excellent clarity depth if not sharpness. Colours are rich and skin tones are realistic, especially given the wild variations that can occur in lighting. Even in scenes where there are lots of very bright flashing lights, the transfer copes well with no flaring or smearing. The print does suffer from very occasional speckles, but otherwise there's no major damage or blemishes.
Audio comes in the shape of a patchy but reasonably effective 5.1 track. Dialogue can be tinny and lacking in strength and clarity, but songs are more forceful even if there isn't much help from the rears. Effects like thunder and lightning are bold and well supported by the LFE channel while the reanimation of Rocky finally gives the rears something to do.
All the extras on the first disc represent different ways of watching the film. First up is a commentary featuring O'Brien and Patricia Quinn who played Magenta. They seem to be talking to each other rather than us and spend a lot of time describing what's happening on screen and going off on tangents. There are some decent recollections but a lot of silences making this far from an essential listen.
‘Multi View Theater Experience’ leaves the film at various points and cuts to an audience who are acting out scenes from the film. ‘Participation Prompter’ is a subtitle track that tells you when to perform various actions throughout the film. Finally, there's ‘Audience Participation’, which essentially renders the film unwatchable, as all you'll be able to hear is an incoherent rabble drowning out the dialogue and songs.
Disc two kicks off with a thorough but not very exciting doc called ‘Rocky Horror Double Feature Video Show’, running for thirty seven minutes. It begins with its origins as a stage show before moving on to the low budget movie adaptation where some of the original cast were kept. There are fairly recent interviews with the rather dry producers but the stuff from Curry, Sarandon and Meatloaf looks like it was filmed in the '80 judging by the hairdos. They discuss how the film was a flop but took off at midnight shows.
Excerpts from VH-1 'Behind the Music' and 'Where Are They Now' is the other featurette and runs for a total of forty five minutes. It's broken up into several chunks featuring recent interviews with the likes of O'Brien and Meatloaf who offer interesting recollections of the stage show and the making of the film. Bostwick and Sarandon also appear, the former discussing how the resurrection of the film took him by surprise and how it was very much a product of its time, while Sarandon focuses more on her singing involvement.
‘Outtakes’ isn't so much outtakes as alternate takes of certain scenes—there are two alternate camera angle views of the Time Warp, five of Brad & Janet Undressed, two of Janet's Seduction and two of the Floor Show Preparations. There's a deleted song: Once in a While. ‘Sing-A-Long’ is basically a karaoke function for two of the songs—Toucha Toucha Touch Me and Sweet Transvestite. ‘Alternate Credit Ending’ is the same ending but with, erm, alternate credits.
‘The Misprint Ending’ shows how some prints of the film originally had the pictures from one song while a different song played on the soundtrack. Things are rounded off by the theatrical trailer and a photo gallery. Shock Treatment contains no extras.
It would appear that the extras on Rocky are exactly the same as those that appeared on the Anniversary Edition a few years back, so if you've got that then the only reason to pick this up would be for the rarity that is Shock Treatment—shame it's mince.
Rocky on the other hand is the sort of movie that has become a religion to some, while others will loathe it to their very core. If you haven't seen it, you owe it to yourself to check it out one time. It's just a jump to the left......
Review by Paul Greenwood
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 22nd May 2006
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English
Subtitles: English, Czech, Danish, Finnish, Hebrew, Hungarian, Icelandic, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Swedish
Extras: Commentary, Audience Participation, Featurettes, Alternate Scenes
Easter Egg: Yes
Director: Jim Sharman
Cast: Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick, Richard O'Brien, Patricia Quinn, Nell Campbell, Jonathan Adams, Peter Hinwood, Meat Loaf, Charles Gray
Genre: Horror and Musical
Length: 96 minutes
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