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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Rocky Horror Picture Show
Rocky Horror Picture Show
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Review by Jeremy Kleinman | posted October 8, 2000 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie

For much of the 25 years following the initial theatrical release of "Rocky Horror Picture," die-hard fans have turned the film into a truly unique phenomenon in which the viewer plays as large a role in the film as the characters. Perhaps that is why simply watching the film at home never seems to come close to the experience of going on a Saturday night at midnight to an art-house theater to see the movie. As a result, avid fans might fail to get too excited about the film's release on DVD. Nevertheless, this two-DVD is definitely cause for excitement.

The film has aged well and the enjoyment has not been diminished in the 25 years since its release. In fact, only the hairstyles and the special effects seem dated. The film features a number of extremely enjoyable performances, including performances by Barry Bostwick (the mayor on TV's "Spin City") as Brad Majors, the film's hero and a very young Susan Sarandon as Janet Weiss as Brad's fiancée and the film's heroine. Most remarkable in the film, however, is the performance of Tim Curry as Dr. Frank N. Furter, who absolutely shines in the role as the "Sweet Transvestite" scientist who creates a man in his laboratory. In both his musical numbers and his acting scenes, Curry gives a truly dynamic performance and really makes the film even more enjoyable.

From the lyrics of the film's opening song, "Science Fiction Double Feature" it is clear that there are many, many references and homages to science fiction films of the past thirty or forty years throughout the film. The references to "Frankenstein", "King Kong" and a myriad of other films evidence a love of this genre and mix nicely with the decadence of the film.

Although the lyrics to many of the film's songs are filled with clichés and these references, the music sounds good and adds a lot of fun to the film. Meatloaf's "Hot Patootie" is a definite highlight, along with Tim Curry's "Sweet Transvestite" both of which help to convey the energy of the film and many of the songs in the film are legitimate rock show tunes. Many of the songs have a knack for staying in the head of a viewer for many days after the viewing of the film. (a couple of the songs are running through my head as I write this review). Another highlight of the film, indeed the most famous portion of the film- "The Time Warp" is enjoyable whether one is at home alone or in a crowded theater, and it even comes with a bit of instruction that will have the viewer properly Time Warping by the second verse.

While no one will ever accuse Rocky Horror Picture Show of being a compelling cinematic masterpiece, the film is imbued with a sense of irreverence on many different levels which greatly adds to the enjoyment of the film and can even be a bit contagious. This is really a film filled with sex, drugs and rock n' roll, with a few aliens thrown in for good measure. The film lashes out against the conventional and adopts an anything-goes style that consistently makes the film interesting and entertaining.

It should be noted that this film is not necessarily for everyone- the reckless abandon with which the characters "give themselves over to absolute pleasure" and "swim the warm waters of sins of the flesh," is likely to turn off those with somewhat puritanical views. Those who can adapt to the film's anything goes attitude, however, will really enjoy the film.

Although the film's story itself is not necessarily to warrant frequent repeat viewings, the songs of the film assure a good time will be had by all, and the DVD lifts the film to frequent viewing and collectible status, on the basis of the films many great special features.

The Picture

Rocky Horror Picture Show is presented in Anamorphic Widescreen, with an aspect ratio of 1.66:1. Although in a few scenes, the print appears to show its age, the film generally looks good. The film is definitely well suited to the Widescreen format, with one overhead shot of a pool with Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel contribution at the bottom looking especially fantastic. The colors generally look rather vivid and the flesh tones represent well in the new transfer. The Sound

Rocky Horror Picture Show is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. The dialogue and the many musical numbers sound quite good throughout the film. While the sound transfer never actually requires volume adjustment while watching the film, one might nevertheless want to turn up the volume for a few of the songs, just to enhance the experience. Although the film does not fully use the surround sound at all times during the movie, the surround sound capabilities shine during the use of the audience participation feature to genuinely give the viewer the sense that he or she is surrounded by a crowd of Rocky Horror fans.

Bonus Materials

As stated above, the bonus materials on this two-DVD set are what truly make this DVD a great addition to a DVD collection. Disc One features a feature-length commentary by writer/ actor Richard O'Brien and actress Patricia Quinn (Magenta); optional audience participation prompts for the use of various props in connection with the film; a feature length audience participation audio tract, a look inside the theatrical experience of the late night showings, and a number of DVD-Rom features, including a trivia game, a story building game, a screen saver, cast and crew bios, and web links.

Disc two has more goodies, featuring two songs deleted from the film, outtakes from the film, excerpts from a VH1 special featuring interviews with many of the cast members, a short documentary on the film and its cult following, a misprint ending and an ending featuring "The Time Warp" instead of "Science Fiction Double Feature," a couple trailers for the film, and finally, interestingly enough, a VH-1 Pop-Up Video version of "Hot Patootie."

While some of the information conveyed in the bonus materials is repeated a number of times in other features on the discs, a number of the special features are fantastic. The best of the bunch is the audience participation track. The track may be turned on and off by the viewer as he or she pleases, but runs the length of the feature and is, for better or for worse the actual audience participation lines from the film. The audience participation track comes in fairly clearly through the rear surround sound speakers and, as mentioned above, really gives the viewer the feeling of being there. For those who, like me, attending showings of Rocky Horror a number of years ago, it is enjoyable to jog ones memory to see what lines are remembered and to see how many audience lines have changed over the years. A lot of the participation lines are extremely funny, although sometimes rather tasteless, and it is rather shocking to discern the amount of time and ingenuity that went into the genesis of these lines. The track does really give a true sense of being there. While some lines come through in unison from all members of the audience, some lines are a bit muddled by some people getting the timing a bit wrong or inserting their own joke or musing, just as one would actually find in the theater. The one constant complaint about Rocky Horror on video is that watching it at home is nothing like watching it in the theater with a big group. The audience participation track really bridges the gap miraculously, and will let those watching at home with enough space to do a bit of Time Warping have a great time. Further, those lines which aren't exactly clear present a bit of a challenge to the viewer to get them the next time around, as one would have to do in the theater.

A second feature which may also be turned on and off is the prompting of the use of props while watching the film. The prompt appears in the bottom right corner a half-dozen times throughout the film, but is unnecessary for anyone who has been to a theatrical showing of the film.

The feature-length commentary- because of the cult following of this film and the fact that audiences have gone to such extreme lengths to interact with the film, I was expecting an extremely fun and insightful commentary track. Sadly, Quinn and O'Brien only tangentially touch on the audience participation lines for the film and don't seem as excited about the film as one might expect. They do offer a good amount of history about the film and its locations, as well as the actors and actresses, how the film came together from the play, and what went on during the making of the film. The two do seem a bit sedate at times but at times show a nice chemistry. A number of the stories in the commentary track are told elsewhere on the DVDs, but for die-hard fans, it is definitely worth listening to the track.

Deleted Scenes- While the "Superheroes" scene does frequently appear in theatrical presentations of the film, the second song, "Once in a While", is one of which I had never previously heard. It is quite interesting to see, but the song itself is a bit disjointed and it does not truly seem to fit in the place in the movie from which it is removed. Further, the song is a bit different from the tone of the other songs in the film, perhaps serving as the reason for its deletion. Also, for those who have not previously seen the "Superheroes" scene, its inclusion in the bonus materials and in the "UK Version" is greatly appreciated.

The Outtakes- Sadly the outtakes offer little new material from the film. Most, if not all of the outtakes are just alternate takes or angles of the scenes used in the film and fail to engender much excitement as a result. Similarly, the misprint ending and the alternate ending do not significantly add to the film, either.

Both the documentary and the VH-1 interviews make excellent additions to the DVD, as many of the cast members including Barry Bostwick, Susan Sarandon, Patricia Quinn, Little Nell, Richard O' Brien, and Meatloaf add a lot of insight into their own personal experience with the film, and the development of the cult following after the film's release and how that has changed their lives. It is definitely worth watching.

Finally, the DVD Rom materials fill out the DVDs nicely, particularly with the extensive filmographies of the cast members. The trivia game offers a nice opportunity to test one's knowledge about the film, but is rather short on excitement.

There is also, according to DVDReview, reportedly an "easter egg" showing the film as O'Brien had envisioned it- in black and white until the Time Warp scene. To access it, go to the scene selection page, use the left arrow key on the remote and hit enter on the highlighted lips.

Final Thoughts

Rocky Horror Picture Show is, undisputedly, the king of cult classics. While watching the film itself may not provide a full explanation of how it attained such status, the bonus features in conjunction with the film make the film a highly entertaining experience and demonstrate why the film is so wildly popular. The film, the audience, the songs, and the decadence come together nicely to form a fantastic viewing experience and a great addition to one's DVD collection.

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