Monday, July 20, 2009

Monday Movie Review: The Rocky Horror Picture Show

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) 9/10
The movie: Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry) is a transvestite pansexual from the planet Transsexual in the galaxy of Transylvania in the classic rock-and-roll cult movie.
The live show: Fans go to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show (RHPS) live and experience a "shadowcast" (a group of performers mimicking the on-screen action), lines shouted at the screen, props thrown during the film (rice during the wedding, for example), and other direct interactions with the film

Look, a lot of people think RHPS is a bad movie, enjoy it in a so-bad-it's-good way, and assume that the whole point is the cult experience. I have always contended that it's a good movie. It suffers from a low budget in some places, and thrives on the same low budget in others. The music is outstanding, the performers are dynamic and thrilling. Sure, the ending's a downer and there's a middle section that drags after you've seen it a dozen times, but so what? Setting aside the cult experience, RHPS works as a musical, it works as a celebration of hedonism, and it works as a campy love letter to a life obsessed with the movies.

On Saturday night I went to the Legends of Rocky Horror Reunion, because yes, I was there way back when. From the perspective of returning to the musical after many years, it was both wonderful and disappointing.

Disappointing only because some of the changes are for the worst. RHPS can be a rowdy and even unpleasant experience. In many theaters, the shouting at the screen drowns out the film. At the Eighth Street Playhouse, we prided ourselves on being the original and best, and our lines were carefully timed, in unison, and allowed for you to pay attention at the movie—in an enhanced way. If there's too much shouting, you can't hear the movie, and we avoided that. Nowadays, New York is just one more theater, and sometimes your ability to watch the movie is totally drowned out.

On the other hand, the good, enhancing kind of audience participation is superb. It's amazing that it's still happening more than thirty years later, and that a lot of it is fresh and new. Sure, people still say "Where's your fucking neck?" like they did in 1977, but they also do and say things that are completely 21st century. That are fun.

One thing that Rocky Horror did in the '70s is allow a group of weirdos to find each other. Now people mostly find each other on the Internet, don't they? How much need is there for face-to-face affiliation with like minded oddballs? At RHPS this week, I discovered that the joys of hanging out and being strange are undiminished.

(Where's your fucking cross-post?)