Newly engaged virginal couple Brad and Janet (Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon) are heading to visit their scientist friend, Dr. Scott (Jonathan Adams) when their car breaks down during a storm. They head to a nearby castle, where they find themselves becoming embroiled in a bizarre party/science experiment/orgy/clusterfuck.
Don’t you hate when a piece of culture has suck a massive following that never having seen it seems impossible, so entire elements of other, lesser, pieces of pop culture are devoted to it, thereby potentially lessening the impact of the original article for those unlucky few that come along late to the party? I’m talking, of course, about Glee, or more specifically the episode of it devoted to Rocky Horror Picture Show, for which this was my first viewing. A few years ago I happened to see said episode, and found myself wondering exactly why Meatloaf and the mayor from Spin City were in one very short, inconsequential scene, which didn’t require either of them to sing. (Seriously, you cannot have a show that heavily features singing and cast Meat Loaf in a non-singing cameo. There is no end to the disappointment.) Well, it turns out they’re both in the film the episode was based upon, which apparently everyone knows but me. Also, that show gave away some of the funnier aspects of the film – the “Janet!”/”Brad!”/”Janet!”/”Dr. Scott!”/”Rocky!” scene for one – so I really, really wish I’d never seen the Glee episode. Or, at least, I wish I’d waited until after seeing the film (we’re skirting the issue here, but I don’t mind Glee as a show, though I’ve not seen it since halfway through Season 2).
Anyway, back to the film at hand.There are some films out there that I’m pretty sure I’m going to hate, and this ticked an awful lot of boxes. Firstly I’m not necessarily a huge fan of musicals and have no appreciation whatsoever for dancing. Secondly, I’m even less of a fan of mass nudity – of either gender – which also includes lots of people in their underwear. Thirdly, and I don’t mean to offend anyone here, but I’m not terribly keen on watching men in drag. It just doesn’t appeal to me, sorry. However, that being said, I thoroughly enjoyed this film.
The music is for the most part wonderful, albeit not necessarily something I’d listen to outside of the film (other than Meat Loaf’s Hot Patootie, which I loved). It was often genuinely funny, such as Dammit Janet or Touch-a Touch-a Touch-a Touch Me, and it’s pretty impossible to listen to Time Warp without grinning (though I refuse to ever take part in this dance. Group dances are a blight on society). I didn’t care that the lip syncing was awkward and out of time, I was just swept along with the fun.
The performances were nothing short of sublime. I’d heard a great deal about Tim Curry being wonderful here, and I’ve always loved him in Home Alone 2, Muppet Treasure Island and, um, The Wild Thornberrys (I haven’t seen Clue, something I definitely need to rectify), but here he surpassed any and all expectations. He was so deeply committed to the role; so captivating it was impossible to look away. Similarly, Richard O’Brien as the butler, Riff-Raff, rivalled Curry for the top spot. O’Brien, who also wrote the screenplay, is something of a TV personality in the UK, having hosted puzzle-based game show The Crystal Maze in the early 90s, so seeing him on screen was initially a little disconcerting, but that didn’t stop his hunchbacked, lurching miscreant from being one of my favourite parts of the film. Also, he is what really makes Time Warp work, with his initially restrained, then explosive opening.
The leads, Sarandon and Bostwick (who I didn’t realise was from Spin City until after watching) were also great, if a little hammy at times, but in a film like this that’s only to be expected, and the inclusion of Charles Gray as the story’s narrator was an interesting choice that definitely paid off. The only character I’m unsure of is Rocky (Peter Hinwood), whose taut, veiny body was a little nauseating to look upon, and it felt a bit icky that he had been created by Curry’s Dr. Frank’N’Furter purely for sex. The scene where the doctor chases Rocky around the lab is, frankly, bizarre, and the singing afterwards, with Rocky being greased up whilst Frank’N’Furter dry humps a pommel horse? No thank you.
At this stage, having been introduced to a transvestite version of Dr. Frankenstein, his golden-underpanted creation and the motorcycle-bound monster in the freezer, I didn’t think it could get much bizarre, but it was after Meat Loaf’s performance that everything sort of fell off the rails. There’s a wheelchair controlled by electromagnets in a manner that I’m pretty sure isn’t 100% plausible, a device that sticks people to the floor and transforms them into statues, and a trident that somehow miraculously fires lasers. It’s here that it becomes clear this is a film made for group enjoyment (I watched it with just my non-plussed girlfriend), so it’s no surprise to discover the massive cult following who dress up as characters and watch it performed by live actors on stage in front of the film projected in the background, but that doesn’t make it too suitable for home viewing, especially not when you over-analyse things as much as I do.
I’m not really sure how it could have ended without either delving into utter insanity – which it did – whilst still pleasing the audience, so I suppose it fits in with the rest of the film. I’m definitely going to revisit this at some point, but I don’t think I’ll be going to the live shows.
Choose Film 7/10