ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, THE
Reviewed October 29th, 2000 by Brian White
This is exactly what you want: people throwing toast and rice in your lovely home theater room. THE cult movie, Rocky Horror, makes its appearance on DVD: it’s quite an entrance. Rocky Horror is a bizarre phenomenon. It started in London as a stage musical which spoofed sci-fi horror films of the fifties. The play was turned into a film that was initially unsuccessful and forgotten. However, a bizarre phenomenon grew out of that failure. People were attracted to midnight showings of the movie in rep-cinemas. Ultimately the film found success because the audience laughed at the film rather than with it. The audience began to dress up for the movie, heckle the dialogue and characters, and act out (throwing rice during a wedding scene, throwing toast when a character proposes a toast, firing water pistols during a rainstorm). Eventually, audience members in costume began acting out scenes from the film in front of the screen. Despite everything, the movie became a huge hit because of what the audience brought to it. The Rocky Horror phenomenon is well represented on this feature-packed release.
The movie itself is clever, but not wonderful. There are some strong musical numbers, and Tim Curry’s performance was honed to perfection over several stage performances. The late Charles Gray’s attempt to step the audience through the Time Warp dance is still quite funny. Director Jim Sharman admits that the film was made for a modest budget (1.25 million) because they opted for actors from the stage performances, except for Barry Bostwick (Brad, an asshole) and Susan Sarandon (Janet, a slut). A more generous budget was promised if the movie was cast with then-popular rock stars. Anyone who’s seen Liztomania or Sgt. Pepper can breathe a sigh of relief that that didn’t happen.
How does the disc look? I remember being pleasantly surprised at the quality on the VHS tape when this film first came to video in the early nineties. The film has been kept in very good condition. It also helps to not have cups of beer being thrown at the screen, and a copy that has been shown five thousand times. The 1.66:1, anamorphic transfer is quite good.
The audio can’t compare with more modern DVDs, and really after Yellow Submarine, there is no excuse for a less than stellar sound mix on this film. While the audio isn’t fantastic, I must concede that the songs sound better than I expected. There’s trouble with Brad’s dialogue during Sweet Transvestite, but that problem is on the soundtrack album as well. They cleaned up the audio, but not as much as they could have. Some surround effects, mostly thunder, are present on the less-than-stellar 5.1 mix. Dialogue is clear throughout.
The extras are the real reason to buy this set. There are two discs filled with goodness. The first disc contains:
- both the British and American cuts of the film (there isn’t much difference)
- a very informative, screen-specific audio commentary with Richard O’Brien (Riff Raff) and the barking mad Patricia Quinn (Magenta)
- a hilarious audience participation track to put you into that theater mood
- a “white-rabbit” multi-angle feature that allows you to see an audience acting out parts of the film
- a prompter that tells you what to throw, and when.
- DVD-ROM games
The second disc contains:
- An excellent documentary about the evolution of Rocky Horror from Richard O’Brien’s brain, to the stage, to the screen, and to cult status
- VH-1’s behind the music special.
- A VH-1 pop-up video version of Hot Patootie!
This is a very impressive release from Fox. It out-does the excellent Independence Day package. The animated menus are cool the first time you see them, but if you are checking out the features, you’ll grow tired of sitting through them. If you’ve ever had any interest in this film, this package is a HUGE repository of information you never knew.
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