Click here 3 and a half stars

May we speak? oooh!
A great, twisted rock 'n' roll movie
shines in 25th-anniversary DVD

"The Rocky Horror Picture Show"

Reviewed by John Orr

(Click on the images to see larger version and credits.)

Nell Campbell, Patricia Quinn, Tim Curry, Richard O'BrienWatching the 25th anniversary edition DVD of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," I found myself mildly disagreeing with Richard O'Brien, the man who wrote this wonderful, hilarious, hedonistic and famous cult-favorite rock musical, regarding one small issue.

One of the DVD features is that the film can be watched with O'Brien and Patricia Quinn discussing the film while it plays. Sounding nothing like Riff Raff and Magenta — the characters they played — but rather like the British stage actors they are, they schmooze and reminisce in cultured tones about one of the rowdiest, most decadent rock films ever made.

Tim Curry, Barry Bostwick, Susan SarandonAt one point, when Brad and Janet are driving from the wedding to their date with fate at Dr. Frank-N-Furter's castle, their car radio is on, and we can hear Richard M. Nixon speaking, explaining that he is resigning the presidency.

O'Brien says he never liked having that Nixon speech in the movie — which was directed by Jim Sharman — because it dates the movie.

Well. We all took criticism courses, right? We all know about the meanings of universality and timelessness, right? And, there are also marketing concerns.

But, really. Why is that an issue at all, regarding a movie that is about a transsexual alien from planet Transylvania and his Frankensteinish efforts to build himself a perfect male lover, with efforts on the side to seduce both Brad (Barry Bostwick) and Janet (Susan Sarandon)?

It's just a silly consideration, really, but it's interesting that O'Brien thinks of it at all.

There he was, a not especially successful stage actor in the early '70s, and he writes this crazy rock musical. His first effort at writing. It becomes a very successful play and is performed before cultish audiences in England and in the United States. Elvis Presley sees it on stage. Keith Moon saw it several times, bringing champagne for the actors every time. Carol King saw it several times, and started dressing as the characters when she went to it.

It became a movie that flopped immediately.

Then someone got the idea of making it a midnight movie at small theaters, and history was made. It's been showing continuously as a cult movie for most of its 25 years, and influenced rock behaviour ever since. O'Brien has never had a greater success, in terms of popularity.

Tim CurryPeople do not, for instance, dress up in dirndls to go see midnight performances of "The Sound of Music," but they do dress up in heavy mascara, garters and bustiers and dance in front of the screen for "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," and some of them have done so on a regular basis for more than 20 years.

Who cares that the movie is dated by that Nixon speech?

Well, actually, I do.

Because it makes it a better film.

For those of use who were alive and sentient at the time, the Nixon speech helped define Brad's character, and helped set the stage for what all the film's decadence was revolting against. Think of Richard Nixon walking on the beach at San Clemente wearing a suit and leather shoes, then think about Tim Curry ripping off his robe to show his silk stockings, garter belt and bustier, and you get, in a nutshell, what many of my generation felt about this film.

For people born after "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" debuted 25 years ago, the connection may be less visceral, but it's not unimportant. Nixon defines stuffed-shirt politics, and "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" defines rock 'n' roll excess.

It's a telling element of this wacky movie.

The movie itself is silly, funny, tasteless and a load of fun whose basic message is if it feels good, do it.

oooh! It starts with Quinn's lips doing the moving, but O'Brien's voice singing the opening song, "Double Feature Picture Show," which mentions the songs that inspired "The Rocky Horror Picture Show": "The Day the Earth Stood Still," "Flash Gordon," "The Invisible Man," "King Kong," "It Came From Outer Space," "Doctor X," "Forbidden Planet," "Tarantula," "The Day of the Triffids," "Night of the Demon" and "When Worlds Collide."

Then ... the rest of the movie, which, hopefully you have already seen, in a theater, with performers in front of the screen doing their fun things, and toast, rice and water flying through the air.

Nell Campbell, Tim Curry, Patricia Quinn If you've never seen it in a theater, the DVD gives you a couple of different ways to see that it is like, including the opportunity to swing from the movie itself to a theater, where the same scenes are being watched on the screen while the audience does its nutty stuff. It's a safe way to experience it, for all you chickens out there.

Also ... the nice thing about watching this film at home on video is the dialogue can actually be heard and understood, which is usually not possible in a theater, with everyone screaming "slut!" and "asshole" at the screen.

Not that the dialogue is especially important.

Doing the Time Warp againThe great stuff is just hearing the terrific rock 'n' roll tunes such as "Time Warp" and "Sweet Transvestite" and seeing the stunning sets and costumes.

The DVD includes the U.S. release and the U.K. release, and you can watch it with or without the musical sequence "Superheroes." There is the O'Brien/Quinn commentary you can choose to hear or not, a way to watch it while seeing how it plays in theaters, a prompter for all the goofy stuff audiences do, and DVD-ROM games.

That's just the first disk. The second disk has excerpts and outtakes from VH1 "Behind the Music" interviews with Sarandon, Bostwick, O'Brien, Quinn and Meatloaf. It also has a VH1 "Pop-Up Video" of the tune "Hot Patootie!", the "Rocky Horror Double Feature Video Show," the theatrical trailers and more.

I like the DVD packaging, which is visually pretty cool. Here's a picture of the inside:

Inside the DVD case

And, it's interesting, at times, to hear what O'Brien and Quinn have to say about the film, although what they do seems very casual and not well thought-through. They are just two old friends who shared an experience, sitting and schmoozing while watching a movie. There are interesting bits of information now and again, but mostly it just reveals the kind of people they have become.

If you're a fan of the film, this is a great way to see it at home, and highly recommended. If you've never seen it before, you are either in for a treat or something you may find highly offensive; rent it first. It may be too weird for you to want to actually own it.

DVD at
VHS at

See cast, credit and other details about "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" at Internet Movie Data Base.