The film Rocky Horror Picture Show was first released in 1975 in the UK and in America shortly afterward. Directed by Jim Sharman, it had an all-star cast including Tim Curry, Richard O’Brien, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick, Patricia Quinn, Nell Campbell and Meat Loaf. Officially classified as a comedy, the film could be filed as a musical just as easily.
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The film opens with a black screen and music. As the music builds, a pair of red lips grows on the screen singing the words, but nothing else can be seen of the individual as the title and the credits are shown. Once the credits are finished, the scene opens on the ending of a wedding ceremony where Brad and Janet have been attending as guests. This evolves into a somewhat silly musical piece in which Brad proposes marriage to Janet as they dance through the church’s graveyard and a storm begins to threaten. This is similar in structure to the final scene has Janet, Brad and Dr. Scott running from the castle as it takes off for Transsexual. Again, there is a thundering sound as the couple are seen in a field of destruction closely associated with the recent death of FrankNFurter and his creation. The young couple crawls in circles around the prone form of Dr. Scott through a field of mist in which they seem incapable of seeing each other while they sing a song about the confusion that has entered their lives as a result of their recent experiences. This scene turns into a spinning globe and the narrator stands there to tell us the final words of the final song: “and crawling on the planet’s face, some insects called the human race; lost in time, lost in space and meaning.” This is very similar to the red lips at the beginning that provided a song suggesting the events to come. However, while the opening scene seems to bring the couple together, the closing scene seems to keep them apart.
There are several problems faced by the characters Bob and Janet as the film focuses on sexual exploration. At the beginning, they are seen to be very straight-laced and uptight. Even after they are engaged to be married, they are very formal with each other. But at FrankNFurter’s castle, they are forced to strip off their formalities (literally) and explore the sexual side of their natures more fully. This begins upon their entry into the castle and they are forced to remove their clothes in order to put on the much more suggestive corset and fishnet stockings preferred by their host. The show continues to spoof science fiction movies even as it demonstrates these two characters becoming somehow more real as they explore their physical natures. The primary message of the film seems to be stressing the need to not take life so seriously that you forget how to enjoy physical pleasures. Although Brad and Janet seem to be completely lost at the end of the film because of the extreme degree to which they have abandoned their principles, the idea that we should have fun and some exploration comes out very clearly.
When viewing this film in a movie theater, it is very difficult to get an impression of just the film itself instead of also of the audience which engages in a great deal of audience participation throughout the show.
However, whether it is seen in private or in public, it is impossible to miss its appeal for more fun in our daily lives and a general loosening of our ‘polite’ selves. It is not so much a film to be studied as it is a film to encourage a lack of study, a break into fun. I would go see it again in a different setting just to see how my reaction might be different and I would recommend others go see it as well. It is guaranteed to provide an evening of silliness that is a nice break from the everyday world.
Rocky Horror Picture Show. Dir. Jim Sherman. Perf. Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick, Richard O’Brien, Patricia Quinn, Neil Campbell & Meat Loaf. 20th Century Fox, 1975.