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"It's astounding
Time is fleeting
Madness takes its toll…"

What can I say about THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW ($30) that hasn’t been said countless times before? Probably nothing… but then again, I have a review to write. THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW has been a favorite on the midnight movie circuit for over two decades, despite having been a flop when it was initially released into the mainstream. Twenty-five years after its disastrous theatrical debut, THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW has gathered a dedicated following, which has made it the most successful cult movie of all time. While the film’s financial success stems from the audience participation experience, which has become a Friday and Saturday night ritual akin to a high mass, THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW is a fun movie to watch, even without the audience participation.

THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW is based upon the stage musical by Richard O'Brien, and the film features a number of the same actors who appeared in the British and American stage companies. The plot is something of a homage to innocent "B" science fiction movies of the fifties, although the action has been spiced up with open sexuality that was pervasive during the early seventies. As the film opens, we meet our hero and heroine namely Brad Majors (Barry Bostwick) and his new fiancée Janet Weiss (Susan Sarandon), who decide to pay a visit to their former teacher Dr. Everett Scott (Jonathan Adams)- the man responsible for bringing them together. While Brad and Janet are on their way to see Dr. Scott, their car breaks down during a thunderstorm, which forces them to seeks help in a nearby castle.

Brad and Janet are young and innocent and find themselves ill prepared for the reception they receive from the weird inhabitants of the castle. The butler Riff Raff (Richard O'Brien) and his sister Magenta (Patricia Quinn) are truly bizarre creatures, yet they pale in comparison to their master Doctor Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry), a self affirmed sweet transvestite from Transsexual Transylvania. Making matters worse for Brad and Janet is the fact that they arrived on the night that Frank-N-Furter brings to life his greatest scientific achievement, a blond muscle man that will be his sexual plaything. As the evening progresses, sweet, innocent Brad and Janet find themselves slowly corrupted by the decadent lifestyle of their amoral host. Eventually Brad and Janet even meet up with Dr. Scott, who comes to the castle in search of extraterrestrials, as well as his missing nephew Eddie (Meat Loaf). The cast of THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW also features Little Nell as Columbia and Charles Gray as the Criminologist, who narrates this amusing tale of sexual perversity amongst extraterrestrial.

While THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW is filled with naughty, camp imagery and sexual innuendo there is no actual sex depicted in the movie and only the tiniest flashes of nudity. The funny gender bending story and film’s over-the-top characters are the keys to the film’s success as is Tim Curry’s over-the-top performance. Every second Curry is on the screen is a study in excess; nothing the character does is ever small. The entire time he is on the screen, Curry struts around like a painted peacock and you can’t take your eyes off of him- his costumes and makeup have to be seen to be believed. Now I don’t want to slight anyone else, all of the performances are right on target and its great to see Sarandon and Bostwick in the earliest stages of their careers. In addition, Richard O’Brien’s songs are almost infectious; heck, I have been singing these songs since I was a teenager. Let’s face it; once you have seen THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, the movie is just impossible to get out of your head.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has done a truly superb job of bringing THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW to DVD. The two-disc set is a fan’s dream come true containing every possible extra, in addition to a phenomenal audio and video presentation. When the disc starts up, fans are presented with a choice of watching the U.S. or U.K. versions of the film. The U.K. version includes the song Superheroes, which was cut from American prints. Utilizing seamless branching, both versions of THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW come from a new 16:9 enhanced transfer that frames the film in its proper 1.66:1 theatrical aspect ratio. Image quality on this DVD is astonishing for a low budget film that is over a quarter century old. It’s obvious that a lot of painstaking care went into making THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW look this good on DVD. Kudos to Fox for making this cult classic look a new movie once again. The picture is incredibly crisp and the level of detail is very impressive for a movie of this vintage. Color reproduction is even better. All of the candy color hues leap off the screen, while the actors’ flesh tones maintain a very natural appearance. None of the intense colors show any sign of chromatic distortion or smearing. Blacks are accurately rendered, although the level of shadow detail is somewhat limited, which is about the only thing that will remind one of this movie’s true age. The element used for the transfer displays relatively few blemishes and no appreciable film grain. All traces of digital compression artifacts have been disguised by smart, dual layer authoring. 

Die hard fans will appreciate that the film’s original monaural mix is presented on the DVD, while those who like to make the most of their home theater systems will want to listen to the new Dolby Digital 5.1 channel remix. In 5.1, THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW has a livelier sound than it did in the past, although the original sound elements do have their frequency limitations. The music gets the biggest boost from the 5.1 channel remix, having an "in your face" rock-n-roll attitude. Songs like The Time Warp and Hot Patootie kick some serious butt, so feel free to blast them on your stereo system. Surround usage is somewhat limited, although the forward soundstage has a much better presence and very good channel separation. The higher frequencies are favored in the original recordings, leaving the bass channel to do little more than keeping the track from sounding too top heavy. English and Spanish subtitles are encoded on the DVD.

The interface for the interactive menus contains full motion video, animation, and sound, in addition to maintaining the irreverent and good-natured spirit of the movie. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection, and set up features as well as disc one’s supplements. In addition to the U.S. and the U.K. versions of the film, a secret third version of THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW is hidden on the disc. This "WIZARD OF OZ" version is in black and white up until Brad and Janet first encounter Frank-N-Furter, which works in the context that their lives were drab and dull until they met him. THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW features a running audio commentary with Richard O'Brien and Patricia Quinn, which is like a trip down memory lane for this twosome, although doesn’t really impart any technical details on the film’s production. An audience participation soundtrack is included on the DVD, which gives one that midnight showing experience, with the motion picture soundtrack coming from the front channels and the audiences’ responses in the rear. In the same vein, is the Multi-View Theater Experience, which allows one to watch how a section of the movie as it plays in the theater with full audience participation. By selection this Multi-View Theater Experience option, a pair of lips appears on the screen at key moments, signaling the view to press the "enter" button on their remote control, and be taken to the alternate video stream. Another similar feature is the Prompter subtitle track, which tells the viewer what do with various props and when to do it during the film’s unspooling.

Disc two has basic interactive menus, which provide access to the rest of supplements. Topping the list on disc two is a 36-minute documentary entitled The Rocky Horror Double Feature Video Show. The documentary features interviews with many of the principal, as well as tracing the history of THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW from its origins as an intimate stage musical to a worldwide cult movie phenomenon. Two deleted musical numbers are present on disc two, the first, Superheroes is part of the U.K. cut of the movie, while Once In A While is a truly lost musical number sung by Barry Bostwick. Also included are 11 alternate takes of scenes included in the movie. In addition, there is an alternate ending from the film that uses a reprise of The Time Warp, plus another ending which was a misprint that somehow found it way into a few theaters. Disc two also features a Rocky On VH-1 section that includes footage taken from the music network’s Behind The Music and the Where Are They Now programs. Comprised mainly of interview footage with most of the cast members, this section of the DVD is a treat. An even bigger treat is the VH-1 footage of Richard O’Brien revisiting Frank-N-Furter’s castle, which has been transformed into a hotel. During his tour, O’Brien points out which of the renovated rooms appeared in certain scenes, plus O’Brien performs acoustic versions of a number of the songs he composed for Rocky Horror. Another treat from VH-1 is the Pop-Up Video version of Meatloaf performing Hot Patootie, which was taken directly from the movie. Karaoke fans will enjoy the Sing-A-Long section that features Sweet Transvestite and Toucha Toucha Touch Me with just the music and on screen lyrics. Two theatrical trailers and a photo gallery close out the DVD Video supplements. THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW is DVD-ROM enabled, with games, trivia and a bunch of other cool stuff.

I have been a fan of THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW for quite some time and this DVD contains everything that a fan could want, save having the cast members coming to your home to perform live. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has done a tremendous job in creating the ultimate THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW DVD, which demonstrates their ever-increasing dedication to the format inn full force. This DVD is a must have for dedicated fans, as well as those "virgins" out there hoping to become fans. Absolutely recommended.


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DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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