Wednesday, April 19, 2017


Welcome to a new installment of WHY HAVEN'T I SEEN THAT?, where we talk about a must-see or iconic movie that we have never seen...until now. This week Robert checks out the 1975 cult classic musical, THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW.

Howdy fellow film freaks, Robert here. Yes, it's true: I have never before seen The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I've caught glimpses, of course; when a movie gets as big as Rocky Horror you can't live a normal life without without encountering bits and fragments. It's like trying to walk through a farmer's field after it rains and keep your shoes clean. What I saw of it, and what I heard of the antics of the movie's devoted fans at screenings, led me to believe that it probably wasn't my bag.

How a copy wound up in my DVD collection recently is a story to test the boredom threshold of stronger men than I, but come to me it did, and so, for science, I partook. I watched it from beginning to end, all 100 minutes, and my reaction in a nutshell is this: a wise man once wrote that to increase knowledge is to increase sorrow. I begin to see his point.

I learned a number of things about Rocky Horror as I watched, among them why no one ever said anything about the plot. That's because there isn't one, not really. The film (and, I assume, the musical it was based on) appears to be an homage of sorts to classic sci-fi and horror movies. And the painting American Gothic, for some reason. References, both in the visuals and the dialog, abound throughout; see how many sci-fi references you can identify in "Science Fiction Double Feature", the film's opening number, alone.

The story starts with that classic horror movie cliché of a young couple, out for a drive in the geographic middle of nowhere when their car breaks down. Seeking assistance, they visit a nearby Spooky CastleTM, and hilarity and Time-Warping ensue. You may now squirt your water pistols, twirl your noise makers, sing along or scream as you see fit; there's little rhyme and no reason to what comes after. Songs lead into other songs, cast members do little more than stand around waiting for their cues, and there's no sense to any of it.

It's a strange thing to watch a movie that's built such a devoted fan base over the years, as an uninitiated outsider. If a thing is so enduringly popular, I want to understand why. After watching Rocky Horror, I'm still at a loss, and that vexes me. The songs grate, the visuals are jarring, and things only seem to happen for the sake of being as weird as possible. Not even Tim Curry, who I normally love, could do anything to save this experience for me. I'm aware that the 1970s were a strange time of risky experimentation in musicals, and Rocky Horror fits right in there. But it seems to be trying too hard to acheive maximum weirdness, and at the same time, it's afraid to really commit to its own twisted nature. It's just odd to see a performance so chaste and lightly flavored with innuendo, when the film clearly wants to be a sexually charged celebration of pleasure freed from old morality. I doubt I would have enjoyed the movie any more if did include more overt expressions of sexuality, but I still find it ironic that a movie so devoted to hedonistic sexual freedom treats its one sex scene as something to only be hinted at in a song, and then quickly swept aside.

It's obvious to me that Rocky Horror is a musical for the sexual revolution, but that revolution is over, and watching propaganda flicks from that time now is kind of like watching campaign commercials after the election. We know how that story ended. There was a winning side, and a losing side, and the creations of that time are now, at best, strange historical oddities. The Rocky Horror Picture Show is one of the strangest of that bunch, and that may appeal to you. But I'll seek my pleasures elsewhere.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is rated R.

Robert's Score: 0/10

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