Thursday, October 21, 2010

Midnight Movies and Fishnet Hose

In the life of a movie lover such as myself, there comes a film that forever changes who you are and your perception of life forever (edit: there are often several films that do this) and it is these films that remain our favorites forever.  The film I want to talk about today did several things, not just for me, but for pop culture itself.  For me, it introduced me to one of my favorite oddball musicals and facilitated an introduction to my best friend in high school (if we had not seen it at that time, we might not have made our connection).  For pop culture, it has become THE template for the cult film...which is a film that has a concentrated and rabid base of fans who are a subset of the average film fan.  It has also introduced lines, songs, and even dances into the American lexicon of entertainment and has become one of the longest running and more interactive theatrical films of all time.  To this day, even though it is 35 years old, the film still plays in movie theaters across the country and each year inducts more 'virgins' into its cult.  Now lets slap on our garter belts and dive into the absolute pleasure that is The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Brad Majors (asshole!) and Janet Weiss (slut!) are a couple of clean cut kids who are monogamously coupled, yet haven't taken that plunge into matrimony.  However, on the day that their friends Ralph Hapschat (Hap-shit!) and Betty Monroe (the ho) are finally wed, Brad and Janet decide to dive in and go for it in a frenzy of song.  To celebrate their new engagement, they head down to road to visit an old friend of theirs, Dr. Everett Scott.  However, as a sinister looking Criminologist with no neck tells us, it begins to rain and soon they are caught with a flat (How 'bout that?) out in the middle of nowhere.  Brad remembers that they passed a castle a mile back and decides that they should go ask if they have a telephone.  Anyone who has seen B-movies in the past knows that going to the spooky looking castle in the middle of a thunderstorm is a bad idea and that turns out to be equally valid here.  What they find is a house full of weirdos who are there for the Annual Transylvanian Convention, including a creepy butler named Riff-Raff, a very creepy domestic named Magenta, and a spangled groupie named Columbia.  Soon after, in complete terror, Brad and Janet are introduced to Dr. Frank-N-Furter...the master of the castle and self-proclaimed 'sweet transvestite' and mad scientist.  He invites (commands?) Brad and Janet up to his lab so they can see his newest creation, a blond adonis named Rocky Horror whom Frank intends to use to relieve his.....tension.  From then on out, things get particularly weird (you mean they weren't weird enough????).
Is there anything quite like Rocky Horror?  I don't know.  I've seen things that have been titilating, things that have been funny, things that have been disturbing, and even things that have been musical...but I can't recall anytime when they've all been mashed together so effectively.  Its interesting to hear creator Richard O'Brian (who also plays Riff Raff in the film) talk about how he came up with the musical that has been his bread and butter for much of his career and he merely states that he started writing it for fun.  It was just a lot of kooky ideas that he mixed together to see what came out and end the end we get what is like watching a double-feature B-movie show from the 50s with one half being science fiction/horror schlock and the other half being sexploitation.  But wait...there's more.  For those of you who are uninitiated to Rocky Horror, you may have found my comments in the summary that were in parethesis to be out of place and strange.  Not so when watching the film on the big screen because, as many people are aware, the film has become a huge interactive sensation.  People go to the movie houses that are playing the movie (at midnight, naturally) and come in costume, yell back at the screen, and throw props that corrospond to the film.  For example, in the opening wedding scene the audience throws rice along with the well-wishers while making sure to call Brad an asshole when his full name is mentioned and to call Janet a slut when her full name is said.  In other places, the call-backs are meant to make characters say things that they aren't meant to say by changing the context.  For example, when the Criminologist says "Its true that there were dark storm clouds...heavy, black, and pendulous...toward which they were driving."  The audience typically adds what is show in the parenthesis...(Is it true you're constipated?) "It's true.  There were dark storm clouds..." (Describe your balls!) "Heavy, black, and pendulous..."  You get the idea, right?  By adding the participation and the revalry, the fans have literally hijacked the film from its creators and have given it a life of its own completely unintended upon initial conception.  It really is remarkable in fact that experts and historians are still writing about it to this very day (along with us amaturs of course).  So if you've never seen the movie, or if you have and never tried the theatrical experience, I highly recommend trying it on for size.  Like a pair of four inch spike heels, it may seem uncomfortable at first, but it can make you feel sooooo good.  "Don't dream it."

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