The Rocky Horror Picture Show is the first film I ever saw with Susan Sarandon as Janet Weiss. Same goes for Barry Boswick, as Brad Majors, but then the most high-profile movie he’s been in since was 1993’s Weekend at Bernie’s II. Or 1996’s Spy Hard. It’s a tough call.
I first saw this film on video during the early 80s, and around the mid-to-late 80s on stage at the long-since demolished Davenport Theatre. Since my friend, Jason, and I were mid-teenagers and not ones for getting dressed up, we were one of the few NOT made-up like one of the characters from the show.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show also spawned a wonderful videogame back in 1985, which I played on the ZX Spectrum, and seemed none the worse for its lack of colour variety, since each screen was a single colour, such were the problems with colour clash back in the day. It was also released on the Commodore 64, Commodore 128 and Amstrad CPC.
You would play as either Brad or Janet and (spoiler alert) had to collect pieces of the Medusa machine from around the castle, to free your partner from stone and escape the castle before it shoots off into the sky. All of the other characters would try to stop you by stealing and hiding your clothes, as well as any items you’d picked up. In addition, Riff-Raff could kill the player with his laser gun, while Eddie could run the player over with his motorcycle if he thawed out and escaped from his freezer.
If I was to say that The Rocky Horror Picture Show was bizarre, that would be a major understatement. Beginning innocently enough with the wedding of the best friends to Brad and Janet, on the way home their car breaks down close to the house owned by the clearly-mad transvestite Doctor Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry, in easily his best-ever performance).
Sadly they’ve chosen the wrong night to drop in since Frank’s just about to unleash his brand new muscle-bound male creation onto an unsuspecting world. Couple this with handyman Riff Raff (The Crystal Maze‘s Richard O’Brien, who also wrote the music for the original stage play and co-wrote the screenplay – and seeing him interviewed on TV a few times in recent years, he’s still as lithe today as he was back then), the domestic Magenta (Patricia Quinn) and groupie Columbia (Little Nell) and they leave Brad and Janet about as out-of-sorts as you can possibly imagine.
Narrated by “The Criminologist” Charles Gray and featuring cameos from Meat Loaf as ex-delivery boy Eddie, Christopher Biggins as one of the Transylvians and an uncredited Koo Stark as a bridesmaid, not to mention the range of accompanying tunes, I’m Just a Sweet Transvestite, Hot Patootie Bless My Soul, Dammit Janet and, of course, the classic Time Warp and you have a film in a league of its own. There’s never been anything quite like it and I doubt there will ever be again.
Of course, I’m scarred for life that the scatter-brained Columbia briefly had her nipples out at one point (I’m sure I didn’t imagine that)… or was that Tim Curry? That said, in hearing Columbia, I can only hear Janice from Friends (Oh, I know!!)
And I can’t ever hear or use the word “anticipation” without saying it a la Dr Frank N Furter. Watching this again even took my mind off the horrendous hassle I’m having with my remortgage, so it’s a very feel-good movie… even if Frank N Furter has his own mind on what he’d like to be feeling… And you’d let him!
The film is presented in the original 1.66:1 widescreen ratio and in 1080p high definition and the picture occasionally gets a little soft and/or a little hazy, but this is down to the filming process and is as good as it’s going to get. It also flickers now and then. It’s mostly a 9/10 but bear these picture caveats in mind. Note that as the original ratio was 1.66:1, and so it wouldn’t normally be quite wide enough from which to strike a 16:9 anamorphic widescreen transfer, the film is presented by placing the 1.66:1 image within the 16:9 frame, meaning there are miniscule black bars down each side.
The sound is in DTS HD 5.1 – you know the film and you know the songs. And they all sound perfect.
The science-fiction double feature has an optional, alternative black & white opening which is… the same thing but in monochrome. However, once The Time Warp kicks in fully, at approximately 20 minutes in, it changes over to colour. Why? I wasn’t sure at first, but the extras explain that it changes to colour when Tim Curry first appears onscreen.
You get the choice of selecting either the US or UK version. I ended up watching the US version as I hadn’t seen it before, and didn’t realise it was mostly the same but slightly cut.
According to IMDB:
- USA theatrical version includes: Opening credit- A LOU ADLER-MICHAEL WHITE PRODUCTION; edited “Superheroes” song without Brad and Janet’s verses (Criminologist’s final verse is left in); picture credits showing cast with edited vocal “Time Warp” on audio. (The ending was re-edited to make the film more “upbeat.”)
- UK theatrical version includes: Opening credit- A MICHAEL WHITE-LOU ADLER PRODUCTION; complete “Superheroes” song; short end credits without cast pictures and “Science Fiction-Double Feature: Reprise” followed by an instrumental of “Time Warp” (which was traditionally played during cast bows in the play.) Prior to 1990, this was the version available on home video outside of the US.
However, on this disc, the UK version still says “A LOU ADLER-MICHAEL WHITE PRODUCTION”, and I could see that cutting out Brad and Janet’s lines from Superheroes, whilst leaving in Charles Gray’s, really makes no sense.
Also, the end credits also feature the picture credits over the cast. I guess this is the ‘problem’ with seamless branching. You don’t get two whole versions of the film on one disc – it just skips certain sections. That’s why the Blu-ray of A Good Day To Die Hard supposedly featured the cinema version as well as the extended version, yet the ‘cinema version’ also included all the swearing which was left in for the extended version. They just cut Mary Elizabeth Winstead back into the film when she drops Bruce Willis off at the airport, and also it has a different ending.
The extensive extras are as follows, with those after Mick Rock’s pictures grouped into a section called “A Few From The Vault” but I’ve listed them separately as they’re superb and really deserve going into detail about. Note that some of these extras have also featured on previous releases including 2010’s 35th Anniversary Blu-ray, but then you’re never going to get a whole new set of extras each time it comes out:
- The Midnight Experience: Up to four elements can be added to enhance the movie – a Trivia Track, a Vintage Callback Track (you’ll be told what to shout back at the screen), Prop Box (and you’ll be told what you THROW back at the screen), and The Late Night, Double Feature, Picture-in-Picture Show, which blends in a live Shadowcast Performance with cast members from around the world. Just put ALL of these segments on. It’s great.
- Rocky-oke: Sing It!: Sing-a-long-a-Rocky-Horror with appropriate ‘bloody’ subtitles and you can also have an instrumental version so you’re only listening to your own voice bellowing out.
- The Search for the 35th Anniversary Shadowcast: A two-part documentary, totalling 58:14, about those auditioning for the Official Blu-ray production. One woman says “There will only be *one* Blu-ray version of Rocky Horror”. Well, they’ll re-release the film every so often…
The chapters are oddly placed at exact 10-minute intervals, which doesn’t always work, but it’s better than having no chapters as some studios might give us.
- Mick Rock (A Photographer) (3:36): A brief talk of his time on-set.
- Mick Rock’s Picture Show (A Gallery) (3:50): All the pics. 45, to be precise.
LI>Deleted Musical Scenes: Once In A While (sung by Brad – 3:08) and Superheroes as it is in the film (1:52). Oddly, the first one is in a windowboxed SD form. I presume Superheroes is included because it’s not in the US version.
- Outtakes (10:02): 11 scenes here, including multiple versions of some scenes. These are also windowboxed, as are many of the following. That’s because the clips are often within a 4:3 frame as they’ve been produced for an earlier DVD release in 2001, some extras for which I haven’t seen before as I only received disc 1 of the two-disc set at the time.
- Alternate Credit Ending (3:45): What you get on the US version ending.
- Misprint Ending (1:44): Bit of an oddity this. It’s the video from the UK version, as the castle takes off, but with the audio from the US one.
- Rocky Horror Double Feature (36:25): A documentary, led by director Jim Sharman, which I hadn’t seen before, but it’s a wonderful mix of interviews and on-set performances, especially when they recreate the show with the original cast members, for an eager audience.
- Beacon Theater, New York City (10th Anniversary) (5:26): Another celebration for the movie, but it’s a far shorter piece and much less effective.
- Time Warp Music Video (15th Anniversary VHS Release) (4:41): Footage of an audience watching a Shadowcast performance.
- Theatrical trailers (0:30) and (2:59). I like that they refer to the 1975 film as “a different set of jaws”.
- Pressbook Gallery: Stacks of pictures, some of which can be zoomed in. However, where the first option is to return to the main menu or continue to the gallery, these options should be clicked on the opposite way round, as someone’s got fuddled and mixed them up.
- Poster Gallery (0:25): Just four posters.
- Audio commentary: with Richard O’Brien and Patricia Quinn
“Say goodbye to all of this… and hello to oblivion.”
If you’ve never seen The Rocky Horror Picture Show before, don’t dream it…. buy it.
And if you have seen it, buy a copy of this Blu-ray for a friend for Christmas. I watched this again while going through a right load of crap trying to sort out my remortgage and it cheered me right up.
The menu features a brief segment of the main theme set to twirling images behind it. Also, there’s a fantastic 36 chapters, and subtitles in the 17 languages: English, Brazillian Portuguese, Danish, Finnish, French, German, Spanish, Dutch, Norwegian, Swedish, Greek, Hungarian, Icelandic, Hebrew, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, plus commentary in English, French and German. However, Fox do the public down by only listing English on the box.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: 40th Anniversary Edition is out now on Blu-ray, and click on the packshot for the full-size image.
Running time: 100 minutes (UK version) / 98 minutes (US version)
Studio: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Released: October 5th 2015
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: DTS HD Master Audio 7.1 (English only), Dolby Digital 5.1 (Portuguese and Polish), Mono 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: English, Brazillian Portuguese, Danish, Finnish, French, German, Spanish, Dutch, Norwegian, Swedish, Greek, Hungarian, Icelandic, Hebrew, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, English commentary, French commentary, German commentary.
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Jim Sharman
Producers: Michael White
Screenplay: Richard O’Brien and Jim Sharman (Based on the musical by Richard O’Brien)
Dr Frank-N-Furter – A Scientist: Tim Curry
Janet Weiss – A Heroine: Susan Sarandon
Brad Majors – A Hero: Barry Bostwick
Riff Raff – A Handyman: Richard O’Brien
Magenta – A Domestic: Patricia Quinn
Columbia – A Groupie: Little Nell
Dr Everett V Scott – A Rival Scientist: Jonathan Adams
Rocky Horror – A Creation: Peter Hinwood
Eddie – Ex Delivery Boy: Meat Loaf
The Criminologist – An Expert: Charles Gray
Ralph Hapschatt: Jeremy Newson
Betty Munroe: Hilary Labow
The Transylvanians: Perry Bedden, Christopher Biggins, Gaye Brown, Ishaq Bux, Stephen Calcutt, Hugh Cecil, Imogen Claire, Tony Cowan, Sadie Corre, Fran Fullenwider, Lindsay Ingram, Peggy Ledger, Annabel Leventon, Anthony Milner, Pamela Obermeyer, Tony Then, Kimi Wong, Henry Woolf
Bridesmaid: Koo Stark (uncredited)
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.