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Gordon S. Miller Written by Gordon S. Miller
Oct. 26, 2010 | 4:39 PM

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The Rocky Horror Picture Show: 35th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray)

Describing The Rocky Horror Picture Show as simply a film doesn’t do justice to what this pop-culture phenomenon has become after bombing at the box office in 1975.  Quickly finding a home on the midnight-movie circuit, RHPS is an interactive experience where the audience has been more responsible for its success over the decades than its creators, which is no slight to the makers of this outlandish, genre-crossing musical comedy filled with gender-bending characters. 

Narrated by The Criminologist (Charles Gray), the film tells the story of newlyweds Brad (Barry Bostwick) and Janet Majors (Susan Saradon).  One evening their car breaks down and the nearest shelter out of the rain is the castle of Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry), “a sweet transvestite/ from Transsexual, Transylvania”, a planet in another galaxy.  The night they arrive, Frank creates Rocky, “a man/ With blond hair and a tan/ And he’s good for reliving [Frank’s] tension, the sexual kind as the audience normally shouts out.  Frank goes on to seduce both Brad and Janet, but is angered when Rocky finds comfort in Janet’s arms.  After the arrival of wheelchair-bound Dr. Scott (Jonathan Adams) searching for his no-good kid of a nephew Eddie (Meat Loaf), Frank decides to take control of the situation by putting on a floorshow, during which his new commander shows up and puts an end to the festivities.

RHPS lovingly spoofs 1930s Universal horror movies and ‘50s sci-fi B-movies while mixing in ‘60s sexual liberation and ‘70s glam rock.  Richard O’Brien, who plays Riff Raff, created a great collection of songs that this talented cast delivers on.  Curry is the standout as the very charismatic, omnisexual Frank.  He is completely over-the-top yet believable the entire time.  It’s also great fun picking out all the movie references.

When it plays in theaters now, audience members shout at the screen, use props to augment the experience, and many groups act out what takes place on screen, referred to as a shadow cast.  The film’s ideas of accepting and embracing sexuality, straight and gay, speak to many viewers.  Going to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a communal experience.  It has brought people around the world together many weekend late nights throughout the years like no other film. 

The 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC encoded video presented with an aspect ratio of 1.66:1 looks very good for the most part.  Colors are vibrant with red in particular popping off the screen.  There’s mild grain, which increases in the lab when Rocky is created.  Details are great, such as the textures of the elaborate costumes to Rocky’s abs and lower-stomach hairs and the numbers written in ink on Frank’s upper leg.  The edges are regularly sharp like in the floorshow sequence.  There are some issues, though.  Softness in focus occurs at times like many scenes featuring the narrator and portions of a scene after Magenta announces dinner. The dinner scene is dark and objects get swallowed.

Forget the original mono track; the songs sound brilliant on the DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track and should be played loud.  The vocals are strong and the different instruments are distinct in the mix.  There is some ambiance from party-goers to the thunderstorm.  Dialogue comes out the front center channel but is not always consistent.  A line of Janet’s at the end of the floorshow is muffled.

The Blu-ray offers an awesome assortment of extras to enhance the viewing experience if you can’t get out to a screening, although there was some serious lag time when switching options while the film was running.  RHPS is available in US and UK versions; the latter offers the extra song “Superheroes” near the end.  The film was originally intended to begin in black and white like “The Wizard of Oz” until the doors bust open on Frank’s party and there’s an option to see how that would have looked. 

The Midnight Experience is a four-way PiP feature that can be selected individually of all together.  “Trivia Track” offers tidbits in the upper left corner.  In the upper right “Vintage Callback Track” reveals some classic responses by RHPS Fan Club president Sal Piro to shout at the screen.  It’s not definitive by any means and everyone should be encouraged to come up with their own.  The hysterical “Prop Box” is the lower left.  Not only does it show you what props to use at certain moments, but you can keep the house tidy by using the remote to activate them on screen.  “The Late Night, Double Feature, Picture-in-Picture Show” is a live shadowcast comprised of fans/performers from around the world.

Speaking of which, “The Search for the 35th Anniversary Shadowcast” is an hour-long feature that shows how this all-star shadowcast was put together.  The first part, “Don’t Dream It, Be It,” shows the auditions, which is slightly reminiscent of American Idol with only the viewer to play Simon Cowell.  In part two, “An-Tic-I-Pation,” Barry Bostwick judges tapes and helps select the cast. 

“Rocky-Oke: Sing It!” provides fans an opportunity to sing along to all the songs or to turn of the vocals and sing solo.  Richard O’Brien and Patricia Quinn (Magenta) provide an insightful and amusing commentary track.  There’s an interview with unofficial set photographer Mick Rock and his work can be seen in “Mick Rock’s Picture Show.”

“A Few From the Vault” presents old bonus materials from previous releases.  The two deleted musical scenes are interesting, but the eleven alternate out-takes, the alternate credit ending, and the misprint ending are all a waste.  “Time Warp Music Video” and the featurette “Beacon Theater 10th Anniversary” are taken from the 15th Anniversary VHS release.  Some of the material is shared.  Also taking footage from that 10th anniversary screening is the informative documentary “Rocky Horror Double Feature Video Show” from the 20th anniversary.  There are two theatrical trailers and two galleries.

This 35th anniversary Blu-ray of The Rocky Horror Picture Show is for the curious, the bi-curious, and is well worth the high-definition upgrade for the Blu-curious.


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