A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 245 – The Rocky Horror Picture Show

The Rocky Horror Picture Show – October 31st, 2010

When I was in college I saw a sign hanging on a bulletin board in front of one of the dining halls. It was a hastily made sign advertising for auditions for a campus production of Rocky Horror. I didn’t know anyone involved at the time but I went anyhow. Turned out the woman playing Frank (women’s college = all female cast) was in two of my classes and I landed an awesome part. That one thing ended up being hugely influential to the rest of my social life in college. We rehearsed once a week and performed once a semester for other students in a cavernous dorm living room. It was fantastic and I’ve totally blocked out the stressful bits, of which there were many. It was theater, after all.

By the time I graduated I had played three parts in the show (guess which) and knew every line of every song, all the big callbacks and a ton of regional and school-specific ones. Watching this movie at midnight last night I was both overwhelmed with nostalgia and amazed not so much by what I remembered as shat I’d forgotten. There was a point when I could recite this movie and the callbacks from memory in its entirety. Andy and I did that once while at the mall. And while a ton of the callbacks and blocking came right back, there were a number of moment when I thought “there’s a line here and I cannot for the life of me remember it.”. That was a lot more depressing than I thought it would be. Regardless, I had a fantastic time watching. We put it in at midnight because we agreed that it just wouldn’t be right to watch it in the early morning or mid-afternoon.

I honestly don’t think I need to do much in terms of explaining this movie. Do I? This isn’t just a movie, it’s a whole big cultural thing. It sounds cliched to use the term “phenomenon” but it is somewhat accurate. No, shouting at movies didn’t start with RHPS but the whole thing with established jokes and props and people mockingly performing the show in front of the screen? I can’t say I know of anything quite the same before it. Some bits here and others there, yes, but not everything together. And still a cultural touchstone even now. There’s a story all about the experience of going to the midnight shows and dressing up in the book Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd. A certain television show I don’t watch (and never will, even if the episode in question was directed by Adam Shankman) recently did a tribute to RHPS. This movie is ubiquitous.

But why is that? Why does a bizarre lowish budget musical sci-fi monster horror movie tribute starring Tim Curry make people want to watch it over and over and over again? Sure, shouting at a bad movie is fun. I am an MST3K fan, after all. But this movie isn’t Manos level bad. It’s not even Space Mutiny level bad. It seems like it’s almost but not quite self aware. I think Richard O’Brien, who wrote it and starred as Riff Raff, was likely fully aware of what this movie was. O’Brien walked a very fine line here, melding homage and parody and earnestness into a unique item. The plot, about an innocent young couple who end up trapped in a castle full of aliens, one of whom has just created the perfect man for his own sexual appetites, and how said couple ends up seduced and involved in a song and dance number, wearing corsets and heels, well. The plot is poking at tropes all over the place. So all over the place that it’s impossible to fully pin down.

There’s really just something intangible about this movie that makes it charming and fun and the perfect thing for people a little (or a lot) outside the norm to rally around. Sure, it’s more mainstream now, but its roots are in midnight shows and Tim Curry in drag from well before Ru Paul had her own television show. I really do miss the Thursday night rehearsals and the big boxes of make-shift props and costumes. I miss knowing every single line and callback. But even though I’ve forgotten some, it’s still the same movie and it’s still every bit as much fun to watch as it always was.

October 31, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , ,

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