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review added: 10/30/01



The Rocky Horror Picture Show
1975 (2000) - 20th Century Fox

review by Adam Jahnke of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVsTHX-certified

The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Film Rating: B

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A-/B+/A+

Specs and Features

Disc One
99 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (1.66:1), 16x9 enhanced, THX-certified, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 31:59, in chapter 9), gatefold packaging with slip-case, audio commentary (with writer/star Richard O'Brien & star Patricia Quinn), audience participation audio track, UK Version of film (36 chapters, 100 mins), The Theatrical Experience alternate angle feature, Participation Prompter subtitle track, DVD-ROM features (including Rocky Horror timeline, Riff Raff's Story Lab, Masochistic Trivia Challenge, Participation 101, Rocky Horror jukebox, cast/crew spotlights, screensaver & weblinks), Easter egg: Wizard of Oz version of film (99 mins), 10-page illustrated booklet, animated film-themed menu screens with music and sound, scenes access (35 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 & mono) subtitles: English and Spanish, Closed Captioned

Disc Two
Rocky Horror Double Feature Video Show documentary, 2 deleted musical scenes (Once in a While and Superheroes), 11 outtakes, Rocky on VH1 (excerpts from VH1's Behind the Music and Where Are They Now), Pop Up Video: Hot Patootie, alternate credit ending, 2 theatrical trailers, 2 sing-alongs (Toucha Toucha Touch Me and Sweet Transvestite), misprint ending, photo gallery, animated film-themed menu screens with music and sound

"Don't dream it, be it."

Look in the dictionary under "cult movie" and there ought to be a picture of the poster for The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Dumped into theatres in 1975 by a studio that had absolutely no idea what to do with this seemingly unmarketable rock & roll musical that teemed with androgyny and transvestitism, RHPS vanished almost immediately. For any other movie, that would be that. But RHPS is not any other movie. Rescued by its fans, Rocky Horror continues to play midnights theatrically around the world to an audience unlike any other. Rocky Horror fans sing along with the cast. They dance in the aisles. They dress like the characters and transform the theatre into a replica of the on-screen action, shooting water pistols when it rains, throwing rice at the wedding scene and always ready for someone to propose a toast.

The plot of Rocky Horror is virtually non-existent. An average American couple, Brad and Janet (Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon), gets a flat tire on a rainy night on a lonely stretch of road. They look for help in a creepy castle, where they encounter Dr. Frank N. Furter (Tim Curry), a sweet transvestite from the planet Transsexual in the galaxy of Transylvania. Frank's about to unveil his latest creation, a blond muscle man named Rocky Horror. From that point on, pretty much anything goes. What the movie lacks in narrative cohesion (and believe me, it lacks a lot), it makes up in catchy songs and a free-spiritedness that is downright addictive. I mean, any movie that can still inspire people to dress up in fishnet stockings and do the Time Warp every Friday night at midnight after 25 years must be doing something right.

The first time I wrote a review of Rocky Horror was for my college paper ten years ago, when RHPS was celebrating its 15th anniversary (and yes, I do feel old now, thank you very much). That review drew a fair amount of ire from readers because I suggested there was no point in watching RHPS on video. I said the only way to truly enjoy the movie was to see it in a theatre, because at home, the movie's many flaws become all too transparent. To a certain extent, I still believe that's true. But Fox's 25th anniversary DVD comes very close to doing what ten years ago I would have said was impossible: bringing the complete Rocky Horror experience home.

For starters, there's the video quality, which is about a zillion times better than any theatrical print of RHPS I've ever seen. I was amazed how clean this movie looked, with only the most minor imperfections and graininess. And with some of the brightest reds in cinema history, this is not an easy movie to transfer. RHPS quite simply looks better here than it ever has before. The remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 sound is okay, though it's a far cry from the standards set by the DVD releases of such rock movies as Yellow Submarine. The 5.1 track is slightly richer than the original 2.0 mono track also included, but except for a few thunder effects, it doesn't surround you much at all.

But it's the extra features that make this a must-have for any RHPS fan. First off, the miracle of seamless branching offers no less than 3 versions of the movie. There's the American version, the UK version (which includes the song Superheroes at the end) and a hidden third version, which attempts to recreate the Wizard of Oz homage that was originally intended by having the film shown in black and white until the doors are flung open to reveal the Transylvanians doing the Time Warp. A commentary track by Richard O'Brien (creator of the show and, more visibly, the actor who plays Riff Raff) and Patricia Quinn (Magenta) offers insight into both the movie and the original stage production. Quinn and O'Brien are also among the participants in the second disc's documentary, The Rocky Horror Double Feature Video Show, which does a good job tracing the show's evolution from minor stage oddity to worldwide cult phenomena.

The set's best extras, however, are those that allow you to invite over your friends and recreate the theatrical experience at home. So many are included that this should perhaps have been called The Audience Par-Tic-A-(Say it!)-Pa-Tion Edition. First off, the booklet provides you with a handy prop list of everything you'll need. Then there's a subtitle track that prompts you when to throw your rice or put newspaper on your head. Activate the Theatrical Experience feature to gain access to footage of Rocky Horror's biggest fans doing what they do best, by hitting "enter" on your remote whenever the lips icon appears on-screen. And if you don't want to get that involved (or you don't have any friends to invite over), you can create a virtual audience by activating the Audience Participation audio track. This turns your rear channels over to an extremely vocal RHPS audience, shouting at the screen and performing their own dialogue. This is a pretty accurate recreation of seeing RHPS in the theatre, since most of what is said on this track is pretty unintelligible. Disc One also includes a variety of DVD-ROM features, including an interesting RHPS timeline, some fairly silly games (including a Mad Libs-like story generator and a more conventional trivia game), a jukebox that provides instant access to the musical numbers, filmographies for the cast and crew and a variety of RHPS weblinks.

Besides the documentary, Disc Two features loads of interviews and excerpts from VH1's Behind the Music and Where Are They Now programs, including O'Brien, Quinn, Susan Sarandon, Meatloaf (now going under the more sophisticated and professional name Meatloaf Aday) and Barry Bostwick. VH1 also contributes a Pop-Up Video of Meatloaf's big number Hot Patootie. In addition, there's karaoke versions of Sweet Transvestite and Toucha Toucha Touch Me, two deleted numbers (including Superheroes, so you don't have to sit through the whole UK version on Disc One to see it), a misprint ending with dialogue from the US version running over footage from the UK version, an alternate end credits sequence using Time Warp and an extensive photo and album cover gallery. There's also nearly a dozen outtakes, which are mainly of interest to see the musical numbers performed without music, and two theatrical trailers (one of which misspells Sarandon's name as "Saradon"). The only thing I can think of that wasn't included (and would have been nice to see) is the theatrical trailer for Rocky's semi-sequel Shock Treatment, since we're unlikely to see a DVD of that from Fox anytime soon. (Shock Treatment would, however, make an ideal Anchor Bay release, so if anybody from Fox and/or Anchor Bay is reading this, perhaps you should explore that possibility. You don't even have to thank me.)

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is not a movie for everybody. If it were, it would have been a hit in the first place instead of being the foundation of the most fervent cult following the movies have ever known. But diehard fans looking to convert virgins who are reluctant to head out to the theatre will find no better recruitment tool than this DVD. It ensures that, in the unlikely event theatrical interest in RHPS starts to fade, we can all do the Time Warp again and again and again.

Adam Jahnke
ajahnke@thedigitalbits.com




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