Blu-ray Disc review by Tim Salmons of The Digital Bits
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: 35th Anniversary Edition
1975 (2010) - 20th Century Fox
Released on Blu-ray on October 19th, 2010
Also available on DVD
Film Rating: A-
Video (1-20): 18.5
Audio (1-20): 17
"It's not easy having a good time... even smiling makes my face ache."
Labeled by fans everywhere as the greatest midnight movie of them all, The Rocky Horror Picture Show has certainly garnered a very large following. Somewhere out there, at this very moment, you're likely to find a theatre full of Rocky Horror fanatics, dressed up like the film's characters and interacting in some very creative ways.
The product of actor Richard O'Brien, The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a tribute to B movies, movie musicals and rock & roll excess. What began as a live stage show transformed into a live action movie extravaganza, complete with cheesy dialogue and special effects. The most noteworthy aspect of the film is the remarkable performance by Tim Curry in the film's central role: a cross-dressing sexual deviant from the far reaches of space. It was a career-defining role that has subsequently followed him into everything that he's been a part of since. The film was a major flop upon its initial theatrical release, but thanks to frequent home video releases and a mainstay at midnight theatrical screenings, it became a phenomenon, as well as one of the most celebrated cult films of all time.
For its 35th Anniversary Blu-ray release, 20th Century Fox has managed to put together a fantastic little package. For the video presentation, a new 4K/2K transfer was struck from the original negative for the best picture quality possible. Even though the film has never been seen as the finest in visual quality, there's still an impressive picture on display here. First things first: evidence of digital manipulation can be found absolutely nowhere on this disc. DNR, edge enhancement or any other digital augmentation tools have been left completely alone. Grain is solid, pleasant and film-like throughout with only very minor flaws, mostly stemming from the actual production (for instance, the narrator scenes with Charles Gray look much softer than the rest of the film). Regardless, this new transfer helps to reveal a lot of visual detail previously hidden in the actual image. Detail such as rain droplets in Janet's hair, the finer costume details and even the glistening sweat on Rocky are much clearer than ever before. To be succinct, the movie has never looked better, and this presentation should be pleasing to everyone.
The audio for the film, on the other hand, is a different story. A new English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track has been created specifically for this release. Also included are Portuguese and Polish 5.1 Dolby Digital options, as well as the original English Mono track. Unfortunately, the DTS track doesn't sound incredibly well-balanced to me. The music and the sound effects tend to dominate the soundtrack while putting the dialogue in the backseat, giving it very little room to breathe. I actually prefer the Mono track, colored mostly by the fact that it features the original dubbing of Rocky's dialogue and the original mixes of some of the musical numbers. In this mix, the dialogue is very clear and on the same level as the sound effects and the music, not being overridden like in the DTS track. It's also worth noting that the English 5.1 track for the 25th Anniversary DVD release hasn't been included here (perhaps to simply save room for the other audio options). Being that this is a region-free release, the subtitles come in a multitude of different languages, including the usual English SDH, French and Spanish. There are also 3 subtitle tracks for the audio commentary in English, French and German for those who need them.
Housed within a 26-page booklet, filled with photos from on-set photographer Mick Rock, this disc has some great new extra material, including the main menu's layout. While the "Science Fiction Double Feature (Reprise)" song plays, different sets of fake posters for the movie float by on-screen. It's a really nice touch, and I'm glad they chose that particular song instead of "The Time Warp" for a change. The video-based extras begin with a set of different viewing options called The Midnight Experience. Within this sub-menu, you'll find four options: Trivia Track (a subtitle option featuring various facts and anecdotes about the film), Vintage Callback Track (an optional audio track that allows you to watch the movie with the unrated 1983 Rocky Horror Picture Show Audience Par-tic-i-pation album), Prop Box (an interactive option you can use to toggle through on-screen props with your remote control during the movie) and The Late Night, Double Feature, Picture-In-Picture Show (a live performance by a newly assembled Shadowcast that perform the movie on stage while the movie plays behind them). These are all optional and can be viewed separately or all-at-once, and can also be switched on or off at any time. Rocky-Oke: Sing It! is an additional subtitle track that can be used for a bit of karaoke. The Search for the 35th Anniversary Shadowcast is a small documentary on the casting process for the performers included in the The Midnight Experience extra. It's split up into two parts: Don't Dream It, Be It and An-tic-i-pation. Mick Rock (A Photographer) is a brief interview segment with the man who took the most famous on and off set pictures of the original cast. Following that is a motion gallery of those pictures entitled Mick Rock's Picture Show.
Owners of the previous 25th Anniversary DVD release will be pleased to know that most of the extras from that release have been carried over. The option of watching either the U.S. or U.K. versions of the film is still intact, as is the Easter Egg option to watch the film with a black and white opening (an idea that was scrapped during the film's development). The audio commentary with Richard O'Brien and Patricia Quinn has also been included, but the bulk of these extras can be found in the A Few From the Vault section. These include Deleted Musical Numbers, Outtakes, an Alternate Credit Ending, a Misprint Ending, the Rocky Horror Double Feature Video Show documentary, both theatrical trailers, a pressbook gallery and a poster gallery. As a newly-added bonus, two extras from the film's 15th Anniversary VHS release have been also been included: the Beacon Theatre, New York City: 10th Anniversary featurette and the Time Warp Music Video. What you won't find carried over are the previously mentioned English 5.1 audio track, the Multi-View Experience, the Participation Prompter and the Audience Participation audio track (all replaced by the new The Midnight Experience option). Also missing is the Rocky on VH-1 (Pop-Up Video) segment, the VH-1: Behind the Music excerpts, the two Sing-A-Long segments and all of the DVD-ROM features. I advise those of you who are looking to upgrade to BD to hang on to your DVDs if you're interested in having everything.
For being such a big commercial failure, The Rocky Horror Picture Show has definitely found its way into the mainstream and reached a status few film failures have managed to achieve. It's certainly not for everyone, but it's still highly enjoyable and manages to retain its fun factor with audiences many years later. In summation, this is a Blu-ray release definitely worthy of either a fanatical late night crowd or a hi-def disc enthusiast. Very recommended.