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The Rocky Horror Picture Show

People aren't kidding when they say that The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a strange film. Filled with bisexual mad scientists, creepy servants, rock n' roll musical numbers, and plenty of sexual innuendo, the film's definitely not for everybody. The film's certainly a trip, but I can't help but feel that this story doesn't work nearly as well on-film as it does on-stage. It feels empty without audience participation and that lack of interaction makes for something that feels far less memorable.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show tells the tale of a newly engaged couple, Brad and Janet, who find themselves lost and with a flat tire on a cold and rainy, late November evening. Seeking a phone for help, the couple stumbles upon a nearby castle that's filled with outlandish scientists, tap-dancers, servants, and Transylvanians. Before the night's up, the couple find themselves involved in a narrative filled with adultery, homosexual lusts, and enough B-horror movie references to make Ed Wood, Jr. blush.

You can't talk about this film without mentioning its fantastic musical numbers. As the film is both a horror parody *and* a musical, many of the songs have a bit of a campy feel to them that make them just as entertaining as they are catchy. With the exception of one or two songs, the entire soundtrack is sheer fun and whimsy. From songs like "Dammit, Janet" to "Time Warp Dance" to "Don't Dream It (Be It)" to the infamous "Sweet Transvestite", all of the songs are well-written, incredibly catchy, and completely fit the mood of the film. A great soundtrack, to be sure.

The rest of the film, sadly, isn't anywhere near as great as the soundtrack. The characters have interesting backgrounds, that's for sure, but we never get to really experience these characters. With the exception of Frank N. Furter's sentimental ballad near the end, these characters are simply meant for pure shock value and rampant silliness. I suppose that's the point, but the atrocious dialogue didn't really help with getting me to really like any of the characters. The castle-dwellers, especially, are hard to really like since the majority, if not all, of them are S&M hedonists. I digress...

As I stated before, the concept simply doesn't work on-film the same way it would on-stage. The many theater aspects of the film - such as the narrator, elaborate dance and song numbers, and set-pieces - aren't as convincing as they would be on a stage. That's fine as well, as not all stories are fit for every kind of storytelling format. For instance, To Kill A Mockingbird makes for a terrific novel but the film adaptation is only "pretty good". La jetee, as a further example, could never possibly work as anything but a radio adaptation or film. The film feels empty without a live audience, and I believe that's what it needs to be a greater success.

This film and the 1980's remake, or rather re-envisioning, of Little Shop of Horrors are often compared to each other. Both satire 1950's B-movies, both feature an element of camp, both are musicals, both feature a young couple, etc. and so forth. Personally, I find Little Shop of Horrors to be the vastly superior film. While Rocky Horror features a fantastic soundtrack, Little Shop of Horrors is an overall more satisfying film. It features a more likable and memorable cast, better visuals, a smoother sense of pacing, and is able to balance an interesting narrative and parody. Rocky Horror, while successful in its parody, is unable to create any emotional connection with its characters or material.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is vastly overrated, that's for sure. Still, the film's decent for what it does right and the soundtrack's certifiably creative and catchy. The film works, but it's nowhere near as effective as it would be on-stage.



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