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Monday, October 22, 2012

The Rocky Horror Picture Show

I think that some of the best memories of holidays are the traditions that make them all that more special.  You know what I mean, right?  The parties, the activities, the holiday specials, and the holiday treats that make holidays what they are.

I would think that when most of us think about holiday traditions, the vast majority of them would apply towards the Christmas season.  And that’s understandable as a lot of my family’s holiday traditions are Christmas related.  From hanging up the stockings, to watching Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer every December, to watching my father cursing and swearing every time he untangles the Christmas lights...those are Christmas traditions that I look forward to every year.

But that’s not to say that the other holidays are neglected when it comes to tradition.  I have annual traditions for every holiday on the calendar year.

When I was younger, I would stay up past midnight every New Years Eve to watch Dick Clark drop the ball in the middle of Times Square on television.  With Dick Clark passing away earlier this year, that tradition won’t quite be the same anymore, but I’ll likely still watch it just out of habit.  Easter was also filled with a lot of childhood traditions.  I still remember fondly springing out of bed with glee, following a trail of jellybeans, jujubes, and Cadbury Creme Eggs to my basket filled with chocolates from the Easter Bunny.

And, hey, on Valentine’s Day, it’s traditional for me to make fun of it whenever possible and aggravating couples by telling them that Valentine’s Day exists for the sole purpose of guys buying their gals a box of chocolates so that a month later, they can dump them for giving them a zit, or making them gain weight.

(Yeah, I really tried to like Valentine’s Day, and I don’t mind it as much as I used to, but why break with tradition, right?  J )

Anyway, the point that I am trying to make with this introduction is that traditions can be found in almost every holiday from Canada Day to Thanksgiving. 

Halloween is no exception.

Seriously, Halloween has some of my all-time favourite traditions.  Sure, dressing up in costumes and going door-to-door for fun size Snickers and Twix bars was one of them for a number of years, but once I hit my teens, I got too big to get away with it much longer.  So, I found other traditions.  I would eat all the leftover candy that we had on the first of November, and I would watch at least one scary movie the weekend before Halloween. 

One of my favourite traditions involves one such movie in particular.  It aired on MuchMusic every Halloween, and I would make sure that I watched it that day because it was just one of those movies that drew me in.  I’m not sure if it was the killer soundtrack, the wild costumes, or the whimsical, bizarre plot that kept my attention.  Perhaps it was all three.

Oh, I can’t wait any longer.  I have to show you what I mean!

I’m sure you’ve figured it out!  We’re doing the “time warp” again to 1975 for one of the biggest cult movies of the last few decades...a movie that is still screened in various movie theatres thirty-seven years after it was originally released!

Ladies and gentlemen, this is “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” blog entry!

“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” was the film adaptation of the British rock musical stage play, “The Rocky Horror Show”, written by Richard O’Brien.

TRIVIA:  Richard O’Brien starred in the movie in the role of Riff Raff.

The movie also featured the talents of Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, and Barry Bostwick, all three of whom ended up having hugely successful careers in film and television.  What was also great about the movie musical was that all of the actors who starred in the movie did their own singing performances.

Other actors who starred in the film included Patricia Quinn, Nell Campbell, Jonathan Adams, Peter Hinwood, Charles Gray, and Meat Loaf.

Yes.  That Meat Loaf.

So, I don’t want to spoil the whole movie because it truly is one that is really worth seeing to believe, but here’s how the whole thing kicks off.  After the introduction with the singing red lips, we are introduced to the hero and heroine of the movie, Brad Majors (Bostwick) and Janet Weiss (Sarandon).  And, dammit, they love each other!  But how much do they love each other?  This much!

I regret that I couldn’t find a video clip to insert into this blog, but at least I found the song!

Anyway, Brad and Janet are driving down a desolate road in the middle of a dark and stormy night when they blow a tire and are stranded.  Unfortunately, 1975 was before the invention of mobile phones and the GPS, so Brad and Janet were forced to do what so many others did back in those days...walk down the road until they found someone who could help them.

The path that Brad and Janet ended up taking took them to a gigantic castle.  Brad felt that it was good fortune for them because he believed that the occupants had a telephone that they could use to call for a tow truck.  Once they entered the door though, it turned out to be a decision that would inevitably change their lives forever.

Turns out that Brad and Janet ended up walking straight into an annual Transylvanian convention, and it is here that we first meet Riff Raff, his sister Columbia (Campbell), and Magenta (Quinn).  And it is here where we watch them do the time warp, again.

And then enters this lovely character...

Frank N. Furter...the sweet transvestite from transsexual Transylvania.  And gender confusion isn’t the only character trait that can be associated with Frank N. Furter, as people who watch the movie soon figure out.

At any rate, Frank N. Furter’s gaze soon meets with Brad and Janet, and he orders both of them to stay as his personal guests, almost by choice.  To ensure that they stay, he has Columbia and Magenta strip both of them to their underwear and takes them up to the upper level of the mansion where after handing Brad and Janet bathrobes fills them in on his mission.  You see, Frank has claimed to have discovered the very secret of life, and he introduces both Brad and Janet to his secret creation, a gold hot pants clad monster named Rocky Horror (Hinwood).  Brad and Janet seem a bit surprised and a little scared at first, but as you will see in the movie, at least one of them ends up getting close to the big ways nobody ever imagined.

But just before Frank has time to celebrate the “birth” of Rocky, the party is soon crashed by an uninvited guest...

That uninvited guest ends up being Eddie, a former delivery boy who ends up having a rather strange connection to Rocky Horror (Rocky Horror actually possesses part of Eddie’s brain).  He is also having a romantic affair with Columbia.  And, unfortunately for Eddie, his appearance in the film is all too brief, as he meets a fate so gruesome that I really don’t know if I have it in me to type out.

Besides, why spoil the movie?  In fact, I feel so strongly about making sure that you see this movie that I’m ending the plot description right here, right now.  It’s my blog.  I can do that.  But believe me, if you have not yet seen this movie, and you think you know how it all ends, take it from me, you really will be shocked at what happens to each of the main characters at the end.

Besides, I want to talk more about the cultural impact that this film has had since it was released.  Although the film saw a nationwide release in September 1975, the first cities to screen the film were London, England, and  Los Angeles, California, on August 14, 1975.  While the film did quite well at both advance screenings, it initially didn’t do very well when it was released nationwide.  In fact, compared to some of the other heavyweights of 1975 such as “Jaws”, “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”, and “Dog Day Afternoon”, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” was considered a flop.

It actually wasn’t until April 1, 1976 that the movie really began to take off.  That was the day that the Waverly Theater in New York City began screening the movie as a midnight screening.  Shortly after the film started screening at the Waverly, groups of people began to flock to the screenings.  Six months later, on Halloween night, hundreds of people began to attend the screenings in full costumes, shouting at the movie screen whenever their favourite characters did something that they approved or disapproved of.  By the time the 1970s ended, a reported 230 movie theatres began showing the movie twice a week on midnights, and over the next few decades, the intense loyalty of the fans of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” soon helped the film reach the number two spot in the most successful films of 1975.  Not bad for a movie that started off with barely any interest, huh?

One of the fun things that one can expect when they attend a screening of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is the fact that they can be expected to have a night filled with fun, excitement, and the possibility of dancing on stage!  It turns out that there’s a whole list of things that people can do at a screening of the movie.  The more audience participation that takes place, the more fun a person usually has.  Just take a look at some of the samples of activities that people take part in during a typical showing.

For one, if you haven’t seen the movie in a movie theatre before, be prepared to take a lot of heat.  According to the hardcore Rocky Horror fans out there, if someone admits to not seeing the film in a theatre before, they are classified as “virgins”, and in some cases, they have the letter “V” drawn on their foreheads in bright red lipstick.  As if that weren’t bad enough, the “virgins” in the audience are subjected to hazing from the audience members who are considered “experts”.  “Virgins” can expect to be called out, made fun of, and are the first ones to be selected in various hazing rituals in front of the screen.  To the credit of most theatres, most of these are done entirely in fun, and most of the tricks aren’t that demeaning...but there are some particular theatres that are more hardcore and are a lot less sympathetic, so if you are wanting to do the Rocky Horror Picture Show experience for the first time, make sure you choose your theatre wisely!

Some screenings of the film also encourage the audience to bring props to use whenever a certain event takes place.  For instance, in the scene where Brad and Janet are walking in the rain, audience members arm themselves with water pistols and start spraying them inside the theatre to simulate the downpour.  During the toast scene, audience members toss rolls of Scott toilet paper and paper towels whenever they hear the words “Great Scott”.  There’s even a segment in which audience members throw playing cards whenever they hear Tim Curry singing the line “cards for sorrow, cards for pain”.

Really, you have to be expected for almost anything when attending a screening.

Of course, just hearing me talk about this movie and what happens at a screening, you might suspect that I myself have attended a couple of these screenings in my youth.  I could tell you...but then I’d have to kill you.  Instead, I’ll leave it up to you as to whether you think I deserve to have the scarlet letter drawn atop my forehead.

At any rate, for a movie to have influenced pop culture the way that “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” has (it inspired full episodes of “Cold Case” and “Glee”), it has to be a movie that is worth its weight in gold.  I know I certainly make a point to watch it every Halloween...and maybe even on a regular Thursday once in a while.

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