THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW
***½/**** Image A Sound A Extras A-
starring Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick, Richard O'Brien
screenplay by Jim Sharman and Richard O'Brien
directed by Jim Sharman
**½/**** Image A- Sound B+ Extras B+
starring Jessica Harper, Cliff De Young, Patricia Quinn, Richard O'Brien
screenplay by Richard O'Brien and Jim Sharman
directed by Jim Sharman
by Alex Jackson SPOILER WARNING IN EFFECT. I have never attended an actual theatrical showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and for the longest time, I doubted that I was completely receptive to every significant nuance and intricacy of the film, what with its name dropping of Michael Rennie and the presence of a performer called "Little Nell" who wears Mickey Mouse ears during the "Touch-A, Touch-A, Touch Me" number. The picture's esoteric quotient has always eluded my radar, preventing me from fully identifying with it, much less condescending to it. This idea of familiarity with extra-textual elements or training in a specific method of watching as essential in the evaluation process is a perennial issue in film criticism for me. My default position is that the two things don't have that much to do with each other: Learning more about a film can deepen an appreciation that was already there, but the initial call of yea or nay is one that every king, scholar, and prole is equally qualified to make. Beautiful idea, I think--it helps me sleep at night and keeps me from being too scared to see and write about films outside my realm of experience. So why is it that I am so intimidated by this movie?
My problem, I'm sure, is that I first saw the film at the tender age of 8, shortly after it debuted on home video in 1990. I was not able to detect any irony in the suggestions of cannibalism and incest, they were simply cannibalism and incest, and accordingly my response was along the lines of disgust/shock/moral outrage. But let's be honest, I was really freaked out because of Tim Curry's Dr. Frank-N-Furter. Seeing him seduce and have sex with Janet (Susan Sarandon), who was engaged to Brad (Barry Bostwick), elicited strange feelings in me; and seeing him then go into Brad's room and seduce him using the exact same lines elicited even stranger feelings. I vividly remember not knowing how to respond to Frank-N-Furter's nipples poking over the edge of his leather corset during the "Don't Dream It" sequence. Nipples on a woman are considered obscene and sexual and I'm getting away with something in seeing them; nipples on a man aren't sexual, but they are treated like a sexual thing in the film. There's a peep-show quality to it, isn't there? So what the hell is going on?! Is the sight of Frank-N-Furter's nipples sexual in nature or not? Further complicating things is the fact that Frank-N-Furter sports a perm that looked uncomfortably like my mom's. I'm completely and utterly surprised that I survived the experience with any semblance of my sexuality intact.
The film gets sloppy, joyless, and more than a couple shades of idiotic towards the end. In particular, the revelation that Riff-Raff (Richard O'Brien) and Magenta (Patricia Quinn) had disguised themselves as Dr. Frank-N-Furter's servants and are actually part of a crew of alien explorers (or something) seemed to have been spun out of thin air. The ending was kind of comforting, as it allowed me to decide that The Rocky Horror Picture Show was a "bad" movie. But still, my babysitter, a teenage boy into movies and video games like myself, introduced me to the whole experience, sang along to the film, and was certainly into it. And even more perplexing, I talked to my dad about it when he picked us up and he said that he's a fan of it! Nothing made sense at that point. Black was white and white was black. Every microbe of weirdness in the film suddenly accrued a powerfully alienating quality, reinforcing the idea that I was not of the same world as my babysitter and my dad. They were both a lot hipper than I was and related to the film on a level that could very well forever elude me.
I felt a great deal of relief while watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show DVD, many of whose supplements attempt to duplicate the experience of attending a screening of the film. To my surprise, the fans aren't nearly as intelligent, hip, or savvy as I was fearing. They're kids, basically--teenagers or people who remember what it was like to be a teenager. They watch the film like a cheesy bad movie with some terrific musical numbers and that's it. They aren't critiquing The Rocky Horror Picture Show or adding another dimension to it. They're simply celebrating it and occasionally mocking it. There are levels to the film they haven't touched; I thought I wasn't "getting" The Rocky Horror Picture Show, but, no, it's just the opposite: I seem to be taking it a lot more seriously than the fans are.
In a review of the film following its release on VHS, Roger Ebert wrote: "Viewed on video simply as a movie, without the midnight sideshow, it's cheerful and silly, and kind of sweet, and forgettable." Regrettably, this appears to be the general consensus. I want to set the record straight in saying that The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a good movie--and perfectly enjoyable without the audience. Granted, I was correct in picking up at age 8 that it eventually falls apart. Too, there are a couple of bits that feel particularly forced, such as the "I'll Make You a Man" number, which Frank sings to proclaim that Rocky has the "Charles Atlas seal of approval," or Brad and Janet listening to the Nixon resignation while they're lost in the rain. Ugh! But the film is also exuberant and playful: I love the one-frame inserts of the Medusa when Frank nods to Magenta to turn Rocky into a statue; I love the zoom in to Frank when he makes his first appearance and how it's punctuated by Janet screaming; and I love the homage to A Clockwork Orange as Frank murders the punk rocker Eddie (Meat Loaf) with an axe. (The murder is filmed with a handheld camera like Alex's bludgeoning of the Cat Lady.) The inclusion of the "Criminologist," very likely a homage to Dr. Frank Baxter in The Mole People, is also very funny and startling. When we cut from the Time Warp to him explaining the steps to us, it's a great moment, an indicator that we should be ready to expect anything.
The problem isn't that fan reaction has hijacked the film--it's that it has irreparably neutered it. While I can see it as being just a fun little movie now, watching it for years without the influence of the "midnight sideshow," I've always sensed something rather dark and sad running throughout The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Frank-N-Furter creates Rocky Horror (Peter Hinwood), a blonde man-child with the physique of a bodybuilder, in order to "release his tension." The first thing Rocky Horror does upon blooming to life is sing "The Sword of Damocles," detailing how his life is a misery and how he is dreading his new life. He liked being dead and now he has to fear dying again. Rocky's feelings about Frank are not entirely clear, but he seems to be very happy that Frank sees him as sexually desirable, and he readily accepts his role as a sex object.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show is very effective in giving virtually all of its "freak" characters a quality of pansexuality, reflective of screenwriter Richard O'Brien's belief that people shouldn't be labelled as "gay" or "straight." Since everybody has qualities of the feminine and the masculine, man-woman, woman-woman, and man-man couplings are seen as uniformly valid. Everybody fucks. This is especially evident in Curry's utterly fearless performance as Frank, in which he moves preternaturally between a shy, giggling, confession of guilt for killing off a major character to a macho strut while serenading the final bars of "I'll Make you a Man" to Rocky. I think the idea behind making Rocky a sensitive misunderstood poet of sorts stuck beneath the veneer of a blonde Adonis is to provide a continuous and believable joining of the hyper-feminine with the hyper-masculine. Yet this existential angst carries an incredible pathos: If Rocky feels trapped then he feels trapped, and the very real weight of that emotion counterbalances any snarky fun we could be having.
Over the course of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Janet quickly discovers sexual feelings that Brad is ill-prepared to meet. As the film opens, their friends Ralph and Betty are newly hitched, inspiring Brad to propose to Janet by singing the song "Dammit Janet." At one point during the number she puckers to kiss him, but he leaves her hanging, too busy chirping about how much he loves her to notice. Brad evidently finds courtship more interesting than lovemaking. Meanwhile, sex in Denton is seen in terms of serving the male partner's interests. Girls--good girls, in particular--don't want sex--the very act of getting married is their form of sex. The pro-rape slogan written in shaving cream on the side of the happily-married couple's car makes this very explicit: "Wait till tonite/She got hers, now he is going to get his." There is an ominous overcast throughout "Dammit Janet," foreshadowing the storm that will force Brad and Janet to seek shelter in Frank's castle whilst seriously sabotaging any inkling that this marriage will turn out OK. The last shot in the sequence is of a cross, which sets up a four-way wipe to The Criminologist in his lab. This specific transition reinforces not only the straight lines of the shot's composition but also, by implication, the stifling absoluteness of Brad and Janet's Middle-American values.
Shortly after she's deflowered by Frank-N-Furter, Janet searches for Brad. She happens upon a television monitor and sees that Frank has done the same to him. Distraught, she suddenly hears Rocky crying. Magenta and Riff-Raff had freed him from Frank's quarters and released the dogs on him, forcing Rocky to return to his birth chamber for comfort and safety. Janet tears off a piece of her dress and dresses his wounds. As she tenderly takes cares of him she gets a wicked idea. Stating that she has "tasted blood and wants more," Janet sings "Touch-A, Touch-A, Touch Me" to seduce Rocky. He then dutifully begins to make love to her, leaving her in a state of sexual bliss. It's a somewhat disturbing scene. Although Frank did not literally rape Janet, his actions were roughly in the same ballpark. He threatens to tell Brad what she has done and uses the fact that she found physical pleasure in his actions as evidence that she wanted to do it and that what they are doing is "good." To my sensitive ears, it's akin to how child molesters prevail upon their victims.
In seducing Rocky, Janet is not merely exploring her newfound sexuality, she's reclaiming the power she lost with Frank as well, moving from victim to perpetrator as well as effectively and harshly cuckolding her attacker by stealing away his prize boy toy and forcing him embrace his latent heterosexuality in very much the same way that Frank forced her fiancé Brad embrace his latent homosexuality. On the other hand, Janet is exploiting the childlike Rocky in a Frank-like manner, perpetuating his objectification and retarding any possible emotional growth. Rocky uses sex as a means to retain Frank and Janet as protective, comforting, parental figures. He realizes early on that sex is the one thing he has to offer and he readily wields it as needed. Do not think for a minute that Janet is not fully attuned to her predatory nature: the couplet "You need a friendly hand/I need action" cements it.
I have to admit, though, if only in the name of common sense and in deference to the recent Debra LaFave debacle, that we have a double standard in this culture that views women as innocents incapable of taking on a predatory role. This double standard nearly neutralizes the nastiness of the scene; but Sarandon manages to bring it back to where it belongs. I detect a real hint of deviousness and cunning in the moment where she considers taking advantage of Rocky--I don't see an innocent there. And her voice! Sarandon's singing voice is nothing short of angelic. She simultaneously projects tones of giddy exhilaration and fragile vulnerability that coalesce into a wonderfully bittersweet flavour. We tend not to think of The Rocky Horror Picture Show when we think of great Susan Sarandon performances, but revisiting this film reminded me of just how diminutive of her talent it is to simply accept her as being one of our finest actresses.
Seeing the "Touch-A, Touch-A, Touch Me" number and, in particular, listening to Sarandon perform it, got me thinking about how American sexual standards have yet to find a safe middle ground. We're always in either a state of complete repression or a state of complete anarchy, with each one feeding into the other. It's genuinely wonderful that Janet has become sexually liberated, but the film more than hints at the inevitable by-products of heartache and exploitation. The film's cynicism is fully conscious, it indicts the Sixties and the Fifties in equal measure and it's sensitive to the dilemma of wanting to live in both a free society and a responsible one. Sex with Rocky is joyful and exhilarating for Janet, but there is something fragile and desperate in the way she expresses it. The "Touch-A, Touch-A, Touch Me" number reminds me a lot, actually, of that iconic image of Slim Pickens riding the nuclear missile to oblivion in Dr. Strangelove. Sex and death (social, emotional, spiritual), coming and dying, it's all wrapped up in this singular, blossoming orgasm.
Dr. Frank-N-Furter is the villain of the film, but there is an incredible pathos to the character all the same, and we are attracted to him in a rather uncomplicated way. The feminine aspects Curry brings to the character are not at all superficial: Frank-N-Furter's vulnerability and emotionality are essential parts of his make-up. Columbia (Little Nell) complains that he uses people and throws them away. The story is a very unclear, I'm not sure that O'Brien worked through the details, though it would seem that Columbia fell in love with Frank and he dumped her for Eddie. After Frank grew bored with Eddie, he took half his brain and went to work creating Rocky. Of course, I know that everybody Frank sleeps with is well over the legal age, but again I find his behaviour very similar to that of a pedophile. He takes in these lost souls and builds up this paradise where there is no real authority. He prefers partners without much worldly experience; the naïve Rocky is perfect for him. Once his conquests grow up a little, he becomes less interested and perhaps starts to feel a little bit threatened. The sequence where he runs around in kabuki make-up and a kimono cemented a Michael Jackson parallel for me: he comes off as mainly lonely and sad here, desperately trying to wrest control of his playmates.
Frank is the consummate Christ figure. The drag and dominatrix aspects of his appearance evince a need for transmutation from man into God, while the pedophilic aspects fit in with a belief in a personal fable as a means to justify and cope with his outsider status. The film introduces him as the monster, but by the end we cease identifying with Brad and Janet and embrace Frank as one of us. Often Frank will look directly into the camera and grin or break the fourth wall with a line of dialogue, facilitating the identification process and establishing that he owns this movie and that everything that happens in the film happens on his terms. It doesn't, of course--he has to brainwash his friends to get them to stay and he is subsquently surprised, slain, and defeated. The pathos of the film is in the total humbling of this god-in-his-own-mind. Frank has what I think is the most powerful moment in the film: Riff-Raff and Magenta tell him that they are returning to Transylvania and he sings "I'm Going Home" with tears forming in his eyes. As he slowly approaches them, expecting to leave this mortal coil, he imagines an audience applauding him. I see this as parallel to Christ in The Last Temptation of Christ embracing crucifixion as first a transmutation from man and God, then as validation of his very being. Sex for Frank, like faith to Jesus, is integral to his existence and an endless wellspring of turmoil and doubt.
In a funny way, the storyline of The Rocky Horror Picture Show itself is designed to mirror the experience of watching it. Presumably, we come in as "Brads" and "Janets" and, having transferred our identification with them to Frank, we leave converted into freaks and sexual deviants. As much as I want to discount the fan reaction in evaluating the film, I must admit that my very response may stem from the idea that watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a liberating sexual experience. I 'lost my virginity' at 8 years old and now the film strikes me as an allegory for child sex abuse!
In Shock Treatment, Richard O'Brien and Jim Sharman's 1981 follow-up to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, this brand of self-contained auto-criticism is taken to the nth degree. Shock Treatment is far more alienating and dense than The Rocky Horror Picture Show ever was, yet this time I'm not as intimidated. I'm not sure that I "get" it, but I think I understand it enough that I don't particularly care to struggle to get it. Though it might reveal me as a stark anti-intellectual for saying so, I typically prefer films that are actually about something other than themselves, that offer a perspective on some facet of the real world instead of requiring us to peel off meta-layer after meta-layer until we're chasing our tail in circles.
Taken over by a television network sponsored by the junk-food magnate Farley Flavors (Cliff De Young), the Denton from The Rocky Horror Picture Show is not what it used to be. Every day, the townspeople sit in the bleachers and watch live tapings of soap operas, game shows, and advertisements. Janet and Brad Majors (now played by Jessica Harper and De Young again) are unhappily married, since ineffectual Brad is getting on Janet's nerves. They go on the game show "Marriage Maze" to try to solve their marital difficulties; Brad wins a trip to a local mental hospital that serves as the setting for the popular soap opera "Dentonvale", run by Cosmo and Nation McKinley (O'Brien and Quinn). Meanwhile, Flavors grooms Janet for her own talk show, making her feel more and more confident that she can survive without Brad.
I don't get it. How does Denton's economy function if everybody just watches TV? When/how do they earn the money to buy the products that are advertised? Moreover, is this the same Brad and Janet from The Rocky Horror Picture Show? O'Brien insists that this is neither a sequel nor a prequel to Rocky Horror, but an "equal"--indicating, I guess, that this Brad and Janet exist in a universe parallel to that of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. If this film was meant to be an "equal" to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, then why name the characters Brad and Janet Majors? That somewhat concretely ties the film into The Rocky Horror Picture Show mythology.
The answer, of course, is that Shock Treatment is not meant to be a real movie, but a reactionary essay towards the Rocky Horror cult. O'Brien seems disgusted that suburban teenagers have adopted Rocky Horror as a "rite of passage." There is no place for the freaks or the outsiders in society anymore. As soon as punk and camp attitudes became popular they became part of the establishment. Note the "American Gothic" painting Cosmo walks past in the wardrobe room, suggesting that that Riff-Raff has become Cosmo. Like Riff-Raff, Cosmo has sex with his sister. And like Riff-Raff, his already malevolent persona conceals true depths of malice. O'Brien is rubbing our faces in the idea that Cosmo is a variation of the same character he was in The Rocky Horror Picture Show: the hunchback evolved to the evil psychiatrist.
The film is purposefully impenetrable. It's not accessible enough to sustain anybody, it's only there to embrace a fad. O'Brien's lampooning of psychiatry, consumerism, and television is perhaps borne principally of a desire to directly attack American suburbia. He's saying that Americans are soulless and try to fill the void in their lives though buying crap they don't need and watching hours upon hours of soap operas and game shows, and that this insatiable appetite for consumption has caused us to eat up The Rocky Horror Picture Show like we eat up everything else. He's right. The popularity of The Rocky Horror Picture Show has given it a bad rap. But even so, that doesn't make Shock Treatment any less insufferable.
Satires of television hardly ever work. At their very worst, they impugn television for being base and appealing to the very lowest common denominator or for normalizing negative behaviours, à la violence and promiscuous sex. Fifty years ago, maybe, back when Elia Kazan made A Face in the Crowd, but today, people have thousands of choices and no single person or network yields that much power. The diversification of the media means that people use the media to gratify their wants and needs. To take an especially tired example, there is likely a correlation between girls who have posters of skinny models in their rooms and the development of eating disorders. The model did not cause the eating disorder, however. If you talk to those with eating disorders, they will tell you that they developed the eating disorder first, then got the poster so they could have something to aim for. I'm getting close to ranting, but I attend a campus where the media is constantly under attack under bullshit charges like this and I've developed a thin skin. Anyway, at their very best, these satires of television acknowledge that television is simply a form of media and admit to an underlying hypocrisy in attacking their own vehicle of dissipation. While they are saying that the media cannot be trusted, they are saying it as part of the media, thus the assertion that the media cannot be trusted cannot itself be trusted. Oooh, slippery, isn't it?
Farley Flavors has vaguely political aspirations and O'Brien gets a lot of mileage out of kitschy Corporate America imagery. Of course, the very idea that the entire town is a television studio presumes that TV is a largely socializing, collective experience. Shock Treatment is one self-contradicting paradox after another. Like The Truman Show, the film unfolds on a diegetic soundstage, and like The Truman Show, any insight we take away is prefabricated because it's the product of an artificial environment. Do you remember the finale of The Truman Show, where he tells off his creator with his stupid catchphrase? We couldn't take away anything genuine from that, as they made it explicit early on that it was a stupid catchphrase and Truman is fulfilling our carefully cultivated image of him. There's something analogous to that in Shock Treatment, a revelation in the story that helps Brad fight against Flavors and win back Janet that is like something out of a bad soap opera. As soon as we start to believe a façade is crumbling and we are going to witness something real, this twist reminds us that nothing is real. Everything we experience in Shock Treatment is a product of the Denton television studio, to the extent that the satire itself is unable to suggest an external perspective. It exists within the confines of a purely artificial environment, making it somewhat questionable if we should go so far as consider it satire in the first place.
Still, I have to admit I've never seen a film like Shock Treatment. It's a true original and has earned its small but devoted cult following. I even feel a little protective of it, it's impenetrable and impossible but this only lends it a sense of mystery. There are plenty of things in it that I like: the long unbroken takes often embodying a whole musical number; the bit where Janet's father sings about how much he likes being a man's man while he mows his Astroturf; the shot where Cosmo holds up a mirror to his body and Janet gazes into it; Little Nell's legs; Jessica Harper's saucer eyes and throaty voice; and on and on. I thought the music was forgettable on my first viewing, especially in comparison to The Rocky Horror Picture Show's, but it grows on you; as I write this, "Denton, U.S.A." and "Shock Treatment" are reverberating in my head. Shock Treatment lacks the human touch of Rocky Horror and is far too smart for its own good, but as failures go, you'll find few as interesting.
Fox has repackaged their two-disc 25th Anniversary Edition of The Rocky Horror Picture Show along with their recently-released 25th Anniversary Edition of Shock Treatment in a slim cardboard sleeve housing a pair of thinpaks. This "3-disc Anniversary Edition" (or, as the spine refers to it, "Bodice-Ripping Fabulous 3-Disc Set") is not as cheap as it looks--these films have received plenty of TLC. Sourced from a spotless print, The Rocky Horror Picture Show's pillarboxed, THX-certified 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer sports deep blacks and vibrant hues. While the Dolby Digital 5.1 remix is stereophonic in nature, the music sounds rich, dialogue is clear, and the split-surrounds add not-inappropriate ambience to the sci-fi tableaux.
Disc 1 offers a number of ways to view The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The difference between the US and UK versions is that the latter restores the closing number, "Superheroes," wherein Brad and Janet struggle to reconcile what happened to them at Frank's castle. I like the sombre mood of the song, but it was a good idea to leave it out--the film should pretty much conclude with the death of Frank. There is an Easter egg accessible by positioning the cursor on the main menu's "Scene Selections" prompt and pressing left that will leapfrog you to an incarnation of The Rocky Horror Picture Show with the first twenty minutes desaturated, honouring Richard O'Brien's original intentions. The film goes into colour when Brad and Janet open the door to the party of Time Warping Transylvanians. I mourned the loss of the iconic red lips--grey ones just aren't the same. But the black-and-white looks fantastic and better conveys the stifling misery of life in Denton than the release version does. Also, the sudden appearance of colour substantially accentuates the rush of energy we get from the Time Warp. This is really a great feature!
A subtitle option telling you when you should throw rice and when you should squirt your water pistol is lame. "The Theatrical Experience" shows video clips of fans attending a screening and can be toggled at key points throughout the film whenever a pair of grey lips appears in the corner of the screen. Nice idea, and the feature starts off well enough with an enthusiastic welcome from Rocky Horror Picture Show fan club president Sal Piro, who yells that they are going to pop all the virgins' cherries but good. We see that the crowd includes people of all ages, including some small kids sleeping through the whole thing, as midnight is apparently way too late for them. Evidently the audience runs out of steam, though, and the last half-hour has few if any clips.
O'Brien and Quinn record a relaxed but far from disengaging film-length commentary. O'Brien points out boom mikes and expresses mild shock when Quinn refers to their Transylvanian bonding ritual as "elbow fucking." He's still a little sore about the removal of "Superheroes," mentioning that he fought for it without elaborating on why. Quinn praises the filmmaking throughout and admits she thought she was violating an actor's code when director Sharman made her yawn amid Curry's performance of "I'm Going Home." The other, "audience participation" track features a live recording of Rocky Horror Picture Show audience, their hoots and hollers consigned to the rear channels. As I've mentioned previously, this was a surprise. At best they chant as if they were at a football game; at worst they talk over one another, and their comments become indecipherable. Nothing they scream at the screen is particularly clever, nor does it deepen one's appreciation of the film--mostly, they spell out the hidden innuendo. For example, following the line "Dana Andrews said prunes gave him the runes" in "Science Fiction/Double Feature," they yell "gave him the shits!" Yuk, yuk! A couple of the fratboyisms are a little funny--I giggled at "Brad, you fag." For the most part, this was like watching a movie with Gremlins and accordingly novel but limited.
Disc 2 includes two deleted musical scenes. The first is "Once in a While," which Brad sings while sitting in bed with Frank shortly before Janet sleeps with Rocky. Decent song, fleshing out Brad some more while adding some nasty weight to the proceedings, but I don't mind its exclusion from the film, as it would have plugged up the flow. The second is "Superheroes," should you want to isolate it from the UK edition. A gallery of outtakes is interesting for the basic thrill of peeling back the curtain on the set of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. We're treated to a segment of the "Time Warp" mid-shoot and it's humbling to think that somebody had to figure out how this was going to cut together and how the performers have to act out two or three movements at a time and make them look spontaneous in every take. No funny goof-ups, everybody is a consummate professional and not having any fun at all, not even in the moment where Patricia Quinn struggles to unbutton Barry Bostwick's pants and he unconsciously starts to help her.
"Rocky on VH1" contains interview excerpts from VH1's "Behind the Music" and "Where Are They Now" with O'Brien, Susan Sarandon, Bostwick, Meat Loaf, and Quinn. Bostwick delicately suggests that the weekly fans of the film should get a life and Quinn basically repeats a story she told in the audio commentary of how she almost didn't join the film because she was offended that she couldn't sing "Science Fiction Double Feature" like she did in the stage production. (The film used her lips and O'Brien's voice). O'Brien divulges that Frank was based on Eisenstein's Ivan the Terrible: Part I and discusses how men were able to dress flamboyantly until the Victorian era introduced the suit. In a second segment, he gives us a tour of the Frank-N-Furter castle and sings acoustic versions of "Time Warp," "Eddie's Teddy," "There's a Light," and finally "Superheroes."
Sarandon says that journalists often try to get her to regret making the film, but she refuses. The only thing she hated about the production was that it was very cold and she was wet all the time. The biggest surprise is that she's self-conscious about her singing. Under the circumstances (she turned down Shock Treatment because they couldn't afford her salary), it stings to have her dismiss "the sequels" [sic] to The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Meat Loaf is one of the sweetest people in show business, but if you get him going he will not shut up. Here he talks about working on the L.A. production of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" and how during filming the film O'Brien was rather nonplussed to learn that he could recite all the words in "Hot Patootie." Speaking of which, VH1's "Pop-Up Video" version of "Hot Patootie" is also on board, and therein we learn that "Meat" is a vegetarian and has suffered multiple head concussions. "Pop Up Video" was a good show, I miss it.
"Rocky Horror Double Feature Video Show" (36 mins.) is a solid retrospective making-of with a good deal of information not otherwise disclosed elsewhere, such as the fact that Curry didn't know what knobs he was supposed to be adjusting during the Rocky Horror resurrection and that the "Time Warp" was inspired by the dance sequence in Jean-Luc Godard's Bande à part. I initially didn't get the "Alternate Credit Ending," but I've since learned that it uses "Time Warp" instead of "Science Fiction/Double Feature." Oh. Yeah, "Science Fiction/Double Feature" was the better choice. There is also a "Misprint Ending" that includes "Superheroes" without the words. Not sure why we needed that. Two theatrical trailers (both of which reveal that Riff-Raff and Magenta are space aliens), crummy karaoke versions of "Touch-A, Touch-A, Touch Me" and "Sweet Transvestite," and a photo gallery round out the DVD, a David Prior joint.
Marking the film's widescreen debut on home video, Shock Treatment's 1.87:1, 16x9-enhanced transfer is ineffably dated compared to Rocky Horror's, but overall it's an attractive, filmlike presentation. The 5.1 Dolby Digital remix is similarly not as enveloping as that of its predecessor, although the music is crisply reproduced. Shock Treatment Fan Club presidents Mad Man Mike and Bill Brennan contribute an excellent feature-length yak-track, proving themselves to be a world apart from the audience witnessed on the Rocky Horror DVD. Mike and Brennan shower the cast with adulation whenever they can and overpraise the film as "ahead of its time" for its bravery in taking on the media, but I like that they pause for the musical numbers just because they want to listen to them. I was thinking the same thing. It's an informative track that trainspots everyone from that minor actor who would later play the title role in Drop Dead Fred to the obese moustachioed man in the audience who is NOT John Candy. And finally, they do real criticism. Though they fail to resolve the problem of the film being a walking contradiction, they show that they are clearly receptive to the idea and they appreciate it on precisely those terms, proposing at one point that Shock Treatment works on three separate levels: as a story about Brad and Janet; as an attack on the media; and as an attack on itself. An observation that the opening shot pays tribute to Citizen Kane (and that Farley Flavors and Charles Foster Kane are thematically related) is right on the money.
The two companion featurettes are unfortunately not as substantial. "DTV Presents: A Shockumentary" (17 mins.) catches up with Sal Piro, Patricia Quinn, Jim Sharman, and others involved in the making of the film. (Richard O'Brien is conspicuously absent.) Standard stuff, mostly--Piro is gentle in explaining that Shock Treatment was too complicated to take off like Rocky Horror, and there's brief mention that the original idea to do a direct sequel to The Rocky Horror Picture Show was pretty much shot down by Tim Curry's refusal to reprise the role of Frank. Much gushing over the songs from the film comprises "Let's Rock 'n' Roll: Shock Treatment's Super Score Featurette" (6 mins.), wherein Sal Piro admits that he's more likely to listen to the Shock Treatment soundtrack than to Rocky Horror's. Two theatrical trailers finish out the disc. Originally published: October 11, 2006.