September 20, 2000

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

100 mins. · R
16x9 · 1.66:1

Format
DVD

Audio
E

Subtitles
English, Spanish

Extras
Commentary Track, Multi-story UK or US Version, Audience Participation Track, Participation Prompter, Outtakes and Deleted Scenes, Alternate Credit En

Starring
Tim Curry, Richard O’Brien, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick, Nell Campbell, Meat Loaf, Patricia Quinn

Review by
Guido Henkel


Rating



(1975)

On one hand it is truly surprising that a film like "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" enjoys the following and success it has 25 years after its theatrical release, but on the other hand it is not really that surprising, after all. The film is a menagerie of bizarre characters, fabulous rock tunes, provocative themes and pop art imagery. In short, it is a cult film that has grown over the years and has gotten almost more enjoyable the older it grew. To celebrate its 25th Anniversary, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has now prepared a 2-disc special Edition of the movie that includes a wealth of informative extras, as well as truly gimmicky supplements to capture the phenomenon behind the film, and after giving it a good look, I have to admit that the studio has succeeded all the way.

"The Rocky Horror Picture Show" tells the quirky story of the young couple Brad Majors (Barry Bostwick) and Janet Weiss (Susan Sarandon) who, in their almost asexual inhibitions, have never really experienced life at its fullest. All this changes when one night they are stuck in the rain with a flat tire, miles away from civilization.

With only a sinister looking castle looming nearby, the two decide to ring the doorbell to see if they can use the telephone and get some help.

From there, their life will never be the same. When Riff Raff (Richard O’Brien) opens the door, this ghastly and macabre looking servant allows the wet couple into the house where they become witness to one of Frank-N-Furter’s (Tim Curry) parties. Dressed in straps and high heels, Frank-N-Furter welcomes his guests and immediately makes them part of the event. In the best Frankenstein manner he creates Rocky, the man of his dreams, and fights his inner demons with increasingly excessive behavior. But is it genius or madness that drives Frank? It is neither. Like many of his party guests, he is an alien from the galaxy of Transylvania experiencing earthly life for the first time, and Brad and Janet are suddenly trapped in a circle of lust and vice beyond their wildest imagination.

Part comedy, part rock opera, part farce, part musical and part horror B-movie, "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" effectively pays homage to and transcends styles and genres to create a very unique vision that is familiar yet at the same time radical, if not blasphemous at times. Combined, we get an amalgam that has been a singular success and a film experience that is beyond any other movie ever made. Screaming colors, pop-art decorations, lascivious costumes and incredible songs make out "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" and it is hardly surprising the film has gathered such a devoted following. Although a box office flop initially, over the years, the film has become a midnight run phenomenon and is still playing in select theaters to this date. With audiences that are as raunchy and rowdy as the characters of the film, these screenings of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" are an event all by themselves, as fans remember every line of dialogue, sing every song aloud and throw things at the screen, cheering for their favorite characters.

When 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment decided to create a DVD version of this timeless cult movie, they knew they would have to capture the essence of this phenomenon where audience participation and fandom is just as important as the film itself. With that in mind they brought on David Britten Prior to produce this 2-disc Special Edition and went about to make this a release worthy of the film, which even includes different cuts of the film. The DVD contains the US cut of the movie as well as the UK cut that includes the song "Superheroes" at the end, and even offers another version of the film that is accessible through a hidden feature on the disc. This additional version is the original vision of the film in which the opening 20-minutes of the movie are presented entirely in black and white, until Riff Raff opens the door to reveal the party during the song "Time Warp."

"The Rocky Horror Picture Show" is presented in a 1.66:1 aspect ratio in a transfer that is enhanced for 16x9 television sets, and what was immediately striking me, is the quality of the presentation. I had had the chance to see the original transfer of the movie a few months back before it was cleaned up, and it showed that the film was in really bad shape. The film print was riddled with speckles, negative holes, scratches and dust, and when looking at this DVD, it is obvious that countless hours must have been spent, cleaning and fixing this transfer, as the DVD presents itself almost entirely devoid of these defects. Many of the problems and discolorations I had noticed in the original transfer are gone, as if by miracle. The picture presented on this THX-certified DVD is clean and clear with only very rare blemishes, creating an absolutely beautiful image on your TV screen. Given the movie’s small budget and technical limitations, the sharpness and quality of this transfer is truly striking and will have fans salivating. Some slight edge-enhancement is evident in select scenes but it never becomes distracting. The colors in the transfer are vibrant and bold, literally leaping off the screen without bleeding or noise at any time - which is really indicative for the high quality given the movie’s powerful colors. The blacks are very deep and solid giving especially the dark, gothic scenes in the film plenty of depth and atmosphere. The compression is flawless and no signs of compression artifacting, such as pixelation or banding, are evident anywhere on this disc.

The DVD contains the movie’s original mono audio track, as well as a newly remixed 5.1 Dolby Digital mix. While generally pleasing, the 5.1 mix has its own set of problems, not doubt a result of the unavailability of separate audio elements for certain parts and the limitations of the recordings. As a result the new mix is very front loaded with a wide stereo panning. Hardly anything is going on in the surrounds, other than a few effects towards the film’s finale. Although the track has received some bass extension, the lower end of the range is still very weak, resulting in a thin sounding presentation. Especially the remixed musical numbers reveal some problems with inconsistent volume levels and situations where the instrumentation is too pronounced, literally drowning out the vocals at times. Since most of us sing along aloud with the tunes anyway, this may actually work in your favor.

A commentary starring actor and writer Richard "Riff Raff" O’Brien and Patricia "Magenta" Quinn can also be found on the disc and to put it simply, this commentary is a gem. Offering a lot of very personal insight and comments, this contribution has a very intimate quality that is not very often found on such commentary tracks. Especially hard core fans of the film will love to hear all those little details and anecdotes the two remember as they go along watching the film, digging deep in their memories.

The disc also contains an optional audience participation track, which gives you the feel as if you are watching the film with a live audience. The rear channels or your system are used to create a live ambiance with crowd cheering, boos and other comments, making this presentation a real fun happening, even when watched alone. Combined with the participation prompter, which tells you on the screen what to do at any given moment, and the multi-view theater experience, you can be assured that "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" is coming across as lively and engaging on this DVD as ever.

The second disc of this release is filled to the brim with exciting features that help understand the phenomenon that is "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" but also offers some rare insights into the production as well as additional laughs. The core of this disc is an over 30-minute documentary called "The Rocky Horror Double Feature Video Show," that gives viewers a look behind the phenomenon. The documentary covers the origins of the story, the stage play that eventually led to the movie, and of course the cult phenomenon that followed in its tracks. The documentary is highly informative and gives one an added appreciation for the daringness of the filmmakers that has resulted in such a unique movie. Larded with interview segments, this documentary is a must for all fans and fans-to-be.

Two deleted musical numbers can also be found on this disc. The first is "Superheroes," which is part of the UK version of the film and can also be seen integrated in the film on the set’s first disc, while the second one is "Once In A While," a reminiscing ballad that has been cut from the film. And down the same alley, you can find 11 alternate takes from the film on the disc as well. For the most part, it seems that these are the takes from the different cameras that were later edited together for the final cut.

"Rocky on VH1" contains two new features that are great additions to this release. The first feature contains excerpts from VH-1’s "Where Are They Now" program, including interviews with most of the cast members, as well as a very exciting trip down memory lane with Richard O’Brien when he visits the castle in which the film was shot with his guitar. Walking from room to room, playing and singing the familiar tunes, and telling anecdotes from the shoot, this piece was clearly one of my favorites of the disc. It is complemented by VH-1’s pop-up video version of the Meat Loaf number "Hot Patootie" from the film with some remarkable pop-up comments.

The disc also contains the ending with an alternate credits sequence which uses "Time Warp" as the music cue. Interestingly, this is the ending that I remembered seeing when I first saw the movie in Germany many years ago. A misprint ending can also be found in the extras on the disc, which shows us an ending that has been edited incorrectly, showing us footage of Brad and Janet talking without the dialogue that would go with it. Very cool stuff indeed!

Two songs are presented as sing-alongs on the disc as well. You can play "Toucha Toucha Touch Me" and "Sweet Transvestite" without the vocal track and subtitles that contain the songs’ lyrics. It is a great way to practice these songs for your next Halloween outing, especially since the syncopated phrasing of "Sweet Transvestite" requires quite a bit of practice. Sadly the subtitles are lagging quite a bit behind the actual music making it virtually impossible for someone unfamiliar with the words to really "sing along."

The DVD also contains some exciting DVD-ROM content, such as a screensaver, biographies, a participation 101, a Rocky Horror timeline, weblinks, and more alongside some games. "Riff Raff’s Story Lab" is a fun little game in which you enter a number of key words and the system automatically generated as short story using these word. You can also play a trivia game to test your Rocky Horror knowledge here.

The disc is rounded out with two of the movie’s trailers and a small photo gallery that contains a number of production stills as well as album covers.

The presentation of the DVD is also absolutely superb, starting with a nice and colorful packaging and extending all the way to the menu system. Especially the menus on the first disc show a lot of elaborate details and work, with customized voice recordings and an entertaining menu design.

"The Rocky Horror Picture Show" is an eccentric and oftentimes artsy movie that is not be for everyone’s taste, but once pulled in its spell, there is simply no letting go. This fascinating picture is coming to glorious life on this DVD that is as complete as any release can be. A spectacular presentation, informative and entertaining features, and a gorgeously presented main feature, this DVD offers everything fans of the film could possible ask for - and more. No matter whether you are a true fan of the film, or if you want to find out what the hoopla is all about, this DVD puts the spectacle in your home viewing experience of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" and allows you to give yourself over to absolute pleasure!

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