“Don’t dream it, be it…”
Directed by: Jim Sharman
Starring: Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick, Richard O’Brien, Meatloaf
In a Nutshell:
No self-respecting cult movie site would be complete without The Rocky Horror Picture Show. This big-screen adaptation of Richard O’Brien’s cheeky pastiche of old sci-fi and mad scientist flicks has been a midnight movie staple for well over forty years, basically inventing the concept of “audience participation”. Generations of young, hip, counterculture fans have turned late-night screenings into a riotous exhibition of dress-up, props, sing-a-longs and dancing in the aisles. Tim Curry’s performance as Dr Frank-N-Furter is one for the ages. If you ever needed an excuse to go out in public wearing high heels, fishnet stockings and a corset, this is it…
Clean cut square couple Brad (Barry Bostwick) and Janet (Susan Sarandon) are on their way to visit their old college professor on a stormy night when their car breaks down. They stumble upon the spooky mansion of Dr Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry) on a night of celebration. He’s gathered his “unconventional conventionalists” to reveal his scientific breakthrough – building a musclebound blonde hunk named Rocky (Peter Hinwood) for his own sexual pleasure.
He also sets his sights on corrupting Brad and Janet, but the party doesn’t go quite as planned (“It’s not easy having a good time…even smiling makes my face ache”). Wheelchair-bound Ufologist Dr Scott (Jonathan Adams) turns up to reveal Frank-N-Furter as an alien, and Frank’s not-so-loyal servants Magenta and Riff Raff (Patricia Quinn and Richard O’Brien) plan to take the whole mansion back to their home planet Transsexual in the galaxy of Transylvania…
It’s hard to look beyond Tim Curry as Dr Frank-N-Furter. Curry is deliciously debauched in the role and relishes every single line, every song, every conspiratorial little glance to the camera. And man, does this guy look good in stockings and suspenders! Even after it is revealed that he’s a murderous cannibal, he’s still the most entertaining party host you could ever imagine…
Susan Sarandon also does great work as goody-two-shoes Janet, who has a bad girl streak just waiting to be unleashed (“I’ve tasted blood and I want more…”)
Barry Bostwick is amusingly awkward as the hopelessly square Brad (“Say, do any of you guys know how to Madison?”) who reluctantly follows his girlfriend on a journey to absolute pleasure.
Little Nell creates a striking impression as Columbia, Frank-N-Furter’s lovelorn groupie, who also gives the film a little bit of heart. (“It was great when it all began…I was a regular Frankie fan…”)
Where to begin? “The Time Warp” remains a staple of family discos and retro club nights, although it is probably the least interesting song of the bunch lyrically.
“Sweet Tranvestite” is the movie’s main showstopper, when we finally get to see Frank-N-Furter in all his glory. The film doesn’t really kick into gear until this number, and it’s a sensational movie entrance for Tim Curry.
“Don’t Dream It, Be It” is Frank’s big theatrical moment during the climactic “Floor Show” sequence and suitably captures the whole musical’s ethos. This is a great piece of advice whatever your sexual preferences, and it certainly helped change my way of thinking growing up as a shy straight teenager clinging to my mum’s apron strings. I probably would’ve never pursued my dream of living abroad without it.
Best song though? The brilliant “Science Fiction/Double Feature” by the iconic blood-red lips at the start of the movie. The lips belong to Patricia Quinn, lip-synching to Richard O’Brien‘s vocals to superb effect. The song is a loving homage and witty tribute to the old sci-fi and B-movies that inspired the film in the first place. (“Michael Rennie was ill The Day the Earth Stood Still…”)
I’ve heard a few podcasts calling out the scene when Frank-N-Furter seduces Brad and Janet separately by pretending to be the other and basically proceeds to force himself on them. In the wake of the #MeToo movement, I can see why some people might see this as a bit iffy, but it’s played for comedy and in the overall context of the movie it just about gets away with it…just.
Putting nostalgia and my love for The Rocky Horror Picture Show aside, it isn’t a great movie – it looks pretty creaky these days, some scenes really drag, a couple of songs could be chopped (I could personally do without Meatloaf’s “Hot Patootie”), and it ends on a bit of a downer.
Despite all this, it still chimes with counterculture audiences and remains one of the great midnight movie classics, largely thanks to the witty and saucy lyrics and Tim Curry, who is up there in the pantheon of iconic cult performances. Plus that one piece of advice – “Don’t dream it, be it…”
If you loved this, also check out: The Old Dark House, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Shock Treatment
Treat yourself to a nice blu ray copy from Amazon here