45 years later, The Rocky Horror Picture Show remains iconic in the film industry. It pays tribute to B-Horror Movies and early science fiction films – favourites of Richard O’Brien, who played Riff Raff and was the screenwriter of the movie.
I first heard of Rocky Horror from Glee‘s tribute episode, where they covered seven songs; however, not doing the original singers much justice. It sounded far too perfect and lacked the fun and raw emotions expressed by Tim Curry or Patricia Quinn. The 2016 remake was no better. At least Laverne Cox’s reprisal of Curry’s role as Dr. Frank-N-Furter saved the adaptation.
I will admit that I was reluctant to watch this musical, as I never found the title appealing, neither did I try to appreciate its campiness or quirky value. It’s safe to say that I fell into the common trap of judging the book by its cover. After reading its Wikipedia summary sometime last year, and revisiting that Glee episode, I found myself curious and intrigued by its ‘risqué material,’ as Emma Pillsbury describes it in the show.
As the movie opens with my second-favourite number, ‘Science Fiction, Double Feature,’ the lyrics attract my attention instantly: ‘Michael Rennie was ill / The day the earth stood still,’ ‘Anne Francis stars in Forbidden Planet’ (Francis also played Georgia in my other favourite musical, Funny Girl). The song clearly shows O’Brien’s love for Science Fiction B-Horror Movies, such as It Came from Outer Space, When Worlds Collide, and so many more. It was fascinating, to say the least, to learn from these titles that once entertained my grandparents and great-grandparents; to see what thrilled or scared them a long time ago.
You must be wondering: what’s my favourite number in the musical? ‘Sweet Transvestite’ performed by Curry never fails to give me the chills. Dressed in lingerie and high heels, he emanates confidence and boldness that is unique to him only. Everything about this performance is perfect – from the handymen’s backup vocals to the sensual dancing, it makes you want to strut down a hallway. You can see that he does not feel uncomfortable or shy in his clothing; in fact, he embraces it and wears it with pride. That’s what makes his overall character so likeable, despite being the antagonist. He does not care for judgement or criticism, which renders Dr. Frank-N-Furter appealing to both women and men.
The unthreatening and mild natures of Brad and Janet further highlight the unusual creepiness of the aliens from ‘Transsexual Transylvania.’ Their fascination over humans (the creation of Rocky, a hot, blond man with a tan), along with their strange weapons – like the ‘Medusa Transducer’ and the laser gun that penetrates the body – contribute to the features of a typical science fiction movie. From here, we have an idea of how people in the late 20th century, a period where astronomical science became a common interest, thought about extraordinary beings and space.
My favourite scene would have to be Eddie’s (the ex-delivery boy played by Meat Loaf) performance. It’s not every day that you get someone busting through the door of a deep freezer and proceeding to sing ‘Hot Patootie.’ In this five-minute scene, Eddie showcases his charm and talent while riding his motorcycle around Dr. Frank-N-Furter’s guests. There is so much chaos going on, you can’t help but want to join the fun. He may not be as handsome as Brad, but he definitely makes up for it with his charisma – something that Dr. Frank-N-Furter is jealous of, as Eddie begins to attract Rocky. The web of attraction and love squares or hexagons among the cast are a symbol of sexual liberation and defy the conventional cycle of love.
Rocky Horror never fails to make me laugh. The plot should not be something to concentrate on. Instead, it should be the songs, the strange body language, the naivety of Brad and Janet, and the overall inappropriateness of it. Its ending is neither happy nor sad. It hangs in the air like an imperfect cadence of a song, as the criminologist concludes that humans are like insects crawling on the soil of earth; just like Brad, Janet and Dr Scott, who crawl out of the remains of the castle that had lifted itself off into space. As sung by Riff Raff: let’s go ‘see androids fighting Brad and Janet.’