Blu-ray Review: The Rocky Horror Picture Show (35th Anniversary Edition)

In Blu-Ray’s by Rebecca WrightLeave a Comment

20th Century Fox | 1975 | 100 mins. | R


Though considered a flop at the time of its release in 1975, The Rocky Horror Picture Show has become a true cultural phenomenon. Still in limited release, it has the longest-running theatrical release in film history. In 1977, the film became known for its midnight showings when audiences began participating with the film in theatres. If you’ve never been to a midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, know it’s a real event. Audience members repeat lines and sing every song. It can only be described as a true happening.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (35th Anniversary Edition)For those not familiar with The Rocky Horror Picture Show, plot isn’t particularly important. This is a film driven by its sights and sounds. Adapted by Richard O’Brien from his own stage musical, it’s styled very much like a ’50s B-movie, complete with acting, direction, dialogue and visible microphones. The story follows newly engaged couple, Brad and Janet (Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon). Conservatives, he wears horn rim glasses and sports a nice, square chin. Janet looks like she just came out of a meeting of The Daughters of the American Revolution. When their car breaks down, find themselves lost in the middle of nowhere, as it is getting dark. They knock on the door of a creepy looking house for some help.

They’re greeted by Riff Raff (O’Brien), a manservant with gangly Nosferatu limbs. “You’ve arrived on a rather special night,” he intones, “It’s one of the master’s affairs.” After watching a group of weirdly dressed party-goers do the “Time Warp.” Brad and Janet finally meet “the master,” the red-lipped Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry), who whips off his cape to reveal a drag queen corset and stockings, and then introduces himself as a “sweet transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania.” Transsexual is a planet, in case you were wondering, and Transylvania its galaxy. Frank is far out in more ways than one.

By this point, Brad and Janet are completely overwhelmed. Dr. Frank-N-Furter takes the party upstairs to his lab-or-atory, where he brings to life his latest lust-inspired creation—the blond, muscle-bound boy toy Rocky Horror (Peter Hinwood). Brad and Janet—stripped to their underwear for no other reason besides the doctor’s whims—are initially appalled at the hedonistic display, but they both end up hilariously falling for Frank’s persuasive charms, their fears of sexual freedom alleviated by actual experience. (See Janet forcing Rocky to grope her breasts while singing “Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me.”)

What remaining plot there is, unfolds when sex slave prototype Eddie (Meatloaf) is slain, Rocky escapes, and a UFO scientist (Jonathan Adams) shows up to investigate the Transylvanians—though it doesn’t really matter. All this just serves to put all the songs together. There all sing-along ready, from the duet of “Dammit, Janet” and the rockabilly blast of Meatloaf’s “Hot Patootie—Bless My Soul,” to teary cabaret closer “I’m Going Home,” and lead track “Science Fiction/Double Feature.” Like Happy Days, Rocky Horror taps into that 1970s nostalgia for the ’50s, but it filters all the lovely-dovey doo-wop and tenderness through a glam, proto-punk, Ziggy Stardust filter.

Note: This Blu-ray release includes both the U.S. version of the film and the U.K. theatrical cut, which restores the “Superheroes” song at the end.

Rocky Horror fans will be thrilled at Fox’s fabulous 2K/4K master, struck from the original camera negatives and given a 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer in the 1.66:1 aspect ratio. The film contains no DNR, edge enhancement, or any other digital artifacts. The print is fairly clean—there are only a few white flecks throughout—and the grain structure is wholly intact, leaving a picture that’s rich, and naturally filmic. Clarity is solid and definition is outstanding. Black levels are deep—without engendering crushed shadows—and contrast is spot on. Finally, aside from slight noise during darker scenes, there are no real compression-related issues.

The film contains a robust DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track that really rocks. It sounds fantastic. Not only is it loud and dynamically solid—with crunchy guitars, piercing horns,—but the masterfully arranged 7.1 presentation also allows each instrument to have its own space within the soundfield, all culminating in a heady, enveloping mix. The vocals during the songs stand out clearly as well, but there are a few instances when spoken dialogue seems somewhat low and—depending on your hearing ability—may require a slight volume increase. For a film that’s 35-years-old, this is great stuff.

We get a solid slate of special features:

The Midnight Experience
Of course, the film by itself is only part of the Rocky Horror experience, so in order to give fans as close of an approximation as possible to the complete theatrical, midnight movie vibe—Fox has loaded up this Blu-ray disc with numerous optional in-feature enhancements:

Trivia Track: Turn this option on for pop-up trivia about the film, it’s cast, and creators. (Appears in the upper left corner of the screen.)

Vintage Callback Track (Unrated): Join the tradition of yelling lines back at the screen with the original 1983 Rocky Horror Picture Show Audience Par-Tic-I-Pation track brought to you buy Fan Club president Sal Piro. (Subtitles that tell you what to yell. Appears in the upper right.)

Prop Box: Worried about damaging your TV by throwing stuff at the screen during the film? This in-feature option has you covered. Toggle through available props using the left and right keys on your remote, and press “Enter” to throw them, virtually, at the screen. (Appears in the lower left.)

The Late Night, Double Feature, Picture-in-Picture Show: A live shadowcast performance with Rocky Horror Picture Show cast members from around the globe. More about this below. (Appears in the lower right.)

Note: You can turn on as many of the options at a time as you’d like.

The Search for the 35th Anniversary Shadowcast (1080i, 58:14) Most theatrical showings of the film are accompanied by a “shadowcast” of audience participants acting out the story directly beneath the screen. For this Blu-ray edition of the film, Fox commissioned a special shadowcast, auditioning Rocky Horror fans from around the globe. In part one, Don’t Dream It, Be It we get to watch the hopefuls in the try-out process—meeting some definitely kooky characters along the way—and in part two, An-Tic-I-Pation, original cast member Barry Bostwick comes in to judge the audition tapes.

Rocky-Oke: Sing It! (1080p) Karaoke-style lyrics appear on the screen, there’s an option to turn off the actors’ vocal tracks so you can belt out the songs yourself. Includes all 20 or so of the film’s musical numbers.

Commentary with Richard O’Brien and Patricia Quinn O’Brien and Quinn, who play’s Magenta, Riff Raff’s housemaid sister, sit down for a congenial, laugh-filled track brimming with reminiscences. English, French, and German subtitles are available for the commentary.

Play with Alternate Black and White Opening (1080p) Everything is in black and white until 20 minutes in, when Brad and Janet “Time Warp.”

Mick Rock (A Photographer) (1080i, 3:36) On-set photographer Mick Rock talks about the process of documenting the shoot.

Mick Rock’s Picture Show (1080p, 3:50) A self-playing gallery of Mick’s best shots.

A Few From the Vault Includes two deleted musical scenes (SD, 3:08), eleven alternate out-takes (SD, 10:02), an alternate credit ending (SD, 3:45), a misprint ending (SD, 1:44), retrospective documentary Rocky Horror Double Feature Video Show (SD, 36:25), footage from the riotous Beacon Theater 10th Anniversary showing (SD, 5:26), the Time Warp Music Video from the 15th Anniversary VHS release (4:41), and two theatrical trailers (SD, 00:30 and 2:59). There’s also a high definition, user-directed pressbook gallery—with an interface that allows you to actually read all of the material—and a self-playing poster gallery (1080p, 00:25).

The Blu-ray is housed in a digi-book, which contains very little text, but a host of Mick Rock’s photographs.



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