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Featured Blu-ray Review: The Rocky Horror Picture Show

October 17th, 2010

The Rocky Horror Picture Show - 35th Anniversary Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is one of those movies I'm almost embarrassed to say I've never seen, at least I've never seen the whole thing in one sitting. It is one of the most famous movies of all time and has a dedicated fanbase that treats the movie more like a religion more than mere entertainment. It was based on the musical written by Richard O'Brien, who is best known for providing the voice for Lawrence Fletcher on Phineas and Ferb, which means I have a sudden urge to quote that show throughout my review. I'll try and fight that urge.

The Movie

The Rocky Horror Picture Show begins on, "A chilly April morning, 1980..."

I said I would try not to quote Phineas and Ferb, I didn't say I would succeed.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is the story of Brad and Janet, as told by a Criminologist, who acts as our narrator / guide. At the beginning of the movie, Brad and Janet are at the wedding of their friends and when Janet catches the bouquet, Brad proposes. Driving late at night, they suffer a flat tire and have to take refuge at the old Frankenstein mansion, where they meet the butler, Riff Raff, and his sister, Magenta, the maid (played by Patricia Quinn). They arrived at the same time as the Annual Transylvanian Convention and they are given a full introduction to weirdness that follows with the song "Time Warp"...

"Fossils... duh, duh, dunnn"

Last quote. I promise.

After the song and dance number, which also serves as an introduction to Columbia, Brad's actually enjoying himself, but Janet's freaking out. Things only get worse for her when Dr. Frank-N-Furter shows up. He's in the mood to celebrate, because he has discovered the secret to life and has used it to make Rocky Horror (Peter Hinwood). Rocky Horror was built to be his, well, plaything. The unveiling goes smashingly, until Eddie shows up, Eddie being the brain donor for Rocky, the involuntary brain donor. Needless to say, having you head cut open and part of your brain removed upset Eddie, and he expresses himself the best way he knows how, by riding his motorcycle, singing a song, and playing his saxophone.

"It's that my old black and white saxophone?"

Okay, I lied.

From here the movie just gets weird with Dr. Scott showing up, and the dinner scene, and the final confrontation.

Of course I'm joking, as the movie starts out weird and by the time Dr. Frank-N-Furter is introduced, it is already one of the most bizarre movies around. Fortunately, it is bizarre in a very entertaining way; however, I get the distinct impression that the film isn't half as entertaining as the live audience would be in the theaters. Fortunately, that's where the special features come in.

The Extras

The 35th Anniversary Blu-ray is loaded with extras, some of which are rather normal, others not so much. Normal extras include an audio commentary track with Richard O'Brien and Patricia Quinn, who have not lost any of their chemistry. There are lots of stories, including how Patricia nearly turned down a chance to be in the movie. Or how "Little" Nell Campbell perhaps showed more than meant to. ... or not. There are also plenty of deleted / alternative / etc. scenes. There's the old retrospective, music video, and more. If this was all that was on the Blu-ray, it would be worth picking up.

However, that's not the case.

You can watch the movie with several options. This includes the American and British versions (the British version includes a couple extra verses to one song). There's is an optional Black and White opening, which is actually quite long. (The film doesn't make the switch to color till "Time Warp" starts.) There are two Rocky-Oke versions, one with just the lyrics on the screen, which is called subtitles, and the other actually drops the vocals, so it is really a Karaoke version of the movie, and not just a sing-along like most are.

This brings us to the Midnight Experience, which simulates being with an audience. There's the basic trivia track, which is quite normal and doesn't really fit with the other features. There's a prop box, which lets you throw different items across the screen, and if you don't know what you are supposed to throw and when, it will tell you. The Callback Track tells you what you are supposed to shout at the screen and when. While there is a Picture-in-Picture track with the "Shadow Cast". You can even switch the picture-in-picture part of the film to full screen if you want.

Next up is a nearly hour-long, two-part featurette on The Search for the 35th Anniversary Shadowcast. Some of these people scare me, but in a good way. The first part introduces the participants, while the second part has Brad himself, Barry Bostwick, judging the auditions.

Focusing next on the film's technical presentation, there's good news and there's bad news. The bad news is, this was a low-budget film from 1975, so there's a limit to how well it is going to look and sound in High Definition. The good news is, they may have reached that limit. While some scenes are a little soft, for the most part the level of detail is amazing. Colors are especially bright, the black levels are great, etc. The audio is in 7.1 surround sound, which is even more amazing as the original film was in mono. As a musical, the sound is especially important here, and it doesn't disappoint.

Finally, the Blu-ray comes in a "DigiBook" packaging. In other words, the Blu-ray comes with a 24-page booklet with plenty of images from photographer Mick Rock. And it costs less than a lot of first-run Blu-rays, which is impressive for a special edition like this.

The Verdict

Had the studio just stuck with the previous extras and simply released The Rocky Horror Picture Show in High Definition, it would have been disappointing, but at this price and given the audio / video quality, it still would have been worth picking up. But that is not the case and the 35th Anniversary Blu-ray is loaded with extras, including some that push the technology. With a price that is under $20 on, not only is is a must have, it is a clear contender for Pick of the Week.

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Filed under: Video Review, The Rocky Horror Picture Show