photo & text by nacrowe
i first experienced THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (20TH CENTURY FOX, 1975) film my sophomore year of high school in the basement lounge of my dorm at the time with several of my clued-in, more culturally SOPHISTICATED classmates. without any warning i remembered being particularly irked by how they wouldnt shut up during the beginning of the film, only to quickly realize that this somewhat choreographed element was part of the INTERACTIVE charm at the heart of the movie. from there on out i was MESMERIZED by this two-pronged assault on my senses, and nobody was even dressed up for the performance!
written by RICHARD O'BRIEN, who plays the character of RIFF RAFF in the film adaptation of the stage show, the THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW musical is a bit of paean to all things B-MOVIE and CULT CLASSIC-related from revered rudimentary early SCI-FI, MONSTER and HORROR genre films to the schlocky HERSCHEL GORDON LEWIS, WILLIAM CASTLE, JAMES WHALE and ROGER CORMAN end of the cinematic spectrum. the plot loosely revolves around a newly-wed MIDDLE AMERICAN square couple (played by BARRY BOSTWICK and SUSAN SARANDON) whose car breaks down near an old VICTORIAN mansion on a rainy night, only to be confronted with the PHANTASMAGORICAL interior world of the transvestite mad scientist DR FRANK-N-FURTER (played by TIM CURRY) and his band of merry pranksters.
i gotta be honest, the plot is not that important. the music and the spectacle of it all is what is key to appreciating THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW. songs like "SCIENCE FICTION/DOUBLE FEATURE," "DAMMIT JANET," "SWEET TRANSVESTITE," "THE TIME WARP" and "I CAN MAKE YOU A MAN" transport you to an alternate utopia that is seemingly INCLUSIVE and CELEBRATORY of the diversity of human experience in all its forms and variations. all of these songs are ICONIC, as well as the various PARTICIPATIVE audience elements that have been utilized over the years. what is key is that there is a potential for experiencing the film anew each time you watch it as the interactive lines shift with each new audience. for me the key song of the film is "FANFARE/DON'T DREAM IT" which has the IMMORTAL line of "dont dream it, be it." i can only imagine being a LGBTQ teenager in the 1970s watching this film and feeling empowered by the sheer bravado and force of will of the characters to fearlessly manifest their sense of IDENTITY on the world. CURRY, for his participation, is at the peak of his powers and i can only describe his performance as generationally BRILLIANT. despite the obvious sheer camp and exaggerated artifice involved in the film, at the heart of THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW is a message of SELF-EMPOWERMENT and unadulterated COURAGE to BE TRUE TO ONESELF, even in the face of an INTOLERANT and often CRUEL world full of SELFISH, INSECURE, UNENLIGHTENED beings that act out of FEAR. the film asks its audience to be likewise unrelentingly AUTHENTIC without self-consciousness, even if society turns a cross eye in your direction.
dont dream it, be it.
THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW is an ICONIC film with an absolutely TIMELESS, KILLER soundtrack. most definitely worth checking out. again and again and again.