Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Movie and DVD Reviews: The best and not-so-best movies available on DVD, and whatever else catches my eye.

Mimsy Review: The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Reviewed by Jerry Stratton, October 14, 2000

Here’s a ring to prove that I’m no joker/There’s three ways that love can grow/That’s good, bad, or mediocre/J-A-N-E-T I love you so!

Special features

Commentary Track9
Deleted Scenes5
Music Video6
Photo Gallery5

Oh, it’s nicer than Betty Munro had! With an audience participation track, outtakes, interviews, and deleted musical scenes, this DVD promises to be the best Rocky Horror ever.

RecommendationPossible Purchase
DirectorJim Sharman
WritersRichard O’Brien, Jim Sharman
Movie Rating8
Transfer Quality7
Overall Rating7
  • Enhanced Widescreen

The marriage of Rocky to DVD brings a great dowry. There’s a commentary, a documentary, a slew of interviews, an MTV “pop-up video” based on the selection “Hot Patootie”, an audience participation track and even video ‘side-tracks’ of audience participation. All in a two-DVD set in an attractive box. (Aside: whoever designed this box, which was also used for “Boogie Nights”, deserves kudos. It’s a nice, compact design.)

Note that Amazon lists this as “widescreen letterbox”, which usually indicates a non-enhanced transfer. But Image Entertainment, which is usually more reliable, lists this as having an enhanced transfer. I assumed the latter was correct—and fortunately, it was. This is a great transfer. In retrospect, I think that I have never seen the movie from a good print. The audio and video quality of this DVD bring out things in the background that I’ve never seen before. And while I’m not quite the weekly fan that others are, I have seen this movie a number of times that I am unwilling to say in public.

This is a cult movie. The audience talks back to the movie so much that the movie itself often gets lost. And there’s nothing wrong with that; in fact, it’s great. I’d like to see more audience participation in movies. Like “smoking” and “non-smoking”, I’d like to see “talking” and “non-talking” sections of theaters. I and a number of my friends would on many movies choose the talking section. But the sheer generosity of audience comments means that many people may have never seen the movie for itself. This is unfortunate, because this is not a bad movie. Richard O’Brien’s songs a great. He is a very good songwriter. In fact, the universally panned “Shock Treatment” (which I believe he also wrote) still had great songs, such as “Bitchin’ in the Kitchen” and “Refrigerator”. I don’t recommend that you watch “Shock Treatment”, but if you run across the soundtrack, grab it.

Patricia Quinn claims that she knew she wanted to be in the Rocky Horror stage show solely from hearing Richard O’Brien sing “Science Fiction, Double Feature”. I can understand that, as it is a beautiful song, and it explains exactly the kind of movie O’Brien wanted to make. “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is a sexy love affair with fifties B-movies. “The Time Warp” is a perennial favorite in karaoke bars. “I Can Make You a Man” and “Sweet Transvestite” are hilarious. And “Rose Tint My World”, and “Superheroes” just stand on their own. According to the commentary on “Dark City”, O’Brien plays around with songs on movies today as well (he apparently entertained the child actors with the “musical version of Dark City”, something I would have liked to hear).

The story is a pretty simple B-movie plot: two kids get lost in a lonely area outside a large, dilapidated house (in this case, a castle). But there’s something strange about the owners…

For one thing, the owner is Tim Curry. That’s strange enough. His servants are Patricia Quinn and Richard O’Brien, and he has a hanger-on in Little Nell and Meatloaf. All of those actors were brought over from the stage production. The “two kids” were new to the movie: Barry Bostwick (from the “Grease” stage show) and Susan Sarandon, at the start of their careers (more so for Susan than Barry). Little Nell, Quinn, and O’Brien are extremely good, but it is Tim Curry who steals the show in high heels and leather. His facial expressions alone are worth the price of admission.

The extras are either good or great. The best is the commentary by Patricia Quinn and Richard O’Brien. They’re funny together and recount a lot of the things that went into making the movie and that happened around the movie. Especially funny was the story of how Dr. Scott broke through the wall of the pink room: he had to, there were no doors!

A close second is the collection of interviews. There’s an interview with most of the main characters, including Richard O’Brien and Meat Loaf (who tells a great story about the motorcycle scenes). And there’s a special featurette with Richard O’Brien back at the old castle, which has been restored and is now a honeymoon hotel. He brings his guitar and sings parts of the songs as he walks through the castle.

The documentary has a lot from director Jim Sharman and designer Brian Thomson as well as Sal Piro from the fan club. It also covers a little bit of the Rocky Horror reunion, with all the main actors back on stage.

There are two deleted scenes and a number of alternate takes, which are worth watching but (in the case of the deleted scenes) you can see why they weren’t kept. There is a music video of “Hot Patootie” done for MTV’s “Pop-up Videos”, which is great.

Not that there are no complaints. Whereas on most Fox movies Fox doesn’t want you watching the movie parts at a time, here they really went into strange enforcement land. Want to switch the audio from the movie to the commentary to hear what they’re saying about a particular scene? Or quickly switch the movie into the “audio participation” track, or quickly switch out of it? Can’t do this. The ‘audio’ button has been disabled in some way. You’ve got to go through their menus. No idea what the point of that was.

If you’re a fan of the movie or a fan of Richard O’Brien, you must have this DVD. Otherwise, you probably want to rent it first. Rocky Horror is not an acquired taste, it’s a taste for a select few. But if you like wearing leather in your bedroom or dancing in high heels after taking a swim, give it a try.

Recommendation: Possible Purchase

DirectorJim Sharman
WritersRichard O’Brien, Jim Sharman
ActorsTim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick, Richard O’Brien, Patricia Quinn, Nell Campbell, Jonathan Adams, Meat Loaf, Charles Gray
Spoken languageEnglish
SubtitlesEnglish, French, Spanish
Special FeaturesCommentary Track, Deleted Scenes, Documentary, Featurette, Interviews, Music Video, Photo Gallery, Trailer
More links

If you enjoyed The Rocky Horror Picture Show…

For more about musical, you might also be interested in A Star is Born, Almost Elvis, Amadeus, Cabaret, Going My Way/Holiday Inn, Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, The Blues Brothers, The Music Man, The Sound of Music, and The Wizard of Oz.

For more about Richard O’Brien, you might also be interested in Dark City and Flash Gordon.

For more about Susan Sarandon, you might also be interested in Thelma & Louise.