On Halloween night, I attempted to go back in time. Call it a time warp. I attended The Rocky Horror Picture Show at the fabled UC Theatre. I had a lot of fun, but much of the experience annoyed me.
When I wrote about the UC, I neglected to mention that it ran Rocky Horror every Saturday night at midnight for over 20 years. I saw it there at least three times; maybe four. The last time couldn’t have been later than 1982; parenthood gets in the way of a lot of things.
The UC went dark in 1999, and so did the Rocky Horror midnight shows. The Taube Family recently restored the UC and turned it into a non-profit music venue. This was my first time inside the UC after the restoration.
I loved the crowd. Many wore costumes–some from the movie, and some just to be weird (well, it was Halloween). 17 years after Rocky Horror last screened at the UC, the rituals still existed. Not just the costumes, but throwing confetti and toilet paper (throwing rice and toast was banned), dancing to the Time Warp, and talking back to the screen. But rituals change over decades; I only heard my voice shout out “No shit, Sherlock!”
Unfortunately, a jerk stationed only a few feet from me kept up a constant monologue of annoying commentary. He managed to be funny twice.
As I looked over the mostly young audience, I marveled at the longevity of this 40-year-old ritual. Perhaps I shouldn’t have. When I was their age, teenagers and young adults ardently loved the Marx Brothers. Perhaps there’s something special about impolite, anarchistic comedy from earlier generations.
But the new UC made me yearn for the old one. I didn’t spring for an expensive ticket, which meant I could sit only in the last two rows–or not sit at all. I could barely see anything on the stage. Luckily, the screen (which was really too small for the theater) was mounted high, and I could see most of the movie if I stretched my neck. But the live parts of the show–including a 45-minute pre-show that I probably would have enjoyed if I could have seen it–were all but invisible.
My view of the screen, before people with reserved tickets sat down in front of me.
As near as I can tell, they screened Rocky Horror off a DVD. Maybe it was a Blu-ray, but I doubt it. The excellent Meyer sound system was cranked up to eleven, which was fine for the songs but uncomfortable for the dialog. The UC used its lightshow capabilities to enhance the movie. For instance, when someone on screen took a flash photo, a light above the screen flashed, as well.
And what about the movie?
The Rocky Horror Picture Show is in no way, shape, or form a great movie. It’s cheaply shot. The songs, while catchy, are hardly great music–and I say that as someone who loves rock and roll. The characters are broad clichés and the plot is nearly non-existent.
But none of that hurts the experience one bit. It’s a crazy, funny, absurd celebration of everything sexual–including things that were still very shocking in the 1970s. Tim Curry holds the film together as the cross-dressing mad scientist, Dr. Frank N. Furter. Both macho and feminine, he wants what he wants and he usually gets it–including the virginity of the innocent couple who fall into his hands (including a very young Susan Sarandon).
It’s a silly movie that runs on the simplest rock and roll, moderately funny dialog, and raw sexual energy. But mostly, it runs on the enthusiasm of the audiences who watch it–young and once-young folk who know deep down that while they can’t really be it, they can always dream it.
At least in a theater, I give it a B+.