Sunday, September 30, 2012

Science Fiction Double Feature

Tim Curry as Dr. Frank-N-Furter
Since tomorrow is the start of Shocktober here at the Revenge and I already made a joke about it in last night's post, what better movie to talk about tonight than the undisputed King of Cult Movies, The Rocky Horror Picture Show?

I was introduced to the movie in the summer of 1977, when it was first taking off as a midnight phenomenon (it had proven a box-office disaster when initially released two years earlier). It was the summer between my sophomore and junior years in high school and I had scored my first paid acting job at a dinner theatre owned by the father of a man who would much later become one of my dearest friends. The show was truly dreadful... some nonsense about a foreign exchange student (yours truly) being kidnapped and replaced with a professional football player. If an ASCAP rep had visited, we'd all have gone to jail - the show's writer/director (my friend's father) had simply written new lyrics to classic standards, making them fit the show's ridiculous premise. 

None of that really mattered. I was getting paid ($500.00 for the run - an enormous sum for 15 year old in 1977) and was introduced by my fellow cast members to Rocky Horror. The first night I went, they told me nothing - only that I had to see it for myself. We crossed the river into New Jersey and got in line at the long-gone Quaker Bridge Mall Cinema, where bewildered folks leaving the 10:00 shows of whatever first runs were playing, were shocked as people in line for the midnight show yelled "Lips!" and "Asshole!" and "Viesssss!" I was equally puzzled, but intrigued and excited. We finally took our seats and I was stunned as the opening number played and nearly every person in the theater sang along...

Not only did I now know what "Lips!" meant, I understood every Sci-Fi/Horror movie referenced in the lyrics. I immediately knew I was going to love this movie.

Of course, when people started yelling at the screen, throwing rice and dancing in aisles, I was beyond love. Then... oh, then... Tim Curry made his entrance (and what an entrance) and I knew I had found the only movie that actually understood me:

Transvestites? Gay sex? A hot muscle blond in a teeny bikini? And all of it a parody of classic Horror/Sci-Fi movies? They had me at "Let's Do the Time Warp Again." Here was a movie that celebrated the freak in all of us and I suddenly felt much less like a freak and much more like a special person. I finally belonged to crowd who shunned the mainstream and embraced the bizarre, even if it was only on Friday and Saturday nights at midnight.

I have no idea how many times I saw RHPS in the late 70's and early 80's. Enough to see it evolve with new shout-outs and live performances in front of the screen. I was actually interviewed by The Trenton Times while in line one night with several friends. By the time I paid nearly $100 for a VHS copy sometime in the 90's, the allure had worn off. I remember having a party the weekend I got it where one attendee yelled "Show us the midget!" every ten minutes (really?) and realizing the world had moved on. And so had I. 

But there was that brief moment of enlightenment, when I realized I wasn't alone in the world and that there were plenty of others who understood the world in the same context as I did, and I felt as though I had finally found my place in that world. And for that, I will always be grateful. Of course, insanity like this is always fun:

And let's not forget that star Tim Curry went on to play two more iconic Fantasy/Horror roles, while Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick have both had very respectable careers in film and television. Everyone has to start some where. And what a start for those three!

I hope each of you have had a youthful experience that let you realize it was more than okay to "Let Your Freak Flag Fly." I hold those times as among the best of my youth. And while it would be another 20 years or so before I finally let my Rainbow Flag fly for all the world to see, The Rocky Horror Picture Show was instrumental in my personal journey. Of course, the less said about its dreadful 1981 sequel, Shock Treatment, the better.

By the way - did you notice Barry "Dame Edna" Humphries among the cast? Take another look, if you didn't. Talk about rising above...

Tomorrow is the start of Shocktober here on the Revenge, and I have loads of creepy movies to talk about all month! I can't wait!

More, anon.

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