It’s a typical part of growing up, right? You’re watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show for the first time. You get to the point where Tim Curry, clad in stockings and bondage gear, jigs his way towards the hunk of his dreams, belting out at the top of his voice how he “will make him a man”. Perplexed, your mother comes up to you and gently says “its about gay sex, James”. Your sweet innocent self would never have guessed!
Years later, another penny drops. Rocky Horror is the perfect Valentine’s movie.
So many romance films portray love as following a pre-ordained script, playing out in a way that, if not immediately accepted or planned by all characters, is resolved by the end of the story. Rocky Horror mocks such predictable fables of sweeping romance, instead opting for love that is raucous, free and alive. From the moment that the seemingly inevitable marriage of sweethearts Brad (Barry Bostwick) and Janet (Susan Sarandon) is interrupted, the film forgoes the heterosexual norm in the most entertaining, eye-widening and imaginative ways.
The brainchild of Richard O’Brien and adapted from his musical of the same name (minus ‘picture’), Rocky Horror sees Brad and Janet caught in a storm on their way to visiting an old friend. They find a scary looking mansion in the middle of the woods, and think they can find help there. They quickly fall under the sexual spell of the resident “sweet transvestite” Doctor Frank N Furter (Tim Curry, whose performance is the stuff of legend). Written as a tribute to musicals, rock and roll and science fiction B-movies, Rocky Horror triggers a massive grin across your face every time you watch it. Its up there with The Room (2003) as one of the all time great cult classics.
There are belting songs such as ‘The Time Warp’, a memorable guest performance from Meatloaf as a bisexual half-lobotomite, and an endless hot mess of debauchery and absurdity. Few films before or since come close to Rocky Horror levels of fun. Strip away all the glitzy costumes, musical numbers and zaniness however, and O’Brien’s script is really a meaningful exploration of what love really is.
The ease of romance constantly seen in the typical February 14 melancholies, or at least how it all comes together in the end, is turned on its head in Rocky Horror by relationships that rely on physical company and are emotionally fragile. Such profound statements of what love can be versus the reality unashamedly depicts attachment in its brutal truth, warts and all. Love, like Rocky Horror’s characters, is imperfect and takes many forms, knowing no boundaries or reservations. It is this lesson that makes this peculiar, glamorous and timeless cult musical an endearing tribute to love and the ideal Valentine’s flick.
Image: Mark James Miller via. Wikimedia