Monday, 7 November 2016

It was great when it all began - And it still is

Back in the very early 70’s, an out of work actor called Rick, decided to write a bit of a play, just to keep his hand in whilst he was resting you understand.  It was a bit of a mish-mash of Sci-Fi, B-Movie horror and simplistic ‘Blues-Box’ Rock ‘n’ Roll – And it was alright really, you’ve probably heard a couple of the songs… You might have drunkenly ‘Timewarped’ at your Auntie Vera’s wake. Or repeated the words ‘Dammit, Janet’ over and over because you’re not really sure what the rest of the words actually are (Apart from some hypothetical river being deep that is – And how willing you are to prove that you’ve swam it. Maybe you’ve planned a future, because it’s ours – I don’t really know.)

But by now, you’ve probably guessed that I’m talking about Richard O’Brien’s Internationally-acclaimed Rocky Horror Show – The original version of which, one no-one’s ever seen (Unless you were one of the people who spent real cash money going to the dismal ‘Experimental Space’ above a dodgy theatre in Sloane Square in the summer of 1973.)

But you’ve probably heard the Original Soundtrack Album – Produced by everyone’s favourite (alleged) celebrity Peadophile, Radio 1 DJ (Obvs) and record producer Jonathan King. Who oddly, was also one of the original backers of the stage-play, so you’ve got him to thank – In part at least, for its popularity.

Here’s a juicy tangent… A cute girlie once made me a cassette-tape copy of the OST, She went as far as decorating the Memorex C120 with drawings and quotes from the album sleeve and I thought I was, what we used to call back then, “Well-in” with her, but this happened not two short months before she was discovered, in flagrante-delicto with the local (married) blacksmith/jeweler – I swear, unrequited lust and blacksmiths… Ah tells thee, I used to live in your actual 18th. Century, Henry Fielding novel. Feel free to insert your own ‘Hot Anvil/Hammer & Tongs’ joke anywhere around here that you see fit.

It only took a couple of years for 20th Century Fox to pick it up and turn it into a film, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” (Which every single human being and a good proportion of the world’s more patient farm animals has seen on multiple occasions.) – It contained a mixture of both the London and Broadway cast and it was quite popular, making $140 Million from its $1.4 budget.

Now, I’m not going to go into the plot of the play/film, because that would be redundant… You’ve seen it, you’ve probably sung the songs and you’ve had impure thoughts about Tim Curry. So, Aliens, Transvestites, Bikers, Rain, Floor-show etc. – You get the gist. Bizarrely (popular word when you’re talking about Rocky Horror), the film became more popular with audiences (more than critics) than the stage-show and it wasn’t long before people started dressing up as characters and interacting with the action on screen… There’s a whole list of prescribed actions, props and talk-backs that you can throw/shout out should the muse take you – There’s a guide here provided by Timewarp, the UK Rocky Horror Fan Club. This transferred (Bizarrely – See, told you it was popular word) back to the stage-play, which is pretty much always touring somewhere on this planet’s face – But with a slightly different set of rules.

If I can only ever give you one piece of advice – Apart from the time I explained what to do in case of a bear attack and how to change the timing belt on a 1974 Triumph Herald - It would be… If you’re going to get ‘involved’ take the time to learn the actions and get them right. Students have adopted Rocky Horror as their own; as a way to show how messianically bloody great they are, which in the words of my good friend Nathan, makes my piss fizz. But they will laugh at you when you get things wrong. Being laughed at by a 200lb Rugby-playing 19 year old who’s experimenting with sodomy whilst wearing his sister’s underwear and makeup is not something anyone really wants, well, not unless they’re paying extra for it.

Then, if we fast-forward to… Well… About a week ago (If you are reading this in early November 2016, which is when I’m writing it) the remake was released on FOX (Bizarrely)…

When you get right down to it, it was a pretty faithful recreation with an entirely new cast (With one deeply sanguine notable exception) but ‘brought up to date’ visually. It was pretty much universally despised by anyone who had seen, participated in or even heard of the original. Which, in my opinion, is doing everyone involved a massive dis-service.  I can understand people not liking it – Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, I even agreed with people who hated the Phantom Menace when they first saw it. But this film has to get some kind of award for the number of people who were monumentally butthurt without actually seeing it. I’ve seen it called filth (and not in a good way) – I’ve seen it blamed for the reappearance of actual medical conditions – I’ve seen it accused of shitting all over the memory of the original… All by people who haven’t gone to the lengths required to actually watch it.

Let me take you through a few of the things that are different, to relieve the tension (see what I did there?):

  1. The general ‘feel’ – It was made for a new audience, it wasn’t aimed at us old, opinionated people who idolized the original
  2. Frank ‘n’ Furter is played by a WOMAN! – It might temper your fury somewhat if I said that the very talented young lady in question, Laverne Cox, used to be a guy – So, a real Trans-sexual playing an Alien from the planet Trans-sexual (Can you smell the irony people?) She does a brilliant job – Getting a lot of Tim Curry’s mannerisms cock-on (if you’ll pardon the expression) a lot of the time
  3. The guy who played Dorian Grey in Penny Dreadful does a great Richard O’Brien impression as Riff-Raff
  4. Magenta is BLACK! ZOMFG!!!1!!!1eleven – Played by Christina Milian (Whom I understand is a noted Popstrel, popular with the younger generation)
  5. Trixie the usherette is played by Ivy Levan – Who is, as I believe the young say nowadays, hot AF. and is not in the film anywhere near as much as she should be
  6. IT SHOWS (some of the) THE AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION – So, there’s a clue there for newbies who want to go and see the show
  7. You don’t see any female nipples during the floor-show at the end, which is a pity, but I’m sure you’ll survive.
  8. It features 100% less overt cannibalism than the original
  9. There’s no Christopher Biggins – which is a crying shame
  10. Tim Curry plays the Criminologist… This is the only part of the film that I, personally felt uncomfortable watching – Mr. Curry had a major stroke in 2012 and is still suffering some of the effects, one of which is being confined to a wheelchair, combined with a stilted voice, made all the more heart-wrenching when you remember its strength in the original.

I’ve counted some of the major differences out for you, so there’ll be no big surprises to upset you and stop you seeing it. 

Look, just watch it, suspend your disbelief that anything could ever be better the original – It doesn’t try to – It’s a cover-version, an alternative – Well made by some very talented people who’ve done their best to capture the soul of the original and drag it kicking it’s tranny-shoes into the 21st. Century.

Watch it, then say you don’t like it… Or watch it, and say you do – But just watch it - I've watched it and it did me no harm.. See!

One of these people is me!

Oh yes, whilst I remember, Frank ‘n’ Furter’s Castle/Spaceship in the 1975 film was Oakley Court in Windsor UK – Which had provided scenery for many of the original Hammer Horror films of the entire 70’s so that was a bit of a cyclic reference.

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