I watched Rocky Horror Picture Show

The title pretty much says it all, but yes I finally lost my Rocky Horror Picture Show virginity.

Watching the film on Halloween was a fun experience with the raucous crowd and volunteer-run stage show that took place underneath the screen.

Overall, it was a pretty good show, but I couldn’t follow the film at all while I watched. People were encouraged to yell “Asshole” whenever Brad shows up on screen and “Slut” whenever Janet showed up.

In between the yelling, screaming, and inane comments from the organizers running the lights, I kind of lost the narrative thread, so here’s some interesting tidbits.

So what happened exactly?

Ok, so Brad and Janet get engaged. Their car breaks down and they end up at the manor of Dr. Frank-N-Furter where he’s holding a party to show off his new creation Rocky.

The people Brad and Janet meet at the party are Transylvanians who are actually aliens from another planet. It’s revealed later on in the film that Dr. Frank-N-Furter has been working on a way to teleport himself, the manor, and his followers back to the planet Transexual, but he hasn’t been working on it very hard.

When Brad and Janet arrive at the manor, they are stripped of their clothes and are then taken captive. Dr. Frank then shows off his new creation, murders a biker and former-lover named Eddie whose brain was used to make Rocky, has sex with the new-born monster, puts Brad and Janet into captivity, has sex with both of them, captures Rocky when he escapes, and then proceeds to put on a musical before being murdered by two of his followers who just want to go home.

Anyway, that’s a pretty brief overview of the entire film.

During the film, I missed pretty much everything about that stuff because of the people yelling, singing, and screaming, but what wasn’t lost on me was that Dr. Frank-N-Furter is kind of a screwed up character.

Dr. Frank-N-Fuhrer

I don’t think the play on words in his name is really lost on anybody. He’s a dictator in his manor who creates a monster, much like Dr. Frankenstein, and he has a Frankfurter in between his legs.

What’s not mentioned, at least in the start of the film, is that Dr. Frank is also an alien who is trying to create a matter teleporter that can take him and his followers home.

We don’t really learn this until the very end of the film, but it’s hinted that they aren’t exactly human throughout the film. However, I don’t think even among aliens that Dr. Frank is your typical kind of scientist.

On Earth, Dr. Frank is able to be an inhibited transexual (not strictly meaning he’s changed genders, but more or less that he’s a sexually-liberated Transylvanian). This has helped keep him on the planet. It has also corrupted him as we learn from Riff-Raff at the end of the show.

According to an unpublished followup to the original stage show, Dr. Frank was supposed to be some kind of prince on Transexual who had sex with his mother. Perhaps because of this incestuous act he was exiled to Earth along with the others around him excluding Columbia who is human.

That being all said, Dr. Frank-N-Furter is actually kind of screwed up. He attacks other characters on several occasions, has sex with what amounts to be a child in a man’s body, rapes two humans, and acts generally like a maniac through most of the show.

Being from another planet gives Dr. Frank, perhaps, a different way of viewing things like human morality and ethics. For instance, he’s unbound by the common restraints that keeps us humans from hurting others. Riff-Raff and Magenta, similarly, delight in seeing others get hurt and inflicting pain.

Columbia, one of the only humans who sticks with the group, isn’t able to stomach the violence near to the end of the film when Eddie’s dead body is revealed.

Anyway, without getting too wrapped up in other things let’s go back to the actual plot.

Near to the end of the film, Dr. Frank puts on a stage show with four of the cast. In the song, Dr. Frank speaks about how he left his home, but now he’s ready to go back. He sings this while floating in water his makeup running down his face signalling that he’s ready to give up whatever caused his exile. He also alludes to his life being like a deck of cards, but given how he looks physically and knowing what the followup shows were going to reveal it’s possible that he sees himself as the Joker within the deck that is sometimes thrown out before play.

He pleads this to an imaginary audience of people who are dressed as normal human beings. Perhaps they represent the Transexual public all prim and proper, but Riff-Raff and Magenta see through his song. They believe that he won’t go home and he’ll continue their stay on Earth, so the only way to prevent this is to kill him with an anti-matter beam and transport home.

The Criminologist

The Criminologist is a character who appears throughout the film acting as a bridge between acts. He explains, although somewhat abstractly, what is happening around the characters.

As a criminologist his job is to understand the criminal mind. Seeing as how he chooses Dr. Frank-N-Furter as his main subject says volumes about how his ways are viewed on Transexual, which brings me too:

The Criminologist is an alien on Transexual!

Yes, this character is on Dr. Frank’s home planet and is chronicling the actions he took while on Earth. Although this isn’t exactly a fact and can probably be disputed it’s really the only way he could know so much about the incidents that took place at the manor that night.

The first instance of his knowledge is knowing the steps to the Time Warp song. He’s able to take viewers through the steps precisely. He also shows himself to be an omniscient narrator with an in-depth knowledge of how the characters feel in the play.

His strange and somewhat stuffy appearance could also be a hint at his authority over deviants such as Dr. Frank. The way he dresses, speaks, and acts is at complete opposites of the robust antagonist of the show.

So why is the Criminologist important? Well I guess we have to consider that the story we see in the show arrives to us through him as a filter. As he says:

There are some people who say that life is an illusion, and that reality is simply a figment of our imaginations! If this is so, then Brad and Janet are quite safe. However, the sudden departure of their host and his creation (into the seclusion of his sombre bridal suite) had left them feeling both apprehensive and uneasy. A feeling which grew as the other guests ‘departed’ and ‘they’ were shown to their separate rooms.

Perhaps the entire show that we’re seeing is some kind of illusion created by the Criminologist to show us the actions taken by Dr. Frank. As a Criminologist he’s made a study of the events at the manor perhaps to educate others on Dr. Frank’s “criminal behaviour”, but to what end I can’t really say.

***

Those are just some observations I made from watching the film and also doing a little bit of reading on what actually happened in it. The show was pretty interesting too with people actually singing along, but the commentary from the organizers could have been a little more… none at all.

If you’re in Toronto and interested in seeing the show, The Rocky Horror Picture Show plays at the Bloor Cinema every last Friday of every month. The actors who go up on stage also do it volunteer, so it’s a great way to support them as well.

I guess it’s kind of funny that some of the organizers said, kind of tongue in cheek, that the movie isn’t actually very good, but I found that there’s a lot to unpack if you look into the characters.

There’s actually a really good write up on gender in the film here, so take a look.

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