Retrospective Review: “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”

Release yourself from your inhibitions and do the Time Warp — “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is back, baby!

42 years since its original release in 1975, AMC La Jolla has put on another screening of the cult-classic “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” — a film that has been screened regularly in theaters all over the nation since the ’80s. A musical parody of sci-fi and romance films, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” makes several classic allusions to movies like “Forbidden Planet” and “King Kong,” and adds some interesting, sexual twists. The soundtrack is phenomenal, perfectly representing the time of androgyny, misfit culture, adventurous sexuality, and the rock-and-roll aesthetic known of the ’70s. From the iconic “Time Warp,” to Tim Curry’s “Sweet Transvestite,” to Susan Sarandon’s “Touch-A, Touch-A, Touch Me,” “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” does not fail to deliver a thrilling experience for each and every viewer, new or old.

The movie begins with a pair of bright red lips singing the intro song, “Science Fiction/Double Feature” before they fade off into a clear blue sky. We are introduced to Brad (Barry Bostwick) and Janet (Susan Sarandon), a traditional (and seemingly innocent) couple which has just gotten engaged. They find themselves with a flat tire when driving during a heavy storm in the middle of the night. Brad tells Janet to wait in the car while he goes to look for a telephone to use, but Janet insists on coming with him. The two come across Dr. Frank-N-Furter’s (Tim Curry) eerie castle where they meet his butler Riff Raff (Richard O’Brien) and maid Magenta (Patricia Quinn). Riff Raff, a hunchbacked, balding man with pale skin, dark circles underneath his eyes, and stringy blonde hair, takes Brad and Janet to meet the rest of the castle’s residents. Brad and Janet unsuspectingly follow Riff Raff into a room where the guests welcome them to their celebration by dancing and singing along to the “Time Warp” song. As it turns out, Brad and Janet have arrived on the night that Dr. Frank-N-Furter’s newest creation is due to be born.

An elevator comes down, revealing a sultry Dr. Frank-N-Furter inside. Brad and Janet stand in shock as he sashays across the room in sexy lingerie while seductively singing “Sweet Transvestite” as a way of introducing himself. He is wearing a heavy amount of makeup, black stilettos, fishnet tights, fingerless gloves, matching black briefs and corset, and (of course) pearls. When Dr. Frank-N-Furter’s long awaited creation, “Rocky,” (Peter Hinwood) is finally introduced, he is revealed to be a muscular blonde man with androgynous features, clad in tight gold briefs. Despite their recent engagement, Brad and Janet each have sexual encounters with Dr. Frank-N-Furter, and once Janet gets a taste, she cannot seem to quench her thirst for it. As she sings her iconic song “Touch-A, Touch-A, Touch Me,” she engages in a casual sexual encounter with Rocky, Dr. Frank-N-Furter’s prized possession. Cross-dressing and debauchery, ahh, yes, just as Dr. Frank-N-Furter famously says in the film: “Give yourself over to absolute pleasure. Swim the warm waters of sins of the flesh — erotic nightmares beyond any measure, and sensual daydreams to treasure forever. Can’t you just see it? Don’t dream it, be it.”

My only criticism is that the plot feels a bit jumpy, and it’s accordingly harder to understand what happens. Almost all of the story is told through the songs rather than the dialogue, which makes sense since the film is a musical, but the lyrics can be near inarticulate. The music is great, catchy, fun, and amusing, but it also rewards fans who decide to rewatch a couple of times, allowing them to fully appreciate all the allusions, jokes, innuendos, songs, and assorted hidden details.

Fair warning, this film is not for children or the easily offended. There is no explicit nudity, but there are nipples and risque attire shown along with murder, sex, and eccentric dancing. Dr. Frank-N-Furter cultivates the kind of atmosphere that encourages giving in to your guilty pleasures shamelessly, along with letting go of your sexual inhibitions and conservative morals. If you are an open-minded individual who enjoys a sexually and culturally challenging, adventurous experience, then I highly recommend watching “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

“Rocky Horror” returns to select AMC theaters for the duration of October, including the local AMC La Jolla 12. Screenings are every Friday and Saturday at 10 p.m., in addition to Halloween night. To purchase tickets or get more information on future screenings, visit

Image Courtesy of 20th Century Fox