It's hard to describe quite how Richard O'Brien's infamous cult-hit and musical masterpiece, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, effected my squishy little 13 year old brain on first viewing, not to mention each of the countless re-watches since then.
On what seemed a fairly ordinary night - it's true there were dark storm clouds, heavy, black and pendulous - I channel hopped and landed on that pair of juicy, red, warbling lips. I was transfixed. The music and imagery was evocative, unlike anything I'd seen before, yet simultaneously familiar. Despite requests from my parents to turn it off and go to bed, I selected the lowest possible audible volume and stayed up past my bedtime to find out what would happen to Brad and Janet. It was a night in I was to remember.
Before my eyes was a bizarre concoction of film genres which O'Brien fused together elements of and, in doing so, created something which took on a life of it's own. Various science fiction, B horror movies, Steve Reeves' muscle touting action films and 50s rock and roll music shaped his vision of the now iconic Rocky Horror assemblage, including the transexual transvestites from Transylvania.
What also stood out was the irregularity of the storyline. Brad and Janet's cute proposal could have been the start of their love story as a couple, but it wasn't. The pair of them knocking on the door of a strange mansion after having car trouble on a stormy night could have seen them chopped into tiny pieces by psychotic murderers, but they weren't. Instead they are taught something about themselves in an unimaginably strange series of events. Cliches that I'd come across many times already were being subverted and that was refreshing and intriguing.
The corruption - or should we say, emancipation - of this overly straight-laced "happy" couple at the hands of Dr. Frank N. Furter (Tim Curry's finest hour) and his devotees is a loud, proud, queer, camp and celebratory unravelling of suppressed social conduct and sexuality. As a youngster, Rocky Horror opened my mind to and encouraged freedom of sexuality and self-expression, and served as a welcome to an alternative world of glamour, based in androgyny and cross-dressing.
By re-visiting Brad and Janet's unexpected journey as a fully fledged adult, you feel an almost primal urge to be the lewder and more explicit version of yourself that has been somehow constrained by, well...regular life. Although it might not be realistic, ethical or even enjoyable to frankenstein yourself a sex slave and be the narcissistic puppet-master of your own harem, what we can all do is be a bit freer, bend some gender rules and have fun by taking on a freaky alter ego every now and again. Hence, the continued success of live theatre and cinema showings of this cult classic to this very day, where fans dress up to the nines, learn lines and bring props to join in on the action.
Just don't have too much fun or you could wind up feeling like poor Frank.
For another healthy dose of Rocky Horror goodness, we wait with baited breath for The Rocky Horror Show Event, a 2-hour TV 'reimagining' of the motion picture which is expected sometime this year. It promises to continue with the strong and positive LGBT message that the show first began to spread in 1975, with amazing casting decisions such as Laverne Cox as Frank N. Furter and Tim Curry as the Criminologist...watch this space.