Saturday, June 13, 2009


For almost 20 years the Rialto Theater in Raleigh has presented the cult classic THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW every Friday at Midnight. Despite hearing many amusing tales of sordid audience-interactive escapades that would occur during each showing, I had never attended before last night. 

I have seen parts of the movie on television and have heard songs from the soundtrack but knew those didn't count compared to the actual experience. However I didn't expect to be branded a "virgin" with a lipstick "v" on my head and forced to do a dance move twist in a line mashed together with other virgins - but hey! If that's the drill then so be it.

After that stupid spectacle, the real stupid spectacle began - the movie started and a cast of young folks (some looked like teenagers) mimicked the action onscreen. They came dressed like their respective characters and lip-synced their lines, some dead on, some less so. It was loud and chaotic, often indecipherable and yet it was a lot of fun. 

We threw rice, rolls of toilet paper, and playing cards (they sell prop bags if you come empty handed) at the crucial moments while obvious audience regulars shouted their snarky comebacks ("call backs" I'm told) at the screen.

My wife told me that it wasn't quite like the ROCKY HORROR shows she had seen in the past. Some of the "call backs" were new additions with recent references which I'm told on the internets, if applauded, are added to the ongoing repertoire. My wife also said the "underwear run" wasn't a part of any of the shows she had been to before (she had seen RHPS countless times at the now defunct AMC Fashion Village 8 in Orlando, Florida back in the late 80's and early 90's).

You might notice I'm not speaking about the plot (or lack thereof) and that's because it's the least important part of the whole shebang. The premise of a conservative couple (Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon - "Saran-wrap" goes one of the "call-backs") who, one dark and dreary evening, find themselves in a castle surrounded by sexual deviants holding an Annual Transylvanian Convention is just an excuse for extravagant musical numbers and outrageous sci-fi shenanigans. Tim Curry's transsexual Dr. Frank N. Furter with his Mick Jaggeresque delivery and slimy charm steals the show, but he has stiff competition from Meat Loaf in one uproarious rowdy rock number.

As a "movie guy" who just moved to Raleigh, I couldn't go much longer without finally taking in the Rialto tradition of RHPS. It didn't disappoint and it was fascinating to find out afterwards that the players call themselves The Low Down Cheap Little Punks - here's their website. If you haven't seen THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW - I bet there's a theater near you that has the same tradition albeit a distinctly different presentation. 

It's impressive that this film that originally flopped and was bashed by critics became the ultimate midnight movie celebrated in cities all over the world every weekend. It's a great legacy for what is, honestly, a weird-ass kind of crappy movie. Without a doubt, the soundtrack and the outrageous spirit of it all win out at every show.

More later...

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