• Rocky Horror Picture Show, The (40th Anniversary Celebration Edition)

    Released by: Fox
    Released on: September 22nd, 2015.
    Director: Richard O’Brien
    Cast: Barry Bostwick, Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Richard O’Brien, Little Nell, Meatloaf, Patricia Quinn, Peter Hinwood
    Year: 1975
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    The Movie:

    Based on the play by Richard O’Brien, Jim Sharman’s big screen adaptation of The Rocky Horror Picture show probably needs no introduction to anyone reading this site – and now it’s turning forty! We all know how it flopped initially but somehow managed to attract audiences to midnight screenings where it birthed its own odd subculture with audience participation, dress up reenactments and more. Of course, it wound up becoming what many consider to be the biggest ‘cult’ movie of all time and holds the record for the longest consistently running theatrical release in history.

    The film follows stoic and stalwart Brad Majors (Barry Bostwick) and his fiancé, Janet Weiss (Susan Sarandon) as they get a flat tire on a dark and stormy night and opt to take refuge in a mansion (Oakley Court, which pops up in a lot of sixties and seventies horror films including a few from Hammer as well as Larraz’s Vampyres) they pass along the way. Greeted by a butler named Riff Raff (Richard O’Brien) and a maid named Magenta (Patricia Quinn), the pair arrives just in time for the home’s prime resident, a transvestite named Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry) to unveil his latest creation. The good doctor has created himself a man of his own, who he dubs Rocky (Peter Hinwood). As Brad and Janet find they have no choice but to spend the night, they wind up meeting the different people who live in the home – Columbia (Little Nell) and, for a brief time, Eddie (Meatloaf) – only to be joined later on by their old friend Professor Scott (Jonathan Adams) as Frank-N-Furter starts to go mad and brings everyone else along for the ride, staging a bizarre cabaret show in which he is the star. The whole thing is narrated by a criminologist (Charles Grey) who tries to put it all into some sort of context.

    A truly odd hodgepodge of fifties horror and sci-fi films, ridiculously catchy rock and roll, cross dressing, sexual experimentation, theatrics and zany humor, it’s easy to see how the film attracted the cult audience that it has. It doesn’t always make a whole lot of sense but there’s never a dull moment and the movie is and always will be a whole lot of fun. The music, peppered with B-movie references and innuendos galore, has a tendency to get stuck in your head long after the film finishes while the performances from all involved are fantastic. Tim Curry has to get most of the credit for bringing to life the coolest transvestite mad doctor ever to grace the silver screen, showing an indescribable amount of confidence and adding all manner of fantastic physical detail to really make the role his own. The rest of the cast are all great too, but Curry is the one who everyone remembers here and rightfully so. It’s cool to see Meatloaf burst out of the vault on a motorcycle and sweep Columbia off her feet and it’s great that Riff Raff and Magenta lead everyone through the Time Warp, but they can’t hold a candle to Curry’s most infamous performance.

    The sets, the costumes, the music, the pseudo-narrative and of course the game cast all come together to form a relentlessly entertaining picture that is better seen and experienced than summarized in text. It’ll either work for you or it won’t and the film has enough detractors that it’s easy to classify the picture as a love it or hate it affair. The detractors can have their say of course, but for many of us who appreciate this film, it’s hard to imagine anyone not giving in to its infectious song and ridiculous plot and enjoying it for the camp spectacle that it is.


    Long time fans of the film will be pretty impressed with how much better the film looks here than it ever did on DVD or VHS, while those with the past Blu-ray release will get a sense of déjà vu. The AVC encoded 1080p 1.66.1 widescreen transfer shows quite a bit more detail than the standard definition DVD ever could – just look at the sequins on Columbia’s costume, you can pick out each individual one if you want – while colors look exceptionally good. There are definitely some scenes that look softer than others, the film has always had that look to it, but overall everything looks better here than it ever has before. Skin tones are nice and natural, though frequently covered in smeared makeup of course, while black levels are generally nice and deep as well. Contrast is set right, the image is wonderfully clean and crisp without showing any obvious noise reduction or irritating edge enhancement, and the film looks fantastic – and the transfer appears to be the same as the one used on the past release.

    For a screen cap comparison between the 35th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray and this new 40th Anniversary Blu-ray edition, click here!

    The best of the audio options on this disc is the English language DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track, though optional tracks are offered in English language Dolby Digital Mono, Portuguese language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and Polish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. A wealth of subtitles options are provided in English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Hebrew, Hungarian, Icelandic, Korean, Norwegian, Polish and Swedish.

    How does the audio shape up here? Incredibly well and it offers a very substantial upgrade over the standard definition release. The musical bits all sound excellent with perfect clarity allowing you to hear almost every individual instrument and vocal better than ever before. Surround activity won’t bombard you but it fills in various scenes with some nice directional effects and spreads the score out nicely. Bass response is strong but not overpowering while the levels are balanced perfectly. There are no problems at all with any hiss or distortion and all in all, Fox has done a fantastic job with the DTS-HD mix on this release – and again, it’s the same as what came before.

    The Blu-ray release contains both the American theatrical cut of the film and the English cut, joined by seamless branching. The difference? The American cut omits the song Super Heroes from the film, other than that they’re basically the same. On top of that, Fox have gone the extra mile here and delivered a massive array of supplements, starting with the commentary track from Richard O’Brien and Patricia Quinn. Carried over from the DVD release, it’s a good talk and a nice mix of information and humor. Most fans will have heard it before, but if not, it’s definitely worth checking out. More impressive, and new to this Blu-ray release, is the Midnight Experience option. When you enable this you’ll have the option of checking out a Pop Up Video style trivia track, yelling along with the interactive call back track, throwing various objects at the screen in digital form with the Prop Box or checking out the Late Night Double Feature Picture-In-Picture Show which puts a live reenactment in the corner of the screen – all of this is to let you take in what it’s like to experience a midnight screening of the film. It’s fun, and it works better than it has any right to, but it still can’t quite compete with the real thing and can’t replace a live audience.

    From there check out some HD supplements starting with The Search For The 35th Anniversary Shadowcast, which is an hour long documentary that shows how the supplement producers for this release auditioned people to come in and compete for the chance to play a spot in front of the screen. It’s very much like American Idol but a fair bit more entertaining. The Rocky-Oke Sing Along option lets you read the lyrics to the musical numbers that appear in the film and sing along with or without cast accompaniment, while the alternate black and white opening lets you watch the first chunk of the film sans color, switching once Brad and Janet make their way into the house. Mick Rock (A Photographer) is a quick interview with the man who shot so many on set photos during the production. Accompanying this is a nice slideshow of his work.

    If that weren’t enough, check out the A Few From The Vault section where you’ll find a bunch of material (in standard definition) carried over from the two disc DVD release from a few years back – two deleted musical tracks, eleven alternate scenes, the alternate closing credits sequence, the misprint ending, the Rocky Horror Double Feature Video Show documentary, clips from the Beacon Theater Tenth Anniversary theatrical screening, the Time Warp video from the VHS release, two trailers, and two still galleries. Fans have seen all of this material before, but it’s essential to have it included on this release. On top of that, the disc is packaged in a very nice full color hardcover book that includes some notes on the film and some nice color photographs from it – a very nice touch. Unfortunately the VH1 Behind The Music special that was on the DVD has been omitted from this Blu-ray (as it was on the 35th Anniversary Edition as well) – that’s about the only complaint you can levy here. The disc is stacked. But is there anything new? No.

    So is there any difference between this 40th Anniversary Edition and the past Blu-ray release (the 35th Anniversary Edition)? Not so far as I can tell, at least in terms of the disc itself. This new version does come with a download code for a Digital HD version of the movie and it’s packaged inside a slick, glittery cardboard slipcover but the contents of the Blu-ray disc itself - the transfer, audio and extras – all appear to be the same. There is a tiny difference in disc size between the two discs (see below), but I’ll be damned if I can figure out where that comes from.



    The Final Word:

    Love it or hate it, The Rocky Horror Picture show rightfully deserves its place as a significant piece of pop cinema. Massively influential over the last few years, its devoted audience of midnight movie miscreants will completely geek out over how good the film looks and sounds on Blu-ray and will also really appreciate the effort that went into porting over most of the extras and creating some new ones as well. All in all, this is a superb release of an impossibly fun movie that happens to be pretty much identical to the last one. Recommended if you don’t already have the last release.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!