Das Erste Mal: „The Rocky Horror Picture Show“
There’s a moment during „The Rocky Horror Picture Show“, first released in 1975, when, in a moment of liberation, I decided I was just going to go with the madness. A youthful Meat Loaf, riding a motorbike, had burst out of what seemed to be a refrigerator and sung, with some gusto, a completely incomprehensible but quite catchy song.
I found myself tapping my feet, transported back to my days as a small child in my dad’s car when the choice of cassette was Meat Loaf or Beethoven. Then, suddenly, the character in fish-net stockings calling himself Frank-N-Furter had hacked my old friend brutally to death with a meat cleaver. None of it made the remotest sense to me, nor did it seem well-shot or well-directed. But I decided “Why not?”
In der FM4 Sommerserie „Das erste Mal“ stellen sich Redakteur*innen jenen berühmten Streifen, die sie bislang immer verpasst haben.
I had felt more than a little apprehensive about watching „The Rocky Horror Picture Show“. It was the obvious choice for my contribution to the Das Erste Mal-series because people have been bugging me to watch it for years. Even the journalism students I teach who were born a quarter of a century after it was made told me this year I HAD to watch it.
During my misspent youth, „The Time Warp“ had been on every night in the small-town student friendly disco (somewhere between „It’s Raining Men“ and „Summer of 69“). It is a film that is so well-loved that I worried that if I didn’t, all my friends who are fans would think me a humourless dickhead.
The problem is that I don’t like musicals. I know the problem lies with me not them. They are A GOOD THING. It’s the same with carrots. I know the carrot is a brilliantly versatile and healthy vegetable that is loved by many people who I respect and admire. But still, although I want to, I don’t like carrots. Nor do I like musicals. Not even Mary Poppins. Sorry.
“But it is not that sort of musical,” objected B, my girlfriend. “It is weird. And funny.”
A Spirit of Open-Mindedness
So, last week, on my laptop, in a spirit of open-mindedness, I set out to watch it. I could only find a version with annoying (and incorrect) German subtitles that I couldn’t get rid of.
On the screen a pair of lips and what looked like too few teeth started singing absurd lyrics with references to public figures who have fallen out of consciousness although I did catch a reference to Flash Gordon.
The opening seemed to go on forever. I was a bit impatient but my girlfriend, B, giggled and sang along. She said it was her favourite song. We’d just got our toddler to sleep. She was happy.
Sober at a drunken party
The action started with a wedding scene. Susan Sarandon, the Oscar-winner, was in it and pretending she didn’t know how to act. A man looking like Clark Kent proposed to her during a very silly song with the refrain “damn it, Janet!”
B laughed and sang along. I gave her a dirty look. She said I was lucky. Most people watched „The Rocky Horror Show“ at public viewings and, for what at the time sounded like a mysterious reason, they threw toilet paper around. She suggested fetching some. I gave her another dirty look.
It had been a long day. I’d been doing stories about Syria. I felt like I had turned up late to a party where everyone but me was really drunk and the conversations made no sense.
“I’m going to have a beer,” I said, “and then why don’t we start again?”
The Film Proper Had Begun
I’m not advocating alcohol as a solution, although it literally is, but my hoppy refreshment did the trick. I started to accept the absurdist vibe. There was a man with a British accent narrating a ludicrous set-up that’s not worth discussing, then there was some more knowingly bad acting from Susan and Clark Kent and then we were in a castle and the film proper had begun.
Everyone was suddenly doing The Time Warp. I had always imagined it would make sense in the context of the film? It doesn’t, does it? Still I found myself tapping my feet. Then I sang along a bit. I gave myself a dirty look.
“Oh, this is my favourite song!” B exclaimed. Tim Curry (he of the fish-net tights) had turned up. He looked fantastic and was singing:
“I’m just a sweet transvestite
From transsexual, Transylvania”
„That’s Dr. Frank-N-Furter,” explained B. “This is my favourite song.”
I got this bit. I know my Mary Shelley. It was a play on Dr. Frankenstein. 5 points to me. But this time he had brought to life someone with hair like Boris Johnson. I shuddered. There was horror in the title, but this was a Penny Dreadful too far. Luckily, as the chiseled physique of this creation made it abundantly clear it wasn’t actually the old pudgy old Brexiteer, it was Rocky Horror.
That was the last point at which I understood anything. The rest of the film went by in a blur. There was a good pair of scenes when the naughty doctor seduced both the hero and heroine in turn, but then everything else was a blur. It might have been the long day or the second beer.
I remember a man in a wheelchair doing the can-can in stocking-clad legs. I remember a swimming pool. The underpants model Boris Johnson was running around the rainy garden pursued by dogs. Then Richard O’Brien, who had presented a quiz show when I was a kid, was re-enacting King Kong with the naughty doctor playing the role of the big ape and then… well, really, What The Fuck?
Like a night out I had as a teenager visiting Berlin, I can’t remember how it all ended.
Re-reading these words, I feel I might have given away a spoiler or two. That’s poor form. In recompense, I feel should offer some cinematic analysis…
Well, it isn’t very good, is it? But I was humming those tunes as I tried to go to sleep that night, and I was still singing them to myself as I cycled to the office the next day. It’s got deep inside my head, and that is the real horror.
If there is a public viewing, I’ll probably go and bring some toilet paper. Although B hasn’t explained what you are meant to do with it.
Publiziert am 13.08.2019