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Blu-ray Review: The Rocky Horror Picture Show – 35th Anniversary Edition

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For some, it’s the quintessential Hallowe’en classic. For many more, it is the first and foremost midnight movie. And then there’s that percentage of people who find it to be the most overrated musical in existence (personally, I prefer Phantom Of The Paradise, but we’ll save that argument for another time). But, either way you slice it, you cannot deny The Rocky Horror Picture Show has earned itself a considerably noticeable place in cult movie history.

The story takes your typical pair of ‘50s science-fiction flick “teenagers” Brad and Janet (Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon) and traps them in a mansion full of hypersexual aliens. Running the show is Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry’s most popular performance), a mad bisexual scientist who is assisted by his faithful (?) incestuous servants, Riff-Raff (Rocky Horror creator Richard O’Brien) and Magenta (Patricia Quinn). Brad and Janet’s arrival couldn’t be any more serendipitous for Dr. Furter: it’s the night that his muscle-bound Aryan plaything, Rocky (Peter Hinwood), is to be born, much to the dismay of former playthings Columbia (Nell Campbell) and Eddie (Meat Loaf) — the latter of whom unwillingly donated half of his brain so that the crazed scientist’s creature could be brought to life.

Things go from bad to worse for poor Brad and Janet: they are both seduced by Dr. Furter’s charms, which removes them from their once “wholesome” existence (Adam and Eve, anyone?), and compels them to give themselves over to a life of absolute pleasure. Will the arrival of the earnest Dr. Scott (Jonathan Adams) — their former professor (who also happens to be Eddie’s uncle) — save them from the depravity? Probably not, no. But at least it makes for some smashing song-and-dance (and sex) entertainment all-around. The entire story is presented to its viewers by a criminologist (Charles Gray), who serves as the film’s onscreen narrator.

In addition to being the longest-running theatrical release in the entire history of cinema, The Rocky Horror Picture Show is also a regular on the home video market. In 1990, 20th Century Fox released the very first US incarnation of Richard O’Brien’s musical on VHS. Twenty years after the celebrated 15th Anniversary, Fox Home Entertainment has unleashed what may very-well be the ultimate fan favorite release (for now, that is): The Rocky Horror Picture Show – 35th Anniversary Edition on Blu-ray.

Presented in a flamboyantly fantastic 2K/4K master (taken from the original camera negatives), The Rocky Horror Picture Show – 35th Anniversary Edition brings us a 1080p/AVC 1.66:1 widescreen transfer. Not only is the print featured on this HD release practically flawless (there are a few specks here and there, and a little grain, but it looks as natural as can be), but Fox fortunately refrained from going overboard with the so-called “digital improvements” that can be seen in other recent releases: a process that makes the picture look a lot shinier, but ultimately makes it look like its been Photoshopped. Colors are bright and crisp, the contrast is clear, and the detail present here is jaw-dropping.

On the audio end of the spectrum, The Rocky Horror Picture Show – 35th Anniversary Edition boasts a rockin’ DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track, which really makes the movie’s musical numbers stand out like never before. The new 7.1 mix also adds more to the film’s sound effects and background sounds — a far cry from the good ol’ Mono track that the movie started out with. The original Mono track is also included on the 50GB disc for those of you who wish to kick it old school-style. The release also contains 5.1 Dolby Digital tracks in Portuguese and Polish (?) and subtitles are available in English SDH, Portuguese, Danish, Finnish, French, German, Spanish, Dutch, Norwegian, Swedish, Greek, Hungarian, Icelandic, Korean, and Polish (and possibly Transylvanian, too, but I could be mistaken).

And now, the extras. If, for some strange reason, you still hold on to that old 15th Anniversary VHS release for that “Time Warp” Music Video, you can finally justify letting that old analog tape go because the 35th Anniversary Edition has it. And then some. Actually, just about every extra that has ever been tacked-on to any US home video release of The Rocky Horror Picture Show is present here: from the 1995 LaserDisc issue to the more recent DVD incarnations.

Several special features are devoted to the zaniness that the devoted fans have brought to “The Midnight Experience” over the years: a “Trivia Track,” the “Vintage Callback Track” (recorded by RHPS Fan Club President Sal Piro’s back in ‘83), a “Prop Box” (wherein you can thrown “virtual” props at the screen via your remote — see what our modern lazy digital age has done for us?) and a “shadowcast” performance of the movie, “The Late Night, Double Feature, Picture-in-Picture Show” (which features a hand-picked crowd of fanatics doing for you live what they normally do every Saturday night).

In case you’re wondering where they dug up the par-tic-i-pants for the “shadowcast” performance, you can shudder at the sight of several, real-life and surprisingly-functional fans by playing “The Search for the 35th Anniversary Shadowcast,” a two-part feature that runs close to an hour. A couple more new additions include the “Rocky-Oke: Sing It!” sing-a-long option (for karaoke nuts like myself), and two featurettes devoted to legendary rock-n-roll photographer Mick Rock and his well-known contributions to the production of the film. Initial releases of the 35th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray include a collectable 24-page booklet, which also showcases some of Rock’s efforts.

Some of the recycled bits and pieces include Richard O’Brien and Patricia Quinn’s now-vintage audio commentary (with optional subtitles in English, French, and German), the deleted musical scenes, outtakes, and various combinations of alternate & misprint openings & endings that have been floating around since the LaserDisc release, the afore-mentioned “Time Warp” Music Video, a retrospective documentary (“Rocky Horror Double Feature Video Show”), and a look at the film whilst being played at the “Beacon Theater, New York City.” Several trailers, an interactive pressbook gallery, and a poster gallery round up the Show.

The downside to many of the recycled features is that 95% of them are presented in Standard Definition, but that shouldn’t discourage any of The Rocky Horror Picture Show’s timeless (and oft-creepy) fans from picking this excellent release up.

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About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the disgruntled alter-ego of a thirtysomething lad from Northern California who has watched so many weird movies since the tender age of 3 that a conventional life is out of the question. He currently lives in Chico, CA with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.
  • El Bicho

    good review.

    “Things go from bad to worse for poor Brad and Janet”

    Or do they?

    ““Vintage Callback Track” (recorded by”

    When you write “recorded” did you mean you got audio? I only got title cards popping up in the corner