The Richard O'Brien Crusade



The Rocky Horror Picture Show

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Ready to do the Time Warp Again?

`The Rocky Horror Picture Show,'' the sci-fi/horror/musical saga that just won't die - it continues to pack them in as a bit of midnight madness at movie theaters across America, while the original stage version, ``The Rocky Horror Show,'' is still running in England and about to reopen in New York on Oct. 20 - celebrates its 25th anniversary with a just-released DVD special edition loaded with goodies.

And, sitting in his London home, creator/co-star Richard O'Brien admits to being semi-confounded by ``Rocky Horror's'' durability.

``The longevity, both on stage and on screen, has to do with the fact that the story locked into a fairy tale,'' says O'Brien, who wrote book, music and lyrics for both play and film, as well as playing the butler/handyman Riff Raff in both incarnations and in ``Shock Treatment,'' the lamentable 1981 big-screen follow-up.

``On the surface, it's just a trashy, campy, fun night out,'' he says, ``but, unlike a Chinese meal, you don't leave it thinking, `Well, that was all right, but it hasn't satisfied on a deeper level.'

``I think `Rocky' satisfies on a much more subliminal level, if you will,'' O'Brien says. ``It's a variation on a well-known fairy tale, `Babes in the Woods,' which itself was a retelling of the fall in the Garden of Eden. You don't necessarily think about that, but because it somehow pleases on that secondary level, it enables you to go back again and again and to relive the story.

``I may be completely on the wrong track, and I may be being exceptionally pretentious and pseudo with that interpretation,'' he adds with a laugh, ``but it's my best guess.''

Now 58, O'Brien didn't set out to make a classic, way back when. He simply wanted to entertain people with the travails of recently engaged innocents Janet (Susan Sarandon) and Brad (Barry Bostwick), who - after their car breaks down near an eerie castle - nearly succumb to the outrageous charms of decadent alien transvestite Dr. Frank N. Furter (Tim Curry) and the quirky guests from the galaxy Transylvania who've gathered at the castle for an annual convention.

Savaged by critics, the film bombed upon its release in 1975. Nonetheless it became a phenomenon, with participants at midnight showings dressing up and performing as the characters, tossing rice, opening umbrellas, tossing rolls of toilet paper, dancing to ``The Time Warp'' and talking back to the screen at appropriate moments.

When the midnight-movie craze began to fade, ``Rocky Horror'' made the leap to video. And now, via Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, it's on DVD. The special edition restores the production number ``Superheroes,'' cut from the American release, and counts among its extras assorted outtakes, alternate credits sequences, a subtitle track, footage of an audience performing in a movie theater, rarely seen photos, a trivia quiz and another deleted song, ``Once in a While.''

``I've not seen the DVD,'' O'Brien confesses. ``I watched the movie and did a little commentary for it, and I know about the extras. But I'm a technophobe and a Luddite, so DVD will probably not see its way into my house.

``The DVD is not my ball game,'' the actor/writer says. ``That's the producers' and the film company's journey, not mine. My journey is to get on with my life, really, not to repackage something from the past.

``I'm delighted it's been done, but it's really nothing to do with me.''

Which is not to say that O'Brien - whose other acting credits include ``Flash Gordon,'' ``Dark City'' and the upcoming fantasy film ``Dungeons & Dragons,'' with Jeremy Irons and Thora Birch - wishes to forget ``Rocky Horror.'' In fact, he's currently penning a stage sequel, and comes to this interview straight from the house of Richard Hartley, musical director on the original ``Rocky Horror Show'' on stage.

``We're quite happy with the first act, musically, and with the linear journey it takes,'' O'Brien says. ``I was up to the third or fourth song in the second act, but I'm going to have to throw those songs away and write a new second act - we came up with a much better idea for it, and I'll have to work on that.

``We don't have a title yet, but we'll be revisiting old characters, which should be fun.''

Hot patootie!

(Ian Spelling is a New York-based free-lance writer.)

The Richard O'Brien Crusade est. 1996