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Was the New Rocky Horror Remake Really Necessary?

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Welcome to Bay of the Living Deada twice a month column about the horror genre.

Sometimes I shake my head in wonder over the fact that the same company which offers the virulently right wing (and dishonest) Fox New Channel also offers the Fox Network, home to edgy shows like The Simpsons and the groundbreaking, progressive LGBT song fest Glee. 

The cast of The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let's Do the Time Warp Again

The cast of The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again

The other night Fox offered an unlikely scenario: a transgender woman portraying a biologically male transvestite. With The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Againrising transgender Hollywood star Laverne Cox, the first trans Emmy nominee in history, dons the stilettos and pumps first worn by Tim Curry in the classic midnight movie. Amazingly, the original Rocky Horror Picture Show continues to pack ’em in, some 41 years after the audiences at New York’s Waverly Theater first yelled back at the screen.

In it’s day, the original Rocky Horror Picture Show dared to question gender and sexual roles at a time when such things simply weren’t discussed–the film’s popularity in fact began to escalate about the same time when beauty queen Anita Bryant launched her campaign to prevent all of us poor suffering homosexuals from obtaining our rights. The original Rocky Horror was a mad satire of old Frankenstein and sci-fi movies told from the point of view of Brad and Janet (Barry Bostwick, Susan Sarandon), a straight laced couple who stumble upon the castle of Dr. Frank N. Furter (Tim Curry) a cross-dressing mad scientist from another planet who seduces them both after he creates the man of his dreams in his lab. The film was a deliriously Queer spoof of every Hollywood and horror movie cliche imaginable–it resonated with kids during the era of the 1970s sexual revolution as nothing before, or since, ever has.

Laverne Cox as Dr. Frank N Furter

Laverne Cox as Dr. Frank N Furter

Watching Fox’s made-for-TV remake last night brought up two interesting questions. Will Rocky newbies understand the in-joke references to Fay Wray and Lili St. Cyr–do they even know who those ladies were?

And, more importantly, was this remake even needed?

There are some nice touches in Rocky Horror: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again. The beginning hearkened back to Richard O’Brien’s original stage show: the opening number, Science Fiction Double Feature, a song which pays homage to the many classic monster movies that partially inspired the story, is sung by a theater usher as she seats the audience in an old movie palace–that onscreen audience shouts many of the classic audience participation lines as Time Warp unfolds. In the the original movie the song was performed by a giant pair of red disembodied lips–those lips do make a cameo at the end of Time Warp.

The opening scene of Time Warp features a brief, well deserved cameo by Sal Piro, longtime President of The Rocky Horror fan club–in 1980 Piro appeared as himself at a Rocky Horror screening in the movie Fame. 

There was also a quick, you’ll miss it if you blink cameo from Mary Shelley, author of the 1818 novel Frankenstein. Shelley’s name was seen on a tombstone while the new Brad and Janet (hunky Ryan McCartan and sexy Victoria Justice) sang their iconic song Dammit Janet in a graveyard.

Rocky Horror icon Tim Curry as The Criminologist in the new version.

Rocky Horror icon Tim Curry as The Criminologist in the new version.

 

Of course the most delightful thing about Time Warp is the appearance of Tim Curry–1975’s original Frank N Furter, who returns to the franchise as the story’s narrator, billed as the Criminologist. Curry plays out his entire role seated in an easy chair–the actor had suffered a debilitating stroke a few years back. Though possibly not yet fully recovered, Curry looked and sounded great!

Cox is sensational as Frank N. Furter in Time Warp. The actress captures all the needed delirious camp and sexy eroticism that the role requires. Cox, who delivers a manic performance, gets to show off the true range of her star power. And of course, the very idea of casting a transgender woman as a cross dressing man further blurs the lines of gender in our rapidly evolving world.

But was the new film needed? As a word-for-word remake of the original there are no surprises to be had. Even with it’s new cast and settingsThe Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again feels like a movie we’ve already seen. Though Cox gets an A Plus for her wonderful performance, the film gets a D Minus in the originality department. There’s just no point to the film.

According to TV Line, five million viewers tuned in to see Cox strut her fishnets. So far the reaction to the new film has been less than positive on Facebook. But hey, don’t take my word for it: the film will be out on DVD/Blu Ray on December 6.

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Last time, this column updated you on some of the fun Halloween happenings around town. Here are a few more opportunities to enjoy some communal spookfests.

From October 21-27, the Mission’s venerable Roxie Cinema offers screenings of the new chiller CreepyThe film is the latest work from Japanese horror auteur Kiyoshi Kurosawa–it promises to scare the shit out of you!

Then, on October on October 28-30, the Roxie presents Horrific Women: Female Directors Killing ItThese movies are SCARY–and they come to you courtesy of women filmmakers who broke a few of Hollywood’s glass ceilings.

Some old fashioned chills can be had at the historic Balboa Theater, way out on 38th Ave. Be at the Balboa on Wednesday October 26 at 7:30 PM for a rare theatrical screening of 1962’s terrifying Burn Witch, BurnThis Black and White classic will be shown with The Grim Reaper, a particularly spooky episode of the classic 1960s TV series Boris Karloff Presents Thriller.

And just to help you detox from this most bizarre election season, head back to the Balboa on Thursday October 27 for a 7:30 pm screening of the original The Omen (1976). A tale of horror like no other, The Omen shows us how the Son of Satan finds his way into the White House! Will he grow up to be Donald Trump?

The Omen features one of the most unnerving soundtracks in cinema history.

And  finally, Broke Ass reader Nate Cashdollar offers us a wonderfully surreal and spooky homage to the classic horror films of generations past. Watch some masterfully edited B & W clips, with sound bites from the films thrown in, all set to the tune of Bela Lugosi’s Dead–it’s the perfect cap to your Halloween celebration. Check it out below:

BOO!

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David-Elijah Nahmod

David-Elijah Nahmod

I, David-Elijah Nahmod am a Queer, American/Israeli dual national of Syrian descent who has lived in New York City and Tel Aviv.
Currently in San Francisco, my eclectic writing career includes LGBT publications (news and entertainment) and monster magazines. In 2012 I was voted Film Reviewer of the Year at the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Film Awards.
Look for me in Bay Area Reporter, Hoodline.com, South Florida Gay News, Echo Magazine, Outfront, Scary Monsters Magazine, Videoscope, and, of course, Broke Ass Stuart, (I'm so broke it's SCARY!)
Now, let's watch a horror movie!