Blu-ray Review: The Rocky Horror Picture Show (40th Anniversary Edition)

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Another repackaging of cult phenomenon The Rocky Horror Picture Show has arrived in time for its 40th anniversary. The latest reissue apparently doesn't add anything new in terms of extra features—everything here is ported over from the previous 35th anniversary edition. Carping about double- or triple-dipping aside, if you're a longtime or even brand new Rocky Horror cultist and don't already own the film, the new release offers splendid audio/visual specs and a multitude of bonus features.

The deluxe packaging (for the record: not supplied to us here at TMR for review purposes) runs a few bucks more than the non-enhanced Blu-ray. The higher price tag gets you a pair of pink surgical gloves, a special collector's box, and (perhaps more significantly) the film's soundtrack on CD. Whichever way you go, the Blu-ray extras are the same at either price point. There's a choice between the U.S. or U.K. cut of the film, commentary by cast members Richard O'Brien and Patricia Quinn, and a variety of smaller pieces (plus a bunch of stuff carried over from an earlier standard DVD release).

But the real treat is "The Midnight Experience," which goes some ways towards recreating the wild and woolly theatrical screenings that have been a staple of late-night screenings for the past four decades. Purely as a movie, Rocky Horror is a campy, weird, and downright tacky production—a glam rock musical about scientist Dr. Frank N. Furter (Tim Curry), a couple (Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick) who gets wrapped up in his sexually-liberated environs—that plays far better on the big screen with a full house of enthusiastic, costumed fans than at home on TV. It's kind of beyond criticism at this point. The film has become the reigning champ of cult classics, a term that gets thrown around all too often but almost never applies to the degree it does here.

"The Midnight Experience" is a rare thing indeed: a multi-media alternate viewing experience that's arguably preferable to watching the film on its own. Directed by Jim Sharman (primarily a theatre director who only helmed a few feature films), Rocky Horror can be a tedious slog by itself. When accompanied by a feature-length audio track of real audience reactions, a picture-in-picture view of a concurrently-running live performance, and a "prop box" of virtual items that can be "thrown" at the screen, viewers can now get a taste of what the authentic midnight cinema experience is like from the privacy of their living room. On top of all that, there's a lengthy (60 minutes) documentary, "The Search for the 35th Anniversary Shadowcast," that charts the process of casting the picture-in-picture performance.

Even the name of that doc, directly referencing the "35th anniversary," dates the disc, but Peter Suschitzky's cinematography still looks great on what is apparently not a brand new high definition transfer. The audio is presented in a rocking DTS-HD MA 7.1 surround mix.

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Chaz Lipp is a Seattle-based freelance writer whose focus is music and film. As “The Other Chad,” he has written for the online magazine Blogcritics since 2008. When he’s not writing, Chaz can be found trolling jazz clubs, attempting to find somewhere to play his sax (whether anyone wants to hear…

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