Let’s Do the Time Warp Again

During intermission I was talking to a guy about my age standing in our row at the Wyly – he was standing because the saxophone player was sitting in his seat and refusing to budge until the second act started and I was standing to be polite to him. We were wondering about when The Rocky Horror Show premiered in London – we guessed 1974, and were off by a year (it was born in 1973). The more well-known movie The Rocky Horror Picture Show was made in 1975.

The film famously (and truth be told, deservedly) bombed at the box office upon it initial, conventional release. I saw it about a year later, late ’76 or early ’77, at a special showing at college. It hadn’t hit its big, cult status yet – but it was on the cusp and there was a lot of buzz about it. I barely remember seeing it for the first time – the projection was bad and the sound was worse – it didn’t make much of an impression.

That changed soon enough. I was the right age to fall into the habit of going to midnight movie showings and saw The Rocky Horror Picture Show maybe fifty times. It began to be a habit, like watching the six o’clock news after work.

Then, in the early eighties, I saw a stage production here in Dallas in the West End. That production was specifically designed to mirror the movie as much as possible. It was in a small theater and for one show I was able to get front-row seats (I saw it twice). Dr. Frankenfurter sat in my lap and sang a song – I remember his leather jacket reeked.

The live play was a blast – especially in a small venue. We actually were able to go to a bar with the cast afterward.

I’ve always said that live is the way to see it.

So a while back I was excited to see that the Dallas Theater Center was doing a production of The Rocky Horror Show at the Wyly – and we bought tickets for tonight.

Wow, what a lot of fun!

One nice thing was that they weren’t afraid to stray from the familiar film tropes. Rocky, for example had dark hair. The actor playing Dr. Frankenfurter had the good sense to not channel Tim Curry’s iconic performance and to make the good doctor his own. He was kind of a Texas Frankenfurter… maybe a little, maybe – a bit different at any rate. But really, really good.

The show was not afraid to be quite a bit raunchier that the film. For example (I’ll try to avoid overt spoilers) there is one quick scene involving the Doctor, Brad Majors, a hand-powered egg beater, and the line, “Well, we just lost the Baptists.”

The best thing about the show was the pure action – especially of the first act. There is so much going on – the music is underrated and comes across powerfully live – with dancing, costumes, lights, and rolls of toilet paper being flung from the crowd through the flashing lights like a shower of tissue comets. At the intermission a woman sitting next to me stumbled around a little dizzy, “Oh, I’m having a fangirl moment,” she said.

The Wyly is a perfect venue for this – the flexible space was arranged so that there was no clear demarcation between audience and stage – the performers spent most of their time in the crowd and more than a few spectators ended up dancing with the stars.

Dallas Theater Center Wyly Theater Dallas, Texas

Dallas Theater Center
Wyly Theater
Dallas, Texas

So if you find yourself in Dallas in late September through mid October, see if you can get down to the Wyly for some slightly guilty fun. And if you are a devout Baptist… well, good luck with all that.

Hot Patootie Bless My Soul

Well, the other day I requested the Rocky Horror Picture show on my Netflix Queue so Lee could see it. It didn’t take long to get here.

Rocky and Lee

Rocky and Lee

Sunday evening Candy, Lee, and I settled down in Club Lee to watch the DVD on his 65 inch screen. It was the first time had seen the movie outside of a theater.

I have seen RHPS at least fifty… maybe as many as a hundred times. The first time was in 1976  – not long after it came out. I saw it at the student union at the University of Kansas. It was getting some buzz, but it wasn’t the midnight sensation it became only a few years lately. Somebody mentioned it was an up-and-coming avant-guarde item, so a few of us trooped on down. I was unimpressed and barely remember anything about the film. It was definitely the “British” version though, because I do remember the final song “Superheroes” – which was cut out of the American midnight releases because it was considered too much of a downer ending. At any rate, I guess I can feel a tiny bit of pride at being one of the first folks to actually see the silly thing.

Then, over the next few years, I saw the movie, like everybody else, in the movies at the midnight shows. Over and over again. Sprayed with squirt bottles, huddling under a newspaper, pelted with toast, yelling at the screen, screaming at the dancers in their costumes.

Then, later, in Dallas, I was able to see the stage version a couple of times. Back then I was expert at finding plays in small theaters and scoring front-row seats. The actor playing Frankenfurter sat in my lap at one show. His leather jacket reeked terribly – the show had been running for weeks and I’m sure it hadn’t been washed. These plays were influenced by the success of the movie and used plants in the audience to yell out the proper lines at the proper times.

My favorite has always been, “Oh no, not Meatloaf again!” at the horrific climax of the dinner scene.

Lee seems to have liked the movie – though it is pretty stupid out of its native habitat (though I had forgotten how actually good the music was).

My Favorite.

Let’s do the time warp again.

Casting the Runes

The other night, I couldn’t sleep, walked out to the living room couch, and switched on the television. Hoping to find something relaxing I cruised the digital cable channels (a bad habit of mine) until I stumbled across a movie about to begin, way up in the five hundreds, that looked interesting.

It was called Curse of the Demon (British title Night of the Demon [better, huh]) and was supposed to be a minor classic of British horror filmmaking. Though it is very British in style, it starred Dana Andrews. Whenever I hear that actor’s name I think of the line from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, “Dana Andrews said prunes gave him the runes, but passing them used lots of skill“. I didn’t make the connection at first.

The Monster from Curse of the Demon

The Monster from Curse of the Demon

Thankfully, the movie didn’t take long to get going; in the first few scenes a man walking down a road at night is pursued by a demon that knocks down some handy power lines and then tears the poor victim to pieces. The final few seconds of the rubber mask looking thing was silly in a late-night television sort of way, but the first appearance of the demon was really excellent and chilling, brilliant.

The movie continued and it was good. Very well done, very British, dated a little, but not too much… just right actually. Exactly what I wanted to see. I was relaxed, watching when something really caught my ears. It was during the mandatory seance/hypnosis scene (Mandatory in all quality black and white horror films) when the man under the trance suddenly shouted out, “It’s in the trees… It’s coming!” It’s always fun when you unknowingly stumble across the source of a sound sample from a familiar and beloved piece of music. That clip, “It’s in the trees… It’s coming!” is, of course, the opening sample from Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love. Greatness.

After the film ended (complete with Hitchcockian maneuvering over a slip of paper in a train compartment and a final appearance of the demon as comeuppance) I was interested enough to do some snooping of my own. I found that the film was loosely based on a short story, Casting the Runes by M. R. James. That, of course, helped me realize that Dr. Frankenfurter’s lyric, “Dana Andrews said prunes gave him the runes, but passing them used lots of skill” was taken from the film/story.

I checked the Richardson Library and found they had a book of James’ short stories with Casting the Runes, so I checked it out. The short story is creepier than the movie, by necessity more trim and compact, with a couple of efficient horrifying scenes (the kid’s party, the mouth with teeth under the pillow). I later found an online version of the story here.

It's in the trees! It's coming!

It’s in the trees! It’s coming!

Late night black and white British horror movie, sampled by Kate Bush for her classic album, referenced in Rocky Horror, inspired by slick little short story sitting on my library shelf – one of the thousands upon thousands of unknown books… in the SF section no less. Now it’s time to go to bed.

A really well done YouTube Video Combining scenes from Night of the Demon with Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love.