Sunday, August 17, 2008

Let's do the Time Warp...NOT.

You've probably heard this: 20th Century-Fox is planning a remake of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. You may have also heard that Richard O'Brian, the author of the original play and the movie (who played the evil butler Riff Raff in the film) is co-producer. This last is untrue; he hasn't been approached about it, and only heard of it when American fans mentioned it.
Before I continue, let me establish my credentials in the Rocky world. I performed in three Live Casts over about six years. I was the PR person for Orlando's Fantasie Factory Players, an assistant (never allowed on stage) with Melbourne's Pleasure Players, and was a performer and PR person for Daytona's cast (an experience so bad I've expunged the cast's name from memory). My usual parts were the Criminologist combined with Dr. Scott, sometimes adding Eddie.

For Orlando, I published the complete script of the play with the Orlando participation lines. With the help of Orlando cast director Jeff Cisneros, I produced a six-page, single-spaced, tiny-type-set, guide detailing the operational procedures for running a Live Cast show. This was picked up by Sal Piro, the Rocky Horror maven of New York, and he sold it (removing our names from it - thanks, Piro!) as a guide to producing a Live Cast show.

Yes, Piro was a user and a cheat. But he admitted that, unlike his own show run in Greenwich Village, our Orlando cast performed during the entire show. His celebrated cast, which he used primarily as an excuse to sell his own Rocky Horror merchandise, only performed selected scenes.

Now that that's out of the way...who at Fox thought this remake was a good idea?

First off, RHPS was a creature of its times. It was a gay, campy look at horror films - specifically Bride of the Monster and Orgy of the Dead, both of them Ed Wood films. Its principal performers O'Brien, Tim Curry and "Little" Nell Campbell, were part of the punk scene in London. The film includes casual and gleeful nudity (Campbell's character Columbia flashing her breasts) that would never be tolerated in film today.

RHPS became a camp phenomena when the aforementioned Sal Piro started yelling back at the screen during the film, and got laughs. It passed from a goof of and by the gay community to a wider audience of cynics and goofy people. Young gay men and lesbians, unable to enter the adults-only world of gay bars and clubs, often find RHPS a way to be comfortable with their sexuality.

That's not important today. There's gays everywhere. Even if McCain and the Christian Right want to burn gays at the stake, gays and lesbians are not considered odd or peculiar in most of America. And they aren't as stereotyped as depicted in the movie.

No matter what Rocky fandom may think, it's a good thing that Richard O'Brien isn't involved. His semi-sequel to RHPS, Shock Treatment, was his own reaction to the Live Cast phenomenon. He appreciated the attention, but he saw Rocky Horror fandom as cultism, mind control, uncreative and possibly fascistic.

In Shock Treatment, Farley Flavor's Faith Factory is a satellite TV show (years before PTL) that promotes a combination of religion, forced commitment to mental institutions, and commercialism. While you can see it as a prediction of the Religious Right, it's more like O'Brien's reaction to the religious-like behavior of Live Casts.

O'Brien has never created anything as influential as RHPS, although he has done interesting supporting performances in movies such as Dungeons & Dragons and Dino DiLaurentiis's Flash Gordon. It's hard to imagine how he would bring any new content to the remake.

And of all the entities to try to create an outrageous film, 20th Century-Fox, run by right-wing propagandist Rupert Murdoch, is just plain wrong. It's not hard to imagine Murdoch insisting that the "perverts" in the film include Bill Clinton and Barack Obama look-alikes.

Not only has AIDS and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy pretty much demystified and demoralized the concept of gays, the whole concept of mocking films was redefined and perfected by Joel Hodgson. Mystery Science Theatre 3000 and its descendants, The Film Crew and Rifftrax, bring the experience home. Perhaps not as communal or as outrageous, but more convenient, safer, cleaner and cheaper.

What could they put in a Rocky Horror remake today? CGI might make it possible for the corpse of Eddie to be "eaten" on-camera. It might be possible to make stuff fly...not just the castle at the end of the film, but the motorcycles the Transylvanians ride, like Hagrid's cycle. And in his attempt to restore his failing film career, Scientology robot Tom Cruise could play Frank-N-Furter.

The only thing that would bring attention to the remake would be more graphic sex, and Hollywood - and Fox - wouldn't have the courage. There was a porn imitation of the film, "The Rocky Porno Picture Show," which deliberately eliminated man-on-man sex; it was more timid than the original movie. So they're not going to go that way.

So why remake RHPS? Because new ideas in today's entertainment industry are scary. New ideas might give the viewing audience ideas that something is wrong with big corporations running everything. It is considered the height of controversy that a character in DreamWorks's movie Tropic Thunder is an actor who portrays what is specifically called a "RE-tard." Controversy? This is Larry the Cable Guy stuff!

I won't want to watch The New Rocky Horror Picture Show. But I will sit on the sidelines and watch the effects...nobody, but nobody going to see it in theaters, nobody wanting to do Live Cast to it, the DVD quickly winding up in the five-buck bin at Wal-Mart. Unfortunately, the suits who approved the idea will not be fired. They'll go on to create lame remakes of Eraserhead and Blood Feast.