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Stephanie Korski [Celluloid 07.16.18] musical thriller

Rocky Horror Picture Show, cult classic and famous parody of Frankenstein, is a loveable blend of horror, comedy and camp.

It is famous for playing up the parts of Frankenstein that lend themselves best to comedy, particularly the slow pace of the original Frankenstein film (1931) that audiences found suspenseful in the 1930's. There are two iconic sequences in each film that are worthy of comparison - the reveal of the monster.


Dr. Frankenstein, a mad scientist, is debuting his living creation to his guests. The Doctor gives a wide-eyed and delirious speech about playing God, as a well-timed thunderclap fills the guests with foreboding. The soundscape for this sequence is filled with unsettling and unnatural mechanical sounds coming from the scientist's contraptions.

The film slows its pace dramatically for the monster's reveal - taking about 2 minutes in total. Much of what is happening to the creature is hidden from view using framing and well-timed editing, letting the audience's imagination build a horrifying vision of what he looks like underneath those bandages. This is part of what makes the tension and suspense in this film so effective: what we imagine in our minds is infinitely scarier than what we see on screen.


After an impassioned and self-congratulating speech by Dr. Frank-N-Furter, he reveals the creature in a sequence that matches Frankenstein, poking fun at the slow pacing in the original. A red tank is revealed with a bandaged body floating inside. The lighting continually dips to black as Frank-N-Furter barks nonsensical sci-fi tasks at his assistant Riff Raff ("Throw open the switches on the sonic oscillator!"), who takes ages to complete each one.

Unlike Dr. Frankenstein, Frank-N-Furter doesn't do any work himself. Electric guitar riffs are used in the place of crashing lightning to add tension and comedy - this is a musical, after all. Similar to Frankenstein, there are many cut-away shots of excited and horrified guests. The guests eventually grow impatient with Riff Raff, but the dips to black and guitar riffs don't let up. The juxtaposition of both the audience and characters growing tired of the pacing is exactly the kind of comedy that Rocky Horror is all about, and what can be found time and time again in modern comedies.

In the end, the character is revealed the same way as in the original Frankenstein, with a close up shot of hands shaking as he comes alive. Riff Raff takes the cloth off of Rocky's face, and instead of horror Frank-N-Furter squeals in delight - his creation is perfect.

Recommended Release: The Rocky Horror Picture Show

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