Saturday, August 6, 2016

Quiggy Does Musicals?

This is my entry in the British Invaders Blogathon hosted by A Shroud of Thoughts

Dateline:  July 30, 2016  (just prior to watching tonight's double feature)

One warm summer's evening in 1987, several of us guys were out having fun, celebrating a new-found life being drug-free and care-free.  With nothing else to do, since we weren't out getting wasted, we decided to do a sober jaunt to a midnight movie.  At the theater we chose, we had two options that evening:  either Rocky Horror Picture Show, or Pink Floyd-The Wall.  We chose the latter.

I have never been a real fan of the imagery inherent in Pink Floyd's music.  Not that I don't appreciate a Pink Floyd song, mind you.  I could list a dozen or so songs that Pink Floyd does that I will turn up the volume on my radio and jam on.  (Shine On You Crazy Diamond, Wish You Were Here, and from the album that inspired this movie, Comfortably Numb, to name a few).  It's just that the words never clicked with me.  Whatever Roger Waters and company were trying to say about life or the arts sailed over my head.

For years I have wished we had chosen Rocky Horror Picture Show, even though I didn't actually get to watch that one until I got a DVD player and saw it in my own home many many years later.  I still have yet to experience seeing it in a venue where the aficionados dress up and perform the movie in conjunction with the actual film.  But I still recall the disaster (for me) of seeing Pink Floyd-The Wall.  I thought it was totally incomprehensible and an utter bore (although I did enjoy hearing the music in surround sound.) It could have been that I needed to be drunk or stoned to have gotten it, since I'm pretty sure the album at least was written under the influence.

So, when I first signed up for Terence's blogathon, I initially chose Rocky Horror, but was going to review The Who's Tommy as my second feature.  The more I thought about it, however, it seemed unfair that, given the circumstances, I shouldn't give The Wall  a second shot after all these years.  So going in, I am still not going to see the movie stoned (being 7 years clean and sober this round), so it may not make any more sense the second time around, but at least I will have given it a fair shake.


The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1974)

As stated above, I have never had the chance, as thousands (or millions) have, to watch this as a performance piece in a movie theater, but I would definitely go if given the opportunity.

The movie started out life as a play in the West End of London. After a slow start at three different theatres, it finally became a long-running play at King's Road Theatre where it ran for some 7 years.  Lou Adler brought it to America, first to Los Angeles, then to New York and then San Francisco.  Surprisingly, it lasted for a longer run in L.A. than either NY or Frisco...(At least it's surprising to me...)

Adler was trying to get backing for an eventual film version.  This took a bit longer than he expected.  It seems to me that, in retrospect, he was trying to reach the wrong people by pushing the stage production to promote an eventual movie.  The cult fanaticism that follows it today can do that for you I guess.  I also, it probably goes without saying, have never seen the stage production.

The movie begins with a wedding.  Brad Majors (Barry Bostwick) and Janet Weiss (Susan Sarandon) are in attendance to their individual best friends' getting married.   After the wedding, (including the first song "Damn It, Janet"), Brad and Janet take off in a rainstorm to visit the professor in whose class they first met.  But, fate decrees they have a blowout, and as "The Criminologist" (Charles Grey) informs us, the spare is flat.  So they decide to hike back down the road to inquire at a castle for a phone.  (A "castle"?  In Middle America???  Try to keep up, that's only the least of the peculiarities you will encounter.)

They take time to sing the second song ("Over at Frankenstein's Place") while getting soaked in a downpour.  Upon arriving at the door they are met by Riff Raff (Richard O'Brien), who along with Magenta (Patricia Quinn), invites them in to a party being held by the master of the castle.  The weird batch of eccentric guests introduce Brad and Janet to the strangest night of their lives with a dance they call the "Time Warp" (included here for your enjoyment)

Afterwards comes the entry of the most peculiar character you have ever seen or will see in a musical, Dr. Frank N. Furter, (Tim Curry) the "Sweet Transvestite".  Frank invites them up to his lab, "to see what's on the slab".  It turns out that the doctor has been trying to make a man (although not for the reasons traditional mad scientists have tried to build a man...)  He introduces his creation, Rocky (Peter Hinwood), but the celebration is broken up by the arrival of "Eddie" (Meat Loaf) who was apparently a mistake from a previous attempt by Frank at creation.  Eddie does what is my favorite song of the movie "Whatever Happened to Saturday Night?"

Frank chases after Eddie with an ax and (apparently) kills him.  He then declares an end to the festivities and has Brad and Janet ushered to separate bedrooms.  During the night, alternately, Brad and Janet are seduced by someone they initially think is the other, but it turns out that it is the mad doctor himself.  Throughout the night several different events occur, one of which is that Janet, through a chance encounter, has intimate relations with Frank's creation, Rocky.  When Frank discovers this, he is furious.

By strange coincidence, an old rival, Dr. Everett Scott (Johnathan Adams), chooses that point to come knocking.  By another strange coincidence, it turns out that Eddie was Dr. Scott's nephew.  It turns out that Eddie was a pizza delivery boy who showed up at the wrong place at the wrong time.  Frank invites them all to dinner (do I need to tell you what's on the menu?).

The madcap end to this movie is one that must be seen to be believed.  There are many, many references to older science fiction movies throughout this film.  Some are obvious, while others take a rather esoteric knowledge of the lore of the sci-fi world to discern.  But that shouldn't deter from your enjoyment of the movie.  Be forewarned to not have the little ones in the room if you are not ready to explain things to them just yet.  Nothing pornographic, but it could cause some flustered moments.

Pink Floyd - The Wall (1982)

Once again, this movie turned out to be just as confusing as the first time.  I did get that it was about a singer named "Pink" who was slowly going mad.  (It seems to pick up somewhere just before he is to go onstage for a concert, after he has already gone mad.) The transition from his childhood, and the events that lead to his building an insular "wall" around himself are the ammunition, in song, which drive this movie forward.

From the beginning, Pink's dad was killed in WWII.  (A lot of this movie is either autobiographical about the life of Roger Waters, or, in some cases, referring to his friend and former bandmate, Syd Barrett, who did indeed go mad for a period of time, which precipitated his ouster from the band after the first album.  I'll interject here that, for years, I thought Barrett had overdosed and died, but I found a Rolling Stone article in the mid 80's that corrected my thinking.)

The movie transitions, somewhat disconcertingly for me, from the present to the past and back to the present.  Pink's mother is an over-protective, oppressive woman who also figures into the the isolating wall. And unless you've been in an isolation booth for the past 35 years or so you've heard the song "Another Brick in the Wall Part II", which describes the abuse Pink received at the hands of his schoolteachers.

Growing up, as an adult, Pink becomes a rock star.  Through use (and abuse) of drugs, he experiences various stages of violent temper, (including one phenomenal trashing of a hotel room scene).  He is also cuckolded by his wife(/girlfriend?).  Towards the end of the movie Pink becomes convinced he is some kind of fascist leader of a political group and his concerts are really rallies to promote his racist beliefs.

The art of Gerald Scarfe intermittently appears throughout the film to illustrate some of the scenes, including the final scenes which involve a self-induced "trial" of Pink, in which he as the judge declares that "Pink" the rocker has to tear down his "wall"

This is basically what I perceive as the gist of the movie.  I still didn't like it all that much.  But my opinion of Pink Floyd has not diminished as a result.  I still enjoy the music.  I just now have a copy of a movie that I am probably going to use in some future giveaway...(I ended up having to actually buy a copy since I couldn't find one to borrow or rent)

So, to sum up. definitely see Rocky Horror Picture Show, but only get Pink Floyd-The Wall if you like your movies dense and incomprehensible (or if you just happen to like 1½ hour long music videos).  Have a safe drive home.



  1. RHPS and Pink Floyd--The Wall are certainly two very different movies! I have to confess I have always enjoyed both, although I have always preferred RHPS myself. Indeed, I can't say I understand everything about Pink Floyd-The Wall, although I appreciate the imagery and, obviously, the music. As to RHPS, it is just a whole lot of fun. Great music, some very funny bits, and a great cast. I can easily see why it became a cult film on the midnight movie circuit. Anyway, thank you so much for this fine post and for contributing to the blogathon!

    1. Thanks for giving me the op to see Pink Floyd again (even if it didn't impress me any more the second time around).

  2. Hi Quiggy - you musical comedy impresario, you!!

    Need to see The Wall again...I was so stoned when I first saw it as a teenager, I don't remember a thing visually. Only the kick-ass music--it still is one of the best albums of all time.

    Rocky Horror, on the other hand, is one of my absolute favorites, I watch it regularly as a reminder not to dream it, but to BE IT! Tim Curry is brilliant as Frank, Susan and Barry are adorable, Meat Loaf is awesome, and of course Richard O'Brien is a freaking genius for dreaming it all up AND costarring as Riff Raff--

    1. Hey Chris,
      Thanks. You may never see me review another musical after this. There aren't too many that appeal to me. As I've said before, the musicals that I do like are the ones that have the music separate from the plot, as opposed to being a driving force of the plot. "Cabaret" is the example I use. That one has a movie that is interrupted with songs, but the songs aren't part of the plot of the story.


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