The blog below was under an older name of Hollyweird. I have kept the numbering the same so that I could keep track of my posts, but this is where it all begin back in the heyday of 2012…
Ah, after two weeks off I feel… older and sorer. I intended to have small break over my birthday weekend, but after a nasty injury I’ve had to have a few weeks off. Cest la vie.
The last Hollyweird ended with requests for feedback. Any ideas or interests that readers put forward would be considered future instalments. After a stampede of ideas, well, two at any rate, I have indeed stuck to my word. Consequently this entry is based on Debra Coleman’s suggestion… at least to a degree.
Debra asked me if I had written anything about Musicals. In fact I have purposely avoided this topic thus far.
The reason is that there are only a handful of Film Musicals that I have ever seen and liked. Of this handful, none of the musicals that I have access to would be suitable to dissect via Hollyweird. These unsuitable candidates are as follows.
The first musical that I could potentially write about is Bugsy Malone. Bugsy Malone is a musical featuring children playing the roles of Film Noir gangsters, with all bullets replaced by custard pie-esque projectiles. It is a film with catchy songs, funny one-liners and children acting like wise guys and dames.
However I cannot think of much to write about Bugsy Malone simply because, in my opinion, it is a sheer pleasure. I do not have any fresh take on the unusual nature of this movie, and so I would prefer to leave it in the state of being a simple pleasure to watch.
The second musical that I could write about is Seven Brides For Seven Brothers. This musical comes from an age of glorious technicolor (sic) and the bombastic belting of lyrics.
There is no place for subtlety in this film- which is just as well since the plot revolves around seven brothers kidnapping seven women for cooking and cleaning and kissing purposes!
Seven Brides… is probably just on my radar due to one of my sisters being rather a fan of it. Consequently many a Sunday afternoon had “Bless my beautiful briiiiide/ Wherever she may beeeeeee!” ringing through my ears.
My personal brainwashing aside, there is an undeniable glee to this movie. It is typical example of the joy that musicals can create. Moments such as the one below sum up the films nature. Witness how a barn-building competition turns into an Alpha-Male showcase that ends in laughter.
However I still cannot write about Seven Brides For Seven Brothers. Any film that- at least in its beginning- seems like a misogynistic wet dream would be hard to write about without possibly tearing it to shreds. Unfortunately the sister who loves this film got all of the Irish genes in the family, so for my own health and safety I’ll opt to avoid writing about it.
Finally we come to my favourite musical film, The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Now this is a film that is already on the worlds radar. The musical has never stopped running and the film still remains screened in Independent cinemas all the world over.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show also has the slightly dubious honour of being a sort of Cliff notes version of ‘alternative’ sexual-culture.
In fact my fellow Podcaster and Blogger, Craig Ennis (http://www.chrisandphilpresent.co.uk/blogs/scragg/) often cites a Spaced quote to sum up his opinions towards The Rocky Horror Picture Show. So much as bring up the film or play to Craig, and you’ll receive an automatic response;
“I hate it. It’s boil-in-the-bag perversion for sexually repressed accountants and first-year drama students with too many posters of Betty Blue, The Blues Brothers, Big Blue and Blue Velvet on their blue bloody walls.”
-Simon Pegg/Craig Ennis
This oft-repeated quote from Craig brings two things to mind. Firstly; he needs to get some new material. Secondly, and more importantly, so what?
If The Rocky Horror Picture Show exists only as a ‘light’ presentation of alternative lifestyles then it is just making these lifestyles all the more valid.
Perhaps it is a good thing if cross-dressing, homosexuality or transsexualism can be presented as innocuous and innocently as possible. Anyone who wants to learn more about these life styles can use ‘Rocky Horror as a starting point. Meanwhile, anyone who is worried about these types of lifestyles moral implication s upon society can see them presented in the a light, sweet, silly fun manner.
With this important point already made, I do not feel that The Rocky Horror Picture Show needs fully covering as its own entry in here.
Instead I want to use this as springboard to discuss two lesser known projects related to The Rocky Horror Picture Show… and wouldn’t you know it, both of these topics fall rather neatly into the realms of the ‘Holly-weird’.
First of all there is a special Soundtrack and secondly there is a Sequel. Oh yes, there is a sequel you know….
Initially let us look at a special tribute album to the musical. No, not the one the cast of Glee made but something actually worth hearing.
Back in 1999 Shawn Browning had the bright idea to make a complete Rocky Horror soundtrack using Punk acts. Shawn had some connections to Springman records (quite the nifty little punk label) and by 2001, after a few missteps along the way, the project was finally out to buy.
To quote the (overly sentimental) Liner Notes,
“I was a huge Rocky Horror fan back in High School. I went to Rocky twice a weekend for 17 weeks in a row. I loved the whole scene from the crazy punks, weirdos, and freaks who would come out only at night to attend showings of Rocky at the midnight movies to the fact that we could throw stuff in the theatre while shouting back responses to the screen to the great 50’s style punk and roll featured throughout the entire movie…
The midnight showing of Rocky was where some of us fit in back then. There was no mall store to buy your studded wrist bands, we made them. The punk’s hair was done up with glue. No one ever modelled themselves after an MTV video… Somehow we got ostracised, yet deep inside we knew we were just like everyone else… I hope you enjoy this thing and it kicks your tail! Remember, don’t dream it, be it!”
-Shawn “Eddie Migraine” Browning.
Fret not if Mr Browning’s words made you want to reach for a sick bag! The actual music found on this album brings back enough fun and stupidity to balance your brain once more.
That is assuming of course that your brain likes punk of a silly, Ska or pop nature. Fans of Political-punk, Hardcore, Oi, Crusties or in fact anyone who has absolutely no interest in punk would be better served using the CD as a coaster.
For those in the mood for Fun, Ska or Pop-Punk, the track listing is:
Science Fiction/Double Featureby Me First And The Gimme Gimmes
Dammit, Janetby Love Equals Death
Over at the Frankenstein Placeby Alkaline Trio
The Time Warpby Groovie Ghoulies
Sweet Transvestiteby Apocalypse Hoboken
Sword Of Damoclesby The Independents
I Can Make You A Manby Pansy Division
Hot Patootie – Bless My Soulby The Phenomenauts
I Can Make You A Man (Reprise)by The Secretions
Touch-A, Touch-A, Touch Meby Caroline No
Once In A Whileby Big D And The Kids Table
Eddie’s Teddyby Swingin Utters
Planet, Schmanet, Janetby Tsunami Bomb
Rose Tint My World/Floor Showby Luckie Strike
Fanfair/Don’t Dream Itby Stunt Monkey
Wild And Untamed Thingby Gametime
I’m Going Homeby The Migraines
Super Heroesby Ruths Hat
Science Fiction Double Feature (Reprise)by The Ataris
I myself am not massively into pop punk or Ska punk, but this album coasts through on my stereo very nicely. The upbeat nature of the film is reflected within these version of the songs, as is the free spirited, ‘anything goes’ attitude.
In truth though, any album that gives Sci-Fi loons The Phenomenauts more exposure is A-OK by me.
Should this have intrigued you at all I thoroughly recommend at least checking it out.
Unfortunately that cannot be said of the next project…
The second item of Hollyweird today is the sequel to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Shock Treatment.
The word ‘sequel’ is a little bit of a misnomer. Shock Treatment is actually a mix between a tribute and a continuation. It still features the central protagonists of The Rocky Horror Picture Show via brad Majors and Janet Weiss, but they are now played by new actors. Confusingly the majority of the supporting cast from ‘Rocky Horror are still present but all in new roles. This includes the mastermind of the entire musical, Richard O’ Brien. O’Brien also contributes the music once more for Shock Treatment bridging the line of sequel and continuation past the plot and into the form.
Clearly no-can accuse this of being an unconnected cash-in sequel from a studio. Yet confusingly, Shock Treatment also has only superficial links to the original via Brad and Janet’s re-appearance and the remaining cast getting a pay day.
Perhaps it is best to view Shock Treatment as taking place ‘another dimension’ where Brad and Janet never did blow a tire or stop by Frankenfurter’s castle as in ‘Rocky Horror. Instead they got married and moved to Denton, Ohio.
Denton may seem like a dull American town, but there is more beneath the surface. As Shock Treatment begins, we are immediately introduced to TV executive ‘Fast’ Farley Flavors. Flavors has it all but he still feels incomplete without a certain woman to share his life with. Flavors is not just a TV executive though, he is practically a James Bond villain. He has bought out all of Denton and turned into one, internal television studio. The whole town is now his set.
The studio is filled with the former residents of Denton, who gleefully assume their new roles as studio audience members for a 24 hour, live broadcast. This leads to the first, and only catchy, song from the film, Denton, USA.
The sole holdout for the town becoming a TV studio is the white bread star of the original film, Brad Majors (Cliff De Young). Brad’s wife, Janet (Jessica Harper) assures Brad that things will be just fine living inside the Studio, and they take their seats.
However, once the audience is fully seated, Brad and Janet are ‘randomly’ chosen as contestants on “Marriage Maze“. This is a game show whose only purpose seems to be committing people to “Dentonvale”, Denton’s very own insane asylum.
Janet is given the opportunity to have Brad committed by the shows host, Bert Schnick (Barry Humphries who never seems right as anything but Dame Edna Everage). Schnick promises Janet that Brad’s experience as a mental patient will ultimately improve their marriage upon his return. Via another song, Janet and Brad lament the state of their relationship.
Janet ultimately decides to have Brad sent to Dentonvale. Upon arrival, Brad and Janet are greeted by the staff. This includes Nurse Ansalong (Nell Campbell- aka Medusa), Dentonvale’s supervisors, the, incestuous siblings of Dr. Cosmo and Nation McKinley (Richard O’Brien and Patricia Quinn aka Riff- Raff and Magenta) and even Rest Home Ricky (Rik Mayall, aka an angry, UK TV legend).
Despite Brad’s objections, Cosmo has him drugged, bound, gagged, and placed in a padded cell. Before Janet can sign the papers that will permit the McKinleys to treat Brad however they see fit, Nurse Ansalong tells Janet to wait a day to be sure of her decision.
Meanwhile, Janet’s parents, Harry (Manning Redwood) and Emily (Darlene Johnson), are brought onto Marriage Maze and promised a prize if they offer a psychological assessment of Brad. Convincing themselves that Brad is regressing into childhood due to being an unbalanced orphan, Harry and Emily are awarded a vacation home on another one of the studios programmes.
Further plot unfolds involving the financing of a pop- psychology movement by TV executive, Flavors. He orchestrates his new show “Faith Factory” to make Janet the face of Flavor’s “Sanity For Today”movement. Farley believes Janet is a typical ‘girl next door’ and perfect as the spokesperson for his new movement.
Janet moves into Dentonvale under the logic that her new life as the face of a whole movement will make her desirable to Brad once again. However, after Denton TV manufactures Janet into an overnight sensation, the new-found fame goes to Janet’s head. Soon she forgets all about repairing her marriage with Brad and lives only for herself.
The rest of the plot unfurls with even more characters and loops. Cutting to the core of it though a journalist named Betty (aka Ruby Wax. Urgh.) discovers that the McKinleys are in fact actors- and that “Dentonvale” isn’t even a real hospital!
“Faith Factory” goes on the air, and during the all of the excitement, Brad is secretly rescued from Dentonvale by Betty. Betty then reveals that she has also learned that Flavors is Brad’s biological brother. They were split apart during their adoption process as orphans. Now Flavors wants to destroy Brad’s life out of jealousy. As such, Flavors plans to seduce Janet on national TV as the last part of his evil plan.
Re-invigorated, Brad breaks through the wall of the “Faith Factory” set to confront Flavors. Flavors demands Brad be remanded to the hospital, but Janet is snapped out of her ego-trip by Brad’s new passion. She informs Flavors that she never signed the consent forms.
Enraged, Flavors has Brad, Janet, and the Betty arrested. Maintaining his evil streak, Flavors then invites the studio audience to join his new Psychology show. The audience readily agree and they are all handed straight jackets, leaving the town a giant institution of, to be honest, idiots.
Betty uses a hairpin to pick the lock on her, Brad, Janet holding cell. They resolves to leave Denton behind. With some extra help from a Punk band (don’t ask), Brad and Janet hot wire a car that was meant to be a prize on “Faith Factory”. They drive away from the madness and the glamour of TV knowing that love is all they need…. and probably leaving poor Betty feeling like quite the fifth wheel for that entire journey.
Now believe it or not, that really is the concise version of Shock Treatment!
The full film is surprisingly long and heavy. This may be one reason that it never found the audience of its predecessor. Whereas ‘Rocky Horror had a lot to say in a fun, loose and joyful way, Shock Treatment seems to have a lot to say in a dull, extended and melodramatic way.
Given the film is not simply a cash in, and it is taken a lot of pot shots at things that now are even more relevant (Pop psychology on TV, Reality shows etc) Shock Treatment genuinely does have its own merit. But without flashy turns from the likes of Tim Curry or catchy melodies, it all feels like a bad School musical.
Shock Treatment is not really worth watching but it is quite a curiosity for Rocky Horror Picture Show fans. Ironically the film seems odder than ‘Rocky Horror due to its strange juxtaposition of dullness with insanity. This makes the film a chore to watch, but at least it exists as a film that stands on its own two feet as a unique experience.
Next week I’ll be writing about… well, Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn about supplying any further clues.
Thanks for reading,
There's no 'i' in 'team', but there is a 'u' in 'cult'.