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In preparation for Halloween this October, over the next four weeks I'm listing my favourite maniacs of the silver screen - the psychos, the killers and the monsters.
Last week was Norman Bates, the titular Psycho. This week is the ever fabulous Doctor Frank N. Furter from the Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Frank N. Furter; Richard O'Brien's Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
It's not often that the main antagonist is also the main character. Although the credits list Brad as the hero and Janet as the heroine, it's really Frank N. Furter who steals the show. Frank N. Furter is the self-proclaimed "sweet transvestite from transsexual Transylvania". In this case, however, Transsexual is an alien planet in the galaxy known as Transvestite. Frank N. Furter (his name an obvious parody of Frankenstein) is the captain of the alien spaceship that landed on Earth, along with his subordinates Riff Raff and Magenta. Tasked with a mission (which is left unspecified), they instead become sidetracked due to Frank's obsession with humans. And more importantly, having a lot of sex with them. Yes, Frank N. Furter is the pansexual transvestite alien scientist who came to Earth and engaged in strange orgiastic rituals with the hapless humans who stumbled upon his castle/spaceship in the woods outside Denton. Now you have a gist of the musical.
How does this make him a maniac, you say? Well, let's list off some of his evil deeds throughout the film:
- Frank lobotomises his ex-lover Eddie out of jealousy and puts his brain into Rocky Horror, the "Frankenstein's monster" that he created to be the perfect partner.
- Frank later murders Eddie with a pickaxe in full view of his guests when Eddie, woken from an induced coma (i.e. Frank put him in a freezer), catches the attention of Rocky.
- More bad luck for Eddie when Frank cuts him apart and feeds him to Frank's unwitting guests. Not only did Frank feed him to the woman who once loved Eddie but he also put the disemboweled corpse in a glass coffin under the tablecloth, which is later revealed to the guests.
- Near the finale, Frank dresses his guests up in corsets and silk underwear and makes them dance and sing on stage in an empty theatre for his amusement. He then comes down centre-stage and performs his final song to an audience that exists only in his head, crying tears of happiness as he thanks the imaginary audience for their applause.
Not only that but it's implied that Frank somehow knew Brad and Janet were going to hit a flat tyre in the middle of the woods outside his castle. Their night of torment and torture was more or less planned for the amusement of the good doctor.
Frank N. Furter is a pop culture icon. He's the man who can go from innocently singing about his dreams of becoming Fay Wray or making tongue-in-cheek innuendo to Brad and Janet, to cutting people's brains out and attempting to transport Janet to the farthest depths of space out of jealousy. He also gets some of the best songs in the movie (Sweet Transvestite, Wild and Untamed Thing and I'm Going Home). Tim Curry plays the role perfectly, with a mix of seduction, insanity and humour. Rocky is the star of the show just like he wants to be and the supporting cast is little more than the audience witnessing his insane breakdown over the night as he fears Janet is stealing his creation and lover away from him. The climax of the movie ends with Riff Raff, the spited second-in-command, breaking up Frank's demented stage show and shooting Frank dead before returning to the planet Transsexual.
Brad and Janet are left in the rubble as the alien spaceship takes off back home, as they try to make sense of what transpired that night and if they'll ever reclaim the innocence that Frank stole from them - in one night they witnessed him murder Eddie with an icepick, were later fed Eddie unknowingly, were forced to sing and dance for him lest he send them to an alien planet and had their virginities taken by him as Frank disguised himself as Brad (to Janet) and Janet (to Brad) in order to sleep with them both.
Regardless, Frank N. Furter is more or less everyone's favourite psychopath as far as Rocky Horror goes. He's an enduring character in cinema history. He's the sweet transvestite. The mad scientist. He is the Rocky Horror picture show. And the reason why so many people follow this musical like a religion. Frank N. Furter might be a parody of old movie maniacs, but he's a damn good one.
Stay tuned for next week where I'll showcase the next mad scientist, murderer or maniac. Who will it be? Here's a hint: Why invite their calumny and consternation!?