Back in 1973, when “The Rocky Horror Show” made its stage debut, it was in a 63-seat “studio theater” in London’s West End. By the fall of 1975, after a successful, nine-month American stage run at Los Angeles’ fabled 500-seat Roxy Theatre nightclub, the play had made its inevitable transition to film.
“The Rocky Horror Show” was struggling British actor-cum-playwright Richard O’Brien’s raunchy, sex-drenched musical homage to the hokey 1950s and 1960s sci-fi and horror flicks he adored as a young man.
The film version, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” was a flop upon initial theatrical release, but slowly, over time, the unabashedly progressive and unapologetically ribald motion picture developed into a cult phenomenon quite unlike anything before or since. It made underground stars of its terrific cast of minor stage and screen actors (including Tim Curry, Barry Bostwick and future Oscar winner Susan Sarandon), and remains as the single longest-running movie in ongoing theatrical release.
Decades later, audiences around the world still line up for weekly screenings, often dressing in costumes inspired by the film’s characters, and at times either interacting rudely with the film’s recorded dialogue or merely repeating it verbatim from their seats. Some diehard fans take things a step further, dressing up in full costume and mimicking their chosen characters’ onscreen actions in front of the projected film. Seeing “Rocky” in a theater has become something of a rite of passage for sexually conflicted and/or curious teens and a comforting slice of non-conformist nostalgia for those of us old enough to remember the birth of the phenomenon.
Just how well all of this debauchery and flamboyant behavior will mesh with the relatively sedate environs of the historic Tybee Post Theater remains to be seen. However, on April 13, this 200-capacity venue will likely get as freaky-deaky as it has since re-opening in 2015 after decades of disuse. Who knows — perhaps this will become an annual event at the Post? Showtime is 8 p.m. Admission info for this and all of our featured Film Scene events can be found in the accompanying sidebar listings.
The next night, the Post kicks off a two-day, three-show run of one of the most acclaimed dramas of the past year. It’s director Sean Baker’s stunning, low-budget rumination on the intersection of poverty, exploitation and commerce, “The Florida Project,” starring Willem Dafoe (a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominee for this role) as the manager of a cheap Orlando motel in the shadow of Walt Disney World.
This ultra-naturalistic portrait of young children and their emotionally challenged parents living on the brink of complete destitution is almost too compelling to describe. Its unflinching look at an ugly and dispiriting edge of American society is not for everyone, but those who can appreciate this type of non-judgmental filmmaking will likely never forget this powerful and brazen exposé. “The Florida Project” screens at 7 p.m. April 14 and at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. April 15.
‘The African Queen’
A few days later, on April 19, this same venue’s Date Night series of classic romance and adventure flicks continues with a rare public screening of “The African Queen,” esteemed writer-director John Huston’s 1951 adaptation of author C.S. Forester’s 1935 book of the same name. One of the most widely celebrated films of its type ever made, it tells the universally appealing tale of two severely mismatched people who develop a romantic attraction to each other during a tumultuous journey down Africa’s Ulanga River at the outset of WWII.
The travails of a female Methodist missionary (Katharine Hepburn) and a crusty older boat captain (Humphrey Bogart), who must together navigate treacherous rapids and avoid German soldiers on their way to safety, have charmed audiences for decades. It helped cement the reputation of this Technicolor, shot-on-location box-office smash, and Bogart won the Best Actor Oscar for this role. As with all their Date Night selections, admission to this 7 p.m. show includes your choice of a drink (beer, wine or soda) and a piece of chocolate.
Old-school high school musical
April 14 marks the final day of the special nationwide 40th anniversary re-release of 1978’s old-school rock ’n’ roll musical “Grease,” starring Stockard Channing, Jeff Conaway and Didi Conn as stylized versions of “typical” American high schoolers. This restored and remastered digital version of the worldwide hit that has to date grossed almost a half-billion dollars in ticket sales will screen in high-def at 7 p.m. at the Regal Stadium 10 behind the Savannah Mall.
Opera with Placido Domingo
That same day, at 12:30 p.m., the Metropolitan Opera’s continuing series of high-def simulcasts of its productions offers up a live stream of Verdi’s 15th (and rarely performed) opera “Luisa Miller,” starring the legendary Placido Domingo himself.
A three-act work from 1849, “Luisa Miller” marks the beginning of the composer’s so-called “middle period.” It was based on Friedrich Schiller’ five-act German play “Cabal and Love,” about the doomed romance of a nobleman’s son and the daughter of a working-class musician. The fact that this production runs a full four hours may have something to do with the fact that it has not been attempted by the Met in over a decade. Can’t make this live simulcast? Two encores of the same performance will be shown in the same venue at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. April 18.
Haunting Hungarian film
Foreign film enthusiasts may want to make plans to attend CinemaSavannah’s last-minute presentation of the 2017 Oscar nominated Hungarian romantic drama “Spirit and Body” on April 15 at the Jewish Educational Alliance. The peculiar, Budapest-set tale of a budding relationship between a shy slaughterhouse employee and her older boss has been described as “haunting,” “quiet,” “awkward” and “angular” by some of the international critics who have praised director Ildikó Enyedi’s latest effort.
While the picture is now available on Netflix under its American title “On Body and Soul,” CinemaSavannah organizer Tomasz Warchol says the original Hungarian theatrical version he is screening features a superior translation for its English subtitles. Showtime is 4 p.m., and admission is cash only.
PFS gets tasty
Speaking of unusual foreign films, on April 18, the Psychotronic Film Society’s long-running series of underrated and/or under-the-radar features from around the world continues at The Sentient Bean. That night, they’ll present the almost completely unknown Brazilian-made dark comedy from 1971 “How Tasty Was My Little Frenchman” on the 45th anniversary of its U.S. theatrical release.
Set in the Guanabara Bay area of Brazil in the late 1500s, the film tells a fictionalized version of the actual history of that region’s battles between French and Portuguese settlers who vied to colonize the land and subdue its indigenous people. When a Frenchman who’s been captured by the Portuguese is later captured by the native Tupinambás Indians (who are themselves aligned politically with the French), he finds himself in a most difficult position. Namely, that he cannot convince his captors that he is actually one of their own allies, rather than a Portuguese ally of their sworn enemies, the neighboring Tupiniquim Indians.
Despite an extreme language barrier, will the Frenchman be able to prove his nationality (and thus, his loyalty) to his captors before they devour him in a cannibalistic ceremony?
Well, I guess you’ll just have to see the film to find out.
This most unusual and critically lauded feature was Brazil’s official entry for Best Foreign Language Film in 1973 and was also nominated for the prestigious Golden Bear at the 1971 Berlin Film Fest. It won Best Screenplay, Best Dialogue and Best Costume Design at the Brazilian Cinema Festival, yet has never been released on home video in the U.S. The PFS will screen the full, uncut original version, in spoken Tupi, Portuguese and French, with English subtitles. Showtime is 8 p.m., with discounts on craft beer and organic wine during the show, as well as a full vegetarian menu.
‘My Neighbor Totoro’
And finally, SCAD’s Trustees Theater will screen the 1988 Japanese anime classic “My Neighbor Totoro” on April 19. The last time this wonderfully entertaining international hit from the groundbreaking animation outfit known as Studio Ghibli was shown in our area was three years ago at the first and only Japanese Film Fest (organized by a SCAD graduate student as part of her thesis). Set a few years after the end of WWII, it’s a fantastic tale of two young girls and their father, a professor, who must deal with ghostly spirits in the woods near their home.
Beautifully drawn, with a unique, translucent color palette, “My Neighbor Totoro” was named the greatest animated film of all time by none other than celebrated filmmaker (and Monty Python cast member) Terry Gilliam, director of “Brazil,” “Time Bandits,” “12 Monkeys." SCAD will show the English dubbed version, the soundtrack of which was dubbed in 2005, and features such well-known talent as Tim Daly (“The Sopranos”) and sisters Dakota and Elle Fanning. Showtime is 8 p.m.
Until next issue, see you at the movies, be kind to those around you and don't forget to turn off that cell phone.
Jim Reed directs the Psychotronic Film Society of Savannah.