‘Rocky Horror’ as Satanic Midnight Mass

By: H.B.Gardner

Halloween draws closer! Check locations for movie theaters showing The Rocky Horror Picture Show – preferably with a live cast – as an option for the fearfully fun October festivities.

Behold! Our exalted opinion of The Rocky Horror Picture Show!

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The Rocky Horror Picture Show. A tableau of the taboo.

They congregate at midnight, gathering at select movie cinemas around the world. The cinema – where the public sits in darkness to share a collective dream; or in this case, an erotic nightmare. There is the instant impact of the inversion of the ordinary. Gender has become fluid and unfixed, the conversation veers into strange territory, and the fashion…! Most are dressed in black: satin, lace lingerie, leather… but there are also patches of shimmering silver, scarlet velveteen and feather boas. Torn fishnet stockings, suspended with ruffled garters, cling tightly to hairy, well-muscled legs. Ample breasts powdered with glitter are swelling in a bustier. Sweating catamites with painted faces catcall to one another amidst shining gold sequins and the sharp tapping of stiletto heels. But you are also most likely to see a lot of skin, with people as scantily clad as you will ever see in a movie theater! “Virgins” to the night’s pagan festivities are duly presented and humorously harassed. Lacquered lips shout slick obscenities as an ancient pageantry of innocent love, unbridled lust, sex, death and sacrifice – brought from worlds far beyond the stars – unfolds below the colorful, flickering shadow-play projected onto the wide silver screen.

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No other Cult Film has an actual cult quite like Rocky Horror!

The liturgy of recriminations, bawdy jokes and blasphemies is recited by the faithful. The ritual dance is stepped and thrusted with lively vigor. The  sacraments are dutifully produced and utilized in the due course of the ceremony. Rice is tossed and the triggers of water pistols are squeezed in a riotous seminal discharge (later on, I discover grains of rice that have slipped into uncomfortable places on my person as well as in my hair). Lighters are lighted and waved in the darkness as devotees veil their heads with newspaper. Toilet tissue flies at the drop of a name! Like the profanation of the eucharist, toast is tossed and trampled by dancing feet in an unholy communion. The celebrants of the midnight ceremony, the priesthood decked out in it’s finest lingerie, enact the ancient rituals in a way most congruent with the times.

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Devoted cultists, shrouded in newspaper, assist Janet in finding the Frankenstein Place by lighting their lighters.

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“Great Scott!!”This is not what usually happens when we go to the movies. But ‘Rocky Horror’ isn’t a movie – it’s an experience!

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The presentation of the virgin sacrifice.

The young virgin couple drive happily towards a future of socially sanctioned married bliss. But darkness falls, the storm confounds, and their car gets a flat tire – as though the elements themselves have deemed that the hand of Fate should fall and bring these victims – marked by alien gods – to the very gates of the underworld where all taboos are broken. The virgins are unceremoniously defrocked, stripped bare, and offered unto the altar of Dr. Frank N. Furter – an insatiable, sadistic-yet-charming, alien Demon God/dess of Lust from another world.

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Meat (Loaf) for The Beast.

This Demon God/dess indiscriminately commands and wields the occult powers of life and death. A Golden Child is birthed in beefy glory and enslaved to his Master’s lust. The Wild Hunt is enacted as The Hog – shadow side of the Golden Child – is ritually chased and slaughtered. The cannibal feast ensues. The flesh of the Dying and Resurrecting Son is eaten. Incestuous alien siblings hatch an insidious plot. Morality is questioned and… at this point, rightly discarded. And they are all,  characters and celebrants, fed to The Beast; all are swallowed by the gaping jaws of the Eternal Night. All give themselves over to absolute pleasure.

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The ritualistic ‘Last Supper,’ where a betrayal is revealed.

The naively subversive impact of Richard O’Brien‘s fantastic, funny, sexy musical homage to vintage B-grade Sci-Fi and classic Horror films, rock and roll, and extra-terrestrial androgyny is still being widely felt in our present day. Since it’s release as a film in 1975 (following it’s theatrical stage version as ‘The Rocky Horror Show’), and it’s continued midnight screenings ever since it’s release, tremendous leaps have taken place in culture in the fields of sexual liberation, gay rights, same-sex marriage and the acceptance of all kinds of people – the kinky, the geeky, the alien, the bisexual – who fall outside of the traditional mainstream, or even the side stream! Indeed, one may ask just what “mainstream” even means anymore. ‘Rocky Horror,’ beneath it’s Mardi Gras exterior,  has become a social rite of passage and midnight initiation into adulthood.

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A match made in Transexual Transylvania. The Hieros Gamos, or Sacred Marriage rite.

The barrier-breaking, iconoclastic fervor of the Nineteen-Seventies birthed The Rocky Horror Picture Show at just the right moment; seizing the zeitgeist of the age and pushing the boundaries of what was considered socially acceptable behavior in a way that overturned the conventional. It safely ushered the gays, the geeks, the misfits  and the curious into circles of acceptance where they could share and revel in their diversity as opposed to suffering in isolation. A couple of generations have found their footing in the world from this wickedly wayward psychodrama that has much more to do with the audience that keeps it alive than the actual film. But the story, and it’s disturbed and exalted re-imaging of ancient initiatory Mystery religion, is brought to mischievous life by it’s outrageous cast of characters and vibrant music. For it is here that the song of the deepest soul is sung in The Passion of Frank and Rocky, Brad and Janet, Riff-Raff and Magenta, Columbia and Eddie… “Don’t dream it. Be it.”

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A monster is truly a beautiful thing to behold.

In past centuries, and even today, The Black Mass, or Satanic Mass, (in any of it’s several variant forms – from theatrical to criminal), has been held in secret by small groups of subversive dissidents as a form of religious iconoclasm and revolt against systemic oppression by the institutions of both Church and State. Church and State – neither of which are ever more powerful, or dangerous, than when they merge – are inverted in the Satanic Mass: the crucifix is turned upside-down, the candles are black, the sacraments are profaned, the body of a young beauty becomes the altar, and the patriarchal hegemony is spat upon. Or similarly, like the Cult of Dionysus, or the Feast of Fools in old Europe, we see with ‘Rocky Horror’ dramatic upheavals in consciousness when we are confronted with what surprises and scares us when all normal social conventions are overturned upon the chaotic, gender-bending, Time-Warping altar of midnight madness – where the sacred is profaned and the profane becomes sacred.

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One part “alien David Bowie,” + one part “Mick Jagger on something,” + one part “Bela Lugosi as wharf whore,” + one part “Bette Davis as “Baby Jane” Hudson” as Army General.                                 = All as Tim Curry as Dr Frank N. Furter

Women From Hell: Cinema’s Greatest Ladies from Hades

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By: H.B.G.

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The Devil Is A Woman – Hollywood seems to have known this for some time. Perhaps it is our Western Judeo-Christian heritage with it’s misogynistic imprinting that has left us with a pre-formed suspicion of the Woman-with-the-Serpent.

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Lilith (1892) by John Collier in Southport Atkinson Art Gallery. The Tree of Knowledge ever bears forbidden fruit.

Seductress, Temptress, Witch, Murderess, Madwoman, Child-Snatcher… what causes this particular archetype to rise with such horrific force – like a primitive shadow from the collective unconscious – into our cinematic plays of shadow and light? Women have often been among the most numerous and the most devoted of the Devil’s servants. Though we would’ve enjoyed seeing Marlene Dietrich celebrate a Black Mass in a devilish thriller directed by Hitchcock, that remains a lost fantasy. It has really only been since the 1960’s that we’ve seen some celluloid Femme Fatales with a true sulphuric sense.

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Hollywood has always known: The Devil Is A Woman (1935)

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Marlene would’ve made a marvelous Madame de Montespan

We have constructed a list (in vaguely chronological order and by no means exhaustive) of Cinematic Diabolical Dames deserving of recognition for the characters they brought to wicked life. They can both delight and disturb us, and they often have some of the best lines in films. These women are really in touch with their dark sides. Let’s celebrate Our Ladies In Hades.

Note: We were unsure whether to include the Possessed to our list as, while they may be human, they are not entirely themselves, so to speak. Therefore we decided not to include the notoriously infamous  Regan MacNeil / Pazuzu character from ‘The Exorcist,’ but we did include the less widely known Sister Jeanne from ‘The Devils.’ ‘Carrie’ White’s mother could be added because her extreme Christian religiosity makes her act evil… but let’s just accept that she is a psycho. We’ll try not to get complicated. Enjoy!

As an actress, Barbara Steele deserves special mention because of her bewitching presence amongst Horror Cinema’s tortured and lost souls. Her dark beauty still provides a template for gothic divas today. We certainly include her as the vampire witch princess Katia Vajda/Princess Asa Vajda from the influential ‘Black Sunday’ aka ‘Mask of Satan’ (1960) directed by Mario Bava, which is saturated with Gothic atmosphere and creepy effects which are still, well… effective!

In Curse of the Crimson Altar’ aka ‘The Crimson Cult’ (1968), which also features Christopher Lee and Boris Karloff, Barbara Steele plays Lavinia Morley who leads a witchcraft cult. She also appeared with Vincent Price in ‘The Pit and the Pendulum.’ We could go on listing her devilish films and her appearances in Dark Shadows but we hope you will discover her magic for yourself if you haven’t already had the pleasure.

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Barbara Steele in ‘Black Sunday’

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Barbara Steele in ‘Curse of the Crimson Altar’ (1968)

Sister Jeanne of the Angels in Ken Russell’s THE DEVILS as played by Vanessa Redgrave      An excellent performance in an excellent film. Sister Jeanne is a hunchbacked  Ursuline nun with a beautiful face in 17th century France. We watch in horror as the good nun and her repressed sisters – tormented by both fear and desire – become possessed by some really sinister Devils, namely the Church and State.

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The Evil One is always tempting us… Vanessa Redgrave discovers some dirty habits in Ken Russell’s ‘THE DEVILS’

Mrs. Blaylock from ‘THE OMEN’ (Billie Whitelaw – original [1976] & Mia Farrow – remake [2006])  When Mrs Blaylock arrives to be the nanny for young Damian Thorn we feel certain there is something a little bit off about her, though nothing obvious at first. Is she human? Is she a demon sent from Hell? What is certain is her devotion to her young charge. Those feral eyes that appear through a sheer layer of gossamer nightgown as Katherine Thorn attempts to dress herself in the hospital, like a shark steadily approaching a drowning swimmer… Heaven help us!

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Billie Whitelaw as Mrs Blaylock

Although we don’t care much for flawed remakes or sequels, we must give the Devil Her due. Mia Farrow accepted the stunt casting for The Omen 2006 reboot which, in a deft marketing ploy, opened in America on 6-6-’06. We were present for the event at a packed theater in Orlando when, at the opening of the film just as the opening credits were starting to roll, the celluloid burned in the projector – causing a sizzling psychedelic suppuration to spill across the movie screen. One nervous young woman of color exclaimed that this film was evil and possessed by the Devil’s power and quickly exited the theater with an amused and peeved date following her out. They never returned. It was a clever move to have Mme Farrow play the Antichrist’s guardian as she is so well known for ‘Rosemary’s Baby’. Her sweet portrayal of Mrs Blaylock truly makes the remake darkly-delightfully watchable.

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Mia Farrow in The Omen reboot.

Mrs. Ann Thorn in ‘DAMIEN: OMEN II ‘     Lee Grant is believable as a devoted stepmother to two young men. Her reactions to the drama around her feel genuine so we must admit she shocked the hell out of us the first time we saw this film. Her final treacherous move just before delivering her lines – which are legendary in Satanic Cinema – (“Here’s your daggers!! ….I’ve always belonged to Him!”) left more than one pair of jaws agape. Nobody saw this ending coming until it was too late.

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Lee Grant as Ann Thorn prepares to skewer and barbecue.

Charlotte Rampling as Margaret Krusemark in ‘ANGEL HEART’    Sophisticated,  tasteful  and dignified, Margaret Krusemark is one classy dame, but her unusual profession and her taste in jewelry and home decor let us know that she is, in no uncertain terms, into more than just star-gazing and black magic. Tis pity she has a criminal connection with old heart-throb Johnny Favorite, though a special kind of Valentine will see them reunited.

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“I don’t think you’d like what I see in your future.”

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Mickey Rourke and Charlotte Rampling star in Angel Heart

Hellraiser’ & ‘Hellbound: Hellraiser II’   Clare Higgins as Julia Cotton & Female Cenobite    There is no mistaking Julia Cotton for a sweet hausfrau. This icy woman is frigid with her dull husband but fiery-hot and passionate with his brother Frank! In the first film she is the Wicked Stepmother, in Hellbound she emerges as The Evil Queen. No doubt she is on the highway to Hell. Her desires and cruelty should mark her high (or should we say Low?) on our list, ranking her one of the true Queens of the Damned! A woman who knows what she wants and will stop at nothing to get it!

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“Now everybody’s happy.”

While we are in Hell(raiser) we may as well pause to genuflect and offer an orison to the Female Cenobite. This creature is unique in Horror cinema. Though other female cenobites have followed since the first two films in the series, she causes us to cringe with her taste for flesh and pain. Two separate actresses portrayed the female cenobite in the first two films. In the first Hellraiser the Female Cenobite was played by Grace Kirby who also happens to be Clive Barker’s cousin. In Hellbound, the role is played by Barbie Wilde who has authored some fiction which you who are reading this should check out. The Hellraiser themed short story collection Hellbound Hearts (2009) contains a backstory she wrote for her Female Cenobite character titled Sister Cilice which we highly recommend.

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Barbie Wilde in Hellbound

You may also enjoy reading ‘The Venus Complex’ by Barbie Wilde

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“Perhaps you’re teasing us. Are you teasing us?”

‘The Ninth Gate’    Emmanuelle Seigner as “The Girl”, or as we prefer to call her The Mysterious Familiar Demoness. Part Succubus, part guardian daemon, this mysterious creature is ever unperturbed, has a great sense of timing, and is almost playful with Johnny Depp’s character… as a cat is with a mouse. She is fierce in the film’s ….umm, fiery climax.

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Ms Seigner is married to director Roman Polanski who directed The Ninth Gate and is famed for his contemporary Satanic masterpiece ‘Rosemary’s Baby’.

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‘Rosemary’s Baby’ How can we NOT mention lovable old Minnie Castevet ?- With a whiff of Tannis root perfume this crass character has a sense of style unsurpassed in Satanic Cinema. This nosey neighbor will creep you out even as she attempts to creep into your heart. Ruth Gordon‘s portrayal of a hip geriatric witch from Manhattan’s Upper West Side won her a well-deserved Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, winning perhaps the highest recognition of our sister Satanistas in Cinema – ever! Don’t be fooled by this harmless looking old lady!

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And the 2014 ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ TV remake with Carole Bouquet as Margeaux Castevet . Wiser heads must have prevailed at the studio – knowing the impossibility of even attempting to match Ruth Gordon’s flawless portrayal as Minnie Castevet – they instead took a more continental direction for the character with the sleek and sophisticated Carole Bouquet. We are certainly in praise of the older woman when speaking of the ladies Castevet.Unknown-17

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unknown-18Mrs Ulman from ‘House of the Devil’  played by Mary Woronov    Creeps us out of all proportion to her time onscreen. Effectively evil in an understated way that is rarely accomplished in cinema these days. Hers is a throwback to those good old Omen days; as if Mrs Blaylock had survived and relocated to America in the 80’s. Mary Woronov has led a fascinating acting career through Warhol’s Factory, Punk, off-Broadway theater and numerous appearances in Cult and Horror and genre films and TV.

In Rob Zombie’s ‘The Lords of Salem’  (2013)     We get several witches worth their cinematic salt! Besides Sherri Moon Zombie as Heidi La Rock / Adelaide Hawthorne, we also get to savor Judy Geeson as Lacy Doyle, Meg Foster as Margaret Morgan, Patricia Quinn as Megan, and Dee Wallace as Sonny. A veritable coven of conniving women who usher an unsuspecting Heidi through a metaphysical mental metamorphosis to create a perfect vessel of demonic vengeance. We don’t view Heidi as demonically possessed, though she may certainly be classified as demonically obsessed.

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Sherri Moon Zombie as Heidi in The Lords of Salem

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You get your witches’ worth in this Rob Zombie flick! The Three Witches: L to R: Patricia Quinn, Judy Geeson and Dee Wallace.

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Meg Foster is perfect as Margaret Morgan

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The Assumption of Maria is Satanized into the Descent of Heidi

This great iconic image reminds us of one of our favorite paintings…

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‘Diana of Ephesus and the slaves’ (1893 – 1898),  by the severely under-appreciated Italian symbolist painter Giulio Aristide Sartorio.  Was Rob Zombie inspired by this painting?

Did you know?

The cult statues of the many-breasted Ephesian Artemis / Diana were often rigged as fountains in Her ancient temples. These fountains would spew forth milk from the nipples at the climax of the celebrations. These temples were vandalized and desecrated by Christian zealots centuries ago but some images remain. The Goddesses have been demonized since that time, but fortunately She is in recovery.

We could go on and on with this list, and perhaps we will add others as time permits. We can certainly include more. If you think of some we have missed that really deserve to be added in here please let us know.