‘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

‘Angel Heart’ Revisited

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By: H.B.G.

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Angel Heart Poster artwork by Renato Casaro (detail).

Note: ‘Angel Heart’ is a difficult film to discuss without giving away key points of the story and spoiling the plot. This is a film to be relished, so we will simply laud the film here, give our Occult Purport, and hopefully not divulge too much. It’s darkly delicious.

Amongst our many favorite Satanic or Occult themed Horror Films ‘Angel Heart’ (1987), which was released 31 years ago this month, still stands among the best. It’s excellent cast and production and it’s sinister, occult-noir atmosphere – deftly blended with a haunting soundtrack – separates this masterpiece of Diabolical Cinema from the many ham-handed attempts at the Diabolical Horror subgenre. The production is pure movie magic of the highest calibre in our opinion. With a Faustian premise set in 1955’s New York City, and a story that takes us to steamy New Orleans, Angel Heart unsettles us from the very start and then proceeds to take us on a journey into the heart of one man’s personal Darkness and, finally, the discovery of an impending evil carrying a one way ticket to Hell.

The film was adapted from William Hjortsberg’s novel Falling Angel. Hjortsberg also wrote the screenplay for Legend (1985), in which Tim Curry so adeptly brought Darkness to life…

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Tim Curry as Darkness in Legend, 1985.

Like our beloved Rosemary’s Baby’ (1968), there are no overt supernatural occurrences taking place in the story (at least, not perhaps until the very end – and even that is subtle and may be up for interpretation), placing the narrative firmly in reality and from the point of view of an unsuspecting protagonist. Our protagonist is one Harold Angel (wink), a gumshoe detective hired by a Mr Louis Cyphere (wink, wink) – an unusual client with some unsettled business. Harold Angel is sent on a manhunt for ‘Johnny Favorite,’ a famous crooner who’s gone missing since the War (WWII). As our Harry Angel falls deeper into a Black Magic Mystery peopled by corruptible characters of dubious interests and backgrounds, we find ourselves intrigued by the suspicious strands of destiny and danger which draw ever tighter around our detective.

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When Harry met Louis. Curious to know whose portrait that is above De Niro.

Occult Purport

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One traditional French title for this Key is: Force majeure,

Every significant relationship our detective discovers about the missing singer – be it physician, lover, or friend – is tainted with unwholesome or diabolical elements, linking the baneful Johnny Favorite and everyone involved with him to Evil Forces.

This strongly reminds us of The Devil XV Arcana in the Tarot. Johnny Favorite and each of his accomplices are bound to Evil. The chains that bind the demons to the black half-cube (unbalanced energy) pedestal of The Devil are of their own making. They choose to remain at the feet of The Devil (notice how loose the chains are about the demon’s necks in the Tarot card shown – they could choose to leave The Devil if they were not so  enjoying being held under His power). Every “evil” act perpetrated – whether out of addiction (Dr. Fowler), Fear, Greed, Anger, Lust, Vanity or Pride – inflicts another  karmic link in the chains binding these characters to Johnny Favorite (and towards an inevitable and sticky end). Johnny Favorite binds himself to Evil and does what he does out of his own self interests without giving any thought to how it effects those around him (who are likewise bound by their choices to involve themselves with such an unsavory character), or for when it comes time for his own eventual atonement.

eac79530007a85c007c0b6ee764f9d9fInteresting to note here is that a traditional French title for The Devil Tarot key is Force majeure, meaning “superior force”, also known as cas fortuit (French) or casus fortuitus (Latin) “chance occurrence, unavoidable accident”, which is a common clause in contracts that essentially frees both parties from liability or obligation when an extraordinary event or circumstance beyond the control of the parties, such as a war, strike, riot, crime, or an event described by the legal term act of God (hurricane, flood, earthquake, volcanic eruption, etc.), prevents one or both parties from fulfilling their obligations under the contract.

Force Majeure, The Devil tarot card (coloured engraving) Above: Two Devil cards from two different Etteilla style French Tarot decks explicitly state Force Majeure. Silly Mr Etteilla felt the need to renumber this key 14 (among other changes made by the demented wigmaker).

In practice, most force majeure clauses do not excuse a party’s non-performance entirely, but only suspend it for the duration of the force majeure. Hmmm…

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Charlotte Rampling as Madame Krusemark spreads the Tarot in a promo shot.

Read our article: The Details In the Devil – Tarot

Did you know???

When Louis (Robert De Niro) blows salt from his egg onto the restaurant table, Harry Angel (Mickey Rourke) takes a pinch and throws it over his left shoulder. The superstition is that by doing so you blind the devil (or your evil angel). The Left being the “sinister” side where the demon sits.Angel-Heart-Unsung-Films

And… The law firm Winesap and Mackintosh are two types of apples, traditional agents of the Devil tempting mankind. (Even though the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is not identified as an apple in any Bible translation.)

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Mickey Rourke as Harold Angel with Charlotte Rampling as Margaret Krusemark. Angel Heart, 1987.

Angel-Heart-Ascensore-per-linferno-di-Alan-Parker-con-Mickey-Rourke-Robert-De-Niro-Lisa-Bonet-Charlotte-Rampling-Brownie-McGhee-streaming-2-300x161Edward Kelley (the fake name used by Mr Krusemark when he bailed Johnny Favorite out of the “nut-hatch” in upstate New York) is also the name of a famous sixteenth century English alchemist and magician (1555-1597/8).

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Robert De Niro as the deliciously diabolical Mr Cyphere reminds us of a sober and well-dressed satyr who’s just had a manicure.

The poem about Evangeline and her lover, to which everyone refers, is “Evangeline, A Tale of Acadie” (Link: Evangeline) by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

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Lisa Bonet is bewitching in Angel Heart.

The line “How terrible is wisdom when it brings no profit to the wise” is drawn from Sophocles“Oedipus The King”. The quote is appropriate as the “final horrific revelation” trope in the story of Oedipus somewhat parallels that in Angel Heart.

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Have one in memory of Toots Sweet…

Two Sisters Cocktail Recipe: Ingredients: 

  • 1 1/2 ounces Dolin Blanc Vermouth
  • 1 1/2 ounces Dolin Rouge Vermouth
  • 1/4 ounce Tenneyson Absinthe Royale
  • Garnish: orange twist

Add the vermouths and absinthe into a mixing glass. Fill with ice and stir until cold, 15 to 20 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with orange twist and serve straight up.

Not to be confused with the Twin Sisters cocktail! Thank you Iris for the correction!

Twin Sisters Cocktail: Ingredients: 1/2 oz Light Rum; 1/2 oz Spiced Rum; 1 dash Coca Cola; 1 dash Rose’s Sweetened Lime Juice.  Shake with ice and strain into shot glass.

 

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Sinister Blessings of the limp left hand.

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The original skeleton Key: The Hand of Glory.

Satanic Cinema Sommelier; Our Favorite Devilish Films

An Interview with Ernest Harada: Celebrating 50 years of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’

SUSPIRIA: Dario, De Quincey and the Dark Goddess; Part 1