Wednesday, 20 June 2012

The Strange Case Of The ROCKY HORROR “Superheroes” and “The Incredible HULK”

Google as of this (past) Friday and Saturday, and in honor of the 46th Anniversary of Gene Roddenberry's STAR TREK premiereSeptember 7,1966and presented us with an interactive "Google Doodle" that many, fan or not, had fun with putting the little icon caricatures though their flash animation paces.
While noodling around with them, they made me recall another celebration of STAR TREK fandom that I was present at, before a long time ago in a galaxy far, far, away...On Labor Day Weekend 1976Saturday, was attending a STAR TREK ConventionThe Bi-Centennial 10so named after the 200th Anniversary of the United States, and the tenth year since STAR TREK first premiered on the NBC-TV network in the Fall of 1966, "in living color".
It was a wild affair, all sorts of young fans in their teens and twenties, from the serious to the ridiculous.
Stayed at the Statler-Hilton Hotel between 32nd 33rd Sts. on 7th Ave. directly across from Penn Station and Madison Square Garden, where in 1974 saw Bowie in his Diamond Dogs Tour on the 5th Anniversary of Neil Armstrong's historic landing on the Moon.
When I say "stayed", what I actually meant was more like "crashed" at various rooms there, sometimes along with another 30 to 50 people per suite, all over the carpeted floors, in the bathtub, everywhere, as we refused to pay the rip-off rates that were being charged by the hotel just because we were considered "crazy TREKkies" That and the fact that people were less likely to do as they're told by so-called authority figures or 'officialdom', this still being the footloose and fancy free culture of the mid-70's, still firmly grounded in the 1960's youthful faux 'rebellion' where not only did the buttons on 42nd & Times Sq. have "Question Authorityprinted on them but "Question Reality" as well.
After going party-hopping to all the rooms of established and new found friends, it was getting late in the still young evening, about 10:00 pm EST in NYC, and didn't want another replay of Friday night's  escapades, as enjoyable as it was, and a group of us started to discuss what to do.
Some suggested that we take in some action at some clubsbars, or discos in Midtown, others 
wanted to go to some of the grindhouse movie fare on 42nd, and still others were into more party-hopping.
Then someone, don't exactly remember who (me
?), suggested we go down to Greenwich Village
and hang out in Washington Square Park8th Street, etc., and luckily had a Village Voice at 
hand looking for activities, when the advert for "THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW" appearing across from the basketball courts and side walk artists on 6th Ave. & 4th, at The Waverly
"...I saw Leo G. Carroll, got over a barrel, when Tarantula took to the hills."
"Rocky Horror?", exclaimed a bud, "Like what's that?"
In response explained briefly that it was a live musical play that was out only years ago in late Summer of '74, and that it flopped, coming out just before the equally fated Brian De Palma "PHANTOM OF THE PARASIDEHalloween movie release, and missed both as had to choose between Bowie or ROCKY HORROR that Summer (don't recall exactly what reason made me miss PHANTOM that Samail season), and wasn't aware it was now a filmed musical. midnight show, something that had only seen in movies like the original 1958 "The Blob", so "Rocky Horror" it was for our Saturday night. 
Now here I'm going to cut to the chase, and avoid recounting my first "Rocky Horror experience,", 
as this entry was entitled, "...Superheroes' and 'The Incredible Hulk'", my adventures (and misadventures) in "sweet Transsexual Transylvania" will be resumed in a later post. . .@ some future time. . . including my duel/duel with another anonymous stranger in the dark RHPS fan, trading quips in a free-form, improvisational,
stream-of-unconsciousness, "can you top this mode," identities safely under cover of darkness; many things were said by me as: "Oohf!" inserted by me as Rocky Horror's response to the round-robin, 
"As You Like It" Shakespeare-like interplay topping off the "Janet!" "Dr. Scott!" "Janet!" "Brad!" "Rocky!"  (repeat X times); "And we helped! " (a topical reference to the Shake & Bake fried chicken ads on TV @ that time); and after Riff-Raff & Magenta present Frank with his giant, mutilated turkey, "What!? Meatloaf again?!" 
On with the show.
"Superheroes", the final tune heard in both the British musical play THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW and 
's "THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW" film has more than just some similarities to the opening and closing themes of the American television series “The Incredible Hulk” (1978-1982) known as "The Lonely Man".

"Superheroes", ©1973 by Richard O' Brien, "The Lonely Man©1978 by Joe Harnell.
"Five years, stuck on my eyes; Five years, what a surprise..."
Plagiarismor is it just coincidence? Or it is "Memorex"?
To those who just came in, "Superheroes" was the swan-song in all the various incarnations of THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW: appeared all throughout the initial 1973 London engagement, present in all stage performances without removal, then in '74 emigrated to 'The Roxy' in LAa smash hitthen to NYC’s “The Beautiful Belasco” theater off-Broadway—the aforementioned flopmade it into the 1975 movie redubbed “The Rocky Horror Picture Showinitially also a flop—then when “TRHPS” became midnight movie fare April 1976 in The Village at The Waverly 'twas also the standard, customary ending, as always.  

The way first experienced by me and others up to May 1977, last time I saw it theatrically before the edit. 
Just as the footage of Superheroes was edited out of the U.S. release in 1978
so YouTube saw fit not to allow same to be viewed on your device in 2012
C'mon what gives?
Okay so now three years later since, and 40 years after theatrical release - it's back!
Super-heroes, the genre, seemed to be on a roll, as all the American television networks had shows already 
on the air, or soon additional programming devised for the science fictionfantasy, and horror hungry. In other genre news: Steve Gerber's HOWARD THE DUCK featured on the cover of The Village Voice X~Mas week, on the newsstand just outside the Waverly in the green plywood kiosk just before walking down the stairs to the the subway. In April 1977, the pilot episode of The Amazing Spider-Man television series was released by Columbia, all part of that memorable Summer to come while STAR WARS had several unbelievable NYC blocks-long lines, daily, setting records in cinematic history; newcomer Christopher Reeve started first day of shooting “SUPERMAN THE MOVIE” in Manhattan, cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth plugging the lighting rig into a convenient streetlamp receptacle and a power failure plunging millions into darkness almost immediately as if on cue.  
“Face Front True Believers!” 

November 4, 1977, 5 months later, was also the night the two-hour pilot for THE INCREDIBLE HULK was aired on the CBS-TV network, former light comedy star Bill Bixby (MY FAVORITE MARTIAN, THE MAGICIAN) assumed the role “Dr. David Bruce Banner” who transmogrifies into "The Hulk" (Lou Ferrigno), due to an overdose of gamma-ray radiation in an experiment gone awry.

You know the rest.

Only two episodes of THE INCREDIBLE HULK were aired that year, the second one dovetailing with

Columbia Pictures' and EMI ("home of The Beatles") release of Steven Spielberg's CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KINDthe next of the big-budget science-fiction extravaganza event movies after the spectacular 


TV's  H U L K on hiatus. Meanwhile, long-running midnight showings of THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW on Friday and Saturday nights at The Waverly, ceased supposedly due to "continued neighborhood harassment" in January 1978relocating from after a house record ninety-five weeks to the 8th Street Playhouseright next to Electric Ladyland Studios, with Superheroes” MIA as it was mysteriously cut from ALL American prints.

The excuse used was that U.S. audiences found the original song and ending "too depressing", or it had to be “shortened for running time”, though it remains unclear how an edit of 5:40 minutes would affect the showing of the film’s box-office receipts as it was a midnight show, proverbial last picture show for the business day.

That's the 'official' story.

So all that remained of the number was one really badly executed jump-cut of a disheveled Brad Majors, Janet Weiss, Dr. Everett (Von) Scott, crawling through the muck and smoke, and the Criminologist's verse, “…lost in time…and lost in space—and meaning.”


Curiously the original "Superheroes" ending was left intact in all the prints in the U.K.Italy, Australia, Japan, West GermanySpain, Portugal, Sweden, Mexico, etc., etc.

Altered only in the United States.

Did all these other countries have less "depressed" patrons, who could bear to listen anwatch an additional 5:40 minutes of content integral to THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW experience, while we "uniquely American" Americans in our great republic can't?

What do YOU suppose really happened?

From what I can tell you as a first-hand participant in the seminal stage of that (then) soon-to-be pop culture phenomenon, performing my “duel duet” with another unseen fan undercover in the darkness, and my piecing together the facts pertinent, it was an either an incredible coincidence or a confluence of events.

Whether by accident or design, in either case, quite interesting.
The new prints of the film, from what I can gather, were struck on or about February 1978and curiously enough the “Superheroes” was gone from not just the 8th Street Playhouse prints, but in all of the small urban revival houses, suburban shopping malls, and the local small-town theaters.
 TRHPS was playing on weekend midnights in 20-odd suburban theaters in the New York region alone.
When THE INCREDIBLE HULK shortly after returned as a regularly scheduled CBS television series on March 10, 1978the music was notably changed, “The Lonely Man Theme” by Joe Harnell incorporated now as the theme and leitmotif of the show, played in different styles and tempos to fit the episode content.
Summer 1979:

20th Century-Fox had approximately two hundred prints of THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW in circulation for midnight shows around the countryno sign or trace of "Superheroes". 
As a seasoned RHPS fan, had already my bootlegged βetamax copy of the movie that I scored at 
another convention (for $75.00!) and could watch "Rocky Horrorwhenever the mood stuck me, at breakfast, 
lunchtime, anytime, in any state of consciousness, just 2 blocks from the State Theater on Kennedy Boulevard(right next door to the A&P) also showing TRHPSand mine version had “Superheroes”.

The time window for these 'transitions' are made even more curious when you dig a little deeper 

and discover that another Marvel character, “The Amazing Spider-Man” on a 1978 episode 

remarks to one of the baddies, "You look like a reject from the Rocky Horror Picture Show!"

So then WHY was the established song “Superheroes” removed, yet the newer composition 

The Lonely Man” remain?

Shouldn’t it have been visa versa?

It would be similar to as if The Shirelles’ hit “He’s So Fine” being fated for Winston Smith's 

memory hole, whilst George HarrisonsMy Sweet Lord” would’ve replaced it.

On the contrary, Beatle Harrison had to settle out of court and pay royalties whenever My Sweet Lord” was played on the radio or sold as part of his  “All Things Must Pass” album.
No such agreement made between Richard O’Brien and Joe Harnell exists, or if there was
one hasn't been made public, either then or now, as far as I know.

Perhaps Dear Reader you know different?

Here's an idea: 

In the late 70's the home video industry was still in an infant stage, and unless one had βetamax or (gasp!) VHS, pickings were slim as pre-recorded product simply hardly existed.
When it did take off in the early 1980’s, 1982 to be precise, 20th Century Fox Video (formerly Magnetic Video Corporation) and CBS Video Enterprises merged in a 50-50 split.
Could this have been the reason, or one of them, for the “Superheroes”/"The Lonely Man” anomalies, it's a fact that when THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW finally debuted on home video it was on the CBS-Fox label?

Up until then only other way you could hear “Superheroes” as it was in the film, 
was as an import LP or cassette from Jem Records in South Plainfield NJ “The Original Soundtrack from the Original Movie Marketed & Distributed by Pacific Records PLC – U.K1975 Ode Records OSV-21653”

There was a “20th Anniversary Special Edition” boxed set release of  “TRHPS” with outtakes and alternate titles on LaserDisc in 1995, yet “Superheroesdidn't readily see the light, at the Frankenstein place or of day, for most until 1998 on VHS, 23 years later, and then only as a deleted scene addendum.

And of course now DvD and Blu-Ray, but WHY so late?

This begs explanation, as it certainly wasn’t the 1st time that U.S. and U.K. audiences and consumers

had different rationales given by media purveyors for abridged or truncated releases of supposedly 

the same audio (or visual) product (or performance), and seemingly based more on corporate boardroom decisions, commercial rather than any artistic.
Could it be that the 'intellectual copyright' weasels erroneously believed that no one would even notice?

1 comment:

  1. Whew, the disjointed writing style makes me think you must've had a LOT of fun in the 70's!