The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a 1975 musical comedy movie that parodies horror films, based on the British musical stage production The Rocky Horror Show, with the screenplay written by Richard O'Brien and Jim Sharman. The film features Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick. The film is considered as a cult classic, and a midnight movie - although it is widely known by mainstream audiences.
In December 2005, Librarian of Congress James H. Billington added The Rocky Horror Picture Show to the National Film Registry, a list that contains only 450 films.
The film spoofs many genres, such as horror films, science fiction films and beach movies.
The story, narrated by a Criminologist (Charles Gray), is that of a young newly engaged couple, Brad Majors (Barry Bostwick) and Janet Weiss (Susan Sarandon), who find themselves lost on a cold rainy night with a flat tire. The two, seeking a phone, find shelter at a nearby castle inhabited by strange and outlandish characters that are holding a Transylvanian Convention. They watch, still wet from the rain as the Transylvanians dance The Time Warp, the film's signature song.
They are soon swept into the world of Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry), a self proclaimed "Sweet Transvestite from Transexual, Transylvania" along with his staff of servants Riff Raff (Richard O'Brien), his sister Magenta (Patricia Quinn), groupie Columbia (Nell Campbell), and an ensemble of convention attendees.
It is the Doctor's intention to bring life to his "creation". In a scene inspired by Frankenstein movies, "Rocky Horror" (Peter Hinwood) is brought to life. After being chased down by Frank, the party is interrupted by Eddie (Meat Loaf), an ex-delivery boy, who rides out of a deep freeze on a motorcycle. The scene ends with his bloody death at the hands of the Doctor.
Brad and Janet are shown to separate rooms where their host has his way with both. Janet, overcome with emotion, wanders off looking for Brad. She discovers a cowering Rocky, hiding in his birth tank from servants Riff Raff and Magenta, who torment the creature, much as Igor tormented Frankenstein's monster. Janet, having just discovered Brad's infidelity, chooses to take advantage of the situation with Rocky.
After discovering the "creation" is missing, Frank, Brad and Riff Raff return to the lab where they learn that an intruder has entered the building. Dr. Scott (Jonathan Adams), Brad and Janet's old high school tutor and science teacher, has come looking for his nephew Eddie. It is at this point that Rocky and Janet are discovered hiding together.
In a scene added specifically for the film version, the new guests are prepared a dinner consisting of the remains of Dr. Scott's nephew. After they see what they have consumed, horror and disgust lead to a chase of Janet who runs screaming from the room.
Frank captures all and electronically commands them to participate in cabaret-style floor show. The show is disrupted by Riff Raff along with his sister who take command, killing Columbia, Frank and Rocky. They release the earthlings Brad, Janet and Dr. Scott as the castle takes off into space to return to the planet of Transexual.
In the production of the film, many of the original aspects from the Kings Road stage production changed, as did characters and dialogue, although many of its original production staff returned to work on the film. Director Jim Sharman, production designer Brian Thomson, and costume designer Sue Blane had built the original London production with many of the actors that made it into the film version. Tim Curry reprised his role from the London and Los Angeles stage productions. After the film, Curry also did a short run on Broadway as Dr. Frank-N-Furter. Richard O'Brien returned for the film as well from the British team, as did Little Nell and Patricia Quinn. The film was shot at Bray Studios and Oakley Court castle in Berkshire, England, UK from October 21, 1974 to December 19, 1974. Filming of Rocky's birth occurred on October 30, 1974, the 81st anniversary of the birth of Charles Atlas.
Several ideas from the original conception of the film were dropped before production. During the opening theme, the film was supposed to include clips from all the movies mentioned in the song "Science Fiction Double Feature". Producers discovered quickly that obtaining the rights to all the various film clips would be very costly, and cut the idea. Another idea was to parallel The Wizard of Oz by having the first 20 minutes of the film in black-and-white and Academy ratio until the doors burst open showing the Transylvanians in wide-screen and then to full color at Frank's entrance. The two processes of color film and black-and-white turned out to be incompatible and nearly impossibly costly to achieve, so this idea was also discarded.
Locations, Sets and Props
What did make it into the movie was an echo of old Hammer Horror films. A genre of its own, Hammer productions had a style unique for its time. Production designer Brian Thomson and director Jim Sharman chose locations, sets, and even props that were, in some cases, used in many old Hammer productions. The castle is known as the Hammer House for the number of films that it appeared in. Today, the castle, Oakley Court, has been completely refurbished and is now a first class hotel. The classic "Creation" scene in Rocky Horror re-uses the tank from a Hammer production of "Revenge of Frankenstein" starring Peter Cushing.
Perhaps the most unique parts of this film are the costumes worn by the cast. Costume designer Sue Blane based all her designs on what little she knew of 1950's America as well as a previous stage production she designed called "The Maids". It is from this production that Tim Curry's Victorian corset is borrowed. The stage productions had a very big impact on the film, as Ms. Blane designed all productions to that point. These included the London, Australia, as well as Los Angeles and Broadway productions. Ms. Blane compared the relatively small budget of the stage show to the $1600 budget in 1974 for the film. Compared to budgets of other more mainstream films, that would be considered a "shoestring" budget.
In the stage productions, actors generally did their own make-up, but for this film producers chose famed artist Pierre La Roche to redesign the make-up for each character. La Roche is also famous for designing make-up for David Bowie.
Production stills were taken by an artist famous for his 1970's rock photographs, Mick Rock. The photographer has published many calendars and photo books from his Rocky Horror work.
Box office and theatrical run
The Rocky Horror Picture Show has taken in over $139 million in box office receipts since its release, which makes it the highest grossing movie never to have played in more than 1,000 movie theaters at the same time. The length of its run in cinemas (weekly for over 30 years), combined with its considerable total box office gross, is unparalleled by any other film. The original budget for the movie was a tight $1 million. While filming, the crew went over budget, adding to the initial financial failure of the film. Many of the actors earned very little from the movie, both at its initial release and after it became popular.
The film has found longevity in many venues throughout the years in the US, as well as throughout the world. This movie is considered to be the longest running film release in history. The message and a good deal of counterculture has influences in both musical theatre and horror films. Rocky Horror has become a phenomenon, and so to have the fans themselves. Dori Hartley, a fan from the original New York shadow cast went on to appear in "Paradise Garage," a Tim Curry music video.
Critical and Fan Response
Taken at face value, the film could be considered ground-breaking for its frank (albeit comical) depiction of subjects such as transvestism, homosexuality, cannibalism, voyeurism, adultery, and even incest. In addition, the scripting and design displays the writers' knowledge of the history of cinema even beyond the horror and Science fiction film genres; for example, there are references to films as diverse as What's Up, Doc?, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, Rope, and Triumph of the Will. Nevertheless, the film did not do well initially when released. Instead of fading away it found the midnight cult circuit at theaters across the country.
Even though the film was panned by the critics, the fans would not let go. The RHPS Cult following was born, and continues to this day all over the world. Merchandising is not as big as other mainstream films, however the film's popularity has breathed new life to the stage productions which had only a 45-day run on Broadway early in 1975 at the Belasco Theatre. As with all fan favorites, Rocky Horror sequels and other media have found their way into production. Today there are pre-fabricated costumes sold in stores and online, as well as years of computer-related games and various soundtrack releases.
The original advertising campaign for screen and television was pulled by Twentieth Century Fox executives in the very early stage. They objected strongly to the use of the red lipsticked lips uttering the words Twentieth Century Fox. The original poster was also changed late into 1975 with the popularity of other more mainstream films. "A different set of Jaws" refers to the film Jaws (film), the iconic 1975 film. The tagline is listed on the website "Great Film Taglines,"  and has been associated with Rocky Horror for three decades. Another tagline, "Don't Dream It, Be It", also a song from the film, was used in an advertising campaign for Frederick's of Hollywood and has found its way into the English language in a variety of ways.
On the 15th anniversary of the film, a VHS Home Video was released. In 1993 a LaserDisc was released, and in 1995 a Special Edition LaserDisc was released. On the 25th anniversary in 2000, the DVD with all the special features from the LaserDisc, as well as new features and DVD-Rom games was released. Before the mainstream use of home video a Super 8 version of selected scenes of the film was available.
|Song||Chiefly Sung By||Other Singers|
|Science Fiction/Double Feature||Richard O'Brien (no character)||N/A|
|Dammit Janet||Brad, Janet||Riff Raff, Magenta, Columbia|
|Over at the Frankenstein Place||Brad, Janet||Riff Raff, Chorus|
|The Time Warp||Riff Raff, Magenta, Columbia||Criminologist, Transylvanians|
|Sweet Transvestite||Frank-N-Furter||Riff Raff, Magenta, Columbia, Transylvanians|
|The Sword of Damocles||Rocky||Riff Raff, Magenta, Columbia, Transylvanians|
|I Can Make You a Man||Frank-N-Furter||Transylvanians|
|I Can Make You a Man (Reprise)||Frank-N-Furter||Janet, Transylvanians|
|Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch-a Touch Me||Janet||Rocky, Brad, Frank-N-Furter, Magenta, Riff Raff, Columbia|
|Eddie's Teddy||Dr. Scott||Full cast|
|Planet Schmanet Janet||Frank-N-Furter||Brad, Janet, Dr. Scott|
|Rose Tint My World||Columbia, Rocky, Brad, Janet||N/A|
|Don't Dream It, Be It||Frank-N-Furter||Brad, Janet, Columbia, Rocky|
|Wild And Untamed Thing||Frank, Columbia, Rocky, Brad, Janet||Riff Raff|
|I'm Going Home||Frank-N-Furter||Columbia, Rocky, Brad, Janet|
|Science Fiction/Double Feature (Reprise)||Richard O'Brien (no character)||N/A|
- RHPS Cult Following
- Rocky Horror sequels and other media
- The Rocky Horror Show
- Shock Treatment
- Cross-dressing in film and television
- Midnight movies
- RKO Pictures
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