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Encyclopedia > Rocky Horror Picture Show

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (first released in the United Kingdom on 14 August 1975) is a comedy-horror musical film directed by Jim Sharman from a screenplay by Sharman and Richard O'Brien, who also composed the songs. The film was based on O'Brien's long-running stage production The Rocky Horror Show.

The film stars Barry Bostwick, Susan Sarandon, and Tim Curry. Nell Campbell, Patricia Quinn, Peter Hinwood, Jonathan Adams, Charles Gray, and O'Brien are featured in supporting roles, and rock singer Meat Loaf makes a brief appearance, to sing and play saxophone during "What Ever Happened to Saturday Night?". Curry, O'Brien, and Campbell were in the original cast of the play, and Meat Loaf joined them for the Broadway debut.


Plot outline

The story begins with a straitlaced couple, Brad Majors (Bostwick) and Janet Weiss (Sarandon), musically pledging their engagement immediately after serving as attendants at their friends' wedding. They decide to pay a visit to Dr. Everett v. Scott (Adams), their academic mentor and the man who introduced them to each other. At this point, a Criminologist (Gray) appears, solely for the purpose of providing exposition of the plot; he will periodically reappear to do this throughout the film.

The action returns to the young couple. While driving to Dr. Scott's residence, they have a flat tire. With the spare tire also flat, they decide to walk back to a remote castle in the woods they had passed in hopes of finding a telephone to use. In the castle, Dr. Frank N. Furter (Curry), a gender-bending scientist from the planet Transsexual in the galaxy of Transylvania, is giving a party to celebrate the creation of his new strongman playmate, Rocky Horror (Hinwood). Frank N. Furter immediately takes a sexual interest in Janet and Brad. This leads Brad and Janet to question their loyalty to each other. To complicate matters, the Doctor's former companion, Eddie (Meat Loaf), is forgotten, but not gone; his personal assistant Columbia (Nell) has conflicted feelings about Eddie and the Doctor; and furthermore the other servants of the castle, Magenta (Quinn) and Riff Raff (O'Brien), have their own plans for both the Doctor and his creation...

Critical response

Taken at face value, the film could be considered as ground-breaking for its frank (albeit comical) depiction of subjects such as transvestism, homosexuality, and cannibalism. 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?, Rope, and Triumph of the Will.

Cult following

The film did not do well initially when released perhaps because the critics did not know what to make of it or what genre it might be placed in. Nonetheless, the film is primarily known for the cult following which developed as the film began playing at midnight, first at the Waverly Theater in New York City. People began shouting responses to the characters' statements on the screen (including abuse of the characters or actors, vulgar sex jokes, puns, or pop culture references). Casts of fans dress up as the characters and act out the movie in front of the screen. Other audience participation includes dancing the Time Warp, throwing toast, water, toilet paper, hot dogs,and rice at the appropriate points in the movie (many theaters forbid throwing things that are difficult to clean up, such as confetti or buttered toast). Audience members also use newspapers to cover their head during the There's A Light musical sequence, and use noise makers during the Unveiling of Rocky scene.

What were originally ad lib responses from the audience are now, in some locales, as tightly scripted as any screenplay, with audience members who provide "incorrect" responses angrily shouted down just as if they were being disruptive in a normal movie. There have been audience participation albums recorded and scripts published. However, most fans feel that it is preferable for responses to grow organically from the local culture. For example, the audience members in Salt Lake City have utilized frequent references to the Mormon church and Brigham Young University. In most locales, new responses are regularly added to the canon in (for example the introduction of references to Timmy, a character from South Park who first appeared in 2000).

Although the Waverly Theater is currently closed for renovations, one theater in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and The Clinton Street Theatre (http://www.clintonsttheater.com/) in Portland, Oregon, have played the movie weekly since 1978. A cinema in Munich, Germany, has been playing the movie every saturday night since about 1990. The Classic cinema in Harolds Cross, Dublin, showed the film every Friday since the late 1970s until it closed in 2003. Studio Galande in the quartier latin of Paris continues to show the film every Friday and Saturday.

Some "arthouse" cinemas will have a tradition of regularly playing the film on a particular date, such as Halloween. While the film—and associated live cast performances—are less popular than in its heyday, regular weekend showings can still be found in many states.

A "sequel" of sorts (Brad and Janet are the central characters, but played by different actors, and O'Brien, Quinn, Campbell and Gray are featured, but play different characters) to the film, called Shock Treatment, was made, but despite its appeal to cult audiences and campy nature, it has not caught on as much as the original.


  • Only Tim Curry knew about Eddie's carcass under the dining table, though Barry Bostwick can clearly be seen catching onto the references ("I'm afraid you've touched on a rather tender subject").
  • For the 25th anniversary edition, the song dubs are replaced by the 5.1 songs from the soundtrack record; Rocky is played by a completely different actor.
  • On the 25th Anniversary DVD, scroll down to Special Features (don't select it) and push left. This should highlight a pair of lips, which, when selected, will play the director's intended vision; the first 20 minutes are black and white, turning to colour when Riff Raff swings open the door, revealing Transylvanians (a la The Wizard of Oz).
  • The entire laboratory set was constructed with access only via an elevator (lift) before the team realised that Doctor Scott would need to reach it extremely quickly in a wheelchair. This is the sole reason for his appearance through a wall.
  • In the stage play, Doctor Scott does not have a German accent. Richard O'brien claims that he advised the Fox team that Tim Curry's line "or should I say Doctor Von Scott" would make no sense if everyone already knew he was German. They ignored him and the line remains one of the most baffling in the film, particularly since they left in Barry Bostwick's pun "Great Scott" (the nickname of a famous British explorer), which was originally designed to give a British theatre audience the opposite impression.
  • Fox refused permission for the backdrop of the "stage show" scene to contain the 20th Century Fox logo.
  • Susan Sarandon was unwell during the entire shooting of the film, suffering high temperatures and fever due to a severe case of Influenza.

External links

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