Few “B” movies have ever enjoyed the cult-like following that continues to surround The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Released in 1975, part musical, part horror flick (with a good dose of retro science fiction thrown in), it is a film that might have been quickly forgotten had midnight theater audiences not embraced it with their hearts and made it their own. But they did – and for decades now, generations of young people have made a late-night viewing of the film a rite of passage, and in some cases, a lifestyle. Let’s take a look back.
The film’s premise is simple. Brad and Janet (Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon,) a recently-engaged couple, become stranded on the side of the road during a rainstorm. Conveniently, there is a castle close by, one ominously guarded by sign that warns, “Enter at your own risk.” But when has that ever stopped anyone in a movie? It turns out that this isn’t your ordinary spooky, vampire-ridden castle though; no, these occupants are far more colorful and campy than that. The head of the household is an evil, yet charming, transvestite named Dr. Frank-N-Furter, ably assisted by the sinister butler Riff-Raff and the lovely maid Magenta.
The mad doctor is, of course, a busy man, what with his obsessively building a scantily-clad boy toy named Rocky and hosting the Annual Transylvania Convention at his home. Still, he has time to be the cordial host to the unlucky couple and extends an invitation for them to stay the night. As the evening progresses, things get decidedly stranger, filled with one bizarre encounter after another and a few shocking revelations (along with plenty of song and dance). Before long, it becomes evident that Brad and Janet will be lucky to escape the bizarre surroundings with their lives.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show was based on the British stage show, The Rocky Horror Show, both of which were the brainchild of Richard O’Brien who also portrayed “Riff-Raff” in the film. He not only wrote the original play and the eventual screenplay, but also composed all of the delightfully catchy songs. Tim Curry played the good doctor Frank-N-Furter, and singer Meatloaf enjoyed a memorable cameo as the motorcycle-riding thug, Eddie.
Sadly, the film didn’t live up to expectations during its initial run, but that would change dramatically in the years that followed. The movie began being shown at midnight in New York City on the weekends and what resulted caught everyone off guard. The film began developing a rabid underground following – who not only showed up weekly to view the film, but soon began interacting with it. They talked back to the screen, creating a witty sub-dialog, acted out scenes at the front of the theater in sync with the film, and also equipped themselves with various props, such as water pistols (for the thunderstorm scene), bags of rice (for the wedding scene) and other various supplies such as toast and toilet paper (we’ll leave it up to your imagination as to what those were used for).
This rabid and fiercely loyal following continues to grow worldwide, some 35 years after the film’s release. If you live near a decent-sized metropolitan area, there is a good chance that there may still be a midnight showing on the weekends. You may even have to wait in line amidst a group of enthusiastic fans, dressed to the hilt and ready to party! It’s an experience for which mere words don’t do justice; you have to be a part of the festivities to get the big picture.
If you happen to have spent many a weekend watching this beloved “B” movie, if you can still recite the lines and if you still remember some of the dance moves, we would love to hear your memories in our comments section. Share what you fondly remember most about the experience as we tip our hats to this iconic film – one that continues to make new fans to this day.