The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1970’s)
Rocky Horror Picture Show Introduction
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (RHPS) is a 1975 film adaption of the British classic rock musical stage play written by Richard O’Brien. The movie, a parody of science fiction and “B” grade horror films, was a popular cult movie that, due to its unique allowance of audience participation during the showing of the movie, developed a tremendous following during the mid to late 1970’s. Following on the success of the stage play version, the movie carried over many of the actors from the stage production, including Tim Curry (Dr. Frank N. Furter), Little Nell (Columbia), Patricia Quinn (Magenta), and Jonathan Adams (narrator), who rose to stardom riding the waves of the Rocky Horror Picture Show mania.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show’s notoriety as the most successful midnight movie of all time was well earned. It is considered the longest running continuous release movie in film history. Since its debut in 1975, it has never been pulled by 20th Century Fox and continues to play in cinemas today with some theaters running it continuously for decades at a time.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show becomes a midnight feature
Rocky Horror Picture Show opened in the USA at the UA Theater in Westwood, Los Angeles on September 26, 1975 but its cult following did not begin until the film began its midnight run on April 1, 1976 at the Waverly Theatre (now IFC Center) in Greenwich Village in New York City. Tim Deegan, an advertising executive at 20th Century Fox, persuaded his boss to replace the midnight show at the Waverly Theater with the Rocky Horror Picture Show. The Waverly Theater already stood out as a midnight movie success with runs of El Topo and Night of The Living Dead.
When the Rocky Horror Picture Show began its run at the Waverly, Manager Denise Borden took the initiative to play the film soundtrack before the show to warm up the audience. As a result, a party atmosphere was generated with moviegoers well primed to participate in the show. Regulars took to standing in front of the screen and lip syncing the songs creating a stage show that the audiences loved. Over time, audience dialog coordinated with key events in the movie began with moviegoers booing the villains and cheering for the heroes.
Audience Participation Begins
Over time, a regular group of moviegoers began attending each midnight show. Staten Island Kindergarten teacher, Louis Farese is typically credited as the first person to yell lines at the movie. The first line she introduced was “Buy an umbrella, you cheap bitch!” which she shouted in the scene where Janet is walking in the rain to the castle.
In October of 1976, just six months after the midnight showing premiered, the Waverly Theater held a Halloween party and encouraged people to dress as characters from the movie. The idea caught on and by the end of that year, people were regularly attending the movie in full costume and talking back to the screen. By 1977, Waverly Theater audience members were bringing props such as rice, newspapers, playing cards, and water guns to the show.
Common props needed for audience participation:
Rice (thrown at Ralph and Betty’s wedding)
Water pistols (back row squirts them during rain scene)
Newspapers (for front and middle rows to shield themselves from rain)
Flashlights or cigarette lighters (“There’s a Light” verse of “Over at Frankenstein Place”)
Rubber gloves (snap them during the creation speech when Frank snaps his gloves)
Noisemakers (blow them when the Transylvanians applaud Frank’s creation)
Toilet paper (when Brad yells “Great Scott!”, throw a roll)
Confetti (at the end of the “Charles Atlas” reprise, the Transylvanians throw confetti)
Toast (when Frank proposes a toast at dinner)
Party hat (put it on when Frank puts on his hat to wish Rocky happy birthday)
Bell (“When we made it/did you hear a bell ring?”)
Cards (“Cards for sorrow/cards for pain”)
Rocky Horror Picture Show audience attendance explodes
Success of Waverly’s midnight run of the Rocky Horror Picture Show spread across the country. By 1978, it was playing in over fifty locations on Fridays and Saturdays at midnight. Waverly regulars attended many shows around the country and introduced those audience to the audience participatory dialog and required props. Electronic bulletin board systems and forums on online services discussed and published the suggested audience dialog. The Rocky Horror Picture Show was featured on the Tom Snyder Show and magazines such as Newsweek and the Rolling Stone ran features on the film and its massive following. The popularity of the show prompted theaters to add 2:00 AM shows that ran immediately after the midnight show. By 1979, there were twice weekly showings at over 230 theaters across the country. The success of the film breathed new life into the stage production and prompted a forth five performance run on Broadway. As of 2010, Rocky Horror Picture Show had taken in over $139 million dollars at U.S. box offices.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show Plot Synopsis
Rocky Horror Picture Show is narrated by criminologist Charles Gray (played by Jonathan Adams). The story begins with a newly engaged, straight laced couple, Brad Majors and Janet Weiss, driving through Denton, Ohio to see “the man who began it”, Dr. Scott, in whose high school course they first met and fell in love. As they drive, a torrential rain and bikers passing them promote a feeling of impending doom. During that rainy, late November evening, the car gets a flat tire and unfortunately there is no air in the spare tire.
Brad and Janet set out to find a phone to call for help. They walk through the rain to a nearby castle that they had passed on the way. Janet shields herself with a newspaper and sings a song telling herself that no matter how bad things get, things always will get better.
They knock on the door of the castle and Riff Raff slowly opens the door. Riff Raff explains that tonight is a special night and that a group of people are in the castle holding their annual Transylvanian Convention, a party at which Dr. Frank-N-Furter will introduce his newest creation – Rocky. This leads into the famous “The Time Warp” song during which they meet Dr. Frank-N-Furter, a sweet transvestite alient from Transsexual Transylvania, dressed in full drag. They also meet Magenta (Riff Raff’s sister and lover) and Columbia who is some sort of groupie.
Like the old Frankenstein movies, Frank found the secret to life and reveals Rocky to the group. Eddie (played by Meat Loaf) rides out of a deep freezer on a motorcycle and begins singing about his former glory. Frank, jealous that Eddie has stolen his thunder, chases Eddie and kills him with an axe.
Brad and Janet are then shown to separate bedrooms where each is visited and seduced by Frank who poses as Brad and then Janet to trick the real Brad and Janet into having sex with him. As Frank is seducing Brad, Janet sees the affair on a television monitor. Upset, she finds Rocky and helps him bandage some of his wounds. While bandaging Rocky, she realizes she is attracted to him and seduces him.
Frank finds Rocky is missing and learns that an unexpected visitor has arrived at the castle. The unexpected visitor is Dr. Everett Scott, Brad and Janet’s old high school science teacher whom they were on their way to see. Dr. Scott crashes through a wall on his entrance (the original set builders forgot to add a second door on the set so the wall crashing scene was added as an improvision). Dr. Scott has come looking for his nephew Eddie (whom Frank killed earlier with the axe). Frank finds that Brad and Janet already knew Dr. Scott and suspects that they are secretly working for him.
Rocky and the guests are served dinner which as it turns out, was prepared from Eddie’s body. In a breathtaking scene, the dining room tablecloth is pulled back to reveal Eddie’s body (the shocked look on the actors’ faces is genuine as they had not been warned beforehand as to what they were going to see). Janet runs screaming into Rocky’s arms and is chased through the castle by a jealous Frank.
They all end up in Frank’s lab where Frank uses his “Medusa Transducer” to transform them into living statues. They are then forced to perform a live cabaret show. The cabaret show performance is interrupted by Riff Raff and Magenta who announce that they have developed a secret plan to return to the planet of Transsexual in the galaxy of Transylvania. They reveal that feel Frank has become too evil and that he is not welcome to accompany them. In the process, they kill Columbia, Rocky, and Frank. They release Brad, Janet, and Dr. Scott and then depart the planet by lifting off in the castle itself.
The narrator concludes with “And crawling… on the planet’s face… some insects… called the human race. Lost in time… and lost in space…. and in meaning.”
Production and Filming of the Rocky Horror Picture Show
The production budget for the Rocky Horror Picture Show was initially set at $1.2 million dollars. As the stage production was a classic rock show, the studio insisted that producers cast popular musicians of the day for the parts but Sharman insisted on using the original stage play cast and as a compromise, accepted a smaller budget. The film version was to include several ideas that were cut due to budget constraints. For instance, it was originally designed to being with 20 minutes of black and white footage that would reveal shots in full color as the castle doors burst open to reveal Frank’s entrance.
Sharman did agree to cast Americans in the roles of Brad and Janet though and hence, Susan Sarandon as Janet and Barry Bostwich as Brad (Steve Martin also auditioned for the part) were the only Americans in lead roles in the movie. Tim Curry was cast in the starring role of Dr. Frank-N-Furter (much to the dismay of Mick Jagger who had also expressed an interest in the role).
The Rocky Horror Picture Show movie was shot at Bray Studios and Oakley Court, a country house in Berkshire. At the time, Oakley Court, which had been built in 1859, was in a very dilapidated condition (it has since been refurbished and is now a hotel) which proved perfect for horror movies. Oakley Court has been used previously for several Hammer productions including The House in Nightmare Park (1977), the Reptile (1966), The Brides of Dracula (1960), and Man in Black (1949).
Hammer Productions, who specialized in the horror genre of movies, had many props available from other movies that were used in Rocky Horror Picture Show. The tank and dummy in the Rocky creation scene had been used previously in Hammer’s production of The Revenge of Frankenstein (starring Peter Cushing).
The Rocky Horror Picture Show film began shooting on October 21, 1974 and wrapped up shooting on December 19, 1974.
Additional Rocky Horror Picture Show Tools
Rocky Horror Picture Show participants can use this Rocky Horror Picture Show audience participation script to follow along with the movie.
The soundtrack was released as The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Music From The Motion Picture in 1975. Here are the music song lyrics to all of the songs on the Rocky Horror Picture Show soundtrack. The soundtrack contained the tracks:
No. Title Performer Length
1. “Science Fiction/Double Feature” Richard O’Brien 4:30
2. “Dammit Janet” Barry Bostwick, Susan Sarandon 2:51
3. “Over at the Frankenstein Place” Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick 2:37
4. “Time Warp” Richard O’Brien, Patricia Quinn, Little Nell 3:15
5. “Sweet Transvestite” Tim Curry 3:21
6. “I Can Make You a Man” Tim Curry 2:07
7. “Hot Patootie – Bless My Soul” Meat Loaf 3:00
8. “I Can Make You a Man (Reprise)” Tim Curry 1:44
No. Title Performer Length
1. “Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me” Susan Sarandon 2:27
2. “Eddie” Jonathan Adams 2:44
3. “Floor Show”:
a. “Rose Tint My World”
b. “Fanfare/Don’t Dream It”
c. “Wild and Untamed Thing” Tim Curry, Little Neil, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick, Peter Hinwood 8:13
4. “I’m Going Home” Tim Curry 2:48
5. “Super Heroes” Barry Bostwick, Susan Sarandon 2:45
6. “Science Fiction/Double Feature (Reprise)” Richard O’Brien 1:26