Howdy all you Supercultists out there on the interwebz! I’m Bad Movie Professor Cameron Coker (BS in “Transexual Transylvania” with a minor in “Literal Easter Eggs”) and I’ll be posting my hype-tacular speeches every week along with some long lost speeches from past Supercult Shows!
This week Supercult does the Time Warp again at the Rocky Horror Picture Show!
Newly engaged couple Brad Majors and Janet Weiss find themselves lost on a cold and rainy night. When they seek a telephone at a nearby castle, they are swept up by the self-proclaimed “sweet transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania,” Dr. Frank N. Furter and his (or is it her?) outlandish entourage. Can our innocent motorists escape the clutches of the Doctor, his cohorts Riff Raff, Magenta, and Columbia, or will they give themselves over to absolute pleasure at the Rocky Horror Picture Show?
The Rocky Picture Show began in the 1970’s as a musical stage play by Richard O’Brien, an unemployed actor in London. He wrote most of it during one winter just to occupy himself and he filled the story with parodies and homages to what he loved: the unintentional humor of B sci-fi and horror movies, schlocky Steve Reeves muscle flicks like Hercules Unchained and the Last Days of Pompeii, and, of course, rock and roll.
After finishing the script with Australian director Jim Sharman under the working title “They Came from Denton High”, the pair gathered a crew that included production designer Brian Thomson, costume designer Sue Blane, musical director Richard Harley, and stage producer Michael White. The original London stage cast included Tim Curry as Dr. Frank N. Furter, Richard O’Brien himself as Riff Raff, Patricia Quinn as Magenta, and Nell Campbell as Columbia.
Shortly after its premier on Broadway in 1975, the musical was remade as a feature film. In the film adaptation Susan Sarandon plays Janet Weiss, Barry Bostwick is Brad Majors, Peter Hinwood is Rocky Horror, Charles Gray is The Criminologist, and American Rock-and-Roll musician Michael Lee Aday, better known by his stage name Meat Loaf plays Eddie. Rocky Horror was actually Tim Curry’s feature film debut and he would go on to become a well renowned film and voice actor
For the film producers chose Pierre La Roche, who had previously been a make-up artist for Mick Jagger and David Bowie, to redesign the make-up for each character and create the signature look for Frank N. Furter. However, much of the original costume and set design was kept. Designer Sue Blane said that many of the costumes were reused from the stage production and from other horror productions from the past (the tank and dummy used for Rocky’s birth originally appeared in “The Revenge of Frankenstein” (1958) for instance) while some, like Columbia’s gold sequined swallow-tail coat and top had and Magenta’s maid uniform were new for the film. Blane also admitted that she did not conduct any research for her designs and had never seen a science fiction film before working on Rocky Horror. However, Rocky Horror’s design has directly influenced the look of the punk music scene, especially in the use of ripped fishnet stockings, glitter, and colored hair!
Rocky Horror was made on an incredibly low budget of just $1.2 million. The studio originally offered a much larger budget to Jim Sharman for the film, on the condition that he cast popular musicians of the day such as Mick Jagger for the Role of Dr. Frank N Furter. Sharman insisted upon using the original cast, so as a compromise, he accepted a much smaller budget and agreed to cast American actors in the roles of Brad and Janet. The film was shot at Bray Studios and Oakley Court, a country house in Berkshire England that was used in numerous Hammer horror films including The Brides of Dracula (1960), The Reptile (1966), and The House in Nightmare Park (1973). At the time of filming the manor was is poor condition and since filming took place in the winter and the castle leaked the cast was constantly cold and wet. There was one “warm room” filled with space heaters that cast members took turns warming…up in until the room caught on fire.
If you’re looking for Easter eggs there are plenty, both figurative and literal! Genuine Easter eggs can be seen throughout the movie, in a light fixture, in an elevator scene, and even under Frank’s throne. The film crew had had an Easter egg hunt and not all were found. Thus they ended up in a few scenes. The set builders forgot to put an extra door in the lab set, thus Dr. Scott had to crash through the wall for his entrance. When Barry Bostwick pounds his fist on the table during the dinner scene he accidentally pounded on the hand of Susan Sarandon. The reaction from Sarandon is prominent and real. She got her revenge by (accidentally) stepping on Bostwick’s foot with her spike heel during the Floor Show scene. His reaction is also visible. The film’s perfectly sets the tone of an androgynous and over the top B-movie extravaganza by opening with disembodied female lips overdubbed with a male voice, singing the opening song, “Science Fiction/Double Feature”, which references sci-fi and horror films of the past. Rocky Horror creator, Richard O’Brien who plays Riff Raff, sings the song while the lips themselves belong to Patricia Quinn who plays Magenta. As for the green surgical gown that Dr. Frank N. Furter wears, a pink triangle is visible over his heart. A downward-pointing triangle was originally used by the Nazis in concentration camps to denote that the wearer was a gay man. However, the upward pointing pink triangle is often used as a symbol of gay pride.
The finished film released in 1975 in the UK and the United States in eight cities and bombed in all but one. Meat Loaf said he attended an opening week performance with director Jim Sharman in the Midwest where the theater was empty except for them. Critics panned the film calling the campy hijinks labored and saying that the film lacked both charm and dramatic impact. In 1978 Newsweek called the film “tasteless, plotless and pointless”. Even Roger Ebert noted that when first released, the Rocky Horror Picture Show was “ignored by pretty much everyone, including the future fanatics who would eventually count the hundreds of times they’d seen it.”
It wasn’t until an executive was able to talk distributors into midnight screenings, starting in New York on April Fools’ Day in 1976, that the Rocky Horror Picture Show cult following really took off. In the beginning many attendees would dress up or even get into the theatre free if they arrived in costume, but before long every screening of the film was accompanied by a live fan cast mirroring the film in front of the screen and had audiences participating with call outs and props. Typical props include bubbles or rice for the wedding scenes, newspapers and squirt bottles for when the protagonists are walking through the rain, rubber gloves to snap in sync with the doctor, party hats and unbuttered toast to throw during the birthday toast, a bell to ring when Frank sings “Did you hear a bell ring?” during the song “Planet Schmanet Janet”, a roll of Scott brand toilet paper for when Brad yells, “Great Scott!” and playing cards to toss when Frank sings “Cards for sorrow, cards for pain” during his song “I’m going Home.” Though there are entire audience scripts that you can download online and memorize filled with meticulously timed callbacks, some of the easiest to remember for RHPS Virgins is that whenever you hear someone say the full name Brad Majors, simply yell “ASSHOLE!” and when Janet is introduced or appears in a scene, yell “SLUT!”
Rocky Horror has been featured in a number of other feature films and TV series over the years including episodes of Glee, That 70s Show, Vice Squad, Halloween II, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Tim Curry has said that he got to meet Prince Charles and Princess Diana because the princess had loved him in the role. Curry remembers Princess Diana telling him with a “wicked smile,” that Rocky Horror had “quite completed by education.” Roger Ebert considered Rocky Horror more of a “long-running social phenomenon” than a movie, rating it 2.5 out of 4 stars while the BBC summarized that “for those willing to experiment with something a little bit different, a little bit outré, The Rocky Horror Picture Show has a lot to offer.” In 1975 Mick Brown of Sounds simply said, “Miss it if you dare,” and in 2005, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
Rocky Horror Picture Show has a 7.4 on IMDB and a 79% on Rotten Tomatoes. The film is now considered to be the longest-running release in film history, opening in 1975 and continuing to play in theatres today. It’s a wild and crazy, action-packed, laugh riot filled with sex, gorgeous gals, thrills and chills, Transylvanian parties, romance, and the occasional catchy musical number!
It’s just a jump to the left Supercultists!
The Supercult Show is proud to present, in collaboration with VIZ Movie Night, The Rocky Horror Picture Show!