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Rocky Horror Picture Show: The Cult Film That Will Never Die

Editor Picks | October 9, 2017

Tim Curry as Dr. Frank N. Furter in 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show.' Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a cult movie that outgrew the term. This horror-film satire, starring Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick and Meatloaf, gained a huge following and was shown all over the country as a "midnight movie" -- and is still shown today. The story of mad Transylvanian transvestite Dr. Frank N. Furter, complete with rollicking rock soundtrack, is an American institution.

When The Rocky Horror Picture Show, a British-American film, premiered in 1975, it wasn't a huge hit. In fact, due to poor ticket sales, its run was cut short, and plans for a Halloween screening in New York City were canceled. Then a second poster -- featuring a pair of lips and touting "a different set of jaws" -- was produced, and Fox studio was able to convince theaters to screen the film in the emerging midnight movie category. There, it thrived.

This crazy film was intended to be a satirical take on low budget horror and old science fiction films dating back to the 1930’s. The film opened with a huge pair of red lips singing about that very genre of films, poking fun of their evolution.

The Movie Intentionally Deals In Horror Film Cliches

The film begins with recently engaged Brad Majors (Barry Bostwick) and Janet Weiss (Susan Sarandon) out driving on a cold, rainy night with the misfortune of getting lost; and on top of that, they discover that they have a flat tire. While they set out on foot to find a phone to call for help, they come across a creepy castle belonging to the zany scientist, Dr. Frank N. Furter (Tim Curry). With no other choice, they approach the castle only to discover that Dr. Frank is hosting his annual Transylvanian Convention. The attendees are a bit eccentric, so say the least.  

The Film Puts Taboo Subjects Front-And-Center

Dr. Frank N. Furter introduces himself as a "sweet transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania." Attendees of the convention include Riff Raff (Richard O’Brien), Magenta (Patricia Quinn), and Riff Raff’s sister and a kooky groupie named Columbia (Nell Campbell).

Dr. Frank then declares that he's about to unveil the “secret to life itself!” He has used his outlandish talents to create a man that he brought to life, Rocky Horror (Peter Hinwood). After the unveiling of Rocky, a celebration takes place, but it's promptly crashed by Eddie (Meatloaf). Eddie is a former delivery boy and an ex-lover to both Dr. Frank and Columbia. As if that wasn’t bizarre enough, Eddie also donated half of his brain to contribute to the creation of Rocky.  

Everybody' Seducing Everybody Else

Ironically, Rocky is afraid of his creator, Dr. Frank. The good Dr. attempts to seduce Rocky and is flatly rejected. Actually, there is a lot of seducing going on as the celebration gets underway; including Eddie playing up to Columbia, his ex. Unfortunately, Brad and Janet are caught in the middle of this craziness and are left with no choice but to take it all in. When Dr. Frank catches sight of Rocky enjoying the seductive scenery and his newfound life, he becomes enraged with jealousy and kills Eddie. The film then shows Dr. Frank and Rocky going off together.

The film just continued to get more bizarre as Dr. Frank seduced both Brad and Janet in their separate bedrooms. Dr. Everette Scott (Jonathan Adams), Eddie’s uncle and rival to Dr. Frank showed up looking for his nephew. Coincidentally, Dr. Scott was a former teacher to both Brad and Janet leaving Dr. Frank suspicious and paranoid of their connection.

From Horror To Science Fiction

Dinner is served after the surprising discovery of Janet and Rocky enjoying some alone time between the sheets, upsetting Dr. Frank and Brad. Think dinner couldn’t have gotten more awkward? Well, it did just that after it is revealed that Eddie, although dead, is joining them for dinner -- as the main course. Everyone runs in horror and disgust from the dinner table and ends up in Dr. Frank’s laboratory, where they are turned into nude statues and re-dressed in cabaret garb. When they are unfrozen, Dr. Frank has them all perform a cabaret show.

The cabaret show is suddenly interrupted by Riff Raff and Magenta, who declare that they are actually aliens sent from Transsexual, and proceed to kill Columbia and Dr. Frank because he had failed his mission. Rocky is so distraught that he climbs to the top of the castle’s tower and jumps to his death. The film concludes with Brad, Janet and Dr. Scott being the only ones spared and are left to pick up and carry on. Charles Gray, the narrator of the film, ends by stating that the human race is equivalent to nothing more than insects, who are "lost in time, and lost in space... and meaning.”

Midnight Movie Audiences Went Wild For It

The plot itself was beyond anything we had seen on the big screen before. It was like a train wreck though… we just couldn’t look away. Similarly, the costumes were so outrageous that audiences just marveled at them! Before long, The Rocky Horror Picture Show became synonymous with the "midnight movie" concept, showing at midnight in cities all across the U.S. Audiences were so enthralled that they began attending the movie dressed “in costume” and began inserting themselves into the show. People would actually talk back to the picture screen and role play as if they were part of the cast.

Interestingly, costumes from the film gained a lot of attention and contributed to the evolution of punk rock fashion. Punk rockers mimicked the outrageous trends like the unconventional makeup, mismatched clothing, ripped fishnet stockings and unusually styled and dyed hair.

The Longest Running Theatrical Release Of All Time

In 2005, the film was chosen for preservation in the United States National Film Registry and is known as the longest running theatrical release in film history. The Rocky Horror Picture Show is one of those works that took on a life of its own. It boasted, and continues to boast, an international following. Almost 50 years later, the film is still well known and shown today.

Tags: Barry Bostwick | Movies In The 1970s | Susan Sarandon | The Rocky Horror Picture Show | Tim Curry

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Rebeka Knott

Writer

Rebeka grew up in the 1960’s & 1970’s and has always subscribed to the theory that a positive attitude will take you far! She is a wife and mother of 3 with a fun-loving spirit, believing that family and relationships are invaluable.