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Rocky Horror Picture Show, The

Entry updated 10 February 2017. Tagged: Film.

Film (1975). A Lou Adler-Michael White Production/Twentieth Century Fox. Directed by Jim Sharman. Written by Sharman, O'Brien, based on O'Brien's stage musical The Rocky Horror Show (1973). Cast includes Jonathan Adams, Barry Bostwick, Tim Curry, Charles Gray, Peter Hinwood, Meatloaf, Little Nell (Laura Campbell), Richard O'Brien, Patricia Quinn and Susan Sarandon. 101 minutes. Colour.

This UK film created little stir when first released in the USA, but by mid-1976 it was attracting large cult audiences at midnight showings; the phenomenon grew throughout most of the late 1970s. The Rocky Horror Picture Show became the cult movie of all time, with its audiences becoming part of the performance, dressed as favourite characters, singing along, shouting wisecracks at the screen, and so on. The phenomenon is analysed at length in Midnight Movies (1983) by J Hoberman and Jonathan Rosenbaum.

The film itself is not entirely mediocre – Curry's performance as transvestite Dr Frank-N-Furter from the Planet Transsexual in the Galaxy Transylvania is memorable for the energy of its polymorphous perversity, based largely on a lampooning of Mick Jagger – but it is ill paced, has some dreadful performances, and is too long. The story is about shocking the bourgeois, which is also its object; this was the era of androgynous singer David Bowie, when bisexuality, at least in personal appearance, was becoming fashionable in the more radical fringes of youth culture. Sarandon and Bostwick play the two normally dull young people seduced by the mad doctor in his gothic mansion after their car has broken down on a dark and stormy night.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show, an example of Recursive SF, begins with a song affectionately recalling the delights of early sf movies, "Science Fiction, Double Feature"; another of the better numbers is "The Time Warp", a song and dance. Sf references abound, especially to the Frankenstein Monster: the mad doctor has created an artificial man, Rocky Horror, as a sexual plaything. Eventually Frank-N-Furter is lasered down, and the Gothic mansion is warped back to its planet of origin by Riff Raff the butler (O'Brien), who turns out to be an Alien. The Rocky Horror Picture Show is notable for summing up an entire generation's attitude to sf: it is presented not as a bold facing-up to the challenges of the future but as a campy nostalgia for the luridnesses of the past. [PN]

see also: Music.


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