(director/writer: Jim Sharman; screenwriter: Richard O’Brien/from the play The Rocky Horror Show by Mr. O’Brien; cinematographer: Peter Suschitzky; editor: Graeme Clifford; music: Richard Hartley (music) & Richard O’Brien (songs); cast: Tim Curry (Dr Frank-N-Furter), Barry Bostwick (Brad Majors), Susan Sarandon (Janet Weiss), Richard O’Brien (Riff-Raff), Patricia Quinn (Magenta), Little Nell (Columbia), Peter Hinwood (Rocky Horror), Charles Gray (Criminologist), Meatloaf (Eddie), Jonathan Adams (Dr Everett Scott); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Michael White; 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment; 1975-UK)

“If that’s your kind of movie, you’re in for a real treat.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The stage musical The Rocky Horror Show premiered at the 62-seat Royal Court Studio Theatre in 1973; the cast included Nell Campbell (Columbia), Patricia Quinn (Magenta), and Tim Curry as Dr. Frank-N-Furter. On Halloween night, it moved to the 500-seat Kings Road Theatre. Proving to be a hit, the show moved to the Roxy Theatre in Los Angeles in early 1974 but was mainly ignored by the public though celebrities like Elvis started catching the show. In L.A., Curry stayed with the show, but the parts of Eddie and Dr. Scott were played by Meat Loaf.

The long-running outrageous bisexual-hipster rock musical film (1975) directed by Jim Sharman and based on the play The Rocky Horror Show by Richard O’Brien has become a staple of the pop culture scene and a one of a kind cult masterpiece. Though it started out being trashed by most movie critics and after a slow start gained popularity only when it hit the midnight circuit in NYC and it brought in a regular following of enthusiasts. According to Jim Hoberman and Jonathan Rosenbaum in their book Midnight Movies it wasn’t until 1976 at the Village’s Waverly theater did the “Rocky” phenomenon begin, when someone named Louis Farese Jr during the rainstorm scene where Susan Sarandon places a newspaper over her head, shouted out at the screen: “Buy an umbrella, you cheap bitch.” That was followed by cheerleader New York actor Sal Piro who became a regular at the Manhattan screenings and was an influential figure in encouraging members of the audience to attend dressed as characters from the film, which in large measure called for being cross-dressed in the lingerie that Curry parades around in the show. There were also people dancing in the aisles and singing along with the songs, which they knew by heart. They also brought along stage reinforcements to be used at certain points in the film – such as during the wedding scene rice is thrown, when the thunderstorm occurs audiences break out with their water pistols firing, and when the song There’s a Light is sung they wave cigarette lighters or flashlights. The film in due time attracted a substantial midnight freaky audience of young people, and eventually became an anti-mainstream event movie that earned its rep because of Curry’s energetic performance, that it delightfully spoofed underground, horror and sci-fi films, the music was easy to sing along with, and the fun-loving audience made it into a love-fest ritual.

The elaborate plot but simple theme (about sexual identity) has the squarish all-American Denton, Ohio, couple Janet Weiss (Susan Sarandon) and Brad Majors (Barry Bostwick) attend a church wedding of their good friends and Janet catches the bride’s bouquet. This encourages them to get engaged. That night the couple drive in a rainstorm to visit with their college tutor Dr Everett Scott (Jonathan Adams), but they take a wrong turn down a dark forest road and get a flat and seek help in the isolated castle of Dr Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry). He’s a transvestite hosting the annual convention of aliens from the planet of Transylvania. Instead of letting them phone, Frank insists they be his guests to witness an off-the-wall scientific experiment–the creation of the ultimate man called Rocky Horror (played by Peter Hinwood as a blonde toy boy Charles Atlas type). The mad scientist–with the help of his menacing servants the hunchbacked Riff Raff (Richard O’Brien), his crazed sister Magenta (Patricia Quinn) and a playful groupie named Columbia (Little Nell)–removes half the brain from his jilted lover Eddie (Meatloaf), a motorcycle rock singer, who returns to life briefly to sing a ditty until Frank makes him kaput with a few swings of the ax.

That night the persuasive Frank leaves the couple dressed in their undies and takes them to separate bedrooms, where he seduces both. Riff Raff keeps busy that night tormenting Rocky while he tries to sleep. The sexually awakened Janet goes to bed with Rocky, and this gets Frank’s dander up to learn about the heterosexual affair under his roof. Frank blames Riff Raff, when unexpectedly the wheelchair-bound Dr. Scott arrives to see what happened to his good-for-nothing nephew Eddie. Frank invites everyone to sit down for a feast and they unknowingly devour Eddie. The orgy continues as the decadent Frank begins to turn his guests into stone statues and then clothes them in undergarments, lingerie and garters to bring them back to life for a rousing climactic musical number. Riff Raff and Magenta return with a laser gun and assume their alien garb to destroy Frank, Columbia, and Rocky as examples of decadent art. They allow the flustered Janet, Brad and Dr. Scott to go free while the aliens beam their way back to the planet Transylvania.

If that’s your kind of movie, you’re in for a real treat.