Forty-five years ago today, the film The Rocky Horror Picture Show premiered to mixed or unfavorable media reviews. Within three years, it has a fan club, was showing in at least 50 locations every Friday and Saturday night, attendees had memorized every line, wore costumes, and performed it throughout the theater. Another thirty years and the Library of Congress marked it for preservation due to it’s cultural significance. We first went in high school to see it at an old rundown theater. There were so many people up moving about during the film, it was such a foreign concept. Then the squirt guns, the rice, the toast. So much clever thought was used to create the experience. Walking through the halls of my beige high school on Monday morning was easier because I had experienced technicolor, I was inside it, and I knew that beige prison would not be forever. Even this morning, as I write, Google let me know where the closest showing of the film is this weekend. You should see what Google tells you…
Directed by: Jim Sharman
Produced by: Lou Adler, Michael White
Screenplay by: Richard O’Brien, Jim Sharman
Based on: The Rocky Horror Show by Richard O’Brien
Starring: Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick
Narrated by: Charles Gray
Music by: Richard Hartley
Songs: Richard O’Brien
Cinematography: Peter Suschitzky
Edited by: Graeme Clifford
Production company: Michael White Productions
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Release date: September 25, 1975
Running time: 100 minutes
Budget: $1.4 million
Box office: $140.2 million
A criminologist narrates the tale of the newly engaged couple, Brad Majors and Janet Weiss, who find themselves lost and with a flat tire on a cold and rainy late November evening, somewhere near Denton in 1974. Seeking a telephone, the couple walk to a nearby castle where they discover a group of strange and outlandish people who are holding an Annual Transylvanian Convention. They are soon swept into the world of Dr. Frank-N-Furter, a self-proclaimed “sweet transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania”. The ensemble of convention attendees also includes servants Riff Raff, his sister Magenta, and a groupie named Columbia.
In his lab, Frank claims to have discovered the “secret to life itself”. His creation, Rocky, is brought to life. The ensuing celebration is soon interrupted by Eddie (an ex-delivery boy, both Frank and Columbia’s ex-lover, as well as partial brain donor to Rocky) who rides out of a deep freeze on a motorcycle. Eddie then proceeds to seduce Columbia, get the Transylvanians dancing and singing and intrigue Brad and Janet. When Rocky starts dancing and enjoying the performance, a jealous Frank kills Eddie with a pickax. Columbia screams in horror, devastated by Eddie’s death. Frank justifies killing Eddie as a “mercy killing” to Rocky and they depart to the bridal suite.
Brad and Janet are shown to separate bedrooms, where each is visited and seduced by Frank, who poses as Brad (when visiting Janet) and then as Janet (when visiting Brad). Janet, upset and emotional, wanders off to look for Brad, who she discovers, via a television monitor, is in bed with Frank. She then discovers Rocky, cowering in his birth tank, hiding from Riff Raff, who has been tormenting him. While tending to his wounds, Janet becomes intimate with Rocky, as Magenta and Columbia watch from their bedroom monitor.
After discovering that his creation is missing, Frank returns to the lab with Brad and Riff Raff, where Frank learns that an intruder has entered the building. Brad and Janet’s old high school science teacher, Dr. Everett Scott, has come looking for his nephew, Eddie. Frank suspects that Dr. Scott investigates UFOs for the government. Upon learning of Brad and Janet’s connection to Dr. Scott, Frank suspects them of working for him; Brad denies any knowledge of it, and Dr. Scott assures Frank that Brad is totally not involved in UFOs. Frank, Dr. Scott, Brad, and Riff Raff then discover Janet and Rocky together under the sheets in Rocky’s birth tank, upsetting Frank and Brad. Magenta interrupts the reunion by sounding a massive gong and stating that dinner is prepared.
Rocky and the guests share an uncomfortable dinner, which they soon realize has been prepared from Eddie’s mutilated remains. Janet runs screaming into Rocky’s arms, provoking Frank to chase her through the halls. Janet, Brad, Dr. Scott, Rocky, and Columbia all meet in Frank’s lab, where Frank captures them with the Medusa Transducer, transforming them into nude statues. After dressing them in cabaret costume, Frank “unfreezes” them, and they perform a live cabaret floor show, complete with an RKO tower and a swimming pool, with Frank as the leader.
Riff Raff and Magenta interrupt the performance, revealing themselves and Frank to be aliens from the planet Transsexual in the galaxy of Transylvania. They stage a coup and announce a plan to return to their home planet. In the process, they kill Columbia and Frank, who has “failed his mission”. An enraged Rocky gathers Frank in his arms, climbs to the top of the tower, and plunges to his death in the pool below. Riff Raff and Magenta release Brad, Janet, and Dr. Scott, then depart by lifting off in the castle itself. The survivors are then left crawling in the dirt, and the narrator concludes that the human race is equivalent to insects crawling on the planet’s surface, “lost in time, and lost in space… and meaning”.