What makes a musical movie great? It is usually the soundtrack, the actors and actresses, and how it connects to its audience. The Rocky Horror Picture Show has all of these qualities in spades. It has all the right ingredients for a great musical: beautiful starlets, talented singers, and an unforgettable soundtrack. The film stars Tim Curry, Barry Bostwick, Susan Sarandon, Richard O’Brien, Jonathan Adams, Nell Campbell, Peter Hinwood, Patricia Quinn, Charles Gray, Jeremy Newson, and Hilary Farr.
This movie is a cult classic, owing to its quirky characters and cultural phenomenon. It has been a favorite of theatergoers and home viewers for many years. Tim Curry shines as Dr. Frank N Furter, everyone’s favorite Sweet Transvestite from Transexual Transylvania. From 1975-2021, RHPS has become one of the highest-grossing musical films ever. It is currently ranked 78% on Rotten Tomatoes and is “Certified Fresh.” As part of a brand new series, we will explore some of our all-time favorite movie musicals. Where better to start than The Rocky Horror Picture Show?
What’s Rocky Horror Picture Show About?
There’s A Light…
The Rocky Horror Picture Show tells the story of two sweethearts Brad and Janet, a newly engaged couple who find themselves stranded in an eerie castle on a stormy night after seeking help due to a flat tire. Approaching the nearby court under heavy rain, Brad and Janet meet a creepy butler named Riff Raff, and they enter the eerie mansion unaware of their impending fate.
As they wait to use a phone, they encounter Riff Raff’s sister Magenta and the rest of the Transylvanians. The wild characters perform a sequence of elaborate dances called the Time Warp. The pelvic thrust truly drives audiences insane, setting up Brad and Janet’s journey of sexual liberation. It is then that Brad and Janet meet Dr. Frank-N Furter, their host, a mysterious man with an impeccable fashion sense. As they get comfortable with the new surroundings, they discover more than meets the eye is going on at this place.
X Furter, Will Build A Creature…
While eager to find their way out, the newly engaged couple follows Dr. Frank N Furter around the mansion, learning more about his plans. Following the mad scientist to his lab, they watch in shock as Frank N Furter unveils his latest creation, a creature in a birth tank named Rocky. Rocky emerges from his birth tank and runs around Furter’s lab before his joy is interrupted by Eddie, an ex-delivery boy and a rocking biker. Eddie emerges from where he was cryogenically frozen and sings about his love of rock n’ roll before being viciously murdered by Frank N Furter. Brad and Janet are escorted into a bridal suite and given separate bedrooms. They are then seduced by Frank n Furter (who poses as Brad/Janet), and while initially opposed to the idea, surrender their absolute pleasure to the Dr., betraying their relationship and putting their loyalty to the test.
Don’t Dream It, Be It…
Later, rival scientist Dr. Everett Scott visits the mansion looking for Eddie, his nephew. From there, both Brad, Everett, and Janet all succumb to the dangers of Dr. Frank N Furter. Frozen as statues, they are brought to the manor’s theater, where they perform a final dramatic number concluding with Furter in a Swimming Pool. Both Riff Raff and Magenta, enraged that Frank N Furter has failed the mission, declare themselves in charge and announce their intentions to return to their home planet of Transexual. The siblings shoot the Dr, and our protagonists escape the mansion as it lifts off into outer space, forever changed from their experience.
This movie is full of campy humor, catchy rock songs, and over-the-top acting. It’s no wonder that it has become such a cult classic over the years.
History Of The Rocky Horror Picture Show
A script by Richard O’Brien
Like many excellent musicals turned movies, the Rocky Horror Picture Show began as a modest stage show. The show debuted in 1973 at the “Upstairs at the Royal Court Theatre” in Chelsea, London, and seated only 60 people. However, It did not stay there for long. As reviews of the play spread, it would move on to larger theaters such as the 500-seat Kings Road Theatre, where it stayed for six years.
This contemporary cult classic is the brainchild of Richard O’Brien (who plays Riff Raff). A fan of sci-fi, horror films, and b-movies, Richard set out to blend B-movies’ corniness and unintended humor with the cheese of Steve Reeves muscle flicks and good old-fashioned 1950s rock ‘n’ roll. Richard wrote the early bones of Rocky Horror, with the original title being They Came From Denton High. Presenting an early copy of the script, Jim Sherman was chosen to direct the production, and together they got started on bringing this masterpiece to the stage. The production would change its name to The Rocky Horror Show before previews began.
Becoming a Film
It wouldn’t take long for the movie to be adapted into a film or head stateside. Producer Lou Adler acquired the US theatrical rights after seeing the production in London in 1973. The musical debuted in Los Angeles, California, in 1974 and would eventually be performed in other cities. The Rocky Horror Show would have its first Broadway performance at the 1,000-seat Belasco Theatre in 1975. Tim Curry, Little Nell, Patricia Quinn, and writer Richard O’Brien of the original cast would all reprise their roles from the stage production for this film. At the urging of 20th Century FOX, American actors Barry Bostwick and Susan Saradon would be cast as Brad Majors and Janet Weiss, respectively. Production, on the other hand, would not be easy. Susan would become ill with pneumonia due to the conditions on location.
The film’s initial release date was August 14th, 1975, at the Rialto Theatre, with a US release in September at the UA Westwood in Los Angeles. Initially, the film did not do well. Fox pulled multiple showings in many cities due to small audiences. It was released three times (with the second release around college campuses) before finally obtaining the cult status it deserves.
It wasn’t until Fox executive Tim Deegan proposed midnight showings of the film that The Rocky Horror Picture Show found its following. Since then, FOX has never pulled the movie from theatres, and it is considered the longest-running film release in history. It is still in theatres today and is traditionally accompanied by live fan casts and audience participation (“SAY IT!”) during every show.
The Music in Rocky Horror Picture Show
One of the best things about The Rocky Horror Picture Show is its fantastic soundtrack. Not only did Richard O’Brien craft an incredible script full of memorable one-liners, star in both the theater and film production, but he also wrote every song. This just speaks to the absolute genius of Richard that he was able to craft songs that are still so memorable after all this time. The songs are catchy and upbeat, and they perfectly fit with the crazy plot of the movie. Some of our favorite tracks include “Science Fiction/Double Feature,” “Sweet Transvestite”, “Time Warp,” “Wild and Untamed Thing,” “Planet Schmanet, Janet,” “Hot Patootie – Bless My Soul.”
The entire soundtrack (courtesy of Wikipedia) is below and can be purchased on Amazon.
- “Science Fiction/Double Feature” – The Lips (those of Patricia Quinn; voice of Richard O’Brien)
- “Dammit Janet” – Brad, Janet, and Chorus
- “There’s a Light (Over at the Frankenstein Place)” – Janet, Brad, Riff Raff, and Chorus
- “The Time Warp” – Riff Raff, Magenta, The Criminologist, Columbia, and Transylvanians
- “Sweet Transvestite” – Frank
- “The Sword of Damocles” – Rocky and Transylvanians
- “I Can Make You a Man” – Frank with Brad, Janet, Riff Raff, Magenta, and Columbia
- “Hot Patootie – Bless My Soul” – Eddie and Transylvanians
- “I Can Make You a Man (Reprise)” – Frank, Janet, and Transylvanians
- “Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me” – Janet with Magenta, Columbia, Rocky, Brad, Frank, and Riff Raff
- “Once in a While” (deleted scene) – Brad
- “Eddie” – Dr. Scott, The Criminologist, Janet, Columbia, Frank, Rocky, Brad, Riff Raff, and Magenta
- “Planet Schmanet Janet (Wise Up Janet Weiss)” – Frank
- “Planet Hot Dog” – Janet, Brad, and Dr. Scott
- “Rose Tint My World” – Columbia, Rocky, Janet, and Brad
- “Fanfare/Don’t Dream It, Be It” – Frank with Brad, Janet, Rocky, and Columbia
- “Wild and Untamed Thing” – Frank with Brad, Janet, Rocky, Columbia, and Riff Raff
- “I’m Going Home” – Frank and Chorus
- “The Time Warp (Reprise)” – Riff Raff and Magenta
- “Super Heroes” (only present in the original UK release) – Brad, Janet, and Chorus
- “Science Fiction/Double Feature (Reprise)” – The Lips
Who Plays What in Rocky Horror Picture Show?
The cast of The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a star-studded affair and features many actors, actresses, and musicians that would go on to have substantial careers of their own. The film stars Tim Curry as the deliciously evil Dr. Frank-N Furter, Susan Sarandon as Janet, Barry Bostwick as Brad, Meat Loaf as Eddie, and Patricia Quinn as Magenta. There are also appearances by Charles Gray among others.
Tim Curry as Dr. Frank-N-Furter
Susan Sarandon as Janet Weiss
Barry Bostwick as Brad Majors
Richard O’Brien as Riff Raff (Butler)
Patricia Quinn as Magenta (Maid)
Nell Campbell (credited as Little Nell) as Columbia
Jonathan Adams as Dr. Everett V. Scott
Peter Hinwood as Rocky, Frank N Furter’s creature
Meat Loaf as Eddie, an ex-delivery boy
Charles Gray as the Criminologist
Jeremy Newson as Ralph Hapschatt
Hilary Farr (credited as Hilary Labow) as Betty Munroe
The Fans Of Rocky Horror Picture Show
The Rocky Horror Picture Show fans are just as much a part of the film’s success today, if not more so. One example is “shadow casts.” Coined as a phrase in the 1980s in response to the performers who acted along with midnight screenings, a shadow cast performs live along with screenings of RHPS at midnight shows.
In addition to these simultaneous performances, the crowd will often participate as well, throwing rice at the screen during the Wedding scene, firing water pistols when it’s raining, or holding newspapers above their head like Janet does during There’s a Light, or using a lighter every time she sings there’s a light. Other fun interactions involve fans throwing Scott toilet paper when Brad says “Great Scott!”, holding up signs that spell “J-A-N-E-T” during Brad’s spelling of her name during the song “Damnit, Janet!” doing the actual Time Warp during the music and much more.
If you want to play along and have fun at a future show or even at home, there is a sample Audience Participation script here.
How to Watch The Rocky Horror Picture Show
If you want to watch The Rocky Horror Picture Show at home, there are a few ways to do it. You can buy the DVD or Blu-ray of the movie or stream it on Amazon Prime and Hulu. It is also available to purchase super cheap on Amazon Prime Video ($4.99).
If you want to have some real fun, check out the Official The Rocky Horror website to find a showing near you.
Did The Rocky Horror Picture Show ever get a sequel?
Shock Treatment is the sequel to The Rocky Horror Picture Show. It was directed by Jim Sharman, who co-wrote the sequel with Richard O’Brien. In contrast, it does not follow from where The Rocky Horror Picture Show left off. Instead, it has an entirely different storyline (with many returning characters played by other actors). This time around, Brad and Janet were played by Cliff DeYoung and Jessica Harper, respectively.
The film was released on October 30th, 1981. Shock Treatment did not receive good reviews and was widely considered a critical and commercial failure. Later, writer Richard O’Brien would even condemn his film, calling it “an abortion.” While a cult following has since risen around the film, and contemporary reviews are now kinder in retrospect, the movie is still nowhere near the fame and status of its predecessor.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again is a television event, which aired on FOX in 2016. The musical remake stars Victoria Justice (Janet Weiss), Ryan McCartan (Brad Majors), and Laverne Cox (Dr. Frank-N-Furter). It was produced by Kenny Ortega and aired on October 20th, 2016.
Although Laverne Cox was given massive acclaim for her performance as Dr. Frank N Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the rest of the program did not fare nearly as well. Many film critics felt that the program missed an opportunity by concentrating too much on the oddness of the original movie without acknowledging its campy nature. They also felt that, because it was pre-recorded, it would have benefited from being live instead. Currently, the special sits at 55% on Metacritic, indicating mixed or average reviews overall.
The Rocky Horror Musical Livestream Event – 2020
In 2020, in a Livestream to benefit the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, Tim Curry reprised his role as Dr. Frank N Furter along with some of his original castmates (Barry Bostwick, Nell Campbell). This was a one-time-only event and is currently available to watch on YouTube for those who missed it.
What happened to the cast of Rocky Horror after the movie?
Some of the cast members of The Rocky Horror Picture Show went on to have very successful careers.
Tim Curry is perhaps most recognized as Dr. Frank-N Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Still, after his start in the stage production and the film, he went on to have a successful career both in television and film, appearing in movies such as Annie (1982), Clue (1985), Legend (1985), and IT (1990). Although not a ‘classic’ by any means, we even love his appearance in Scary Movie 2 as it’s just classic Curry. He also dipped his toes into voice acting by voicing Dr. Nigel Thornberry in The Wild Thornberries.
Given his fantastic singing voice, it should be no surprise that he recorded music. He recorded three LPs after leaving Rocky Horror: Read My Lips (1978), Fearless (1979), and Simplicity (1981). In addition, he had two songs chart in the United States, “I Do The Rock” and “Paradise.”
In 2012, Tim Curry had a massive stroke, which has limited his public appearances significantly. However, years of physical and speech therapy have allowed him to make a decent recovery, with Tim’s speech having improved considerably since then. Today, Tim specializes in voice acting work.
Susan Sarandon made quite a name for herself after Rocky Horror. Since The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Susan has starred in several critically acclaimed movies. Some examples are Atlantic City (1980), The Player (1992), Little Woman (1994), Dead Man Walking (1995), among others. She has won numerous awards, including an Oscar and Screen Actors Guild award for Dead Man Walking. She also received a BAFTA award in 1994 for The Client.
Sarandon is very active in supporting progressive and left-wing causes. She was appointed as a UNICEF Global Ambassador in 1999 and spoke out in protest of the Iraq War. Susan endorsed Bernie Sanders in 2016 and was against the nomination of Hillary Clinton. She has been involved in Occupy Wall Street protests, even getting arrested during a Women Disobey protest in 2018.
Meat Loaf/Michael Lee Aday (born Marvin Lee Aday) is a singer and actor who has released many albums over his career. He is most well known for his 1977 album Bat Out of Hell, which sold more than 43 million copies worldwide. Meat Loaf has also starred in several movies, including Fight Club (1999), and he appeared on the reality show “Celebrity Apprentice” in 2012. This year, he announced plans to return to the studio in 2022 to record music for a new album.
Meat Loaf’s experience on the set of Rocky Horror was also not as positive as some of the other cast members. During filming he fell off a ramp on set, destroying a camera in the process. This resulted in several cuts to his face and arm.
Since appearing in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Barry Bostwick has starred in several TV shows and movies, including Spin City, Law And Order: Special Victims Unit, and Cougar Town. In 2020 he reprised his role as Brad Majors alongside Tim Curry for a Livestream benefitting the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.
After Rocky Horror, Richard O’Brien went on to write other musicals, including T. Zee (1976), Disaster (1978), Shock Treatment (1981), The Stripper (1982), and Top People (1984). He has had a successful career as a television presenter (The Crystal Maze), Voice Actor (Lawrence Fletcher on Phineas and Ferb), and actor. Some of his movie roles since Rocky Horror are Dark City, Dungeons & Dragons, and Jackboots on Whitehall.
And crawling on the planet’s face, some insects called the human race…
The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a film that continues to be loved and supported by its fans, new and old. For over 40 years since its release date, Rocky Horror inspired legions of dedicated fans. I’ve personally seen the movie more than a dozen times, including once while working on this article. The film’s popularity can be attributed to many things, including midnight screenings which created an entire culture around this classic – to the career-launching performance by Tim Curry. Rocky Horror continues to endure today with its brilliant sendoff of science fiction and b-movie horror films. If you’re a massive fan of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, let us know what this movie means to you in the comments.