In light of FOX’s Rocky Horror Picture Show TV movie coming to Sky on Friday 28th October (if you’re in the UK), I wanted to write about the history of the show, both on stage and screen. Including whether or not I am onboard with creating a remake. Personally, I first watched The Rocky Horror Show in Blackpool on stage when I was 14-years-old in 2007. It was amazing. Unlike anything I had ever seen. I loved the mix of movie references, the costumes, the space themes and the hilarious audience participation. My mum probably won’t believe she let me see it at that age, but my ridiculously good memory never lies! From that show, we were hooked.
And nothing… will ever be the same…
The Rocky Horror Show
For those of you not in the know, The Rocky Horror Show is a musical that exists in both theatrical and cinematic form. The story is about a straight-laced American couple, Brad and Janet, who recently became engaged. They met in science class, so decide (for no reason that makes sense) to go and visit their science teacher, Dr. Scott. On the way, they encounter a flat tire in the middle of a secluded woodland during a thunderstorm. They recall a castle they passed back down the road and wonder if there’s a telephone there they might use. However, they don’t know that upon entering the castle, their lives will never be the same again.
What lies within that castle is a scientific experiment that defies any earthly understanding. A community of people that are barely of this world. More specifically, a Transvestite from the planet of Transylvania (Dr frank-N-furter), along with a brother (Riff Raff) and sister (Magenta) who are also natives. Columbia is a cute redhead who was charmed by Dr Frank-N-Furter, and yet even though she is no longer the object of his affection, she stays in the castle with new life she is accustomed to. Brad and Janet get to see the new experiment come to life and learn more about themselves, the world and their sexualities in this one night than any other time in their life.
The Stage Show
I have been to see the stage show 5 times, along with my mum and sister. The first time was The Grand Theatre in Blackpool, then Manchester’s Palace Theatre, then Liverpool’s Empire Theatre, then Manchester’s Opera House and back to the Palace Theatre where I live in Manchester. That night was as recent as January this year. Columbia is my character of choice, and my spirit animal.
The stage show originally opened in 1973, only two years before the film was released in 1975. The story is a tribute (not a parody) to the Sci Fi B movies released between the 1940s and 1970s. These references are obvious in the opening song, Science Fiction, Double Feature.
The book, music and lyrics were all written by visionary Richard O’Brien (you know, the guy that hosted Crystal Maze). The original director was Jim Sharman who also directed the movie version. The stage show had modest beginnings at the Royal Court in London before regularly shifting venues and eventually closing in 1980. Therefore enjoying a very respectable 7 year run. The stage show of course made it’s way across the atlantic in 1974 where it was a huge success.
Richard O’Brien wrote The Rocky Horror Show when he was an out-of-work actor living in London and wanted to keep occupied… I wish my time-filling hobbies made me a rich man with a following of cult fans…
Following the same story and songs, the movie was a financial success and made box office takings of 10x it’s modest $1.4 million budget. Don’t get me wrong, it was panned by critics. But it quickly became popular as a midnight movie, with fans dressing up to screenings and giving it the World Record for longest theatrical film release.
Roger Ebert described the film as more of a “long-running social phenomenon, than a movie” and gave the film 2.5 stars.
Roger Ebert is not wrong. As a movie, it is sloppily made with some fantastic saving graces. Namely, Tim Curry as Dr. Frank-N-Furter and Susan Sarandon as Janet. I’d seen the film before, but when me and my family went to watch The Rocky Horror Picture Show in an outdoor screening this summer, my mum didn’t like it much. It is underwhelming if you’ve come to love the stage show. It’s bizarre like the movie, yet polished in a way that only stage-trained actors can make it.
In the USA, it seems quite common in some colleges that arthouse cinemas/lecture halls will play the movie with people acting out the scenes in front. I have no idea why this is a thing. Because it seems like you’re just watching the same thing in double vision. It is, however, completely accepted whilst watching cinematic or theatrical showings of The Rocky Horror Show to shout out in between the dialogue. Only approved lines of dialogue, please. Do not attend a showing and suddenly decide you’re a comedian. It’s not big or clever.
Narrator: It seemed a fairly ordinary night when Brad Majors…
Narrator: And his fiancee Janet Weiss…
Beginning itself as a cult/pop-culture show, The Rocky Horror Show has unsurprisingly made it’s way into TV shows, films, and I’m sure countless other mediums. I can recall an episode of Glee where the whole musical was adapted for a younger audience with mixed results. My favourite has to be the 2012 film The Perks of Being a Wallflower’s inclusion of the show. In this film, the High School kids really did act out The Rocky Horror Show with the movie playing in the background in front of an audience.
Don’t Dream It, Be It
And now we have the 2016 FOX TV movie, entitled The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do The Time Warp Again (2016). It has already aired on FOX but not in the UK, but when it does I plan on watching it.
Some may say it’s unnecessary, shitting on a legacy and will never be as good as the original. And maybe not. But LOOK at the legacy already left before it. I myself have dressed up as a character. The movie is the longest running movie of all time. The stage show enjoys tour after tour after tour. This movie has, and is, being remade, rehashed and reshaped every single day. We’re living in the spirit of the musical to carry on it’s unadulterated, rule-breaking, pioneering work and continue to bring it to a brand new audience. An audience who hopefully will relish in the freedom of the story and don’t have to hide who they are.
For UK viewers, The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do The Time Warp Again (2016) premieres tonight on Sky Cinema.
Have you ever seen any version of The Rocky Horror Show? Do you love the musical as much as me?