Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Rocky Horror Picture Show, The

UK movie (1975). 20th Century-Fox. Pr Michael White. Exec pr Lou Adler. Dir Jim Sharman. Spfx Colin Chilvers, Wally Weevers. Screenplay Richard O'Brien, Sharman. Music and lyrics O'Brien. Incidental music Richard Hartley. Based on The Rocky Horror Show (1973). Starring Jonathan Adams (Dr Everett V Scott), Barry Bostwick (Brad Majors), Tim Curry (Dr Frank-N-Furter), Charles Gray (Criminologist), Peter Hinwood (Rocky Horror), Little Nell (Columbia), Meatloaf (Eddie), O'Brien (Riff Raff), Patricia Quinn (Magenta), Susan Sarandon (Janet Weiss). 101 mins. Colour.

The ultimate cult stage show put on screen to become the ultimate cult movie; performances of the original became excuses for wild fancy-dress parties among the audience, and the movie – after a shaky start – picked up where the stage show left off, so that even today showings of it are not so much screenings as events. The plot – insofar as it is relevant – sees straight couple Janet and Brad drop by an isolated castle where a convention of aliens from the planet Transsexual (in the galaxy Transylvania) is partying. Leader of them is Dr Frank-N-Furter, a camp, bisexual cross-dressing version of Mick Jagger, with a liberal dash of Elizabeth II. He has created for himself Rocky Horror, a muscle-bound sexual plaything. Various couplings – both homo and hetero – ensue, alongside cannibalism, murder and the seduction of Janet and Brad into the arms of full-blown Decadence. The net result is both a Recursive homage to and Parody of old sf, fantasy and Horror Movies (especially RKO Radio Pictures), all linked by passages in which a narrator apes – right down to the last sneer – the 1950s and 1960s true-crime cinematic shorts presented by Edgar Lustgarten.

An interesting subplay involves references to Grant Wood's painting American Gothic (1930): O'Brien is first seen, in the distance, as a church servitor made up as and in the pose of the farmer with his pitchfork; towards movie's end, when O'Brien (as Riff Raff) shoots Frank-N-Furter and Rocky with a laser gun, that gun is trifurcate, in conscious mimicry of the pitchfork. There are other fleeting allusions to the painting, perhaps suggesting that the main plot is intended as Brad's or Janet's Dream.

Mainstream critics have tended to dismiss TRHPS as unadulterated garbage; this is in large part true, but misses the point. It was sequelled by the inferior Shock Treatment (1982), in which a US town is transformed into a non-stop tv show; this flopped. [JG]

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This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.