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Jim Sharman is known exclusively for
the Rocky Horror Picture Show, the film he directed in 1974.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show is, first and foremost, the greatest cult
film of all time, something that transcends cinema and art.
Bright red lips open the film with a tender song about science fiction.
The story is told by an obnoxious narrator in his library.
The entire action occurs on a saturday night after fiances Brad and Janet,
returning from a wedding (where Janet caught the bouquet and Brad proposed,
observed from the steps of the church by a disturbing old man), are stuck in
the middle of nowhere because their
car broke down. They see a light and it turns out to be a macabre mansion.
The butler who opens the door is the same old man who was watching them at
His name is Riff Raff and he warns them that they arrived on a special
They are also welcome by the wild maid Magenta, who slides down the bannister
in a vulgar and sexy manner.
Riff Raff and Magenta are siblings and they revel in their perversion.
Brad and Janet are ushered into the party and meet the crowd of Transylvanian
They meet Columbia, the lascivious master's girlfriend.
Finally, the master himself appears, descending from an elevator:
Frank N Furter.
Brad and Janet are shocked to see that he is a disgusting transvestite,
wearing fishnet stockings and wrapped in a corset, his face heavily made up.
Frank insists that the two shy guests stay for the night.
He proudly shows them the laboratory where he, novel
Frankenstein, is manufacturing life itself; but, with a twist: he is creating
the perfect mate for a tranvestite, a handsome, tall, strong blonde man, whom
he christened Rocky.
The experiment succeeds but Rocky is fearful of his master,
who can't wait to taste his creature, and of the strangers. who stare at
Rocky elopes and the servants have to chase him around the castle.
Second, it is a funny parody of 1950's sci-fi/horror B-movies and of
Third, it is a semiotic film. Each scene represents something at different
levels, literal, parodistic and allegoric.
The parade of monsters is a parade of cliches, but each cliche` could well be
out of Homer or Shakespeare.
The "Rocky Horror Show" started at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs in
London on June the 16th of 1973 and it was mildly successful.
Most of the original stage cast was used for the film.
The party is ruined by the punk Eddie, who literally crashes
into the room on his motorbike.
Columbia adores him and does not hide her feelings, but Frank hates him
because Eddie resisted his advances (Eddie's macho vitality, rock and roll
ardor and sexual escapades, are pretty much
the opposite of Frank's feminine languor). Rocky was created by taking half
of Eddie's brain, and Eddie's scars are still clearly visible.
Eddie is rallying the crowd around his ideal of life, and Frank has no choice
but kill him with a pick.
Rocky elopes and is being chased by the servants.
In the middle of the night Frank seduces first Janet and then Brad by creeping
into their beds disguised as, respectively, Brad and Janet. Both are first
reluctant but then enjoy what Frank teaches them.
Janet sees Frank and Brad making love on a monitor, and, revengeful,
soothes Rocky, whom she accidentally finds, and makes love to him.
Columbia and Magenta are watching everything on another monitor, while they
are also having sex.
Another guest arrives uninvited, on wheelcheer: the respectable Dr Scott, an
acquaintance of Brad, who also happens to be Eddie's uncle.
Frank pulls him into the main room by using powerful magnets that draw
Dr Scott's wheelchair up and down the staircases and the corridors.
When he lands in front of Frank and meets (surprised) Brad, Janet and Rocky
jump out of the bed where they have been making love. Everybody is surprised
of everybody else.
Dr Scott is suspicious of Frank. Frank cordially invites everybody to dinner.
Dr Scott sings the sad story of Eddie, while Columbia cries. Everybody
sympathizes with Eddie's disadventure and sings along. Frank, furious,
pulls the table cloth and reveals the disembodied corpse of Eddie: the
meat loaf they are eating is Eddie's flesh.
Columbia screams and leaves. Everybody runs. Frank chases Janet around the
house. Eventually Frank corners Janet, Brad and Dr Scott in the lab, and
sends them one by one to another planet by pulling the lever of a prodigious
machine. Columbia comes screaming against him, and Frank removes her too.
They all meet on the other planet, except that they have all assumed new
personas: they are now all perverts and tranvestites.
The planet works like a stage, where they perform a play.
Each of them sings about her or his new self.
The star of the show is Frank, whose number is performed against the backdrop
of the RKO Radio Tower.
They all jump in the swimming pool and they have an orgy.
Suddenly, Riff Raff and Magenta appear. They also changed: they are warriors
armed with laser weapons. Riff Raff reveals he is the commander and wants to
return to their home planet, Transylvania, with Magenta.
They condemn Frank as a traitor.
Frank has his last chance to be forgiven: he sings a heartbreaking song
about his love for the Earth. Frank sees the theatre full of people giving
him a standing ovation, but it is only an illusion: the theater is empty.
Riff Raff shoots Frank with the laser while he is climbing the tower
and Frank falls in the swimming pool.
Riff Raff and Magenta celebrate their victory.
The guests are expelled from the castle, which then takes off in a cloud
and disappears in the sky.
The narrator concludes the story.
The music by Richard Hartley & Richard O'Brien, that paraphrased David Bowie
and hard-rock, Broadway show tunes and Elvis Presley was certainly important
in creating a sensation. But much more was to happen.
It all started on September the 24th of 1975. The film opened in the
student area of Los Angeles' Westwood Village, next to UCLA.
The film will fail to attract notice anywhere else, but at Westwood Village
crowds kept going back night after night for repeated viewing.
Word of mouth eventually gave the film its cult status. It started with
people singing along with the songs and then calling out
"2-4-6-8-10-12-14-eat your heart out". Then they started dancing in the
aisles the ballet of the monsters. Then they started dressing like the
characters. Then they started talking to them on the screen. Then
from the audience started performing the action of the film on stage
(and off stage, running around the theatre).
Then the audience started throwing objects at the screen, like toitel
paper and rice.
Not only the audience kept growing steadily, but it began developing a
subliminal attraction to the film, it began to identify with its characters.
There was something epic in the way the film took over its own audience, like
it had a life of its own.
The barriers between audience and screen broke down spontaneously, and
everywhere, as if it was mandated in the plot. But it was only a natural
reaction to something in the film that made it so personal and universal.
Soon the film became three shows in one: the film itself, which is a decadent,
parodistic musical, the stage action that mirrored the film, and the script
shouted in unison by the audience.
There was something epic in the way the film mutated
from underground cult into mass phenomenon.
Hundreds of theaters across the country (and, eventually, all over the world)
started showing the Rocky Horror Picture Show
at exactly midnight every saturday of every week, no matter what.
Larger and larger crowds of teenagers would go out at midnight, dressed in
lingerie, and haunt the streets around the theatres showing the movie.
The script was passed on from generation to generation of active viewers.
By the end of 1977, Rocky Horror Picture Show had mutated into the largest
party on Earth.
As Rocky says in the key and most moving scene of the film,
"Don't Dream It, Be It".