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Back In Theaters: ‘Rocky Horror’!

October 25th, 2018Back In Theaters: ‘Rocky Horror’!

Back in 1975, an innocent couple found themselves in the clutches of one of the strangest characters to hit the big screen. The Rocky Horror Picture Show, based on Richard O’Brien’s 1973 stage musical The Rocky Horror Show, pays comic and loving tribute to the “B” horror and sci-fi movies of the ‘50s and ‘60s.

But Rocky Horror is much more than a love letter to older movies. It gave formative roles to a great cast, featuring Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, and Barry Bostwick. It’s got irrepressible songs built around pop hooks that worm right into your brain. And the movie is a time capsule that takes us back to a different era.

Now AMC is bringing The Rocky Horror Picture Show back to theaters!

Let Us Show You Around

The original ghoulish musical is one of the longest-running events in cinema. It has regularly played midnight shows in big cities since its release in 1975, with audiences singing along with the wildly catchy songs.

While stranded in a storm, the newly-engaged and very innocent sweethearts Brad (Barry Bostwick) and Janet (Susan Sarandon) take shelter in the first home they can find. Problem is, the place is the home of mad scientist Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry), whose dedication to “absolute pleasure” will change Brad and Janet forever — and could threaten all of Earth!

Frank’s name is probably a tip-off that he’s the sort of mad scientist who tinkers with trying to create life. Tim Curry’s character Frank-N-Furter has created the beefy Rocky. When the manly creature is brought to life his appearance triggers a chain of events that has basically all the characters falling into bed with one another, while two onlookers scheme and manipulate the chaos.

Time Capsule

As songs like ‘Sweet Transvestite’ suggest even to those who don’t know the movie, Rocky Horror openly presented LGBTQ+ characters and lifestyle in ways few other movies did at the time. There was no Drag Race on TV when Tim Curry wore heels and lingerie to perform as Frank-N-Furter. For some audiences, his character was a formative icon.

Which isn’t to say that Rocky Horror has entirely aged well. It’s a 1970s movie, and despite being progressive for the time, some dialogue and characters that were forward-thinking forty years ago are pretty far behind the times now. But that time capsule aspect is part of what makes Rocky Horror valuable. The movie may not represent where we are now, but it is a part of how we got here, and that’s worth remembering.

The Cult Phenomenon

As with many cult films — and Rocky Horror is perhaps the prototype cult movie — this musical was not a success in initial release. The movie had a couple chances before a Fox exec got a New York theater to run midnight shows months after the first release. Soon after, Rocky Horror evolved into an audience experience unlike any other.

A couple old-fashioned gimmicks helped build an audience. In some cities, audiences could get in free by showing up in costume. Other theaters had performance groups which would play out scenes along with the film. That practice soon spread, and before long there were midnight shows all over the country with live amateur casts interacting with the film.

The casts didn’t just mimic what was on screen, however. They led sing-alongs and performed an improvised script, often mocking the characters and using props to joke about the action. (As with some of the characters who seem out of date now, some of that audience script went too far, and has been revised or abandoned in recent years.)

Long before other audience participation movies like The Room, Rocky Horror was giving fans something they couldn’t get anywhere else — and even today, it opens a window on a time and place that we can’t get to any other way.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show opens in AMC Theaters on October 26, just in time for Halloween!