The Day ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ Hit Movie Screens Across the U.S.
A little more than a month after its release in the U.K., The Rocky Horror Picture Show hit U.S. movie theaters in October 1975. The film, the songs, the images and the ideals made a remarkable impact on what was a much different world than the one in which Dr. Frank N. Furter and friends first landed.
Do the time warp back to 1973, when The Rocky Horror Show debuted at London's Royal Court Theatre. Written by Richard O'Brien, the stage production was a product of its time, smack in the middle of a glam-drenched, gender-bending, decadence-infused era of rock 'n' roll. The play turned out to be a huge hit.
"I wrote it, first of all, for myself to wile away the long winter nights while I was out of work," O'Brien once said. "It just all happened, really."
The show eventually moved to the King's Road Theatre, tallying up nearly 3,000 performances. Everything about this new twist on a classic tale was a perfect fit for a young, adventurous and fun-seeking audience.
The buzz about the play eventually reached the States, which led to a residency at Los Angeles' Roxy in the spring of 1974, where it ran for nine months. Following all this success, O'Brien set his attention on bringing Rocky Horror to the big screen.
Filming began in England in fall 1974. O'Brien recruited Tim Curry, Patricia Quinn and Nell Campbell from the stage production to reprise their roles. (Curry played Dr. Frank N. Furter, a mad scientist for a new generation, while O'Brien himself portrayed Riff Raff, the doctor's slightly paranoid assistant.
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"The fact that Frankenstein was now wearing a corset might keep them entertained," O'Brien remarked. The film is part parody, part straight-up tribute to vintage horror and science-fiction movies from an earlier time, traditional at its core even with its glammed-up surroundings. "I'm really an old-fashioned girl," O'Brien said. "I like a beginning, a middle and an end, you know. It's an action story, like Saturday-morning pictures." O'Brien would tell the actors, "When you're acting, it's just B-movie acting, and when you're singing, it's your rock 'n' roll dreams come true."
"It is parody, but I play it and think it as a kind of grizzly reality," Curry added. "Frank N. Furter, as a variation on Frankenstein, is obsessed with image and the way that things look, but I see him, and play him, as a kind of ... freak."
The movie premiered on Sept. 26, 1975, at Los Angeles' Westwood Theater before rolling out across the country. It didn't cause much of a stir with critics or moviegoers at the time, but a year later, The Rocky Horror Picture Show started to catch on as a cult film, eventually leading to the famous audience participation and never-ending midnight screenings that have followed it ever since.
A short time later, relative newcomers Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick would go on to bigger things. And Meat Loaf, then an unknown actor and singer who played the misfit biker Eddie, within two years released his debut album, which owes more than a tiny debt to Rocky Horror. The movie's music also took on a life of its own, as "Sweet Transvestite," "The Time Warp," (both of which winked at glam while anticipating punk) and "Hot Patootie – Bless My Soul" turned into singalong favorites, eventually making the soundtrack LP a hit too.