Film: The Rocky Horror Picture Show aka: Rocky Horror
Those nylons never had it so good.
I see you shiver with antici...note SAY IT!
"I would like, note OH, YOU WOULD, WOULD YOU? if I may, note YOU MAY NOT! to take you note TAKE ME, TAKE ME! on a strange journey..." note HOW STRANGE WAS IT? SO STRANGE THEY MADE A MOVIE OUT OF IT! NOT THE BOOK, THE MOVIE!
The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a 1975 musical film written by Richard O'Brien and directed by Jim Sharman. It's most famous for still being played in theatres all over the world once a week, and for having a fanbase that dresses up, throws stuff at the screen, re-enacts the scenes and generally indulges in Audience Participation. The film is based on The Musical/Stageshow The Rocky Horror Show, also by Richard O'Brien (who played Riff Raff both in its original staging and this film).The story: Brad note ASSHOLE! and Janet note SLUT! are two lovely, naive virgins from Denton, note Denton, the Home of Happiness!U.S.A., who get engaged and drive off to tell Dr. Scott note GREAT SCOTT! WHAT A TWAT!, their former teacher. However, on the way there, they get a flat tire and find themselves outside a spooky castle house ("It's probably a hunting lodge for rich weirdos" note RICH WEIRDOS AREN'T IN SEASON, ASSHOLE!)... and that's where things get really, really, reeaaaaaaaaalllly weird.They meet the servants, Riff Raff and note WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE COLOR? Magenta, and groupie note WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR DRUGS? Columbia, who live with Dr. Frank-N-Furter... a "Sweet" TransvestiteMad Scientist, to be specific (from Transsexual, Transylvania). After being stripped down to their underwear, they are invited up to Frank-N-Furter's lab where he unveils his creation — the Brainless Beauty Rocky Horror.They are interrupted by biker/ex-delivery boy Eddienote WHAT KIND OF DELIVERY BOY DELIVERS EXES?!, Columbia's lover, whom Frank-N-Furter had kept in the deep-freeze. Brad and Janet are then shown to separate rooms, and Frank-N-Furter deceives the two into sleeping with him via both Paper-Thin Disguise and the fact they're both horny enough. Both victims are horrified afterwards, and Janet wanders the castle till she finds Rocky (cowering from Riff Raff, who's been tormenting him). Realizing she's been cheated on by Brad, she takes an interest in the monster...At this point, Dr. Scott appears looking for his note SEX LIFE! nephew note SAME THING! Eddie, and Janet and Rocky are found together. Frank-N-Furter invites them all to dinner note MEAT LOAF, AGAIN? OH, HE'S STILL GOOD!...There is a pseudo-sequel, Shock Treatment (1981), focusing on the bizarre turns Brad and Janet's lives take upon their return to Denton after their adventure in Rocky Horror, but it was not as popularly received as its predecessor and is thus both obscure and hard to find. The fact that the makers weren't happy with how it turned out, due to many compromises made during its production, such as character recastings and a drastically cut budget, doesn't help. (It's also harder to stage as an Audience Participation show due to a bigger cast of characters.) Although it was released on DVD in 2006.MTV planned a remake of the film in 2008, without the involvement (or approval) of Richard O'Brien. Unsurprisingly, the attempt was cancelled. Another remake attempt went into development in 2012, but also seems to be going nowhere fast.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show contains examples of:
Accidental Pervert: Columbia is supposed to come across this way. Emphasis on supposed - most plays and the movie just turn her into an outright pervert, with the film's actress deliberately sexing her up and purposefully putting in nipple slips when she could.note There goes our PG-13 rating!
Adaptation Distillation: Some music was cut from the original show, including a whole song for Brad and a verse or two from other songs. Also, the original character of Rocky had some actual dialogue and personality, and was aware that he was created to be a living sex toy... and hates it.
An Aesop: Deliberately left ambiguous as whether or not their new-found sluttiness left them worse or better off.
Affectionate Parody: Twice over: the film itself spoofs horror/sci-fi, and the audience participation grew from the initial fans being familiar enough with it — especially all the dramatic pauses — that they saw opportunities for verbal callbacks to tease the characters.
All Take and No Give: Frank's very selfish, as Columbia so blatantly points out. His greatest scientific achievement was simply so he could be lauded as a genius (and for a sex toy he could keep all to himself).
And during "Sweet Transvestite," Frank raises an eyebrow at the camera as he says "So you got caught with a flat note HOW 'BOUT THIS?! how 'bout that?"
A Storm Is Coming: There's thunder in the background during "Dammit, Janet", and then the Criminologist invokes the trope directly: "It's true, there were dark storm clouds note DESCRIBE YOUR BALLS! - heavy, black, and pendulous - towards which they were driving..."
Audience Participation: The gold standard. The audience at a showing of Rocky Horror will have some sort of response (mostly yelled comments, sometimes actions to match) to virtually every line or action in the film; at this point the cult phenomenon of Rocky Horror is far more about the audience participation than the film itself. Most theaters will give you a bag of items to be used during the movie (most getting thrown).
Inverted audience participation. Where the cast will make callbacks to the audience's callbacks. For example, there's a callback where people poke fun at Dr. Frank-N-Furter standing at attention by depicting him as a Drill Sergeant Nasty. Rocky will be variously referred to as a Marine through the rest of the film.
When they tried to stage the musical in the US, of course the audience yelled the callbacks. Apparently, in the first performance, they were studiously ignored until Frank N Furter got to "antici..." "SAY IT!" The actor then snapped back with "bait me, why don't you?", and promptly continued on with the song.
Furthermore, new callbacks are invented all the time. A Halloween 2010 viewing added "Ten points from Gryffindor!" after Frank admonished Rocky that "That's no way to behave after your first day out!"
Likewise, after Fight Club, a popular call back following the revelation of Eddie's corpse has been, "HIS NAME WAS ROBERT PAULSON! HIS NAME WAS ROBERT PAULSON!"
Many older callbacks get updated references but otherwise remain the same. For example, when Riff-Raff shows Brad and Janet the skeleton near the start of the film, it's customary to shout out "SHOW US" and the name of whatever celebrity has most recently died. Bonus points if it's someone people really liked, especially if they had an early or especially tragic death.
Take Thats are common, usually involving Magenta's name, or dead things. A few:
"DESCRIBE [widely disliked celebrity]!" "A weakling / Weighing 98 pounds..."
For this reason, it's a good idea to watch the movie once by yourself before you go to a midnight screening—because at the midnight screening, you may not be able to hear any of it. The (extremely loud) audience commentary is not funny unless you've had the opportunity to actually hear the dialogue and music at some point, and in Shadowcasts, it's much better to see what the live-action cast is doing when you have everything memorized.
On the other hand, in a venue where the film has been running for long enough to develop a crowd of regulars as well as a live shadowcast, the discipline of the audience can be astonishing. It truly does seem like an interactive experience.
Ax-Crazy: Frank when he sees Eddie stealing attention away from him, and goes to chop him up. With an ax.
Bad Boss: Frank is sometimes shown yelling hysterically at his servants when they make mistakes (especially towards Riff Raff - he even whips him when he finds out he let Rocky escape).
Bed Trick: Frank does this to both Brad and Janet, which sends them spiraling into being sex deviants.
Berserk Button: Though slightly more subtle than most other examples, it is a very, very, VERY bad idea to make Frank jealous. Just seeing Rocky with Janet was enough to drive Frank into a blind fury and chase Janet around the castle. And then there's Eddie who just busts out of the vault with his motorcycle to sing his song.
Big Bad: Frank N. Furter is at least the closest there is to one at least.
Big Entrance: Dr. Frank N. Furter's first appearance, during "Sweet Transvestite".
Bigger Bad: Whomever sent him from Planet Transsexual of the Transylvania Galaxy by default.
Big "NO!": Dr. Frank N. Furter, right before he is killed. Also Columbia, after she leaves the dining room.
Blank Slate: Rocky in the film, who never says anything and doesn't really do much.
Bowdlerise: FUSE Network (the so-called "Extreme Network") edits out almost all instances of male-on-male innuendo. The Glee version also had some edits (justified In-Universe, because Mr. Schuester had to make it appropriate for a high school play).
Book Ends: Both the musical and film open with the song "Science Fiction Double Feature" and close with its reprise.
In the musical, the first act starts with the wedding of Ralph Hapshatt and Betty Monroe, and ends with the "wedding" of Rocky and Frank.
Incest Subtext: Riff Raff and Magenta give a strong impression of this.note Elbow sex! Elbow sex!
BSOD Song: Frank gets "I'm Going Home"note Ladies and gentlemen, for one night and one night only, Mr. Judy Garland sings with Alfalfa's shadow! as he faces death by anti-matter at the hands of Riff-Raff. Most of the floor show also seems to count.
Catch Phrase: In the audience participation, "Thank you!", "SAME THING!", "Fuck (noun)!", "ASSHOLE!", "SLUT!", and "Where's your fucking neck?"
Charles Atlas Superpower: Only a name drop, when Dr. Frank N. Furter says of his newly-finished creation Rocky that "he carries the Charles Atlas seal of approval". Near the end of the movie, it does take quite a number of shots from Riff Raff's "anti-matter laser" to bring down Rocky. In the original musical, the song "I Can Make You A Man" and its reprise were both originally called "Charles Atlas". However, it bears mentioning that the trope is only dubiously in play, since Rocky did not in fact become strong through exercise.
Clingy Jealous Boy: Frank-N-Furter. Sure, he flirts with nearly everyone. But, if he sees anyone with his beloved Rocky, he unleashes his jealousy-induced rage upon them. Janet Weiss had to find this out the hard way.
Closed Circle: Heroes driving, flat tire, flat spare tire, rain coming down, thundering, spooky castle, Mad Scientist, critical phase of scientific breakthrough, heroes can't get away and then don't want to get away and then can't get away again, and everything goes horribly wrong. Yup, textbook case . . . naturally, since it's a parody of exactly those kind of stories.
Commedia dell'Arte: Not a direct example of this genre, but most of the characters are decent matches to those stock characters:
Brad and Janet are the Lovers.
Eddie makes a passing Arlecchino.
Columbia, fittingly, is a Colombina.
Frank-N-Furter has elements of both The Captain (obviously "not from around here," interested in Anything That Moves) and Pantalone (abusive of Eddie, his Arlecchino, hints of a relationship with Columbia.)
Riff Raff is a dead giveaway as the Pulcinella, hunchback and all.
The Criminologist is perfect as the Doctor.
The others are a bit of a stretch - presumably Rocky as the Pierrot, Magenta as the Brighella, and Dr. Scott as the Tartaglia.
Cut Song: "Once in a While," featured in the stageshow. For the film the song was to have been sung by Brad after his... erm... encounter with Frank. Footage was shot for it but left out of the film; a "reconstruction" using the footage and other bits from the movie has appeared as an extra feature on every home release of the film since the 1995 LaserDisc edition.
To a lesser extent, the American print of the film had the exposition song "Super Heroes" all but cut out except for the final verse (the Criminologist's "And crawling..." speech). You can optionally restore it in the DVD release.
To an even lesser extent, verses were removed from "Over at the Frankenstein Place" and "The Sword of Damocles." These were apparently never even shot.
Dance Sensation: "Let's do the Time Warp again!" It's interesting to note that Richard O'Brien has said that he wrote that song as a bit of a parody of a Dance Sensation.
Deadpan Snarker: Riff Raff, as some sort of defense mechanism for having his work stolen by Frank-n-Furter. Also, any audience member familiar enough with the show to use the callbacks will become this during a viewing by default.
Brad: This is my fiancee. (Frank looks at Brad.) Brad: Janet Veiss.note Slut! Janet: Weiss. Brad: (clears throat.) Weiss.note Still a slut!
The Dog Bites Back: Magenta betrays Frank after realizing that he has no plans to go back to Transsexual anytime soon, while Riff Raff betrays him because he was jealous of Frank for taking all the credit for making Rocky, even though HE did most of the work.
Dumb Blonde: Rocky, thanks to only having half a brain. He can't even speak properly in the film. In the musical, he's more aware of it, but unfortunately can't do much about his situation.
Dissonant Serenity: Out of context, Frank's song, "I'm Going Home" is a beautiful and melancholy song. In context? It's really fucking eerie.
Do Not Do This Cool Thing: Kids, don't have lots of sex, or you might end up in a fabulous musical. It's ultimately left up to the audience if Brad and Janet embracing their desires has left them broken. (This is less ambiguous if one accepts Shock Treatment as canon, as they definitely start that film as broken, and it is only over the course of that film that they relearn how to be functional people.)
Downer Ending: Columbia, Frank, and Rocky are dead, Janet and Brad are shaken at least and traumatized at the worst, and by the way, we're all a bunch of insects adrift in a meaningless void.
During "Dammit Janet", you can see Richard O'Brien, Patricia Quinn, Tim Curry, and Little Nell in the church.
Most of the wedding guests are clearly recognisable as the Transylvanian party guests at the Frankenstein Place. Particularly obvious are Henry Woolf (who plays the official wedding photographer) and Christopher Biggins (clearly seen running at the front of the pack seeing off Ralph and Betty's car). While this was fully intended to be clever, it was also done to reduce costs.
Everyone Is Bi: Except for Riff, Dr. Scott, and the Criminologist, every major character has at least one heterosexual and one homosexual encounter in the film or in the Backstory, though in some cases this is indicated only briefly.
Originally, while intoxicated, Richard O'Brien had come up with the idea that while Frank was out chasing down Rocky, Riff would get some action with Brad. Upon coming to his senses after the filming of this scene, Richard O'Brien demanded it to be cut and never mentioned.
And Riff-Raff becomes furious when he remarks that Rocky didn't like him, although he seems fairly calm during the rest of the scene. One could reasonably infer that he had feelings for Rocky.
Gainax Ending: It's an understatement to say the film is weird from the start, but around the Floor Show things go straight to Eleven, as a completely out-of-nowhere (even for Rocky Horror) burlesque cross-dressing number descends into random swimming, and then it's revealed Frank-n-Furter, Riff-Raff, and Magenta are all aliens from Planet Transylvania, the latter who kill Frank-n-Furter and leave Brad, Janet, and Dr. Scott in the dust as the mansion takes off into space. The Criminologist reaffirms that we're just insectsadrift in a meaningless void of time and space, and the movie ends.
Magenta: "You killed them! But I thought you liked them. They liked you." Riffraff: "They didn't like me! They NEVER liked me!!
Historical In-Joke: Almost immediately after Goebbels surrendered to the Russian Army, the US and Soviet governments began smuggling Nazi scientists out of the country for their knowledge about rocketry and launched missile weapons. Werner von Braun is one of the most famous examples. The American plan to recruit former Nazi scientists was called Operation Paperclip. This is why Frank calls Dr. Scott out on his accent.
Human Aliens: Frank, Magenta, Riff Raff, and all the other Transylvanians look like human beings.
I Can Explain: Frank says this right before singing his final song. Too bad Riff Raff and Magenta aren't convinced of his story. They shoot him anyway.
And "I'm Going Home" doesn't explain a damn thing.
"I Am" Song/"I Want" Song: Sweet Transvestite can count for both. Frank's describing himself as a sweet transvestite, yet he's also asking (or demanding because he never gave them the option) Brad and Janet to "stay for the night."
Intermission: Being a musical, most productions of the stage show are two acts with a short intermission. (See Book Ends above.)
It's All About Me: It becomes extremely clear Frank is an attention whore who only cares about people if they A) pay attention to him, or B) are of some use to him. And even then... in the musical, when Columbia takes the first anti-matter shot for Frank...
Frank-n-Furter: You did that for me...? [Columbia nods yes.] Frank-n-Furter: Stupid bitch. note Of course, this line can be performed a couple of different ways, either with cruelty ("You always were an idiot.") or pity ("You shouldn't have thrown your life away for me.")
I Want My Mommy: Brad Majors in "The Floor Show": "It's beyond me/Help me, Mommy!"
Lyric Swap: Not present on most prints, but Science Fiction - Double Feature Reprise at the end of the film swaps the classic SF movie lyrics from the title sequence tune for lyrics that summarize the movie.
Mad Love: Columbia is hopelessly devoted to Frank despite the fact that he considers her to be nothing more than his "groupie".
Of course, this is later subverted when Columbia (after witnessing Frank brutally murder Eddie, another man she loved deeply) realizes that Frank doesn't love her back at all and berates him for being such a heartless jerk.
"You're like a sponge! All ya do is take take take!"
Mind Screwdriver: The original play, The Rocky Horrror Show, paces out its exposition a little more neatly.
Mocking Sing Song: In the Audience Participation album for this movie, a member of the audience goes "nya nya nya nya nya" after Frank N. Furter uses the "sonic transducer" to freeze Brad, Janet, and Dr. Scott so that they couldn't move their feet (or wheels)note My socks! I can't move my socks! in the laboratory.
Modesty Bedsheet: Janet and Rocky upon Frank N. Furter's discovering them. Justified in that they were surrounded by people at the time.
Mysterious Middle Initial: The "N" in Frank N Furter. "Frank" is his first name and "Furter" is his last name. "N" is his middle initial and it's never revealed what it stands for, or even if it stands for anything at all.
Not So Different: Richard O'Brien has stated that Riff Raff and Frank are very similar to one another. In fact, the only real differences between the two is that Frank is more outgoing and flamboyant while Riff is more reserved and introverted. That...and Riff is less likely to seduce people. But, both are intelligent, scheming, easily jealous, and willing to kill others in blind rage.
The Paid-For Harem: The party-goers (or unconventional conventionists) who hang around Rocky's parties.
Dr. Frank-N-Furter, especially considering the pre-Time Warp appetizers...
Janet Weiss's name is a double Stealth Pun, since it's a German name which is pronounced much like the English "vice" and means "white" no less, a traditional virgin color. She's a virgin, and spends most of the movie wandering around in white underwear.
Sex Is Liberation: Played with. It is unclear if being freed from their inhibitions has helped or hurt the human characters.
Shout-Out: To various Hammer Horror films as well as film companies and 1930s-50s sci-fi/horror efforts.
In fact, the opening song "Science Fiction Double Feature" is built around this. The intro was supposed to contain film snippets of the relevant songs, but it would have cost a fortune in royalties. The shout-outs are, in order:
"Wound up like an E (or first string)/When we made it, did you hear a bell ring?" in "Planet, Schmanet Janet" appears to be a reference to Chuck Berry's song "Johnny B. Goode" which contains the line "He could play the guitar just like a-ringing a bell."
The black stockings and garters everyone ends up in by the end of the film may be a reference to Cabaret.
Columbia's daybed scenes evoke similar ones from the once-notorious 1956 film Baby Doll.
Brad, after getting laid by Frank in the movie. note Yes, Janet, your Asshole does smoke after sex! But only Once in A While!
Janet and Rocky.
And even Magenta and Columbia, although whether or not they actually had sex is ambiguous.
Sound-Only Death: We don't see what happens to Eddie... but we sure do hear his screams and Frank's pick-axe hacking him to pieces.
Stealth Pun: What's for dinner? Meatloaf, again.note Oh no, not Meatloaf again!
Stockholm Syndrome: Columbia and possibly Rocky, although Rocky especially might instead be Too Dumb to Live. Even after Frank discards her for Eddie and then Rocky, kills her boyfriend and serves him for dinner, Columbia is still devoted to Frank. The final scenes reveal that Rocky cares deeply for Frank, even though (or maybe because) he chains him up in their 'bridal suite' and he has half of Eddy's brain.
Tablecloth Yank: Frank N. Furter does this after the song "Eddie's Teddy" to reveal Eddie's unfortunate fate.
Taken for Granite: The "Medusa" switch that's conveniently installed on Rocky's life-bringer machine thing. It also has a reversal switch, so.
Frank: Go on, Dr. Scott. Or should I say... Doctor Von Scott!note SIEG HEIL! Brad: Just what exactly are you implying?!note THAT HE'S A NAZI, ASSHOLE!
Oddly enough, in the original stage show, Frank himself had a stereotypical German accent (Most likely to go with the classic Mad Scientist genre). However, this was quickly dropped and Frank ended up with the smooth British accent we all know and love today.
Too Dumb to Live: Brad and Janet make some really stupid mistakes throughout the film. There's a reason why their call-and-response names are "Asshole" and "Slut"...
Dr. Scott: This sonic transducer... it is, I suppose, some kind of audio-vibratory-physio-molecular transport device? Brad: You mean...?!note A vibrator! Dr. Scott: Yes, Brad, it's something we ourselves have been working on for quite some time.note A working vibrator? But it seems our friend here has found a means of perfecting it.note A PERFECT vibrator! A device which is capable of breaking down solid matternote How can it be perfect if it breaks? and projecting it note Through space? through space... note And time? and who knows, perhaps even time note Itself? itself!note DOCTOR WHO'S VIBRATOR?!