Film / The Rocky Horror Picture Show

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Those nylons never had it so good.

I see you shiver with antici...

''"I would likenote , if I maynote , to take younote  on a strange journey...note "

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: Bradnote  and Janetnote  are two lovely, naive virgins from Denton, U.S.A., who get engaged and drive off to tell Dr. Scott, 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")... and that's where things get really, really, reeaaaaaaaaalllly weird.

They meet the servants, Riff-Raff and Magenta, and groupie Columbia, who live with Dr. Frank-N-Furter... a "Sweet" Transvestite Mad 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 Eddie, 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 nephew Eddie, and Janet and Rocky are found together. Frank-N-Furter invites them all to dinner...

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 well-received as its predecessor. Its makers also 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. It also never really took off as an Audience Participation show due to its bigger cast of characters. It was released in 2006 on DVD, but the quality of the transfer isn't much better than the VHS tape or LaserDisc that proceeded it.

There have been several remake attempts, none of which went anywhere, until it was announced that Fox was making a two-hour TV special set for fall of 2016. The special has some pretty good names attached, including Laverne Cox starring as Dr. Frank-N-Furter. as well as Tim Curry himself taking up the role of the Criminologist.


The original version of The Rocky Horror Picture Show contains examples of:

  • 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.
    • The narrator being made into a "criminologist" in the film, giving a reason for why he knows about the story's events.
  • 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.
  • American Gothic Couple: "Riff-Raff" and "Magenta" pose as the couple in front of the arched church doors during the song "Dammit Janet", after the wedding Betty and Ralph. At the end, when they reveal their alien identities, the pitchfork has turned into a trident-shaped raygun. The painting can also be briefly seen on a wall in the castle.
    • In the sequel, it can be seen hanging on a wall in the prop room.
  • An Aesop: Deliberately left ambiguous as whether or not their new-found sluttiness left them worse or better off.
  • And You Were There: During the Wedding scene, much of the bridal party is made up of actors who later become the Transylvanians, of note are: Riff Raff (Richard O'Brien), Magenta (Patricia Quinn), and of course, Doctor Frank N Furter (Tim Curry) in the back, nearest the church. Tim Curry actually turns away from the camera, apparently so he won't be as recognised, but, if you attend a Shadow Cast, they tend to comment on their appearance, with lines like, "Even a Virgin recognises Dr. Frank," and, "Hey, Frank, Riff's front! Hey, Riff, Frank's back!"
    • In an inter-movie And You Were There, several cast members from Rocky Horror portray similar characters in the continuation of Janet and Brad's life, Shock Treatment
  • Artistic License – History: On this "late November evening", Brad and Janet are found listening to President Nixon's resignation speech... which was delivered in August.
    • Word of God says that Brad is such a dork that he actually taped the speech and likes to listen to it over and over...
  • 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 - 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..."
    "DESCRIBE [said celebrity]'S PERIOD!" "Magenta..."
    "SHOW US [recently dead celebrity]!" [Riff Raff reveals a skeleton.]
    "WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT [recent film/show/this audience]?" "Could be better."
    Some get fired back at the audience: "WHAT THE FUCK IS AN 'UNT'?"
    "THREE FOURTHS OF A CUNT!
    ...And that's more than you'll ever see!"
    • 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.
  • Bigger Bad: Whomever sent him from Planet Transsexual of the Transylvania Galaxy by default.
  • Black Comedy Cannibalism: This interchange that leads to Brad, Janet, Columbia, and Dr. Scott refusing to eat anymore.
    Dr. Scott: We came here to discuss Eddie.
    Columbia: Eddie?!?
    Frank N. Furter: (after threatening Columbia with an electric knife) That's a rather tender subjectnote . Another slice, anyone?
  • Black Comedy Rape: The seductions of Brad and Janet are all played completely for laughs.
  • Blatant Lies:
  • 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.
  • Break the Cutie: Janet and Columbia both fit this trope. Brad may as well.
    • Columbia especially. She starts out as a perfectly happy, tap-dancing groupie who's in love with Frank. Then her boyfriend Eddie comes back from deep freeze on a motorcycle, and she gets to be happy for all of one song before Frank attacks and kills Eddie with an ice pick. She's then forced to attend a dinner hosted by Frank, during which she both accidentally cannibalizes Eddie and gets betrayed by her best friend, who helped cook him. She gets to deliver a The Reason You Suck speech, but is then Taken for Granite. When she realizes that Riff-Raff is going to kill Frank, the reason that she's here in the first place, she screams, getting her killed.
  • Camp: If the film were any campier, midnight screenings would include RV hookups.
  • Catch Phrase: In the audience participation, "Thank you!", "SAME THING!", "Fuck (noun)!", "ASSHOLE!", "SLUT!", and "Where's your fucking neck?"
  • Cool Starship /Starship Luxurious: Though dilapidated, you have to admit a spaceship that looks like a gothic castle is pretty cool.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Comic-Book Adaptation: This movie had a condensed three-part comic book adaptation by Kevin Van Hook that also included a section of popular (at the time) callbacks used in Audience Participation screenings.
    • Richard J. Anobile's "Movie Novel" is actually a Film Comic.
  • Commedia dell'Arte: Not a direct example of this genre, but most of the characters are decent matches to those stock characters:
    • 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.)
    • The others are a bit of a stretch - presumably Rocky as the Pierrot, Magenta as the Brighella, and Dr. Scott as the Tartaglia.
  • Contrived Coincidence: What are the odds that Brad and Janet would leave to see their former teacher Dr. Scott, only to get stranded in a castle, where Dr. Scott will eventually turn up, searching for his nephew? Lampshaded though, as Frank quickly suspects that Brad and Janet were sent in by Scott to investigate, although Scott denies that.
  • Cultural Translation: The Audience Participation naturally varies from country to country, at least in part, featuring local references, e.g.:
    Janet: Oh! If only we hadn't made this journey... if only the car hadn't broken down... if only we were amongst friends... Or sane persons!
    Israeli audience: Day dayenu, day dayenu...
  • 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.
  • Dark Reprise: Of Science Fiction Double Feature at the end.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Dull Surprise: During "Dammit Janet", Riff-Raff, Columbia and Magenta deadpan their chorus deliberately. (eg, "Oh, Brad.")
  • Early-Bird Cameo:
    • During "Dammit Janet", you can see Richard O'Brien, Patricia Quinn, Tim Curry, and Little Nell in the church. The Criminologist has circled Curry and O'Brien.
    • 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.
  • Escape from the Crazy Place: Good luck with that plan, Brad and Janet.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: This is ostensibly the reason Riff Raff and Magenta turn on Frank — "Your mission is a failure/Your lifestyle's too extreme..."
  • 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. Of course, there's that whole Brother-Sister Incest going on with Riff-Raff to begin with...
      • As well as the subtext from the original play (cut for the movie) that the process of creating and animating Rocky was almost entirely Riff Raff's work, and Frank was stealing both the credit for and the fruits of Riff's labor.
  • Everytown, America: Dentonnote .
  • Expospeak Gag: A "sonic transducer" is a microphone.
  • Fanservice: Depends on your sexuality, but Rose Tints My World is almost guaranteed to turn someone on. Whether it's Columbia's cleavage popping out of her corset, Rocky's pelvic thrusts against a feather boa, Brad acting all flustered and stretching his leg, or Janet's moaning, lip-biting, seductive stare right into the camera.
  • Formal Full Array of Cutlery: The dinner scene gives everyone between four and seven of each utensil for a meal with only one dish.
    • Word of God says that Jim Sharman did this to show that Frank and Riff Raff are aliens trying to imitate a human dinner party and failing miserably.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: The main Transylvanians. Frank is Choleric, Riff is Melancholic, Magenta is Phlegmatic, and Columbia is Sanguine.
  • Free-Love Future: The planet Transexual seems to be this if Frank's behaviour is anything to go by.
  • Funny Background Event: Take a look at Frank's expression as Janet sings "God bless Lili St. Cyr"
  • 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 Transsexual in the Galaxy of 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 insects adrift in a meaningless void of time and space, and the movie ends.
  • 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  in the laboratory.
  • The Musical: One of the more famous ones.
  • No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine: Let's just say who's coming to dinner is more than expected.
  • "Not If They Enjoyed It" Rationalization: Frank, sleeping with Brad and Janet.
  • 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 Nudifier: Frank's Meduas Transducer Machine not only turns people to stone, but causes any clothes they're wearing at the moment to fall off their (now-marble) bodies. Presumably this is because Greco-Roman statues wearing clothes would look ridiculous, even though Frank does redress them in the same clothes that he wears, with the exception of Dr. Scott, who is redressed in much of his old clothes, with only his pants and shoes replaced by fishnets and heels.
  • One Crazy Night: Brad and Janet's car breaks down on their way to see the professor who introduced them. They go to a nearby castle to use the phone(Castles don't have phones, asshole!) and...things...happen.
  • Off Model: The drawings in the comic book adaption look very poor, and due to this, the characters look off model at some points.
  • Pietà Plagiarism: Rocky and Frank-N-Furter, before Rocky goes into rage mode.note 
  • Protective Charm: Humorously implied at the very start of the film, when the disembodied lips singing "Science Fiction Double Feature" are seemingly driven away by a cross, which turns out to be atop the steeple of the church where the wedding is taking place.
  • Pun: The Sweet Transvestite from the planet Transsexual in the galaxy Transylvania.note 
  • Punny Name:
    • Dr. Frank-N-Furter, especially considering the pre-Time Warp appetizers. Lampshaded with an Incredibly Lame Pun when the characters call him a "hot dog" during "Planet Schmanet Janet".
    • 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.
  • Quirky Town: Richard O'Brien's experiences as a teenager in 1950s Hamilton and Tauranga in New Zealand were the inspiration for him to write this.
  • Raised Lighter Tribute: Done during Audience Participation in the song "Over At The Frankenstein Place", with the cue being "There's a light..."
  • Rocky Roll Call: The Trope Namer. Janet, Dr. Scott, Brad, Rocky and Frank cross paths through some manner or other, resulting in them just saying eachothers names.
    "Janet!" "Dr. Scott!" "Janet!" "Brad!" "Rocky!" Three times. Audiences like to scream "BULLWINKLE!" or "AUDIENCE!"note  after. note 
  • Rule of Symbolism: A number of things follow this rule. For example, it's no coincidence that Dr. Scott, who opposes the overly sexual Frank N Furter is paralyzed from the legs down, or that the bulk of the cast is reborn in Frank's image for the floor show.
  • Say My Name:
    • The aforementioned Rocky Roll Call.
    • "YOU'D BETTER NOT TRY TO HURT HERRRR, FRANK FURTER!" Continued somewhat by Riff-Raff in the ending, where he dramatically belts out Frank's name as he comes to kill him.
  • 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.
  • Small Universe After All: The Transylvanians don't come from the Romanian province, they're from the galaxy of Transylvania.
  • Smoking Hot Sex:
    • Brad, after getting laid by Frank in the movie. note 
    • Janet and Rocky.
    • And even Magenta and Columbia, although whether or not they actually had sex is ambiguous. (Although audiences seem to agree that they did. note )
  • Stuka Scream: Heard twice. When the electromagnet pulls Dr. Scott's wheelchair down the ramp and again when the RKO tower falls into the swimming pool.
  • Stealth Pun: What's for dinner? Meatloaf, again.note 
    • The transducer turns the cast into nude, stone statues - which of course can't talk. What else has Frank made that has its body on display and can't talk? Rocky.
  • 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.
  • Tag Line: From the trailer: "Let there be... LIPS."
  • 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 
    Brad: Just what exactly are you implying?!note 
    • 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.
  • Teleportation: The Sonic Transducer. It's implied to be able to send people to other planets and through time.
  • 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"...
  • Unwinnable by Mistake: In the computer game, the bad guys can take your clothes off you and you can't climb ladders while you're naked. At one point you have to climb a ladder in order to switch off a laser. If you're naked and your clothes have spawned above the ladder, then you can't complete it.
  • Up to Eleven: Riff declares Frank's lifestyle "too extreme", suggesting that he's a bit of a weirdo even by Transylvanian standards, where incest and open promiscuity are apparently common.
  • Villains Want Mercy: Frank-N-Furter tries to desperately to get Riff Raff and Magenta to take pity on him in the ending. It doesn't work, and Riff Raff kills him.
    • Riff even asks for it verbatim when Frank is whipping him in the elevator.note 
  • Where The Hell Is Denton?: The movie doesn't outright say which of the 18 Dentons in America Brad and Janet live in, but Janet is seen reading the Plain Dealer (a Cleveland newspaper) with a headline about Ohio utilities, and the Rocky Horror Scrapbook includes a clipped questionnaire that shows Janet's address as 10 Main Street, Denton, Ohio.


The 2016 TV remake provides examples of:

  • Ascended Fangirl: Laverne Cox, who plays Frank in the remake, was a big Rocky Horror fan when she was in college, but surprisingly, she has never seen the film in a theater (however, she planned to before production started). She even cried when Tim Curry joined the cast of the remake!
    • Victoria Justice, who plays Janet, has been a fan of the movie since she saw it at a slumber party in middle school, and her first shadowcast screening was at age 15. She has seen the movie six times.


...pation.


Alternative Title(s): Rocky Horror Picture Show

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Film/TheRockyHorrorPictureShow?from=Main.TheRockyHorrorPictureShow