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- The disembodied lips were inspired by Man Ray's painting A l'heure de l'observatoire, les Amoureux ("Observatory Time, The Lovers").
- During "Dammit Janet", Riff Raff and Magenta are dressed as an American Gothic Couple. A copy of the painting itself is seen in Frank's entrance hall and Riff and Magenta dress as futuristic versions in the climax.
- There's a small copy of Rodin's "The Kiss" on the mantelpiece in the entrance hall by the elevator.
- A black and white copy of the Mona Lisa and its mirrored opposite can be seen on either side of the stage in the ballroom.
- One of the partygoers looks exactly like Andy Warhol and a couple more resemble Divine and Yoko Ono.
- Two mirror-image replicas of the Michelangelo's David statue are seen in Frank's lab.
- Myron's Discoblus (discus thrower) statue is in Frank's lab. One of the Transylvanians knocks its head off.
- There's a Venus De Milo statue with a candle on her head in the dining room.
- Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper is seen in The Criminologist's book.
- The picture of Eddie's mother in The Criminologist's book is based on Whistler's Mother.
- A mosaic version of Michelangelo's The Creation Of Adam is at the bottom of Frank's swimming pool. In the remake, Frank and Rocky's corpses are laid out in a similar position to God and Adam.
- In recent play stagings, Rocky is born from a wheel with a picture of Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man. The man spins around to reveal Rocky in the other side of it.
- The opening song, "Science Fiction/Double Feature", references a lot of old B-movies and their stars. In the remake, The Usherette walks by posters for most of these films.
- The wedding guests at the start appearing in Frank's castle later on is a reference to the "And You Were There" from The Wizard of Oz, the photographer even had his voice sped up to make him sound like a Munchkin. This was originally supposed to go much further with the movie starting in black and white and Frank's lips being the first thing we see in color.
- The exterior of Frank's castle note had been used in a number of earlier horror films due to its proximity to Bray Studios.
- The Castle Theatre/Frank's Castle in the remake is Casa Loma which is a popular filming location used in various contemporary media:
- On the Laserdisc SE interview, director Sharman said that the Time Warp scene was a nod to a dance contest scene in the French film Bande à part note .
- Frank tells Brad and Janet that they "can take in an old Steve Reeves movie". Reeves starred in the 1958 Hercules and Hercules Unchained the following year.
- The tank that Rocky first emerges from and the dummy that was meant to be him inside it were first used in The Revenge of Frankenstein.
- Rocky is called "a triumph of your [Frank's] will". Triumph of the Will is a famous Nazi propaganda film by Leni Riefenstahl.
- Eddie's Knuckle Tattoos are the same LOVE and HATE ones as Robert Mitchum's character in The Night of the Hunter.
- As a crippled, ex-Nazi scientist working for the American government, Dr. Scott is heavily inspired by Dr. Strangelove.
- Columbia's daybed scenes evoke similar ones from the once-notorious 1956 film Baby Doll.
- The "Don't Dream It, Be It" scene is a reference to the synchronized swimming scenes in Esther Williams musicals.
- Fay Wray and King Kong are referenced again in the "Fanfare—Don't Dream It" part of "Rose Tint My World" where Frank sings "Whatever happened to Fay Wray, That delicate satin draped frame. As it clung to her thigh. How I started to cry. For I wanted to be dressed just the same". In the remake, Frank sings this while lying in a gold replica of Kong's hand.
- Rocky carrying Frank up the RKO tower is a reference to Kong carrying Wray's character Ann Darrow up the Empire State Building.
- The RKO tower is the logo of RKO Pictures, the company that produced a lot of the old movies that are referenced. It was originally supposed to be a Twentieth Century Fox logo with Magenta and Columbia pulling strings to move cardboard searchlights but Fox refused.
- The way Rocky carries Frank's dead body is likely a reference to Anne Francis' character Altaira being held by Robby The Robot in Forbidden Planet.
- The black stockings and garters everyone ends up in by the finale may be a reference to Cabaret.
- Magenta sports the infamous Bride of Frankenstein beehive hairdo near the end of the film.
- Frank's corpse floating in the swimming pool is a reference to the opening of Sunset Boulevard.
- Several comparisons have been drawn between the opening graveyard scene and the opening of the original Night of the Living Dead.
- Brad and Janet's wedding clothes are near identical to the two main characters from What's Up, Doc?.
- Hugh Currant, set designer for the play's 40th anniversary run, said he based the entrance hall's Gothic interior and red wallpaper on various Hammer Horror films and Frank's lab has nods to the James Whale Frankenstein films.
- The lightning bolt logos on Riff Raff and Magenta's uniforms seem to be a reference to the ones worn by the aliens in Plan 9 from Outer Space.
- In the car, Brad and Janet are listening to Richard Nixon's resignation speech on the radio.
- Frank has a red triangle on his lab coat. The Nazis used pink triangles to identify homosexuals.
- Rocky's "Sword of Damocles" is named after a tale of the same name from Classical Mythology.
- Calling Dr. Scott "von Scott"note is likely a reference to Wernher von Braun, a Nazi rocket scientist who was adopted by the US during Operation Paperclip.
- During "Rose Tint My World", Janet cries "God bless Lily St. Cyr!". Lily St. Cyr was a 1940s-era stripper who later opened a lingerie shop in Hollywood.
Literature and Publications
- Janet reads and then wearsnote a copy of The Plain Dealer, a real-life Cleveland, Ohio newspaper with a fake headline.
- The vampire cape Frank wears when we first see him is a reference to the Classical Movie Vampire trope inspired by the Dracula franchise.
- The whole concept of Rocky's creation is based on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Dr Frank N. Furter is an obvious reference to Dr, Frankenstein.
- The remake has Brad and Janet dancing on Shelley's grave during "Dammit Janet".
- Frank says that Rocky has "The Charles Atlas seal of approval". Charles Atlas is the name behind a muscle-building program frequently advertised in comic books. It was popular in the 50's and promised to "make you a new man" in just "seven days" utilizing a method called "dynamic tension".
- Weird Fantasy issue 13's cover can be seen in The Criminologist's book.
- The topless woman in Crim's book is from Tonight magazine, a 1960s pornographic magazine.
- The motorbike pictures are from Choppers magazine.
- During the "Wild and Untamed Thing" number in the remake, the dancer in the long coat standing next to Ben Vereen adjusts his bowler hat and strikes a Bob Fosse-esque pose in reference and tribute to Vereen's starring Broadway turns in Pippin and Fosse.
- "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."
- During "Hot-Patootie", Eddie sings "Buddy Holly was singing his very last song."