With a revival of the stage show – starring creator Richard O’Brien no less – just announced and the 40th anniversary of the film version this month, there’s no better time for Sooz Kempner to say, “Damn It, Janet & Co, I Love You.”
A steady beat is ominously stamped out by a seven-inch platform heel. An all-American newly engaged couple watch as an elevator descends. A sassy, heavily made-up vampiric figure welcomes the couple to his home. And then he flings his cape away in a flourish, revealing a basque, stockings and suspenders that fit him just perfectly.
I am 14 years old and I am watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show for the very first time. Seeing it on VHS back in 1999 wasn’t some incredible sexual awakening for me. Instead, Richard O’Brien taught me I could be weird and that being weird was A-OK.
A month later, I went to the theatre with three friends and dressed relatively conservatively in Mickey Mouse ears and pyjamas in a tribute to my favourite character, Columbia.
Over the next 15 years, I have seen the live show nine times (a low amount among Rocky Horror fans) and my outfits have gradually shrunk.
On my 18th birthday, I went in a cobbled together tailcoat (a white 80s box jacket with stapled-on tails I made from lining fabric before spraying the whole thing gold with poster paint in the garage) and felt like a million bucks.
I can’t believe The Rocky Horror Picture Show is over 40. With its gleeful sexual liberation, glam-rock soundtrack and bawdy gags, it is very much a product of its time and yet, simultaneously, remains completely timeless. Richard O’Brien’s songs, which burst with references to old sci-fi and horror movies, have become classics (anyone who doesn’t know how to do The Time Warp should learn immediately).
The film’s look deliberately pays homage to Hammer Horror and 1950s science-fiction with costumes reminiscent of pin-up girls but somehow manages to be completely unique in its aesthetic. There is nothing out there like Rocky Horror even though it has inspired so many.
Initially a low-budget, underground film it found its stride as a midnight movie, becoming cult fare to the misfit types that saw it again and again, spreading the word about this glorious oddity.
Watching the film or the live stage show in a room full of people is an experience like no other, with what has become almost a second script running alongside the show itself: the audience heckles throughout in near-unison. Even films like The Room can’t come close to the experience of watching Rocky Horror in a crowded theatre or cinema.
Perhaps the best thing about The Rocky Horror Picture Show and what’s made it such an enduring phenomenon is the perfect casting. Richard O’Brien, Susan Sarandon, Tim Curry and Meatloaf were yet to become household names in 1975 but pre-Crystal Maze and pre-Bat Out of Hell it was Rocky Horror that put them on the map.
Tim Curry in particular is spellbinding in one of the most iconic musical screen performances. In inch-thick lipstick, leather lingerie and sky-high platforms, he is somehow as masculine and sexy as 10 Tom Hardys.
I know as this classic film celebrates its birthday, I’ll be kicking back for another viewing – you can never visit that Frankenstein place too often. Rocky Horror, you look damn fine in your middle age.1987 Views
Funny Women Variety Award Winner 2012. ASDA Kate Bush.