After 40 Years Rocky Horror Has Become Mainstream
The Rocky Horror Picture Show, co-written by New Zealand-based Richard O’Brien, has risen “from a shelved failure to a cult hit to a beloved cultural staple is thanks to its dedicated groups of fans,” the Atlantic reports on the musical’s 40th anniversary.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show, that campy beacon of sexuality and self-acceptance, premiered in the US on 25 September 1975, at the Westwood Theater in Los Angeles. The film follows a terribly traditional 1950s-esque couple, Brad (Barry Bostwick) and Janet (Susan Sarandon), as they spend the night in the gothic castle of the cross-dressing alien Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry) and his Transylvanian posse. O’Brien appeared as Riff Raff.
Following its release, it was quickly shelved. But due to the marketing savvy of a young executive at 20th Century Fox, Rocky Horror was revitalised in the form of a midnight screening the next year at the Waverly Theater in Greenwich Village, New York.
Over the next four decades, Rocky Horror would be transformed from failed movie-musical to underground phenomenon to rebellious coming-of-age ritual to mainstream icon, all thanks to the hardcore fans who flocked to its late-night showings.
Born in the midst of the punk revolution in the form of O’Brien’s 1973 dark cabaret musical The Rocky Horror Show and reincarnated into The Rocky Horror Picture Show by Jim Sharman two years later, the film is currently the longest-running movie in history.
As American film critic Roger Ebert wrote, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show is not so much a movie as more of a long-running social phenomenon” because “the fans put on a better show than anything on the screen.”
While the film might have achieved mainstream success, the passion of its most devoted fans remains an emblem of Rocky Horror’s underground origins.
O’Brien became a citizen of New Zealand in 2011, dual with Britain, where he was born in 1942.
Original article by Katharine Schwab, The Atlantic, September 26, 2015.