Follow Here To Purchase The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Music on Film Series

Author: Dave Thompson

Publisher: Limelight; Original edition (May 1, 2012)

ISBN-10: 0879103876

ISBN-13: 978-0879103873

As with all the titles in Limelight’s “Music on Film” series, Dave Thompson’s The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a tight, compact one-stop overview of an iconic movie. It’s perhaps ¼ analysis of why the film had the impact it did, but essentially it’s a breezy history of how a stage play became a cult hit which became a film followed by even more international stage productions.      

For anyone familiar with Rocky Horror, Thompson’s history will likely hold few surprises. After all, few fandoms are so devoted to a production and know so much about their inspiration. Countless viewers have been willing to dress up for midnight matinees in surreal, gender-crossing costumes. They bring with them food and playing cards to throw at the screen. They have memorized all the lines to make the experience a unique version of audience participation. That’s putting it mildly.

The back-story behind the film, of course, is full of entertainment lore. The idea came from Richard O'Brien who wrote the play because he wasn’t permitted to play Herod as Elvis in a production of Jesus Christ Superstar. It was a parody of B movie and science fiction flicks with heavy doses of Glam Rock fashions and music. From London to California, the stage version built up a cult audience which caught the attention of music producer Lou Adler. In 1975, the film cast, including Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick, Meat Loaf, and Charles Gray either found their careers launched or marked forever by what was to become the longest running film in theatre history with no signs of stopping. In fact, 2013 will mark its 40th anniversary.

Thompson includes what you’d expect: production histories, cast biographies, quotes from participants and critics, as well as credits for both the stage and film versions. The film being what it is, we also get a "The Rocky Horror Picture Show Audience Participation Survival Kit" which lists what any nubby should bring with them to the show. One surprise, for this reviewer, was the list of 118 “Original Cast” soundtrack recordings from countries as diverse as Peru, Iceland, the Philippines, Panama, and multiple German versions.  

For those who don’t and didn’t get what Rocky Horror was all about, perhaps the most useful section of the book is the introduction where Thompson attempts to analyze why the stage and film incarnations became a phenomena. Of course, there’s no one answer. There’s the musical aspect, especially the “Glam Rock” trappings as well as the love of every cultist to feel a given endeavor belongs to them as part of an exclusive club. Then again, perhaps there is one succinct reason for it all. According to show creator Richard O’Brien, "They've asked a lot of people to interpret the show's success and they all seem to miss the very obvious answer: It allows the kids to dress up. I see guys on the street in fishnet stockings and corsets and I think it's terrific. It's a major breakthrough. Women have been cross-dressing for years. Now they can wear almost anything, but a man can't. Thanks to Rocky Horror a guy can put on fishnets and strut his stuff and feel okay. I see no harm in that at all."

True enough. Feel free to wear anything you like while perusing these pages. You can wear a newspaper on your head and turn on a flashlight at the appropriate moment. If you don’t know what that is, this is the book to answer your questions.

Follow Here To Purchase The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Music on Film Series