(Note: What follows are the original press notes which accompanied
the release of The Rocky Horror Picture Show in 1975.)
From an experimental production in a small London theatre to a smash international stage hit to a major motion picture, all in the space of 18 months! That's the exciting history of "THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW," a Lou Adler / Michael White musical production for 20th Century-Fox.
"THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW" is an outrageous assemblage of the most stereotyped science fiction movies, Marvel comics, Frankie Avalon / Annette Funicello outings and rock 'n' roll of every vintage. Running through the story is the sexual confusion of two middle American "Ike Age" kids confronted by the complications of the decadent morality of the 70's, represented in the person of the mad "doctor" Frank N Furter, a transvestite from the planet Transexual in the galaxy of Transylvania.
Created by Richard O'Brien, who wrote the book, music and lyrics and calls it "something any ten-year old could enjoy," this homage to the horror film opened in London at the Royal Court's experimental Theatre Upstairs as a six-week workshop project in June, 1973. The show received such acclaim at this 60-seat theatre that it was quickly moved to larger quarters in a converted cinema in Chelsea. Following the movie theatre's demolition, the show found a permanent home at the 500-seat King's Road Theatre, where it is still playing to packed houses nightly. The play was named "Best Musical of 1973" in the London Evening Standard's annual poll of drama critics.
One of the most dynamic and creative forces of the American music industry, Lou Adler, who was in London, saw "The Rocky Horror Show" and promptly sewed up the American theatrical rights to the play within 36 hours. Long recognized as being involved in the success of some of the great milestone recording artists of the 60's and 70's, and it is a tribute to his persuasiveness and stature in music circles that he won out over many established New York "name" producers.
Adler has initiated many "firsts" in his 16-year career. In 1967 he produced the first contemporary music industry film, "Monterey Pop," filmed at the historic Monterey Pop Festival, which he produced with John Phillips of the "Mamas and Papas." Considered by music historians as possibly the most significant event in pop music history, the first manifestation of the importance and influence of music to the present generations, Monterey also introduced such talents as Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix.
As sole owner and chief executive officer of Ode Records, Adler personally produces every artist on the label and oversees every aspect of the musical careers of such artists as Carole King and Cheech and Chong.
As executive producer of "THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW," Lou Adler presents his first feature film offering since his Production of Robert Altman's "Brewster McCloud" for MGM. His only prior association with theatre was as one of six backers for Hillard Elkins' short-lived Production of Gore Vidal's "An Evening with Richard Nixon."
The original stage version of "The Rocky Horror Show" was produced by Michael White, one of London's most successful and experienced theatrical producers with over ninety shows to his credit in twelve years, including the London production of "Sleuth," "The Doll's House," "Oh! Calcutta" and "Two Gentlemen of Verona." On the opening night of "The Rocky Horror Show" Michael White already had six other major productions running in the West End.
"THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW" marks White's first screen credit as producer, but together with the film's Associate Producer John Goldstone his motion picture interests have included "The Final Programme" and "Monty Python and the Holy Grail."
Filming of "THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW" began in October, 1974, at Bray Studios, England's famous "House of Horror" and at a 19th century chateau which served once as the wartime refuge of General Charles DeGaulle.
Both the London and American productions of "The Rocky Horror Show" were directed by Jim Sharman, who makes his motion picture directorial debut with "THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW." "All during the theatre version there was a movie it the back of my or mind," he says. Being surrounded by film mythology, the theatre version was very filmic -- as the film is very theatrical, although I've tried to avoid making a sort of filmed stage play. The show treads a thin line between homage and parody. I love the old horror films quite passionately but 'THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW' has its own story and can hold its own whether you are a horror fan or not."
Born and raised in Australia, Sharman trained there with the State Drama Theatre and first made his name with a variety of experimental productions before being recruited as director of "Hair" in Sydney and Tokyo until "Jesus Christ Superstar" brought him to London and "Rocky."
The film version of "THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW" retains many members of the original Theatre Upstairs company. Repeating the roles they originally created in the theatre are Richard O'Brien (Riff Raff), Patricia Quinn (Magenta), Little Nell (Columbia) and Jonathan Adams (who played the Narrator on stage and now appears as Dr. Scott).
Making his screen debut in "THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW" is the sensational star of the London, Los Angeles and Broadway versions of the play, Tim Curry, in the controversial role of the transvestite scientist from outer space, Dr. Frank N Furter.
A serious student of drama who has played in Shakespearean productions, the twenty-eight-year-old Curry does not in the least mind being associated with such a sexually bizarre character. "He has a very odd kind of appeal, particularly to women," says Curry. "He is certainly not corrupting, even to people outside the big cities. He can go from doing something really outrageous and horrific to being deeply moving."
The character of Frank N Furter remains essentially intact in its transition from stage to screen. "A lot has happened to me and the character in a very short period of time," says Curry, "but basically Frank N Furter is the same character that first set sequined high heels on stage just eighteen months ago."
In "THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW" Transylvania is the name of a galaxy whose space agents assigned to planet Earth have gathered together for their annual Transylvanian Convention. Sets reminiscent of the traditional foreboding Gothic castle yet combining a touch of "Modern Bizarre" were designed by Brian Thomson. An ex-architect who has what he describes as a "healthy contempt" for the idea that scenery is just something in front of which actors act, Thomson has teamed with director Jim Sharman on nine productions including the original stage Presentation of "The Rocky Horror Show."
The film also retains its original costume designer, Sue Blane, whose merry widow corsets, garter belts and half tuxedos adorn the ghoulish group. The outlandish makeup for Tim Curry and the Transylvanians was designed by Pierre Laroche, famed makeup artist of stars and celebrities like both Mick and Bianca Jagger.
Lou Adler attributes the show's quick production as a film (usually a play must run at least year on Broadway before a film production is begun) to the fact that it opened in Los Angeles where studio executives could witness the success of the show and easily see its potential.
A Lou Adler / Michael White musical Production for 20th Century Fox, "THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW" was produced by Michael White and directed by Jim Sharman from a screenplay by Jim Sharman and Richard O'Brien. Lou Adler is the executive producer. Starring Tim Curry, the film is a screen version of the award-winning hit stage musical with book, music and lyrics by Richard O'Brien.
On the way to visit an old college professor, the two clean-cut kids, Brad Majors (Barry Bostwick) and his fiancee Janet Weiss (Susan Sarandon), run into tire trouble and seek help at the site of a light down the road. It's coming from "the Frankenstein place," where Dr. Frank N Furter (Tim Curry), a transvestite from the planet Transexual in the galaxy of Transylvania, is in the midst of one of his maniacal experiments -- he's created the perfect man, a rippling piece of beefcake christened Rocky Horror (Peter Hinwood), and intends to put him to good use (his own) in his kinky household retinue, presided over by a hunchback henchman named Riff Raff (Richard O'Brien) and his incestuous sister Magenta (Patricia Quinn), and assisted by a tap dancing groupie-in-residence, Columbia (Little Nell).
Agape in this world of science fiction and fantasy, Brad and Janet don't know what next to expect, when the disastrous result of a previous experiment, an oafish biker named Eddie (Meatloaf), plows through the laboratory wall, wailing on a saxophone. Frank puts a permanent end to this musical interruption without thinking twice until the old professor Brad and Janet had set out to visit, Dr. Scott (Jonathan Adams), turns up at the castle in search of his missing nephew, the juvenile delinquent Eddie. He knows that Frank N Furter is an alien, a spy from another galaxy, and sets out to turn him in, but Frank moves too fast, seducing first Janet, then Brad into his lascivious clutches. Overwhelmed by a newfound libido, Janet hotly attacks the stud Rocky Horror while Brad is under the covers with Frank.
Before Dr. Scott can bring justice and morality into this topsy-turvy Transylvanian orgy, Frank N Furter has turned his captives to stone, in preparation for a new "experiment" -- an all drag revue -- when Riff Raff and Magenta reappear in Transylvanian space togs to wrest control of the mission from Frank N Furter, whose lifestyle is too extreme even for his fellow space travelers. When his lavish histrionic claims of chauvinism fail to soften up Riff Raff and Magenta, Frank N Furter tries to escape, only to be gunned down by their powerful rayguns. Rocky rushes to save his creator, but he, too, is blasted to outer space by the militants.
Brad, Janet and Dr. Scott are left in a fog, incapable of readjusting to the normalcy of the life they've left behind in Denton, now that they've tasted the forbidden fruits of the Time Warp.