(Silke Wünsch’s article appeared on DW, 6/19; Photo: The show was a trailblazer in how it portrayed sexual identity; Image: Imago/ZUMA Press)
It was 50 years ago that “The Rocky Horror Show” was first seen on stage in London. Despite its wild and enthusiastic audiences enticing rats and mice into movie theaters at one stage, the show has gone on.
There’s a wedding on the screen: Moviegoers throw rice in the theater.
In the film, a blonde woman gets out of her car. She holds a newspaper over her head to protect herself from the rain. Meanwhile, in the cinema, water guns spray water all over while others hold newspapers over their heads too.
The woman then starts singing. When she sings, “there’s a light,” hundreds of cigarette lighters are held up by the audience.
The woman and her boyfriend then enter a castle where a party is taking place. On screen, people are dancing the “Time Warp”: moviegoers join in.
When Dr. Frank N. Furter’s creature Rocky is unwrapped from its bandages, moviegoers throw around toilet paper while singing the film’s songs.
After the movie, the theaters always look like a mess. Still, the next screening will start soon enough.
No other film has been accompanied by such cult rituals. No other film has been known to attract mice to the cinema either. After a few months, vermin started invading theaters because of the rice thrown during the screenings.
In the early 1980s, people were crazy about “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” They loved the characters, the music and the happenings in the theaters. They dressed up as Frank N. Furter or as the maids, Magenta and Columbia.
The film still runs in a movie theater in Munich, which found its way into the Guinness World Records for exactly that reason.
Breakthrough as ‘midnight movie’
The cult musical’s beginnings were more humble. “The Rocky Horror Show” premiered to 63 people on June 19, 1973, at London’s Royal Court Theatre.
Actor Richard O’Brien wrote the script while he was bored, waiting for a job in his London apartment. He wanted to create a parody of trashy American B-movies of the 1950s such as those directed by Jack Arnold, the master of monster, horror and sci-fi classics, including “Tarantula” and “It Came From Outer Space.”
Although the budget of the production was very tight, audiences and critics loved it.
Originally planned to run for five weeks, it was shown for seven years without interruption.
Fans started to turn the theater show into a happening. The musical was also presented by other theaters, including one in New York. It kept attracting more and more people in costumes, who’d throw around rice and other props.