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The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Year: 1975
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Director: Jim Sharman
Writer: Jim Sharman/Richard O'Brien
Cast: Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick, Richard O'Brien, Patricia Quinn, Nell Campbell, Peter Hinwood

There are a couple of dozen films even casual movie watchers know off by heart after loving them over the course of a lifetime that I haven't even seen yet. It took until the last 12 months (as I write this) to watch Rebel Without a Cause, for instance.

One of those movies whose power I was always aware of but had never seen was The Rocky Horror Picture Show, a mash-up of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and drag queen/transsexual culture shot through with ribald gay camp. Like many people I'd heard The Time Warp a thousand times but didn't know any more beyond that.

The story's barely even that important because it's all about the songs and the shared experience, to the extent this film was a staple of midnight screenings long before the digital age and the likes of Showgirls and Tarantino.

Brad (Barry Bostwick) and Janet (Susan Sarandon) break down on a back road one dark and stormy night and rush to a huge manor they see in the distance to ask if they can use a phone.

The door's answered by the creepy, hunchbacked Riff Raff (Richard O'Brien, who wrote the stage show), who tells them how lucky they are to have arrived on the night the master of the house is revealing his piéce de resistance.

After meeting maid Magenta (Patricia Quinn) and being treated to the famous song, they meet the inimitable Dr Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry), a scientist dressed in womens' lingerie who oozes sexuality and charm before revealing his creation – a man-made human called Rocky Horror (Peter Hinwood) to be his personal sex companion.

After a few more numbers that introduce groupie Columbia (Nell Campbell) and Eddie (Meat Loaf), the delivery boy who formed an early draft of Furter's prototype before being abandoned, Brad and Janet are drawn deeper into the world of the trippy and sexual party antics that surround the occasion.

Narratively the twist that reveals Riff Raff and Magenta's true identities (they're brother and sister, but there's much more to it) is a little bit stupid, but it's tailor made for a raucous stage production that's all flash and pizzazz. It's a little less immersive watching it alone on DVD, and you can understand how so many people over the years have appreciated the communal experience in a movie theatre and signing along.

The outsized reputation and cult following means you're a bit surprised by how small scale and cheap the production is, but what director Richard Sharman lacks in a budget for special effects and room for extras in the party scenes he makes up for in sheer wacky exuberance.

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