Author Dave Thompson provides an in-depth, colorful, hair-raising and informative history of The Rocky Horror Picture Show (referred to generally in the book as “The Rocky Horror Show”), from its beginning as Richard O’Brien’s brainchild to an explosive theatre production to the cult classic movie and social phenomenon.
Thompson reveals that The Rocky Horror Show appealed to people on so many levels because it was so multi-faceted: part fairy tale, part rock and roll, strange but funny, weird but sexy and psychological. The Rocky Horror Show encompassed elements of the past, the present and the future with its themes such as glam rock (as revealed by the popularity of David Bowie and Gary Glitter), sexuality (transgender, hetero and otherwise), and creatures from outer space; challenging social convention and captivating audiences.
It’s not surprising that this script pushed the limits of every theme because, as Thompson reveals in the chapter titled “How the Message Ran,” the play was conceived by Richard O’Brien, who was forced out of the London production of Jesus Christ Superstar when he suggested that King Herod be played as Elvis Presley. Thompson further details the story behind the creation of The Rocky Horror Show, how the cast was pulled together for the stage production, including tidbits like Tim Curry’s inspiration for his voice and audition outfit.
In the chapter entitled “A Jump to the Left (the songs, the scenes, the
sidebars),” Thompson breaks down the scenes by songs and uncovers the origins
for song lyrics, with trivia and synopses on cinematic icons such as Doctor X and The Day the Earth Stood Still and Leo G. Carroll.
The chapter “This Decadence Saps Our Wills” explains how, after six months on stage, there was talk about making The Rocky Horror Show movie. Thompson again reveals the nitty-gritty details about the casting calls for many of the then-unknown (or little known) actors. The movie appeared to be a complete flop and received “merciless” treatment. Actor Christopher Biggins, who played one of the Transylvanians, is quoted: “We went to the premiere and everyone left the theatre wanting to slit their wrists. It was like coming out of a morgue.” But, something was happening and roots were forming as Thompson notes:
But although some audiences numbered in mere handfuls, only the most observant
people noticed that it was the same handful that returned every night. And again,
they knew the words, they sang the songs, they walked the walk, and they wore the clothes.
Concise and well written, this guide to the story behind The Rocky Horror Show is filled with media and social news tidbits and is a great read for movie buffs and Rocky Horror Picture Show fans.