The Rocky Horror Picture Show (RHPS) opened in North America at the USA Theatre in Westwood, Los Angeles, on this date in 1975. It did well at that location, but not elsewhere. The cult following of the movie did not begin until the film opened its midnight run at the Waverly Theater in New York City on 1 April 1976. Because of the midnight showings it is still in limited release, making it the longest run of any movie (38 years).
RHPS is a 1975 British musical comedy horror film based on The Rocky Horror Show, a musical stage play, book, music, and lyrics by Richard O’Brien. Directed by Jim Sharman from a screenplay by Sharman and O’Brien, the production is a humorous tribute to the science fiction and horror B movies of the late 1940s through early 1970s. It introduces Tim Curry and features Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick along with cast members from the original Kings Road production presented at the Royal Court Theatre, London, in 1973.
Fox had limited success for about a year after the film’s initial release. Its planned New York debut (on Halloween) was cancelled, and its release around college campuses on a double-bill with another rock music film parody, Brian De Palma’s Phantom of the Paradise, drew small audiences. But with Pink Flamingos (1972) and Reefer Madness (1936) making money in midnight showings nationwide, RHPS was eventually screened at midnight, starting in New York City on April Fool’s Day of 1976. By that Halloween, people were attending in costume and talking back to the screen. By mid-1978, RHPS was playing in over fifty locations on Fridays and Saturdays at midnight, newsletters were published by local performance groups, and fans gathered for Rocky Horror conventions. By the end of 1979, there were twice-weekly showings at over 230 theatres. The film has taken in US$365 million at the US box office, from DVD sales, etc. since its release. The original budget for the film was US$1.4 million.
I won’t go into the plot too much: if you have seen RHPS you don’t need reminding, and if you have not, you should go. You should see it in a theater rather than on DVD (a maxim that holds true for all movies as far as I am concerned). The film opens with a criminologist who narrates the tale of Brad Majors and Janet Weiss, a newly engaged couple who find themselves lost and with a flat tire on a cold and rainy late evening. Seeking a telephone, the couple walk to a nearby castle where they discover a group of strange and outlandish people who are holding an Annual Transylvanian Convention. They are soon swept into the world of Dr. Frank N. Furter, a self-proclaimed “Sweet Transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania”. The ensemble of convention attendees also includes servants Riff Raff, his sister Magenta, and a groupie named Columbia.
In his lab, Frank claims to have discovered the “secret to life itself”. His creation, Rocky, is brought to life. The ensuing celebration (“I Can Make You a Man”) is soon interrupted by Eddie, an ex-delivery boy, partial brain donor to Rocky, and Columbia’s lover, who rides out of a deep freeze on a motorcycle. In a jealous rage, Frank corners him and kills him with an ice axe. He then departs with Rocky to a bridal suite. And so on . . . Classic line from Frank N. Furter – “Don’t be upset – It was a mercy killing. He had a certain naïve charm, but no muscle.”
There are three essential elements to a screening of RHPS:
1. Audience members come dressed as their favorite character from the movie, often with excruciating detail.
2. Props used by audience members recreate elements of scenes in the movie, or else make fun of certain classic lines. For example, during the scene where Brad and Janet are running to the castle in the rain some audience members squirt water into the air from water pistols while others cower below opened newspapers (as Janet does in the movie). At the exclamation “Great Scott!” audience members throw unfurling rolls of Scott toilet paper.
3. Audience members shout responses to lines from the screen that are now tightly scripted. Sometimes these responses twist the meanings of the original lines.
Audience members often perform this dance (“The Time Warp”) along with the cast in front of the screen.
If you have not been to a screening, you should do so once in your life.
Given that Meat Loaf played Eddie the ex-delivery boy, I am tempted to include a recipe for meatloaf. I’m not a huge fan, but when I lived in New York I would occasionally have a hankering for an open face meatloaf sandwich with gravy that was a lunch special at my favorite diner. However, I can’t say I have ever had much success making meatloaf, and have also suffered through offerings of friends. So my fallback is to do something with frankfurters in honor of the main character, Dr Frank N. Furter. Here I have a dilemma. The modern frankfurter (aka hot dog), is the descendant of the Frankfurt sausage originating in Frankfurt-am-Maine. The Frankfurt sausage is a glorious example of the rich German heritage of sausage making, and would be easy to feature in a delicious recipe. But I have to go with the hot dog because its general tackiness suits the superb tackiness of RHPS.
It’s conceivable that the hot dog on a bun has the most variations of any dish in the world. On No Reservations over the years Anthony Bourdain has shown us the Vancouver Japadog (daikon shavings, nori sprinkles and wasabi mayonnaise), the Chicago red hot (yellow mustard, green relish, tomatoes, onions, dill pickle, and celery salt), and the staggering Swedish Tunnbrödsrulle (mashed potato, shrimp salad, onions, lettuce, mayonnaise, and spices).
Here in Argentina hot dogs, known as “panchos,” are a very popular snack food. No one is really sure when and how they were introduced to Argentina, but I suspect they are a descendant of the local choripan – a pork sausage on a long bun topped with chimichurri (see post 13 Aug) or other sauce. “Choripan” is a word that blends “chorizo” which in Argentine Spanish is a generic term for a meat sausage, and “pan” meaning “bread.” “Pancho” is simple the reverse: “pan” + “chorizo.” The thing about the Argentine pancho is that, like its global cousins, it can achieve amazing heights sometimes with toppings essentially overwhelming the dog. These are usually called “super-panchos.” The typical super-pancho is a hot dog around 8 to 9 inches long, slightly protruding at either end of the bun (some are more than a foot long). Some pancherías like Pete’s in Palermo Soho have a display of 20 or more toppings and you take your pick. Here’s some fairly standard combinations.
Super 4 Quesos: Grated Roquefort, Cheddar, Parmesan, Gruyère (broiled to melt) then mayonnaise.
Mini Rusa: Diced boiled potatoes, peas, and grated carrots in mayonnaise (what Argentinos call “Russian salad”)
Palmitos Golf: Sliced hearts of palm with Golf sauce (an Argentine sauce made with mayonnaise, ketchup, bell peppers, oregano, and cumin).
Gratin Capresse: Chopped tomatoes and fresh basil leaves topped with grated mozzarella and then broiled.
It’s also very popular to add French fries on top of any of these.
The Golden Rule is to order your dog as the Buddhist monk once did: “Make me one with everything.”