Ah, The Timewarp – A wonderfully tacky dance step from Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Picture Show, the travelling horror musical which managed to combine sex, horror and retro rock ‘n’ roll all in one. An unbridled fantasy about an androgynous intergalactic emissary passing the time making creatures for his/her sexual gratification . . .
One rainy night, the hapless (and recently engaged) middle-class Brad Majors (Barry Bostwick) and Janet Weiss (Susan Sarandon) from Denton, Ohio, suffer a flat tyre and stumble into the Gothic castle-den of Dr Frank N Furter (Tim Curry) who is hosting the Annual Transylvanian Convention, and become entrapped in his nightmare hobbies.
Frank N Furter is, quite rightly, a cinema icon – a mad scientist, alien, cult leader and lovesick transvestite in garter belts and torn fishnet stockings.
Writer/composer Richard O’Brien plays Riff Raff, the Igor to Curry’s Master – and were it not for Curry’s character, O’Brien would have dominated any other film. Notable other members of the Rocky Horror family include Riff Raff’s gorgeous sister, Magenta (Patricia Quinn), the energetic groupie Columbia (Nell Campbell) and a very young Meat Loaf in a fabulous musical cameo.
Frank N Furter subsequently reveals his new artificially created love-toy – blonde, bemuscled Rocky (Peter Hinwood) – then kills his old one, Eddie (Meat Loaf) and finally has sex with both Brad and Janet by trickery. Rocky escapes, returns to seduce Janet, and Dr Everett Scott (Jonathan Adams) drops in.
They all eat on top of Eddie’s coffin and Columbia gets very upset. Everyone gets turned into statues, then there is a weird cabaret/floor show . . .
The story is tied together via excellent songs sung by the characters and narrator Charles Gray. Stand-out songs include Science Fiction/Double Feature, Sweet Transvestite, Time Warp, Touch A Touch Me, Dammit Janet, Hot Patootie, I’m Going Home and Don’t Dream It, Be It.
Tim Curry, the sweet transvestite from Transsexual Transylvania – singing to his beautiful male creation “I can make you a ma-a-a-annn!” – perfectly reflected the spirit of the 70s.
Rocky Horror was made into a film in 1975 after selling out as a stage musical at fringe theatres for two years. The film soon attracted a rabid following who copied the kitsch transvestite dress and Alice Cooper eye makeup.
Audiences learned the dialogue by heart and shouted replies at the screen, threw water, rice and flour over themselves (and each other) in time to screen action, and performed The Timewarp in step with the stars.
This imitation began in New York City, but its documentation in Alan Parker’s 1980 musical Fame caused imitations in many other countries. There are even audience-participation packs available for newcomers . . .
A 1981 semi-sequel (Shock Treatment) found Brad and Janet embroiled in a bungled satire on American TV values, with Tim Curry’s Frank N Furter much missed – and Barry Humphries totally excruciating as the new villain.
Frank-N-Furter’s imposing castle is a real place in England called Oakley Court, which overlooks the Thames in the village of Bray. It had appeared in many movies before – including Half a Sixpence (1967) – and several horror films produced by the famed Hammer Films and the 1976 mystery Murder by Death. Nowadays it’s a hotel.
Dr Frank N Furter
Dr Everett Scott