Brad Majors (Barry Bostwick) and his girlfriend Janet Weiss (Susan Sarandon) are attending the wedding of friends, and outside the chapel Janet catches the bouquet when the bride throws it. As the guests head off to the reception, Brad has a surge of confidence and asks Janet to marry him: he already has the engagement ring and she is only too happy to accept and be his fiancée. However, during the late night drive home they become lost and after encountering a dead end they decide to call at the country manor they passed back up the road and ask to use their telephone - but the telephone is never used...
The cult movie to end all cult movies, and judging by its grand finale that was precisely the idea, The Rocky Horror Picture Show is now a phenomenon as much about its audience as it is watching the film itself. Perhaps the ultimate midnight movie because that's where it found its popularity, it was famously a disaster in cinemas on its initial release, but gradually more and more people would return to see it until they were reciting dialogue along with the actors and even making up their own lines, not to mention taking along props and even dressing up as the characters.
So if you want the full Rocky Horror experience, you really need to see it at one of those midnight screenings complete with rice being thrown and squirting water pistols substituting for rain. But if you happen to catch it on late night television, or even own your own copy, how does it play? As it was based on Richard O'Brien's stage musical, the communal participation is ideal, but separated from that the film still stands up as good fun although that enjoyment does tend to wind down as the story progresses. Ostensibly a tribute to the science fiction and horror movies of the past, it adds glam sexual kinks to give it all an edge.
In fact, the heroes of the movies Rocky Horror pays tribute to would be undoubtedly more terrified by star Tim Curry's transexual transvestite Dr Frank-N-Furter than they would The Creature from the Black Lagoon or giant Tarantula. Curry holds it all together through some of the weaker songs and more lacklustre passages with a terrific performance that mixes winking camp with self-pitying pathos, the perfect combination for a film that attempts to encapsulate both of those properties. When Brad and Janet arrive at the country house they are welcomed in (sort of) by butler Riff Raff (O'Brien) then surprised by the Transylvanians within dancing the Time Warp, the most celebrated song from the production.
How do you top that? With Curry making one of cinema's great entrances, all dressed up with bright red lipstick and women's underwear, but Frank has plans. He brings to life a creation of his own, the Rocky of the title (Peter Hinwood), but unlike the similar Dr Frankenstein, he doesn't reject his "monster", he is the one rejected. Although Frank has wedding bells in mind, Rocky prefers Janet, and actually Frank wouldn't mind trying her on for size either - and bring Brad along too. If this sounds subversive, it plays a lot safer than it reads, and the ending sees the plot unravelling into a morass of sentiment at odds with the party hard fun you might know the film for by reputation. It may be tatty at the corners, but Rocky Horror holds a special place in the hearts of many and its ingenuity on a low budget endures thanks to knowing performances and O'Brien's clever songs.