Happy 71st birthday today to Richard O’Brien, the English actor who is best remembered and known for penning the The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the homage to science fiction and B level horror films during Hollywood’s heyday of them back in the late 40s to the late 60s done with an androgynously glammed up delicious twist, spearheaded by the once-in-a-lifetime performance by Tim Curry (in the film adaptation) as the curly haired Tom Jones meets Marc Bolan meets the cheeky personality of Peter O’ Toole main character, Dr. Frank-N-Furter.
The film version of Rocky Horror (which already had experienced a large cult following as the stage original stage play a few years prior) was released in 1975 and without question became one of the largest cult phenomenons in the entire history of celluloid, taking a life unto itself as it pretty much spawned the concept of the Midnight Movie, in which a film is shown and re-shown and re-re-re-shown to ravenous audiences who can’t get enough of it. And it created a pioneering audience participation segment in which fans interact with the film itself, creating their own pointed jokes and jibes which they shout at the screen, or dance along with the film’s many memorable numbers like “Sweet Transvestite” and “Time Warp,” and actually dress in costumes which mirror their favorite characters. It’s one of the earliest forms of social media interaction ever manifested, as well as cosplay, and it all happened because of the play and songbook – leading to one of the most popular Soundtracks ever – created by O’Brien (along with director Jim Sharman), who also played the tall and limber Riff Raff in the film.
Although The Rocky Horror Picture Show remains in essence the one-trick pony sussed up by O’Brien, it has been in constant production ever since its massive cult was established, performed on stages large settings and otherwise to the present day.
Sharman and O’Brien tried to have lightning strike twice with a sort-of-sequel in 1981’s Shock Treatment, to much more limited success; however, the production is still a curio bookend to fans of Rocky Horror. O’Brien still remains active to this day, he’s appeared in a few films in small roles like 1980s, Flash Gordon (which also had a sort of campy feel to it as well, but tried to cling to the style of the first wave of comic book adaptations on screen that were the style of the late 1970s-early 1980s, like Superman and Popeye), Dark City, and the Spice Girls’ film Spice World. He also hosted a popular game show in his native England called The Crystal Maze. Younger viewers of television might know him as the voice of the father to the titular characters on Disney Channel’s hit wacky animation show, Phineas and Ferb.
But for sure, it’s his creation of The Rocky Horror Picture Show that he’ll always be known for and which solidifies his place in pop culture history. Do the time warp again, and check out the film, whether it’s your first time [virgin!], or thousandth time, or ten thousandth time. One would be pretty hard pressed to find ANY other film, even films like Star Wars, that has had that kind of coterie of such a loyal and obsessive fanbase to make it a part of their total life acumen, now and in essence, forever.