Book Review: The Rocky Horror Picture Show FAQ by Dave Thompson

The Rocky Horror Picture Show FAQ covers everything you need to know about Frank-N-Furter and company and then some.
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Richard O’ Brien’s gender-bending musical The Rocky Horror Show premiered in London in 1973, at the height of the U.K.’s glam-rock craze. Although most glam entertainment eventually dissipated, Rocky Horror remained the one true constant from that time, retaining its kitschy ‘70s glory throughout the decades. The film version introduced Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick and Meat Loaf to a worldwide audience and taught millions of devoted fans how to do “The Time Warp”.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show FAQ from the Applause Books FAQ series, covers everything you need to know about Frank-N-Furter and company and then some. Author Dave Thompson devotes 277 pages of text, two appendices, and a bibliography to one of the most famous cult movies of all time. From the story of its stage debut in 1973 to “Rocky - The Picture Show”, a chapter about how the legendary cast for the movie was assembled, plus lots of tidbits about the actual filming of the movie.   

The book’s opening chapters examines the experimental theatre, music, and films of the late 1960s and early 1970s. “Oh! Calcutta,” “Hair,” and “Andy Warhol’s Pork” challenged the squares and incited a generation, along with T-Rex, David Bowie, and glam rock.  It wasn’t long before a quirky musical written by an unemployed actor named Richard ‘O Brien took London by storm.

This trivia-packed book features a list of the pre- and post-Rocky TV/film/theater appearances of the film’s major stars in Appendix One, in addition to the much more important list of the worldwide performances of the musical with their casts and starting and end dates. There's even a list of the fim's extras, which included soft-porn star Koo Stark and Sadie Corre, who played an Ewok in Return of the Jedi.

There are several pages devoted to the Rocky Horror actors who have made numerous appearances on Doctor Who, another British cult hit. Patricia Quinn appeared on the show in 1987 as Officer Belazs, and various cast members of the London production have appeared on the TV series over the years.  

Australia, Latin America, Japan, Iceland, Finland, New Zealand, and other countries all had their Rocky casts, and the various Magentas, Columbias, and Eddies are profiled here. (Russell Crowe appeared as Dr. Scott and Eddie in the 1985 Australian stage version of Rocky Horror.)

The grassroots Midnight Movie phenomenon of the 1970s and early 1980s is covered in a chapter called “The Cult of No Shame,” complete with instructions on the do’s and don’ts of audience participation. (This DIY ethic gave way to more complex, orchestrated efforts by Rocky fans and entrepreneurs, who turned it into a mainstream money-maker from 1990s to the present day.)

Other chapters cover the twists and turns the Rocky phenomenon has experienced through the years, including projects inspired by the movie. There’s the XXX-rated parody version, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and various Richard O’ Brien vehicles (The Stripper, Top People), and, of course, the Rocky follow-up, Shock Treatment.  

The Rocky Horror Picture Show FAQ is the Encyclopedia Britannica of Rocky Horror books, taking a chronological approach to the cult hit. Of course, with a subject like Rocky Horror and 43 years of history to cover, there are certainly omissions, but there’s enough here to satisfy the mild to moderate fans and maybe even a few experts as well.

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