This Week in 1976: The 'Rocky Horror' Cult Is Born
Midnight may be the hour that Cinderella turned from a princess into a peon, but it's also the hour when Tim Curry turned from an ordinary actor into a queen.
Midnight is what transformed 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show' from a flop into an institution. It wasn't the first midnight movie (John Waters' 1972 trash epic 'Pink Flamingos' got there earlier), but it became the biggest when it began running at 12AM at New York City's Waverly Theatre 35 years ago this week, on April 1, 1976.
See fans dressed like Rocky, Magenta and sweet transvestites here.
The horror/drag/rock musical hadn't done much business during daytime and evening screenings since its release six months earlier, but the midnight crowd made it a smash. Audiences came back week after week and turned 'Rocky Horror' into not just the first big cult movie but the first interactive one as well, as fans shouted their own witticisms back at the screen, brought their own props (like rice and toast) to hurl during relevant moments in the film, and even dressed up as Tim Curry's "sweet transvestite" mad scientist and the other characters to reenact the entire film as it screened behind them.
As the cult spread to other cities, the film became a weekend ritual, with the audience retorts as scripted as the film's actual dialogue and newcomers hazed as "virgins" before they could be considered true 'Rocky Horror' aficionados. Today, the movie has been in continuous release for 35 years and counting (a record unlikely to be broken) and has earned more than $140 million to date.
'Rocky Horror' got some new juice last fall during an episode of 'Glee' (featuring film co-stars Barry Bostwick and Meat Loaf in cameos) that made the songs hits once again and also served as a reminder that, 35 years later, the R-rated shenanigans of both the movie and its audience are still a little too risqué for teens and for prime time. This weekend, it's probably playing someplace near you, just in case you find midnight approaching and hear your friends saying "Let's do the Time Warp again."
This Week in Movie History
1920 (March 28): Stars and United Artists co-founders Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks Sr. marry and become Hollywood's first power couple. Like most future Hollywood marriages, this one doesn't last; they would split in 1936.
1973 (March 27): Marlon Brando snubs the Academy when he wins Best Actor for 'The Godfather.' In his place, he sends an actress who calls herself Sacheen Littlefeather, who reads part of a lengthy Brando statement saying he's declining his Oscar in protest of Hollywood's mistreatment of Native Americans.
1981 (March 30): Fixated on Jodie Foster and obsessed with getting her attention, John Hinckley takes a page from her film 'Taxi Driver' and shoots President Ronald Reagan, seriously wounding him and three others. The Oscars, scheduled for that evening, are postponed for only the third time in Academy history. Thirty years later, Hinckley remains confined at St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington, D.C.
1999 (March 31): 'The Matrix' is released, blowing minds with its reality-bending premise, its allegorical philosophizing (rare for an action spectacle), and its high-flying, time-stopping, soon-to-be-copied-to-death martial arts sequences.
2005 (March 29): Disney parts ways with Harvey and Bob Weinstein, ending the Miramax era that saw the quasi-indie distributor release 300 movies that earned 53 Oscars (including Best Picture for 'The English Patient,' 'Shakespeare in Love,' and 'Chicago'). It takes years for the brothers to return to the top, with movies like 'Inglourious Basterds' and 'The King's Speech.'
This Week in Celebrity Birthdays
Who else is doing the Time Warp this week? Quentin Tarantino turned 48 on March 27. On the 31st, Ewan McGregor hits the big 4-0 (while the older Obi-Wan Kenobi, Alec Guinness, would have been 87 on April 2). The 28th was a big day for movie birthdays, with Julia Stiles hitting turning 30, 'Paul' star Nick Frost turning 39, Vince Vaughn turning 41 and Dianne Wiest celebrating her 63rd. Also celebrating: old-school stars Debbie Reynolds (79 on April 1) and Warren Beatty (74 on March 30). Twin directors Albert and Allen Hughes turn 39 on the first of April.
'Hop' -- Trailer No. 3
Starring: James Marsden, Russell Brand, Kaley Cuoco, Elizabeth Perkins, Hugh Laurie
Directed By: Tim Hill
What's It About? In this live-action/animation blend, a Hollywood slacker (Marsden) finds himself with an unwanted houseguest: E.B. (voiced by Brand), the teenage son of the Easter Bunny, who has come to Tinseltown to become a drummer instead of taking over the family business.
Why Should You See It? Brand is on fire these days (and he proved he can be kid-friendly in Adam Sandler's 'Bedtime Stories'). The screenplay is by the writers of last year's clever and original 'Despicable Me.' And director Hill is an old hand at live-action/animation hybrids, having made 'Alvin and the Chipmunks' and the 'Garfield' sequel.
You Might Like It If You Like: 'Despicable Me,' 'Alvin and the Chipmunks,' marshmallow Peeps
Starring: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Lin Shaye, Ty Simpkins, Barbara Hershey
Directed By: James Wan
What's It About? When a family moves into a new home, the eldest son falls into a coma, apparently possessed by evil spirits.
Why Should You See It? It's the first collaboration between the team from 'Saw' (Wan and screenwriter Leigh Whannell) and the producers of 'Paranormal Activity.' Are you scared yet?
You Might Like It If You Like: 'The Evil Dead,' 'Poltergeist,' 'The Exorcist'
Read Cinematical's Review
Pop Songs Made Creepy by the Movies
'Source Code' (PG-13)
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga, Jeffrey Wright, Michael Arden
Directed By: Duncan Jones
What's It About? Gyllenhaal repeatedly returns from the future (but only for eight minutes at a time) to piece together a mystery and stop an explosion on a train. Complicating matters is a woman he keeps meeting and falling for in the past (Monaghan).
Why Should You See It? Jones has a sterling reputation for speculative sci-fi after just one film ('Moon'). Advance word says the script is inventive and that Gyllenhaal and Mongahan are luminous.
You Might Like It If You Like: '12 Monkeys,' 'Run Lola Run,' 'The Butterfly Effect'
Read Cinematical's Review
Unscripted: video interview with Gyllenhaal and Monaghan
Interviews: Jones on 'Source Code | Jones on his movie firsts
In Limited Release
'Super' is a dark, costumed-hero satire, in the vein of 'Kick-Ass,' about a schlub (Rainn Wilson) who becomes a spandex-clad crimefighter in order to win his wife (Liv Tyler) back from her new drug dealer beau (Kevin Bacon). Ellen Page tags along as his sidekick.
Showtimes & Tickets | Watch the Trailers and an Exclusive Clip | Read Cinematical's Review
'In a Better World' was this year's Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film. A Danish doctor working in an African refugee camp and his schoolboy son back home who's being tormented by a bully both learn lessons about violence, revenge, and forgiveness.
Showtimes & Tickets | Watch the Trailer
Still in Theaters, Still Awesome
'Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules': You don't have to go to Denmark to find schoolyard bullies. Sometimes they're living in your house, making mischief pestering their younger brothers. Showtimes & Tickets | Reviews
'Sucker Punch': Not for everyone, but if Zack Snyder's girl-gang fantasy/comic-book movie/musical is for you, better see it on the big screen while you still can. Showtimes & Tickets | Reviews
'The King's Speech': In case the Best Picture Oscar–winner's handful of F-bombs kept you or your kids from seeing it, the feel-good film about the stuttering monarch and his speech therapist is being re-released in a new PG-13 version. Of course, this was the one movie where the swearing was actually essential to the plot, so how will a profanity-free version work? Showtimes & Tickets | Reviews
Staying In This Weekend?
New on DVD: The current controversy over whether or not Natalie Portman did most of the dancing in 'Black Swan' misses the point, since it's not really a movie about ballet; it's more like a werewolf movie in a tutu. The story of a ballerina whose mind unravels as pressures inside and out threaten to transform her into something bestial, it's really a classic psychological horror thriller, along the lines of Roman Polanski's 'Repulsion.' Whether or not the feet you see twirling in ballet slippers are always hers, Portman clearly put herself through the physical and emotional wringer like no other performer last year. See the movie and decide for yourself whether she deserved her Best Actress Oscar, but she certainly deserved an A for effort. Buy or rent the DVD | More new DVD releases
On Our Netflix Queue: Farley Granger, who died of natural causes earlier this week, had a half-century career in Hollywood, but he'll be best remembered for one of his earliest, Alfred Hitchcock's 1951 'Strangers on a Train.' It's about a chance encounter between a callow tennis pro (Granger) and a well-bred ne'er-do-well (Robert Walker) who suggests that the two swap murders of the loved ones who make their lives miserable, so that the crimes will be untraceable. Granger (who also starred in Hitchcock's 'Rope') had that surprising edge, the all-American boy who discovers his own dark side, that the director would later exploit to supreme effect with James Stewart and Anthony Perkins. Buy or rent the DVD
On TV: When the first 'Sex and the City' film came out, some of the fans complained that it was too serious and not the frothy romp that the TV series was. Then, when 'Sex and the City 2' came out last summer, they complained it was too frothy and frivolous. You can't win. With its over-the-top (even for this bunch) fashions and luxury travelogue sequences, 'Sex 2' certainly was light and fluffy, but that means that what might not have worked on the big screen ought to feel right at home back on HBO, where the film makes its TV premiere on Saturday at 8PM. Check your local listings
Follow Gary Susman on Twitter: @garysusman.