‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ trading cards

A childhood passion for horror movies and Frankenstein and all things strange brought me to The Rocky Horror Show.

It all started in junior school during a family holiday to London in 1974. The usual tourist sights were fine, but I’d seen most of them before on a trip with my grandparents when I was seven. Now I was more thrilled by the buzz and noise and giant hoardings for theatrical productions and movies like Chinatown with its serpentine coils of smoke. It was such glorious advertising that first alerted me to The Rocky Horror Show.

On the side of one of those big red Routemaster buses going to Peckham or Camden or wherever, I first saw the ad for The Rocky Horror Show, featuring an androgynous woman (or was it a man?) with short hair and big hooped earrings, looked slightly askance at something just out of vision. Returning home to Scotland, I studied the weekend reviews for any more information. I soon learned this show was an award-winning musical by Richard O’Brien. It told the story of a transvestite Dr. Frank N. Furter played by Tim Curry and his plans to make a man. There was also some plot line about aliens from the transsexual planet Transylvania. It certainly sounded my kinda thing. I clipped and kept any article I chanced upon relating to Mr. Curry, or Mr. O’Brien, or The Rocky Horror Show.

One Sunday in 1975, the Observer Magazine featured a four-page color spread on the forthcoming movie version The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Under the headline “Something to Offend Everyone,” I read about Tim Curry’s upbringing as the son of a naval chaplain, his time as an actor at the Citizen’s theater in Glasgow, performing in drag for Lindsay Kemp‘s production of Jean Genet’s The Maids. Of Richard O’Brien’s time as a stuntman on Carry on Cowboy, and how he had written the musical one cold winter in an attic between acting jobs. The production started out Upstairs at the Royal Court Theater—famed for John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger and kitchen sink drama—before moving to the King’s Road, where it remained until 1979. The article described the film as making comic reference to Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, 1950s American sci-fi movies, even Esther Williams’ movies, and that it was bound to upset quite a lot of people.

When The Rocky Horror Picture Show was released, the critics hated it. The public hated it, too. My high school buddies didn’t even know that it existed. Men in drag was not really the kinda thing to interest most boys my age who were mainly into soccer, Slade, and Monty Python. Anyway, we were still all too young to gain admittance to see the film as it had been given an “AA” certificate—which meant it was for those lucky kids over fourteen.

I eventually saw the film a few years later and was not disappointed. By then, I’d bought the album and worn out its cherished grooves. Still, no one I knew was even the slightest bit interested in this quirky, strange movie. Punk had arrived and Star Wars was out, and that was all that mattered.

But good art will always win out—eventually. And so it was with The Rocky Horror Picture Show when the devotion of a small group of New Yorkers made it the biggest cult musical of all time.

Over the years, I’ve picked up the occasional Rocky merchandise. Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show Scrapbook, the original cast album, the original movie poster, et cetera, et cetera, and of lastly but not necessarily least, an infuriatingly incomplete set of trading cards which you can drool over below.
#1. Tim Curry as Frank N. Furter.
#2. Richard O’Brien as Riff Raff.
#3. Susan Sarandon as Janet Weiss.
More ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ trading cards after the jump….

Posted by Paul Gallagher
10:49 am
Found: Lost behind-the-scenes Polaroids from ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’

Imagine traveling home one night and finding a set of behind-the-scenes photos from one of your favorite shows. Well, something like that did happen to Brady Marter, who later uploaded his prized find onto the Collector’s Weekly site:

Founds these on the platform of the C train in TriBeCa in 2011. They are photos of Tim Curry and the cast of Rocky Horror during the making of the film. Some have writing on the back and Frankenfurter kissed the back of one.

Obviously, these beauties from The Rocky Horror Show weren’t just deliberately discarded or tossed out with the garbage, but were accidentally dropped by collector Larry Viezel who posted on the site:

These were part of a collection I bought from someone in New Mexico. These were used in making The Rocky Horror Scrapbook. I had it shipped to my office (I worked on the corner of Hudson and Canal) and was taking them home. A bunch fell out of my bag and I picked them up. When I got home I realized I missed one. Looks like I missed more than one! If it’s any proof, I’d be happy to show you the rest of the collection.

Thankfully, the story does have a happy ending. Larry had his lost photos returned shortly after they appeared on Collector’s Weekly, as he exclusively tells Dangerous Minds:

The guy that found them was working just a few blocks away from where I was working in Manhattan at the time on Hudson Street when I lost them. But he had since moved to the south. He was very gracious and returned them. I was incredibly grateful. He asked if he could keep one of them - the photo of the model of the church. I was happy to oblige. The photos are now back with the rest of my collection. I am very happy to have them back!

Here are those lost and found Polaroids from Larry’s collection featuring Tim Curry trying on his costume for Dr. Frankenfurter, some sets and other cast members (Richard O’Brien) from the production of The Rocky Horror Show.
More, plus a behind-the scenes documentary on ‘Rocky Horror’ from 1975, after the jump….

Posted by Paul Gallagher
09:19 am
On Location With ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ from 1975

Richard O’Brien originally wrote The Rocky Horror Show to while away those long winter nights when he was out of work. There was, as he says in this interview from 1975, “no hardship with it really.” It all fell into place after he met director Jim Sharman at the Royal Court Theater, who encouraged him to “round it all off.” The musical was a hit and was produced successfully in LA and New York. As Tim Curry explains The Rocky Horror Show just grew just like Topsy.

Of course, it led to the classic 1975 film version, The Rocky Horror Picture Show from which this on location report comes, featuring Tim Curry, Richard O’Brien, Jim Sharman and co. from July of that year.

More from ‘The Rocky horror’, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher
07:30 pm
The 60s in 4 Minutes & 2 Songs: The day the musical ‘Hair’ invaded the BBC

The London cast of Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical perform 2 songs (“Aquarius” and “The Flesh Failures (Let the Sunshine In)”) on BBC’s news show Nationwide, before taking over the studio and getting the presenters, including future coke-snorter, Frank Bough, up to dance.

The original 1968 London production of Hair opened at the Shaftesbury Theater, and provided a starting block for a diverse range of young talent including: Sonja Kristina, Paul Nicholas, Melba Moore, Elaine Paige, Paul Korda, Marsha Hunt, Floella Benjamin, Alex Harvey, Oliver Tobias, Richard O’Brien and Tim Curry. This was where Curry first met future Rocky Horror Picture Show writer O’Brien, and where Alex Harvey conjured up SAHB.  Hair ran in London from 1968-1973, for 1,997 performances, until it was forced to close after the theater roof collapsed. It then relocated to the Queen’s Theater, where it ran for a further 111 performances between June and September 1974, when it finally closed. This was the cast performing before the final show on September 28th, 1974.

With thanks to Nellym

Posted by Paul Gallagher
07:21 pm
The World Needs a Hero: The Return of Captain Invincible

Everyone loves a hero and even more, everyone loves a villain. The more broad chested the hero and luridly evil the villain, the better. This basic black/white viewpoint that people cling to like a spit stained security blanket is often the main impetus behind the superhero genre. A figure, often with extraordinary powers, becomes the pinpoint of hope for all that is fair and just. Real life is mired with red tape, corruption and the folly of our own nature. These are all reasons why the idea of a flawed superhero wasn’t terribly popular until recent years. (Though The Kinks get some major points with their song, “Catch Me Now I’m Falling” off of their album Low Budget.) But there was a film that predated all of them, way back in 1983 in the form of Philippe Mora’s The Return of Captain Invincible. Did I mention that it’s also a musical?

The Return of Captain Invincible stars Alan Arkin as our titular hero who is first introduced in a 1940’s style B&W newsreel, with our young, clean-cut Captain defeating gangsters, fighting the Nazis and representing everything that is good and wholesome about America. That is, until he ends up getting hit with charges of communism by The House of Un-American Activities, led by Joseph McCarthy. The witch hunt demoralizes our hero, who goes into hiding and ends up in Australia, liquor soaked and trading his spandex for stained, baggy clothes.

To passersby, he’s just a liver-crying-for-help derelict, belting out “New York, New York” to the rural hills Down Under, when he’s not inadvertently saving lives, particularly of tough police woman, Patty Patria (Kate Fitzpatrick). It’s only a matter of time before the superhero within the man has to come back out, especially with his old foe, the devilish and devilishly handsome Mr Midnight (Christopher Lee), back on the horizon. But it takes an old promise to a young boy who has now grown up to be the President of the United States (the incredible Michael Pate), to bring the hesitant, rusty but goodhearted Captain out of retirement. The question then emerges, will the once strong superhero be able to defend the world from the evil megalomaniacal clutches of Mr. Midnight and surpass his own inner demons?

The Return of Captain Invincible is a heartfelt, goony and surprisingly smart film. It is truly a strange creature, one that could have only be helmed by the same man that gave us the historical art film, Mad Dog Morgan (with Dennis Hopper) AND Howling II (with Sybil Danning’s shirt exploding breasts), Phillipe Mora. A wholly unique filmmaker who is never praised enough for his brass balls, not to mention creative flexibility, Mora pulled out all stops with this one. From the bright, comic-book style color schemes to the number of bizarre little touches,Captain Invincible is a superhero film like no other.

For starters, there’s our main character, played with typical perfection by Alan Arkin. Handsome and with a enough emotional gravitas to pull off a man who is solid in heart but whose spirit has been cracked by the very country he protected, Arkin’s Captain Invincible is a true hero with a human bent. We get to see him run the gamut from being your typical 1940’s strong-jawed hero to being a scruffy alcoholic suffering from the DT’s the night before he goes back into training, only to circle right back to being the chap that saves the day. On top of that, Arkin’s musical background comes into play quite nicely here, taking vocal duties on most of the songs featured, with the highlights being “The Good Guys & The Bad Guys” and “Mr. Midnight.” Arkin balances out the humanity and absurdity of it all so perfectly.

Speaking of absurd wonder, Michael Pate as the President is stupendously awesome. If he ran for office, my cynical booty would be hightailing it to the nearest booth in a hot flash of a second! A legendary character actor who had made his mark both in America and his native Australia, Pate is all Kennedy hair, Texan charm and big shouldered awesomeness, with the standout being the “Bullshit” number. This literally amounts to Pate saying the word “Bullshit” over and over again, set to an electronic beat. It is cathartic in its greatness.

Of course, there is the tall, cool, grim-in-his-beauty Christopher Lee as our villain Mr. Midnight. Lee is having a lot of great fun here, bringing a sense of intentional camp to his role. Lee is center point to the absolute musical highlight of the film with “Choose Your Poison.” Yes, Christopher Lee, in that wonderful Wagner-opera from depths of unknown bass voice of his, singing about the joys of drinking. It’s even better than “Bullshit!”

Kate Fitzpatrick doesn’t really get to shine quite as much as the others but is still good and realistically tough, as in you can halfway buy her as a real police officer. The aforementioned soundtrack, while a bit MOR in spots, has some absolute gems here. It should shock absolutely no one that the highlights, minus my much beloved “Bullshit,” were all helmed by Rocky Horror pioneer and flat out genius Richard O’Brien, along with another Rocky alumni, Richard Hartley, providing the music. His numbers, which include the title theme, “Mr Midnight” and “Choose Your Poison” are A+ O’Brien greatness.

Return of Captain Invincible
is not a perfect film and it will undoubtedly off-put some with its strange brew of social commentary and goofiness bordering on surrealism. The idea that a bourbon soaked derelict muttering to himself down the road could be a superhero gone to seed is a smart and thoughtful one. Our hero and concept here could fit in any time period. A little flea-bitten and hardened by a flawed world but at the end of the day, still hopeful and willing to fight for a better future.

Plus, “Bullshit!”


Posted by Heather Drain
11:06 am