Seventeen year-old Rhoda Williams receives an acceptance letter from MIT and she celebrates with her friends. On the same night, a planet similar and close to Earth is discovered and called Earth 2. Rhoda drives her car looking at Earth 2 and crashes with composer John Burroughs, killing his pregnant wife and his baby son. Rhoda goes to prison and four years later she is released and moves to her parents’ house. She finds a job as high-school janitor, but tries to commit suicide. She survives, however, and submits an essay to a contest where the prize is a ticket to travel to Earth 2. Meanwhile the scientists discover that Earth 2 is a mirror of Earth and the synchronicity between the dwellers was interrupted when the planets were seen by each other. One day, Rhoda decides to visit John Burroughs, whose life was destroyed after the death of his family, to admit to him that she had killed his family. However she does not have the nerve to tell him the truth. So she lies and tells him he has won a free cleaning service of his home. Rhoda wins the writing contest, but meanwhile John and she have fallen in love with each other. Rhoda has to take a decision whether she goes or stays, but she wants to tell John the truth first.
While driving home during a rain filled night, straight-laced lovebirds Brad Majors and Janet Weiss end up by chance at the castle of one Dr. Frank-N-Furter and his strange and bizarre entourage, and find that he’s having a party. This is no ordinary party, no ordinary night. This is the unveiling of the doctor’s latest creation: Rocky Horror, a man-made Adonis that will give absolute pleasure. Over the course of the night, Frank seduces both Brad and Janet, Janet and Rocky become biblically involved, and Dr. Everett Von Scott arrives looking for his nephew Eddie (whom Frank killed earlier in this film). This is an exceedingly grand visual and musical camp satire of the golden days of the B-movie horror and science-fiction genres. Projected along with a musical soundtrack to give audience participation a new meaning in dimension, time and space, this shall be a night that both Brad and Janet will remember for a very long time in the sexually kinky, rock ‘n roll, rock-opera world of a gender-bending scientist – and his time warped plans.
Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert noted that when first released, The Rocky Horror Picture Show was “ignored by pretty much everyone, including the future fanatics who would eventually count the hundreds of times they’d seen it”. He considered it more a “long-running social phenomenon” than a movie, rating it 2.5 out of 4 stars. Bill Henkin noted that Variety thought that the “campy hijinks” of the film seemed labored, and also mentioned that the San Francisco Chronicle’s John Wasserman, who had liked the stage play in London, found the film “lacking both charm and dramatic impact”. Newsweek called the film “tasteless, plotless and pointless” in 1978.
Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a rating of 80% based on 41 reviews. A number of contemporary critics find it compelling and enjoyable because of its offbeat and bizarre qualities; the BBC summarised: “for those willing to experiment with something a little bit different, a little bit outré, The Rocky Horror Picture Show has a lot to offer”. The New York Times called it a “low-budget freak show/cult classic/cultural institution” and considered the songs featured in the film to be “catchy”. Geoff Andrew of Time Out noted that the “string of hummable songs gives it momentum, Gray’s admirably straight-faced narrator holds it together, and a run on black lingerie takes care of almost everything else”, rating it 4 out of 5 stars. Dave Kehr of Chicago Reader on the other hand considered the wit to be “too weak to sustain a film” and thought that the “songs all sound the same”.
In 2005, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”
A Christlike figure wanders through bizarre, grotesque scenarios filled with religious and sacrilegious imagery. He meets a mystical guide who introduces him to seven wealthy and powerful people, each representing a planet in the Solar system. These seven, along with the protagonist, the guide and the guide’s assistant, divest themselves of their worldly goods and form a group of nine who will seek the Holy Mountain, in order to displace the gods who live there and become immortal.
The film is based on Ascent of Mount Carmel by John of the Cross and Mount Analogue by René Daumal, who was a student of George Gurdjieff. In this film, much of Jodorowsky’s visually psychedelic story follows the metaphysical thrust of Mount Analogue. This is revealed in such events as the climb to the alchemist, the assembly of individuals with specific skills, the discovery of the mountain that unites Heaven and Earth “that cannot not exist”, and symbolic challenges along the mountain ascent. Daumal died before finishing his allegorical novel, and Jodorowsky’s improvised ending provides a way of completing the work (both symbolically and otherwise).