The Rocky Horror (Picture) Show: a Camp Parody of the Gothic between Mary Shelley, J. B. Priestley and James Whale

  • Armando Rotondi IAB (Universidad de las Artes Barcelona) Università di Napoli L'Orientale
Keywords: camp, queer, gothic, musical, horror, Whale


The theatre play The Rocky Horror Show (1973) by Richard O’Brien and then the film adaptation The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) by Jim Sharman can be considered as two milestone in musical theatre/film history. For their themes and structure, they represent the highest expression of the sexual revolution of the late 60s and the 70s, becoming an icon of the movements for the sexual freedom. The success of the musical is due to its capacity of being an enormous parody of both literary and film references. The first clear reference is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and the film adaptation by James Whale. However, less analysed it the relation with the novel Benighted (1927) by John B. Priestly and the adaptation, again by Whale, The Old Dark House (1932), that seems to be the real source of inspiration for O’Brien. The paper will analyse this relation, focusing its attention on the elements that have created the “Rocky Horror Show liturgy” and on the references of the parody, and proposing a vision of O’Brien’s work as a meta-parody.


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Author Biography

Armando Rotondi, IAB (Universidad de las Artes Barcelona) Università di Napoli L'Orientale

Armando Rotondi is currently Full-Time Lecturer in Performance Theory, History and Criticism at the IAB (Barcelona), where he is also Subject Leader for Professional Studies and Research Projects. He has taught Italian Literature at  the University of Naples “L’Orientale” and previously “Publishing at the University of Verona. After his Ba at the “Federico II” (Naples) and MA at “La Sapienza” (Rome), he achieved his PhD at the University of Strathclyde, where he also taught Italian Studies, Italian Cinema e Aspects of Cinema. He has  taught at the University of Naples “Federico II” and at the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Torun (Poland) as  a Lecturer and Research Fellow, and ha has been visiting research fellow at the University of Bucharest and at the Romanian Cultural Institute in Bucharest,  as holder of the international Europa Grant in 2013 and 2015. With an expertise in literature, theatre  and cinema gained in Italy, UK, Germany, Romania, Poland, Spain, Romania and Switzerland, he has been speaker at more than 30 international conferences and author of more than 40 scientific contributions among essays, book chapters and journal articles. His authored books include: Roberto Bracco e gli “–ismi” del suo tempo (2010), Eduardo De Filippo tra adattamenti e traduzioni nel mondo anglofono (2012) e “Il nome della rosa” a teatro: Aspetti scenico-letterari di “Numele Trandafiruli” da Umberto Eco a Grigore Gonţa (2015).


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How to Cite
Rotondi, A. (2016). <i>The Rocky Horror (Picture) Show</i>: a <i>Camp</i&gt; Parody of the Gothic between Mary Shelley, J. B. Priestley and James Whale. Between, 6(12).
Sometimes they come loose. Parody and satire through the codes