The Rocky Horror Picture Show Part 2:
Revenge Of The Old Queen
A First Draft Screen Play Of A Musical For Film
With Book And Lyrics By Richard O’Brien
And Music By Richard Hartley
The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a film phenomenon like no other. A 1975 adaptation of the British rock musical that paid homage to 1950s science-fiction b-movie programmers and the then-current decade’s sex, drugs and rock and roll credo, it had failed in a traditional release only to find a new and continuous life on the midnight movie circuit. As THE decade was coming to a close and the popularity of Rocky Horror showed no signs of abating, studio executives at Twentieth Century Fox would turn to the musical’s creators Richard O’Brien and Richard Hartley for a direct to the big screen follow up. The result was 1981′s Shock Treatment, a film that wasn’t really embraced by Rocky Horror fans at the time.
It would be almost ten years before O’Brien and Hartley would take a second stab at a Rocky Horror Picture Show follow up. Where Shock Treatment followed the further travails of the now married Brad and Janet Majors without really referencing Rocky Horror in a story that was billed “Not a sequel but an equal,” this new attempt made it clear that it was a more direct sequel right from the script’s title page – The Rocky Horror Picture Show Part Two – The Revenge Of The Old Queen.
It has been a decade and a half since the events of that fateful evening chronicled in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. In the eternal night of the planet Transexual in the galaxy of Transylvania, General Riff Raff is found mourning over the coffin of his dead sister Magenta, and his mental disposition has not improved overtime. No one knows it was he who killed her in a fit of jealous rage over an alleged liaison she had with Lord de Lordy, second in line for the Old Queen’s Royal Deck chair after her son Frank N Furter. Magenta’s current deceased status, though, has apparently not put much of a damper on their “relationship.” Riff is summoned before the Great Furter herself, the Old Queen, who commands that he return to Earth and bring back her son Frank so he can assume his rightful place as her heir before she dies. It is apparent that Magenta’s murder isn’t the only one that Riff is hiding.
Meanwhile on Earth, Steve Majors, an agent for the Bureau of Investigation Into UFOs, has made a startling discovery. While reading an old file labeled “The Denton Affair,” he has uncovered the fact that the popular movie The Rocky Horror Picture Show, was based on actual events that happened to his older brother and his fiancee fifteen years ago. He confronts his boss Ray Ammbo with this information, plus the fact that there are still Transylvanians on Earth and that they have at least one safe house, hidden away in Fresno. Ray, whose son Sonny is a teen pop star with the song “The Moon Drenched Shores of Transylvania,” knows all this already, as he is obviously a collaborator with the Transylvanians. But he knows that the safe house has been abandoned for some time, so he lets Steve go and investigate in order to get him out of his hair.
Driving cross-country to Fresno, Steve is contacted by fellow agent Judy Brankmire, with whom he went to Denton High School. Judy has already arrived at the safe house and is waiting for Steve in order to begin their investigation. While waiting, she decides to freshen up with a shower, not knowing that the stall is a disguised transducer, a Transylvanian space and time teleporter. As she is soaping up, Judy is accidentally transported to Transylvania as Riff Raff teleports to Earth. Of course, the running shower soaks Riff. Judy arrives on Transylvania covered only in a bit of bubbles and is met by Lord de Lordy. The two are instantly smitten with each other.
At the Fresno safe house, Riff Raff has been alerted to Steve’s impending arrival by a phone call from the agent. Tricking Steve into believing that he is Judy’s brother George, Riff Raff bundles the agent into the transducer to Alaska. Riff then heads for Denton, only to discover that a housing development, Happy Homes, has been built on the land where the castle once stood. Returning to the local Holiday Inn, where a transducer has been hidden, he encounters Janet Majors, nee Weis, who is so far derelict that neither of them recognizes the other. Riff then teleports to the past.
Stranded at an Alaskan Holiday Inn, Steve takes a stab at figuring out the transducer’s controls, teleporting into Ray Ammbo’s office, joining Ray, Mary Lou, Sonny and the recently arrived Lord de Lordy and Judy, who are on the run from the Old Queen who has accused them of sedition. The group crams themselves into the transducer and teleports to the Denton Holiday Inn shower that Riff just used and then follow him back in time.
Everyone arrives outside the House but before Riff or anyone else can get inside to stop the younger Riff from murdering Frank, a firefight erupts between all the parties. Steve is knocked unconscious in the melee and Riff kills Lord de Lordy and Judy. The House takes off as it did at the end of the first film and the Old Queen’s soldiers are killed. Ray is also killed, but not before revealing that he is actually Sonny’s adoptive father – his real parents are Janet and Frank N Furter, making him next in line for the Transylvanian throne.
The Old Queen dies and Riff Raff pledges his allegiance to the new ruler, Sonny. Riff, Sonny, Janet and Mary Lou head back to the present and Transylvania for Sonny’s coronation. Forgotten, Steve regains consciousness. Heading back towards his childhood home, Steve tries to convince his mother that he is her son from the future. As she calls the cops, Steve shouts a warning that the Transylvanians are infiltrating the country and to “Keep watching the showers!”
The script’s title page states that the document is a “first draft screenplay of a musical for film.” What it should say is that it is a very rough first draft, one that only sketches out its characters and plot in the broadest of strokes. You can see where O’Brien is trying to feel his way through the story, having a rough idea of its form but not having it yet molded in to its final shape. The plot is the barest of bones with no strong narrative thrust outside of Riff Raff trying to cover up his being the murderer of Frank N Furter. Most of the song lyrics seem to be in place with the exception of the untitled one that Sonny sings in his introduction. (O’Brien notes that it goes “something or other like this” right in the script.)
Lots of ideas are hinted at but never get fully developed. For example, Steve Majors discovers that the movie The Rocky Horror Picture Show chronicled events that actually happened to his brother and his fiance at the hands of a sexually libertine extra-terrestrial mad scientist. But the idea never has a life of its own beyond the scene in which it is introduced except for allowing Sonny to interject “asshole” and “slut” when Steve mentions Brad and Janet in his presence later on. But it raises questions whose answers could have lead to some interesting plot lines. How did the movie get made and by whom? Was it secretly put together by Transylvanians and if so, for what purpose? W. D. Richter’s The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai: Across The Eight Dimension used a similar “fictional story as part of a film’s reality” device, but with Orson Welles’ famous “War Of The Worlds” Halloween broadcast being the actual arrival of aliens. However, Buckaroo Banzai scripter Earl Mac Rauch twisted the concept back on itself and had the aliens hypnotizing Welles into saying that his broadcast was a prank to cover up their arrival. But the appearance of a movie called The Rocky Horror Picture Show within the narrative of its sequel hints at many possibilities left unexplored.
Similarly, there are some characters who feel underdeveloped as well. Lord de Lordy seems to exist only to provide a reason for Riff Raff’s pre-film murder of his sister and to be the device to get the Old Queen to come to Earth. Once those two functions are done, author O’Brien, in the guise of his alter ego, promptly kills him off, along with Judy. Ray Ambo’s secretary Mary Lou has even less of a reason for being in the script outside of looking pretty in a short skirt.
Reading Revenge Of The Old Queen, it is hard not to try and interpret many of the choices O’Brien makes as reactions to criticisms of the previous Rocky Horror sequel, Shock Treatment. Where Shock Treatment seemed to distance itself from Rocky Horror in an effort to tell a new story about Brad and Janet, Revenge Of The Old Queen evokes Rocky Horror at every opportunity. By concentrating on Riff and the Transylvanians, it seems as if O’Brien was hoping to evoke the spirit of the early parts of Rocky Horror, specifically Brad and Janet’s arrival at Frank N Furter’s home and the “Time Warp” musical number. There’s some drugs and sex, and even the Transylvanians’ Earthling allies like Ray are hedonists of the first order. The film’s finale even takes place on the grounds of the first film’s phoneless castle while the finale of that film is going on inside!
Curiously, though, O’Brien does toss in a nod or two to Shock Treatment. During Riff Raff s opening soliloquy to his dead sister’s coffin, he exhorts her to come out so “we can play doctors and nurses,” an entreat that recalls the lyric in Shock Treatment‘s title tune that “Playing doctor and nurse can be good for your health.” The present day housing development built on the land formerly occupied by Frank N Furter’s castle is called “Happy Homes.”
It’s hard to completely be able to evaluate the new songs O’Brien has penned for the movie without hearing them performed. Reading the lyrics’ texts reveals that they do the jobs that songs in a musical are supposed to do – reveal characters’ emotions and motivations and move the plot along. They are also distinctly O’Brien’s work containing the internal rhymes, word play and sense of whimsy that can be found in the songs of Rocky Horror and Shock Treatment.
In “I’m A Mother (A Real Mother),” the Old Queen sings of her son Frank “Was ever a mother blessed with such a boy/ Was ever another’s breast pressed to such joy/ My one and only son was more libidinous/ Than any honeybun including Oedipus.” Later, some diner patrons warn us to “Never Let Your Daughter Date An Alien” by singing of “Creeping horror from the eerie depths of time and space/ Heaping horror on the fairer sex of a finite race.” There’s some definite rhythm to the language that is unmistakenly O’Brien’s.
But the biggest question concerning the script – Would Rocky Horror Picture Show fans have liked the movie that it would produce? – is hard to answer. While it certainly contains elements of the first film, there’s no real strong sense of theme or message. Rocky Horror extolled us to “Don’t dream it, be it.” (Even if that philosophy didn’t work out too well in the end for Frank N Furter.) In fact, given Brad’s off-screen fate and Janet’s boozy portrayal onscreen, it feels as if O’Brien is repurposing the end of Rocky Horror Picture Show into more of a cautionary tale. I don’t know how well that would have gone over with fans.
While I am unsure what the ultimate reasons were why this project was abandoned, I am sure that second pass through the script would have firmed it up and focused the story more.