In the opening theme to the Rocky Horror Show, the films that are being made reference to are relatively easy to identify. But, besides the obvious Frankenstein, how many other films are alluded to through out?
The thing is that the movie did not just pay homage to Sci-Fi or Horror pictures of the time but to many events in history and add as well as pop culture.
Shortly after Rocky is born, Magenta says to Dr. Frank 'n' Furter that Rocky is a "triumph of your will." This is a subtle joke playing on the Nazi propaganda film Triumph of the Will (1935). Presumably, Magenta says this because Rocky comes out with light blonde hair and is quite muscular, in many ways fulfilling the Nazis' Aryan "super man" stereotype.
The green surgical gown that Dr. Frank 'n' Furter wears has a pink triangle over his heart. The triangle was used by the Nazis in concentration camps to denote that the wearer was a gay man, but it is pointing downward. The pink triangle pointing upward is often used as a symbol of gay pride.
Oakley Court, Dr. Frank N. Furter's "castle", was used in numerous Hammer horror films made at adjacent Bray Studios (where the lab and ballroom scenes were shot), including The House in Nightmare Park (1973), The Reptile (1966), The Brides of Dracula (1960) and The Man in Black (1949).
The song "I Can Make You A Man" was inspired by Charles Atlas muscle ads from the 1940's and 1950's often with the slogan: "In just seven days, I can make you a man". Similarly, writer Richard O'Brien took the line: "Don't dream it, be it" from the back of a magazine.
The opening number, "Science Fiction Double Feature", contains references to many classic science fiction films. In the script, the credits were to be shown between clips of the films. Production designer Brian Thomson disliked the idea, and suggested using a pair of disembodied lips to mouth the words, inspired by the Man Ray painting "A l'heure de l'observatoire, les Amoureux" (Observatory Time, the Lovers).
The films referenced in the opening number, "Science Fiction, Double Feature," are: The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), Flash Gordon (multi-film franchise), The Invisible Man (1933), King Kong (1933), It Came from Outer Space (1953), Doctor X (1932), Forbidden Planet (1956), Tarantula (1955), The Day of the Triffids (1963), Curse of the Demon (1957), and When Worlds Collide (1951).
Just before Rocky's birthday feast, the Criminologist speaks for a while. His book is opened to display Leonardo da Vinci's "The Last Supper".
The movie is full of symbols of classic movie companies: The shield the griffin holds represents Warner Brothers; the eagle in the hall represents Republic; the lightning bolt on the flag represents the old RKO symbol, (the radio tower at the end is also RKO); the character 'Columbia' represents not only the movie company of the same name, but the symbol herself, complete with short hair; the large 'Atlas' illuminated painting in the grand bed-chamber is the symbol of Anglo-Amalgamated Productions; the large snarling cat in the hall is an MGM lion reference; the lighted globe at the end is the symbol of Universal Pictures; and the gong represents the Rank Film Corporation, whose films opened with a huge gong being struck; Columbia wears Mickey Mouse ears in the scenes in the bedroom with her & Magenta: a Disney reference.
When we see the castle at the start, the camera zooms in onto a crystal dome on top of the castle. This would appear to be the same dome used in Richard O'Brien's series The Crystal Maze (1990).
Some of the costumes from the film had been originally used in the stage production. Props and set pieces were reused from old Hammer horror productions and others. The tank and dummy used for Rocky's birth originally appeared in The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958). These references to earlier productions, in addition to cutting costs, enhanced the cult status of the film.
In the final scene, inspiration for Magenta's hair is taken directly from The Bride of Frankenstein (1935).
The dance during Sword of Damocles with Columbia, Riff-Raff, and Magenta was inspired by Jean-Luc Godard's 1964 film Bande à part (U.S. title was "Band of Outsiders").
Richard O'Brien has said that the role of Frank-n-furter was based on; Sergei Mikhailovich Eisenstein's Ivan the Terrible Part I and Cruella DeVi
The voices of the Translyvanians were recorded and spedup as an homage to the Munchkins in the Wizard of Oz.
Rocky carrying Frank up the tower while being attacked is a tribute to King Kong; there is an explicit Fay Wray/King Kong reference in Don't Dream It, Be It
Frank makes reference to the fantasy films of Steeve Reeves in Sweet Transvestite
Michael Rennie was ill, the day the Earth stood still
Michael Rennie was an actor who starred in the classic sci-fi film The Day the Earth Stood Still, about an alien who tries to prevent the destruction of Earth.
And Flash Gordon was there, in silver underwear
Flash Gordon was an adventure hero. He is known for wearing shorts that sort of look like boxers. I'm not sure they were ever silver, though.
Claude Rains was the Invisible Man
Claude Rains, perhaps best known from Casablanca, did indeed play the titular role in the 1933 version of The Invisible Man.
Then something went wrong, for Fay Wray and King Kong
Fay Wray was in the movie King Kong
Then at a deadly pace, it came from outer space
It Came from Outer Space was a 1950s monster film.
Doctor X will build a creature
Doctor X was a notoriously un-family-friendly horror film.
Anne Francis stars in Forbidden planet
Forbidden Planet was a 1956 film starring Anne Francis.
Leo G. Carroll was over a barrel when Tarantula took to the hills
In the film Tarantula, starring Carroll, a giant tarantula escapes from a lab ("takes to the hills").
I saw Janette Scott fight a Triffid that spits poison and kills
Janette Scott was in the film Day of the Triffids, featuring the poisonous plants of the same name.
Dana Andrews said prunes, gave him the runes, and passing them used lots of skills
Dana Andrews starred in Night of the Demon, based on the short story Casting the Runes. Prunes are well-known as laxatives, and as such might give someone "the runs," i.e. diarrhea, which makes for a nice pun with "runes." It also might be a reference to the elderly lady who hands him the runes in the movie.
But when worlds collide, said George Pal to his bride
Picture show by RKO
RKO Pictures was once one the largest studios in Hollywood. They produced some of the previously mentioned movies, such as King Kong.