The thing that defines a film as cult or not can be difficult to put your finger on. Often, it is adversity that defines them – movies that were released against all odds and with quite a bit of a studio meddling. Other times it is subject matter. Regardless of what it is, that kernel of the unusual, there are certain films of the 20th century that occupy dizzy and strange heights.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show
In an age where the stage musical and their cinematic adaptations are massive draws it’s hard to imagine that this classic faced any adversity at all. In fact it flopped on its initial release in 1975 only to be brought back to life a year as part of the burgeoning New York Midnight Movie subculture. The highest grossing cult film of all time it has an international following of rabid fans who flock to screenings not just for the high camp and gleefully perverse story line and performances but also to participate – dressing as their favourite characters and interacting at certain points in the film with the help of self-provided props. Interestingly, that first 1975 screening took place on April fool’s day.
It would be foolish for any discussion of the cult cinema of the 20th century not to feature John Waters in some way and frankly, if you can stomach it, Pink Flamingos is a good place to start. Infamous for its depictions of incest and the consumption of (real) dog… uh… waste it made an underground star of its drag queen lead Divine and is seen as many as a vital catalyst for independent cinema in the 70s. Waters shot it over a two year period using friends and a really long extension chord for power.
Despite being directed by Ridley Scott off the back of the success of Alien and featuring a bankable star in the form of Harrison Ford its poor box office returns on its initial release, as well as a studio worried about its complexity calling for the inclusion of a voice over and a changed ending, led to the possibility of obscurity. It has, however, stood the test of time and become known as one of the greatest Science Fiction films of all time. Numerous cuts for it exist, including and excluding scenes and the voice over. A Final Cut overseen but Scott was released in 2007.
PIC: Michael Homann – Fotolia