14 August 1975

The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the longest-running release in film history, opens in London.

It’s astounding, or at least it must be reviewers who panned The Rocky Horror Picture Show when it first flashed its fishnets 40 years ago: Time is fleeting, but the film remains an interactive fixture in theaters around the country, where it has earned the distinction of being the longest-running movie in history.

Rocky Horror — the now-classic tale of a young couple whose lives change when they stumble upon an extraterrestrial transsexual/mad scientist — looks as good in a corset as it did when it opened in London on this day, Aug. 14, in 1975. It premiered in Los Angeles the following month. It has been playing ever since, often as a midnight show, drawing costumed devotees carrying rice, toilet paper and toast, among other props, to throw at the screen.

Critics almost universally slammed the film when it premiered; they’d given mixed reviews to the stage musical it was based on, too. The play had done well in London, where it began its run in 1973, and where the New York Times called it “the trendiest entertainment in town.” In New York, the musical retained its leading man — Tim Curry, who also brings the movie to staggering heights of platform-heeled camp, and whom the Times lauded for “flashing his eyes like headlamps, tossing his curls roguishly, and talking in a voice of sugared bile” — but lost some of its audience appeal.

TIME’s reviewer, for one, was not impressed. “It is not easy to see why this campy trash was a long-running hit in London and a smash success in Los Angeles,” notes the 1975 review, “except that transvestism has always fascinated the British and the L.A. scene is almost as kinky.”

By 1985, TIME’s film critic had kinder words for the movie, calling it “a cross-generational phenomenon, an evocation of ’50s monster movies wrapped in the anything-goes spirit of the ’60s that found a niche in the ’70s and has blossomed in the ’80s into a rite of passage for millions of American teenagers.”

The film, by now, is beside the point, as Roger Ebert noted. It has evolved into a mere vehicle for the audience participation that has sustained its creative spark so long. “The Rocky Horror Picture Show is not so much a movie as more of a long-running social phenomenon,” Ebert wrote. When the movie’s midnight showings were at their peak in the ‘80s, he said: …the fans put on a better show than anything on the screen. They knew the film by heart, chanted all of the lines in unison, sang along with the songs, did dances on stage, added their own unprintable additions to the screenplay, and went through a lot of props like toilet paper and water pistols. They also formed a sort of weird extended family. They met every week, exchanged ritual greetings, celebrated each other’s birthdays and other major holidays, and even dated and married and gave birth to a new generation of “Rocky Horror” cultists.

Rocky Horror’s standing as a social phenomenon hasn’t wavered; if anything, it’s become more mainstream in recent years. It was the focus of a Glee episode in 2010; this year, Fox announced that it would give the film a modern-day makeover as a TV movie.

And while that remake will rely on the original script, Fox doesn’t anticipate renewed criticism for kinkiness. “Though full of innuendo,” Entertainment Weekly concludes, “it’s unlikely Rocky Horror would receive its original R rating by today’s standards.”

14 August 2007

Bombings in Kahtaniya kills at least 334 people.

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The 2007 Yazidi communities bombings occurred at around 7:20 pm local time on August 14, 2007, when four coordinated suicide bomb attacks detonated in the Yazidi towns of Kahtaniya and Jazeera near Mosul.

The Iraqi Red Crescent estimated that the bombs killed at least 500 and wounded 1,500 people, making this the Iraq War’s most deadly car bomb attack. It was also the second deadliest act of terrorism in history, following only behind the September 11 attacks in the United States.

For several months leading up the attack, tensions had been building up in the area, particularly between Yazidis and Sunni Muslims. Some Yazidis living in the area received threatening letters calling them “infidels”.Leaflets were also distributed denouncing Yazidis as “anti-Islamic” and warning them that an attack was imminent.

The attack might be connected to an incident wherein Du’a Khalil Aswad, a 17-year-old Yazidi girl, was stoned to death by the Yazidis. Aswad was believed to have wanted to convert in order to marry a Sunni. Two weeks later, after a video of the stoning appeared on the Internet, Sunni gunmen stopped minibuses filled with Yazidis; 23 Yazidi men were forced from a bus and shot dead.

The Sinjar area which has a mixed population of Yazidis, Kurds, Turkmen and Arabs was scheduled to vote in a plebiscite on accession to the Kurdish region in December 2007. This caused hostility among the neighbouring Arab communities. A force of 600 Kurdish Peshmerga was subsequently deployed in the area, and ditches were dug around Yazidi villages to prevent further attacks.

14 August 1962

Gunmen hijack a mail truck in Plymouth, Massachusetts, and make off with $1.5 million.

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The Plymouth Mail robbery, or what the press called “The Great Plymouth Mail Truck Robbery” was, at that point in time, the largest cash robbery of all time. On the 14th August  1962, the two gunmen stopped a US Mail truck which was delivering $1.5 million in smaller bills from Cape Cod in Massachusetts to the Federal Reserve Bank in Boston, Massachusetts. The hijacking occurred on Route 3 in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The two robbers who were dressed as police officers and where carrying submachine guns, tied up the driver and the guard and then drove the truck themselves to some unknown destinations, where the money was dropped off in several places. The truck and its two captured occupants were then left in Randolph, Massachusetts alongside Route 128.

A federal grand jury later indicted four men and one woman for this robbery. One of those indicted just before trial and has never been found. The other defendants were acquitted at trial. The $1.5 million in cash (equivalent to almost $12 million in 2013 dollars) has never been found.

A Boston mobster, Vincent “Fat Vinnie” Teresa, who was a a lieutenant of Raymond L.S. Patriarca, made the claim in his book called, My Life in the Mafia, that it was John “Red” Kelley who actually planned the robbery. Kelly allegedly got 80 cents on the dollar when the money was finally laundered.