Richard O'Brien D. Keith Mano - Essay

D. Keith Mano

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Rocky Horror is infantile paralysis grown up: transvestitism, Oldenburg weird sets, satire on Warhol's Frankenstein, some soft rock clamoring. Sort of film that's accessory to the secret medicine chest. Seen best with a happy-honk swab up your nose….

The Rocky Horror Cult is instructive. More than instructive: a synecdoche for aesthetic trends that have been in the brooder house since God knew when….

Audience response is cathartic: a Pancho Villa insurrection against the passive media—TV and film. There isn't one of us who hasn't wanted to rank our Eric Severeid or Howard Cosell. And the obscenity is innocent, healthful. TV in particular leeches on subvocal/subvisual sex. Dialogue will titillate by innuendo. The Rocky Cult children deflate this hypocritical "self-censorship." You could interject, "Sit on my face" over and over again during any segment of Charlie's Angels. The cheap, eunuchoid sexual tension is there: teased up. It almost needs to be said: a release….

Rocky Horror Cultists, though they assert great fondness for the film, are in head-on, voice-on competition with it. Disco doesn't do that: disco will subsume the cult figure, drown him out. A disco dancer is alone: arrogant and self-involved. Rocky Horror kids attempt professionalism: at the large risk of foolishness. Yet, when a really fine Dr. Frank N. Further singalike stood in his small flashlit pool, well, I found myself watching him, not the film. It was a valid performance. Who, you could justifiably ask, is lipsyncing whom? (p. 1494)

Transvestitism, whatever: Rocky Horror, as film, has frail significance. Like Shiloh or Antietam, it's a place where forces met: convenient but adventitious. What we do get, though, is a brighter definition of the relationship between audience and performer…. The Rocky Horror Cult foretells a new art coming: or a renegotiation of terms anyhow. Public access TV and call-in radio have already conceded it. Audiences want more credit, input: equal billing at least. Or else they'll go into open competition: a corporate mass cult star. (pp. 1494, 1496)

D. Keith Mano, "The Gimlet Eye: The Rocky Horror Cult," in National Review (© National Review, Inc. 1978; 150 East 35th St., New York, NY 10016), Vol. XXX, No. 47, November 24, 1978, pp. 1493-94, 1496.