Richard O'Brien Nora Sayre - Essay

Nora Sayre

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[The most participatory movie of all is Rocky Horror Picture Show.] As anyone between twelve and twenty-five must know by now, the film is a transvestite tease that blithely parodies old monster movies, and its rock score flirts with the styles of the late fifties and midsixties…. The movie includes many tributes to cinematic history; one beguiling sight-gag is a shot of [Frank N. Furter] from below as he floats face down in a swimming pool—in homage to William Holden's corpse in Sunset Boulevard. (p. 66)

[The] bulk of the audience appears to be as deeply involved in the film as the individual performers. Throwing rice during a wedding scene, spraying one another with water in a thunderstorm, and hurling rolls of toilet paper and cards at appropriate moments, they keep their flashlights circling over the screen and the ceiling…. The aisle is full of noises….

At times, it seems as if the script is being rewritten. The heroine is advised to "Smile if you're horny"—and she positively beams. Even the props are obedient: when dozens of voices demand a coil of rope—"Rope, please!"—it promptly appears on the screen, and they shriek, "Thank you!" All in all, they seem to control the movie, to have power over it—and that's one of the charms Rocky Horror has for its adherents. (p. 67)

[The] movie can't be classified as decadent. Instead, it's rather asexual, simply because nothing in it is really titillating, and the jovial reaction of the largely heterosexual audience conveys the relaxed attitude toward sex that many adolescents share. While I'm told that seeing Rocky Horror with certain groups can be disturbing—some are so hysterical and chaotic that all dialogue is obliterated—what occurs … seems like healthy recreation, spiced with the kind of inventiveness that's scarce at carnivals today. (p. 68)

Nora Sayre, "Cult Films: A Handful of Offbeat Movies Have Become Ritualistic Events for Young Film Freaks" (copyright © 1979 Nora Sayre; reprinted by permission of Georges Borchardt, Inc.), in Horizon, Vol. 22, No. 9, September, 1979, pp. 64, 66-9.∗