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Patricia Quinn’s Lips

August 14, 2014


These Beckettsian disembodied lips belong to Patricia Quinn.  Apparently.  Though it’s not her doing her own singing.  Apparently.  These lips announce the beginning of the movie Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), which opened thirty nine years ago today.  Patricia Quinn, in addition to providing the lips for the beginning and the end of the film, also appeared as Magenta, one of the iconic figures within the Rocky Horror universe and a major influence on the sartorial adventures of the late 1970s.

Funny thing – I was never a big Rocky Horror fan.  I think it was the extremity of the real fans that put me off.  Rocky Horror always felt to me like a joke that I was being bullied into.  I can now admire it both musically and stylistically, but I’ve always retained a degree of detachment from it. I have never dressed up and I never will.

Patricia Quinn, however, influenced me in other ways.  In particular she taunted me as Livilla in I, Claudius.  Sister of Claudius and grand-daughter of Livia,  Livilla was utterly ruthless and selfish but unlike her far more patiently ruthless grandmaternal namesake (Livilla is merely the Latin diminutive of Livia), she could also abandon herself to passion.  Her ambition and her lust burn with demonic intensity and half the time lust wins.  Her scenes with Patrick Stewart (Sejanus) are among the most feverish things staged on 1970s British television.

i claudiusquinn

Those lips did good service in I, Claudius.  They quivered with antici… pation in just about every scene featuring Patricia Quinn, conveying a sense of remarkable erotic energy, surging like a restless magma chamber.  Those tremulous lips choreographed an emotional ferment that confounded any distinction between lust and rage.

I never tire of pondering I Claudius…

Its fascination has only grown with age…

But Patricia Quinn is memorable in other contexts.  She co-starred with John Cleese in the disconcerting “Sex Education” scene in Monty Python’s Meaning of Life (1983).


Patricia Quinn also appeared in the pivotal Doctor Who story Dragonfire (1987), where she plays another dangerous woman with a grievance.  Lips on fire again.

dr who quinn

This story is, incidentally, evidence that you should never give up on Doctor Who, that there is light at the end of every tunnel, that keeping the faith will always be rewarded, and that Melanie Bush can be replaced by Ace.

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One Comment
  1. Reblogged this on conradbrunstrom and commented:

    On the occasion of her birthday… Patricia Quinn’s lips…

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