TC: When you’re dealing with the popularity of cult films and midnight movies, the most iconic example of these sub-genres is The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

The 1975 musical was an ode and parody of the Science Fiction B-Movies of old and Rock ‘n’ Roll of the 1950’s that held its own identity as a major influence on both the Punk and LGBT communities that blew up into becoming one of the most beloved musicals of all time and is one of the longest running movies played in theaters nearly Fifty years after its original release. As successful as this movie was, surprisingly not very many are aware that there was a follow up movie.

A few years after the release of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Richard O’ Brien set out to create a sequel to the musical with original producer Michael White entitled Rocky Horror Shows His Heels. The story would have involved Janet being pregnant with Frank N. Furter’s child, Brad leaving her when he comes out as gay and having both Rocky and Frank coming back to life among other things the story had in mind. The production saw many different challenges such as Tim Curry not wanting to play Frank anymore (alongside Jonathan Adams for Dr. Scott and Peter Hinwood leaving acting all together), Susan Sarandon became more popular which required more money than the film’s budget and several other issues that led them to scrap the project and envisioned a new movie which then became known to the world as Shock Treatment.

Jarvisrama99: And yet, film was also plagued by more issues, one being the 1980 Screen Actors Guild strike. Plans to shoot in Denton, Texas were dropped and the decision was made to shoot the entire film in a soundstage, saving the film’s budget and saw most of the main focus of the story restructured to fit this new location. Though it didn’t help that when trying to mimic Rocky Horror’s success, 20th Century Fox decided to release the film for only midnight releases, as well as in a limited release window. And, no shock, wasn’t a smart financial move.


TC: Much like the original movie, Shock Treatment was a commercial failure since it was only shown as a midnight movie to try and capture the same market and the fans of the original film. Needless to say, many Rocky Horror fans don’t really like this movie and didn’t want anything to do with it. Over time though, it’s gained some popularity within and outside the Rocky Horror community and ending up reaching cult film status. Of course, while it won’t be as iconic or respected as the original movie, it is something that makes a curious mind take a look at and that is definitely what eventually lead Jarvisrama99 and I to take a look at it.


Synopsis: Some time after the affair at the Frankenstein place, the film follows the now married Brad and Janet Majors (Cliff de Young and Jessica Harper) who seem to be in a rough patch in their relationship. The duo go on to a game show called Marriage Maze hosted by Bert Schnick (Barry Humphries) who takes Brad into the soap opera Denton Vale with Cosmo and Nation McKinley (Richard O’ Brien and Patricia Quinn) and has Janet turn into an up-and-coming television star who is being closely observed by the mysterious fast food mogul Farley Flavors who plans to drive a wedge between the two. 


TC: Right off the bat, this film is obviously and heavily different from its predecessor. For starters, it’s no longer an homage and parody to B-Movies and instead take aim at Television and is, oddly enough, a prediction of Reality Television. Feeling like a mix up of “1984” and “The Stepford Wives”, the entire town of Denton was turned it into a massive television studio where all of the residents reside in the audience who spend their lives watching the live recordings and purchasing all of the items that are advertised on the commercials that air within breaks while Farley oversees everything from his private room with his seemingly endless wall of televisions.

The movie really plays on the idea of the of simple-people-turned-stars whether they appear on the local game show or big time reality TV and how people will eat it up and obsess over you within an instant. Given the fact that our current age has a plentiful amount of platforms where anybody can make their presence in the world known and how to get your 15 Minutes of Fame within an instant, Shock Treatment seemed to predict the instant gratification of becoming an overnight celebrity from a random selection of audience members (especially given the fact there’s a camera in nearly every scene drives that idea further) and how they can fade out as quickly as they came into the spotlight.


Jarvisrama99: The best way I feel to sum up the theme is a middle finger at the advertisement world of television and people who have such control over that type of media can control and influence the lives of viewers. It says something where Brad and Janet’s first duet, Bitchin’ in the Kitchen, has them relying on television advertisements to help find the words they want to say. It’s a message that we depend on and take a lot away from the entertainment we consume, and that can become a problem when obsessed too much, especially having an attachment with characters who are played by mischievous and wicked people.

I mean I know it’s meant to be over the top and ridiculous, but I kind of was sad as to how true that angle has become. I mean, with a guy who works up to own these large corporations, manipulate a television network to make his identity more appealing, have a town that claims to have no grudge towards other races and yet his followers cheer when Janet’s father has racial views, only to end with his truth being revealed yet people shrugging off this truth with his lies, proceeding to buy his merchandise, wear his hats, and happily follow him blindly into being committed all while he and his cronies get away and laugh on the side…and now I have horrific flashbacks of the nightmare that was the past four years…

The rising to fame and letting it take over your well-being is weirdly like Phantom of the Paradise, especially with Jessica Harper being in both films and having almost a similar character. But I do like how we get to see her character change by this, whereas Paradise only focuses on that angle for a brief bit.


TC: Given that there’s many new cast members in the film, it’s pretty easy to take not of how they compare to their predecessors. Seeing as Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon didn’t come back for this movie, they were replaced by Cliff de Young and Jessica Harper and had the addition of newcomers Barry Humphries and Ruby Wax. However, the film did see the return of Richard O’ Brien, Patricia Quinn, Little Nell, Charles Gray and Jeremy Newson who, aside from Jeremy reprising Ralph Hapschatt, play new characters who mostly reside on Denton Vale and spend most their time with Brad & Janet.

Richard and Patricia play Cosmo and Nation McKinley, another brother-sister duo who serve as the doctors in Denton Vale who, alongside Little Nell’s minor role as a Nurse, tend to Brad during his stay on the show and cater to Janet and her family. While Richard doesn’t really like talking about Shock Treatment much, it’s pretty clear he still put some effort into his performance alongside Patricia as they appear the most outside of Brad & Janet and are easily the two characters I enjoyed the most. With Little Nell having a very minor role in this film, she sadly isn’t as memorable as Columbia was but was still nice that she came back for the follow up.

Jarvisrama99: I found it great to see O’Brian and Quinn match-up once again. They once again work off each other well, having some great comedic timing and chemistry. They do help carry the movie’s energy, and with them in a lot more scenes it helps the film stay alive. I’m surprised to hear Richard doesn’t talk much about the film, which I wouldn’t be shocked due to the film’s reception, but I think he’s great in the film, especially with his numerous musical sequences. He shows up and gives it his all. Little Nell is a nice new edition to the cast, though she doesn’t have much to do outside of being basically eye candy. She has some funny moments, but not enough to make her character standout or leave an impact.


TC: Charles Gray plays Judge Oliver Wright who decides to look into DTV alongside Ralph’s estranged wife Betty. While Ralph and Betty got zero attention after the opening scene of their wedding, the movie takes a glimpse at their life as Ralph seems to be more interested in his co-host than Betty is, to her annoyance, and takes more interest in Oliver instead.

Jarvisrama99: I was happy to see Charles Gray come back, playing almost the same character from the last film. It’s nice we get to see him have a bigger role, and while it’s somewhat odd, he and Betty do somewhat become the main characters who actually are trying to figure out what’s going on in the story, which I kind of liked. For sure, Janet and Brad are the main focus, but are just going along with the film. At least these two are actually helping advance the story, even helping Brad get out of his imprisonment.

TC: Bert Schnick comes across as the blind foreign host of Marriage Maze who plays it up whenever he’s around Brad and Janet but at times does seem like it appears to be an act for the cameras (it’s a bit obvious that he was supposed to be the Dr. Scott equivalent of the movie). Most of the new characters are pretty interesting but sadly don’t end up being as memorable as the characters from the predecessor.

Jarvisrama99: Oh, I loved the character of Bert Schnick. He’s played hilariously by Barry Humphries, and is just this ridiculous over the top cartoonish character. I think one of my favorite moments is when the characters are all getting ready for bed, we keep cutting back to Burt who’s just sitting on his bed, and eventually all the lights cut out and he hasn’t moved an inch. Just that visual of him sitting in the dark cracked me up.


TC: Seeing as how this takes place some time after the Rocky Horror incident, one has to wonder what has become of the Majors-Weiss couple. As mentioned, the two of them tied the knot and seemed to be years along in their relationship. However, they don’t really seem to be interested in each other that much as they use to be. And, of course, after the events of the film kick off, the two of them start contemplating their relationship with much interference from everyone they meet in DTV. Of course, with no Bostwick or Sarandon in the cast, comparing the two is a definite must.

Jarvisrama99: Going to be entirely honest, that flew entirely over my head those two were the same characters from the last film. I just thought they were new to the story and just had a joke about having rival relationships and were clearly still bitter to each other. Which is sort of why I didn’t really think of this as a sequel, more of another film with the spirit of Rocky Horror. Despite bringing back a lot of the old cast, the new cast reprising the old characters is so different it’s just best to go with this how they’ve always been for what this film presents them to be.


TC: While Bostwick’s Brad seems to be a bit of an average joe who can get easily riled up, Cliff de Young’s rendition seems to be a bit of an awkward dork at times while still maintaining some of Bostwick’s performance while being, mostly, bound and gagged in Denton Vale. Considering how the original sequel was going to have him fully embrace being gay and leaving Janet (alongside the sequel that never happened ‘Revenge of the Old Queen’ where he was a bottomless go-go dancer), it would have being quite interesting to see how he would have become.

Jarvisrama99: I do like the message the film does try to setup, with the idea of someone wanting you to change for them by getting rid of their flaws, only for you to completely change yourself so they fall back in love with you, until only to realize those flaws are what made you love that person in the first place and vice versa. And that is a great message, especially when backdropped with a medium that constantly tries to sell this perfect idealized world to you time and time again. They fell for each other because they had a connection despite their flaws, not because they were completely perfect without any. The problem is the movie never hammers that message in well enough I felt. Like there’s never that realization or made clear enough by the characters. I’m not sure how I would’ve felt with the original sequel, but they seemed to have Brad doing more than sadly stuck in a cell gagged for a good portion of the run time. Again, had they nailed the message that could’ve helped excuse it, but it is what it is.

Though fortunately, Young does have another role in the movie where he does get to have something to do, and that was a slight issue I had. We find out that Farley Flavors is Brad’s long lost identical twin brother, who when the two were younger were split up and had different lives. He’s resented Brad for years and wants Janet for himself, and while it’s interesting, it’s still in the shadow of Tim Curry’s Dr. Frank N. Furter. That’s a hard character to follow-up with, and the filmmakers seem to try and not do that. But it just comes down to a sibling that resents his brother having a better life, and there’s not much else to that.


TC: Janet, on the other hand, receives all of the attention in this film. Farley Flavors decides to make her a TV star after giving her a taste of the life of being a celebrity receiving much appraisal (and a small amount of drugs). Eventually, it all starts to get to her head and grows an obsession for it and starts to consider leaving Brad per the suggestion and criticisms of everyone around her. Jessica Harper is no stranger to the cult film scene given her popularity from Suspiria and The Phantom of the Paradise, so seeing her here is a welcoming addition. She definitely knows how to play it up for the movie and is pretty good at playing Janet in her new taste of fame. Given Sarandon was the quiet and frightened main girl who later opens up to her sexual desires, it’s quite the contrast in character but it was one I didn’t mind.

how strange. — Shock Treatment (1981) dir. Jim Sharman

Jarvisrama99: I do enjoy Harper’s interpretation of the character over Sarandon’s, though I’d argue Janet has a more interesting arc in Rocky Horror that makes her more liked by the audience. Janet here is written to want to change Brad since she feels he’s embarrassing her, and while she throughout the movie does show she is worried for him, it’s mostly sidelined by her rise to fame and wanting to be in the spotlight. And Jessica Harper is wonderful here, delivering some great songs and clearly having fun. It just doesn’t help her intentions are selfish, and like I stated before, is a good message the film didn’t succeed in making the focus of the story.


TC: Another obvious factor to take in is how the songs fair out in comparison. While the overall film Rocky Horror Shows His Heels never became a reality, one of the factors that stuck around was the songs that Richard wrote for it and some of them do become pretty obvious when you hear them. For the most part, they transition pretty well to the film’s TV inspired concept and they were some pretty good songs throughout the film. While they could have gone with the synth-heavy sound that the 1980’s pop scene fully embraced, they stuck to a 1970’s style Rock ‘n’ Roll inspired sound with the synth work being very minimal and scattered throughout the songs.

Jarvisrama99: I wasn’t aware those songs were meant for a completely different version, to be honest. I though they did a good job incorporating them into the new story and they fit pretty good with the new narrative. Like Rocky Horror, O’Brien’s songs are fun to listen to and are very energetic. They have a great sound to them, and having the Rock ‘n’ Roll sound to them helps keep them almost timeless. I love the Denton anthem of this phony idealistic American town, but sung by people and cast members who can’t leave the studio.

I do find it odd that the song Shock Treatment is what the film’s named after. It’s a fun song, has some great lyrics and is really enjoyable, but it isn’t a main focus of the film, just a minor moment. I kind of wished they stuck with calling the movie The Brad and Janet Show, seeing how the film is focusing on these two and they’re technically the main characters.


Final Thoughts:

TC: I actually really enjoy this movie. Obviously, it’s not going to be anywhere near as loved as Rocky Horror is, but I do think that movie has its own unique charm and appeal to it that makes it stand out from a lot the cult movies that came out at the time and especially a lot of the strange musicals of the time era. For the RHPS fans, I’d definitely say to at least take a look at it and give it a chance.

Jarvisrama99: I was quite fond of the film as well. For sure, it’s not on the same level of Rocky Horror, with it’s antagonist not as intimidating or fun to watch when compared to Tim Curry, but I was never bored and found myself having a fun time when watching it. It definitely is all over the place and not very focused, but I admire the admiration the cast and crew put into the film, and like before Richard O’Brien’s songs are fun to listen to.

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