Forgotten Films – Shock Treatment (1981)
This is the 114th in my series of Forgotten Obscure or Neglected Films
In a recent essay for Rayguns Over Texas, a science fiction anthology of Texas writers that will debut at the World Science Fiction Convention in a little over two weeks, I describe my initial viewing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show at AggieCon in 1977. AggieCon is held at Texas A&M University and it was a central convention to my development as a fan and a writer. A brief excerpt can be found at here.
I loved the film and saw it about a dozen times in the theater though never participating in the insanity about the film which led me to quit going. I do not go to the movies for a live action experience. That is what plays are fore. I go to see and hear the film not to see or hear some idiot throw rice at the screen or dance up in front of the screen. But that was where their muses took them and I took myself to home eventually getting a bootleg VHS recording of the show and upgrading to legal copies and a DVD later.
I wondered why Hollywood did not try a sequel. Sequel-itis was rampant at the time. Then in 1981, a sort of sequel came out. Shock Treatment was an odd musical set in the town of Denton, the Home of Happiness to quote both films. And it featured Brad and Janet Majors (this time played by Cliff De Young and Jessica Harper). TRHPS alumni included Richard O’Brien as Dr. Cosmo McKinley, Patricia Quinn (as O’Brien’s sister (again!) Dr. Nation McKinley). Nell Campbell (as Nurse Ansalong), Charles Gray (as Judge Oliver Wright) and Jerry Newsome reprising his TRHPS role of Ralph Hapschatt.
The film is not exactly a sequel as there are few recurring characters or themes as much as it is a continuation. Brad and Janet have been married for several years and the sizzle is gone. They find themselves on a TV show called “Marriage Maze” where the host Bert Schick (Barry Humphreys) wants Janet to put Brad into the hands of the two Dr. McKinleys in “Dentonvale”. The entire town of Denton appears to be confined to the studio of DTV and all action takes place on the various sets. The town has its own theme song and various reality shows like Denton Dossier. Janet’s parents Harry and Emily Weiss (Darlene Johnson and Manning Redwood) are happy that, for some reason, Janet has been chosen to be the spokesperson for a new take home mental health project called Farley Flavors Fabulous Faith Factory. She appears to be overwhelmed at the possibility of fame and fortune but keeps turning back wanting to see Brad. Even when she gets a star treatment and a fabulous “little black dress” (with a great musical number to accompany it) she keeps wanting to see Brad. But she appears to succumb in her song “The Me of Me” which is as narcissistic as it gets.
Janet wanders emotionally all over the place. Meanwhile, jilted wife Betty Hapschatt (Ruby Wax) has been fired from Denton Dossier while her husband Ralph and blonde homewrecker Macy Struthers (Wendy Raeback) are trying to move up in the ratings. Betty confides in Judge Wright her suspicions about a conspiracy on the DTV sets and they begin to spy on various shows and actors, leading to wandering cameras and stories. Everyone even sleeps in rooms on the show, though sleep is not all that is going on.
I liked this movie when it came out. I really like some of the songs and tend to listen to this more than TRHPS soundtrack. But it is not for everyone. Many diehard Rocky fans found it incomprehensible that a follow-up would not have Tim Curry. This is a valid concern but you gotta live with it. Some thought it a slavish sequel with built in breaks for fans to sing a long or shout back to the screen. Those breaks are there but it did not bother me. As usual, your mileage may vary.
The film was not a big success or even a little success. The disc is readily available at your normal internet outlets so I say check it out. Musicals may not be your thing. I love them. So keep that in mind. It is not as wildly radical as TRHPS but I found its prediction of a nation or town obsessed with reality TV to be intriguing.
Series organizer Todd Mason hosts more Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.