CAMERA OBSCURA: WEIRD MOVIES AND SHOWS – Shock Treatment

by Jake on December 18, 2012

Shock Treatment CoverHey, you ever seen the ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show’? Yeah? It’s one of those cult classics that find an audience with each generation. Despite being made and set in the 1970′s, it’s truly timeless. As is the sequel.

What’s that, you ask?

Yes, there is a sequel! And in many ways, it’s a superior film.

That’s right: ‘Shock Treatment’ (1981) continues the adventures of Brad and Janet Majors, the couple from the first film, although Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon have been replaced by Cliff DeYoung and Jessica Harper. The rest of the cast is in fact composed of the same actors, albeit in different roles. Also, Ralph and Betty Hapshat – at whose wedding ‘Rocky Horror begins – have a larger part.

Shock Treatment 3While TRHPS was about old B-movies, old rock and roll and 70′s sexuality, ‘Shock Treatment’ is an indictment of modern society, a much more New Wave flick and, interestingly, a frighteningly accurate prophecy of the future of entertainment.

It’s hard to believe now, but in 1981, there was no ‘reality TV’. Yes, really. So the fact that in ‘Shock Treatment’, the entire town of Denton (The Home of Happiness!) is now one big TV show is an eerie concept.

Once-happy couple Brad and Janet are now trapped in a loveless marriage. As their marital problems become ratings gold, Janet becomes a celebrity while Brad is shipped off to the nuthatch. Why? Could it be that there is someone behind all of this? Is it, is it Dr. Frank-N-Furter!?!

Nope.

Shock Treatment 2But there are some plot twists. And some REALLY great songs. Richard O’Brien absolutely knocks it out of the park with this movie.

Because the entire town is a giant TV studio, ‘Shock Treatment’ looks, well, fake. Which is the point. The movie is about how unreal celebrity and fans and the distractions of modern life are, how materialism is a distraction from what’s important, that style is grumpily substance. It was true in the early 80′s and it’s certainly true now! The difference is, of course, in the 80′s, some still hoped it would stop. We stand looking back after losing that war.

But that’s subtext; you can take it or leave it. Either way, this is a fun movie, with great music, a cool story and, you know, a continuation of the story of the young couple from ‘Rocky Horror’. No Tim Curry in this one, sadly, but Little Nell looks absolutely STUNNING in her very short nurse’s outfit, while the rest of the cast seems to be having a lot of fun.

So, what happened? Why is a sequel to one of the most famous cult movies of all time almost unknown?

Because it isn’t ‘Rocky Horror’.

Shock TreatmentThat’s it. It’s that simple. Rocky fans showed up and, when they got something different, they were confused and underwhelmed. Not that nobody liked ‘Shock Treatment’, but it didn’t find the audience. The studio assumed the RHPS audience were guaranteed and that they could just create a cult favorite. But it doesn’t work that way.

Still, if you can overcome the curse of expectations, I would argue that this sequel is actually the better film. Better songs, better visuals, better story. But no Tim Curry or blonde musclemen in gold Speedos. Maybe THAT would have helped!

In the end, I urge you to at least check it out. You may watch it once and forget it, or you may join those of us who see it as superior to the original film.

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