Shock Treatment

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This article is about the 1981 musical comedy film. For other uses of the term 'shock treatment', including other films with the same name, see shock therapy (disambiguation).
Shock Treatment
A fully red poster has O'Brien smiling at the viewer with his quote "Trust me, I'm a doctor" below him.
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Jim Sharman
Produced by
Written by
Music by
Cinematography Mike Molloy
Edited by Richard Bedford
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • October 31, 1981 (1981-10-31)
Running time
94 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $3.5 million[citation needed]

Shock Treatment is a 1981 American musical-black comedy film and a follow-up to the film The Rocky Horror Picture Show. While not an outright sequel, the film does feature several characters from the film portrayed by different actors and several Rocky Horror actors portraying new characters. It was directed by Jim Sharman.


A narrator introduces the audience to TV executive Farley Flavors (Cliff De Young). As Flavors watches, his television studio is steadily filled with the residents of Denton, who gleefully assume their roles as studio audience members of a 24-hour live television broadcast. The sole holdout in the celebration is Brad Majors (De Young), who, despite the insistence of his wife Janet (Jessica Harper) that things will be OK, is ambivalent about the town's transformation.

Brad and Janet are chosen as contestants on Marriage Maze, a supposed game show whose sole purpose seems to be committing people to "Dentonvale", a insane asylum. Janet is given the opportunity to have Brad committed by the show's host, a blind Austrian named Bert Schnick (Barry Humphries), who promises her that the experience will improve their marriage. Sick and tired of Brad's social ineptness, Janet agrees to have him certified insane.

Upon arriving at Dentonvale, Brad and Janet are greeted by the staff: nurse Ansalong (Little Nell), intern Ricky (Rik Mayall), and Dentonvale's supervisors, the apparently incestuous siblings Dr. Cosmo (Richard O'Brien) and Nation McKinley (Patricia Quinn). Despite Brad's objections, Cosmo has him drugged, bound, gagged, and placed in a padded cell known as the "Terminal Ward". Before Janet can sign the papers permitting the McKinleys to treat Brad, Ansalong tells her to wait a day, that way she gets the first day free. Meanwhile, Janet's parents, Harry (Manning Redwood) and Emily (Darlene Johnson), are brought onto Marriage Maze and promised a prize if they offer a psychological assessment of Brad. Deciding that he's regressing into childhood, the Weisses are awarded a vacation home on another of DTV's programs. Janet goes to meet them there and laments Brad's lack of assertiveness. Harry chastises Janet for marrying Brad, an orphan whose parents died in a car crash, rather than other boys from more stable backgrounds.

Meanwhile, the McKinleys are informed that financing for their show has been taken over by Flavors' own personal company, a fast food enterprise which Farley hopes to use to finance a pop psychology movement, using a new TV program, Faith Factory, as the platform and the McKinleys as his mouthpieces. The reluctant McKinleys are quickly taken in by a persuasive videotaped pitch, and on Farley's orders, they recruit Janet to be the face of Farley's "Sanity For Today" movement, as he believes she is the perfect example of the girl next door. Janet moves into Dentonvale with the McKinleys and Bert Schnick, with the promise that her new life as an exciting model will make her desirable to Brad again. Meanwhile, Judge Wright (Charles Gray) and Betty Hapschatt (Ruby Wax), two DTV hosts sympathetic to Brad, look into the histories of Farley and the McKinleys, suspecting that there is a sinister motive behind Faith Factory.

Cosmo strokes Janet's ego and designs a sexy new outfit for her, transforming her into "Miss Mental Health". DTV manufactures Janet into an overnight sensation, and the newfound fame goes to Janet's head. Janet, her parents, and Bert go to visit Brad at Dentonvale, where the Weisses question whether the McKinleys can really help him. The Dentonvale Staff assure everyone of their competency, and it is revealed that Bert has been faking his blindness - a further sign of the deception being perpetrated by them. Janet's ego becomes difficult for the McKinleys to control. To keep her manageable, they drug her, resulting in a dream sequence in which she patrols Denton looking for sex while Brad begs her for love.

As the premiere of Faith Factory nears, Bert, the Dentonvale Staff, and the Weisses prepare for their new TV roles; meanwhile, Betty hacks into DTV's computer and learns that the McKinleys are in fact character actors and that "Dentonvale" isn't a real hospital. Faith Factory goes on the air, opening with a live musical performance by Janet's groupies, a punk band called Oscar Drill and the Bits. Using the performance as a cover, Wright and Betty break Brad out of Dentonvale, telling him that they've learned Farley is his biological brother, who was split from him during the adoption process and grew up poor; now Farley wants to destroy Brad's life out of jealousy, and is planning to seduce Janet on national TV as the last part of his plan.

Brad, Wright, and Betty break through the wall of the Faith Factory set, and Brad confronts Farley about his plan. Farley demands Brad be remanded to the hospital, but Janet, snapped out of her ego-trip, informs him that she never signed the consent forms. Angry, Farley has Brad, Janet, Wright, and Betty arrested, and hastily names DTV host Macy Struthers (Wendy Raebeck) as the new "Miss Mental Health". Farley invites the studio audience to join in, to which they readily agree — they are all summarily handed straitjackets, which they happily put on. Brad, Janet, Betty, and Wright escape the holding cell they were placed in for disturbing the live show, and the foursome resolve to leave Denton behind. They, eventually accompanied with the town's youth, hot-wire a car that was meant to be a prize on Faith Factory and drive away, as Farley and the Dentonvale staff celebrate having just committed the entire town of Denton to the terminal ward.


Musical numbers[edit]

Song Chief singer(s) Other singers
Overture N/A (Instrumental) N/A
Denton U.S.A. Neely, Harry, Emily, Vance,
Brenda, Frankie, Ralph, Macy
Bitchin' in the Kitchen Brad, Janet N/A
In My Own Way Janet N/A
Thank God I'm a Man Harry Audience
Farley's Song Farley Cosmo, Nation, Ansalong, Ricky
Lullaby Nation, Cosmo, Janet, Ansalong, Ricky N/A
Little Black Dress Cosmo, Janet, Bert, Nation N/A
Me of Me Janet Frankie and Brenda
Shock Treatment Cosmo, Nation, Ansalong Janet, Ricky, Bert, Harry, Emily
Carte Blanche Janet N/A
Looking for Trade Janet Brad
Look What I Did to My Id Emily, Harry, Cosmo, Nation,
Macy, Ralph, Ansalong, Ricky
Breaking Out Oscar Drill The Bits
Duel Duet Farley, Brad N/A
Anyhow, Anyhow Brad, Janet, Oliver, Betty All characters (including chorus and other minor characters)


The film was shot entirely in a sound studio; it was originally intended to be shot in realistic locations in the USA, but a 1979 Screen Actors Guild strike froze production funds. Director Jim Sharman suggested possibly doing the production as a London stage show and filming it in a theater, which gave Richard O'Brien the idea to rework the locations as a giant TV studio using a film studio in England, trimming the budget and reviving the project.[2]


Although several Rocky Horror cast members returned for the film, only Jeremy Newson reprised his role as Ralph Hapschatt (though it is possible Judge Wright is the Criminologist from Rocky Horror). Tim Curry was offered the roles of Brad and Farley, but declined because he didn't think his American accent would be convincing. Barry Bostwick was unable to reprise his role as Brad due to other filming commitments, and Susan Sarandon's asking price could not be met, due to budget constraints.[3]

Cliff De Young had been Sharman's original choice for Brad in Rocky Horror, as the two had worked together off-Broadway in the play "Trials of Oz" in 1972. De Young had been unavailable at the time, as he was appearing on the television show Sunshine in California. Cast now as Brad and Farley, De Young modeled his performance of Brad after David Eisenhower, and modeled Farley after Jack Nicholson.[4] Shock Treatment '​s original working title was The Brad and Janet Show. Founder and long-time president of The Rocky Horror Picture Show fan club, Sal Piro, has a cameo appearance as the man using the payphone during the opening sequence.


Home media[edit]

A special edition DVD was released in the United States on September 5, 2006, its first Region 1 DVD release. Special features include an audio commentary with fan club presidents Mad Man Mike and Bill Brennan, a making-of featurette, a music retrospective featurette, and domestic and international trailers.[citation needed]

All DVD releases cut the original end credit version of the Denton "Overture" in half, and then prematurely fade out the single version of "Shock Treatment" when the credits are over. The original version features the complete "Overture" playing over the credits with "Shock Treatment" playing over a black screen as exit music. The edit shortens the film from 94 to 92 minutes.[citation needed]


In spite of pre-release hype (including a promotional TV special called The Rocky Horror Treatment), the film was both a critical and commercial failure when it was released only as a midnight movie on Halloween 1981. It never received a full general theatrical first-run release. Due to its increased budget and box office failure, Shock Treatment was an even bigger flop than Rocky Horror '​s original general release in 1975.[citation needed] Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reports that 40% of five surveyed critics gave the film a positive review; the average rating is 5.3/10.[5]

The film has taken on a life of its own on DVD, though, and has been applauded for its satire of the early Reagan era in America.[6]

Stage adaptation[edit]

In late 2014, it was announced that O'Brien would produce Shock Treatment for the theatrical stage. The production will premiere at the King’s Head theatre in Islington, London in the United Kingdom in the spring of 2015.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "SHOCK TREATMENT (A)". 20th Century Fox. British Board of Film Classification. July 8, 1981. Retrieved August 31, 2013. 
  2. ^ Conroy, Mike (1981). "Richard O'Brien and Shock Treatment." Fangoria, No. 15. New York; O'Quinn Studios. 66.
  3. ^ Conroy, Mike, "Richard O'Brien and Shock Treatment," op cit., 66.
  4. ^ 20th Century-Fox (1981). Shock Treatment Press Kit. 5.
  5. ^ "Shock Treatment (1981)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 28, 2014. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ "As Rocky Horror sequel comes to stage, it seems creator was far ahead of his time | Stage | The Guardian". Retrieved December 2, 2014. 

External links[edit]