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Shock Treatment

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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 byJim Sharman
Written by
Produced by
CinematographyMike Molloy
Edited byRichard Bedford
Music by
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • October 30, 1981 (1981-10-30)
Running time
94 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$3.5 million[citation needed]

Shock Treatment is a 1981 American musical comedy film directed by Jim Sharman, and co-written by Sharman and Richard O'Brien. It is a follow-up to the 1975 film The Rocky Horror Picture Show. While not an outright sequel, the film does feature characters from the previous film, most portrayed by different actors, as well as several Rocky Horror actors in new roles. The film stars Jessica Harper as Janet and Cliff DeYoung in a dual role as Brad and the film's main antagonist Farley Flavors, with O'Brien and Patricia Quinn playing sibling character actors, Cosmo and Nation McKinley, and Nell Campbell playing Nurse Ansalong.

The film is set in the fictional town of Denton, which has been placed under the control of a television network. The town's entire population is involved in the network's productions. Brad Majors finds himself imprisoned in the local mental hospital, while his wife Janet becomes the pet project of Farley Flavors, the local plutocrat.

Given a limited release on the midnight movie circuit beginning on October 30, 1981, Shock Treatment was a critical and commercial failure, not earning the same level of cult film status its predecessor received, but contemporary reviews have since praised its satirical themes, particularly a prescient satire of reality television. In 2015, the film was adapted as a stage production in London.


Continuing from The Rocky Horror Picture Show are the characters of Brad and Janet Majors, now married. The film takes place in the town of Denton, USA, which has been taken over by fast food magnate Farley Flavors. The film is set within a DTV (Denton Television) network television studio and opens as the studio audience is admitted into the studio. Brad and Janet, seated in the audience, are chosen to participate in the game show Marriage Maze by the kooky, supposedly blind host, Bert Schnick. While on the Marriage Maze, Brad is deemed "an emotional cripple," and is forcibly sent to Dentonvale, a mental hospital run by siblings Cosmo and Nation McKinley and the subject of the synonymously named reality show, for "treatment."

While Brad is locked away at Dentonvale, Farley Flavors persuades Janet to pursue superstardom, suggesting that her fame will make Brad better. Although Janet participates willingly, her compliance is assured when she is drugged by the McKinleys. Janet's parents, Emily and Harry Weiss, also become enamored with fame and television, appearing first on Marriage Maze, answering questions about Brad's alleged mental instability, and later, as their "prize" for answering questions about Brad correctly, on Happy Homes, a reality TV show that follows people on a television set of an idealized suburban home. Rapidly, Janet and her parents forget about Brad and become obsessed with fame.

In the meantime, Betty Hapschatt and Judge Oliver Wright, cohosts of the Denton Dossier and the only people not won over by Farley Flavors' flashy television shows, investigate Flavors and the other people involved in DTV. The duo eventually discover that Cosmo and Nation McKinley are not doctors as they claim, but merely character actors, and that Farley Flavors himself is Brad's jealous, long-lost twin brother, seeking to destroy Brad and take Janet for himself. Betty Hapschatt and Judge Wright break Brad out from his prison in Dentonvale and have him confront his twin. The trio break onto the set of Farley's latest show, Faith Factory, during its debut just as Janet, who is heavily drugged, is about to be crowned "Miss Mental Health." Seeing Brad helps Janet snap out of her drug-induced trance and she returns to him. Flavors imprisons Brad, Janet, Betty, and Judge Wright, then invites the remaining audience members to follow him to Dentonvale. Everyone except the four prisoners and the kids in the local band, Oscar Drill and the Bits, willingly and enthusiastically accept straitjackets and commit themselves to Dentonvale in the name of "mental health." Brad, Janet, Betty, and Judge Wright escape the office they are locked into using one of Betty's hairpins to pick the lock. They join the band and successfully hotwire the car given to Miss Mental Health by a show sponsor. Band members force open the door to the studio and Brad, Janet, Betty, Judge Wright and the band drive out of the studio. As the car drives off, voice over reminds the viewer that "the sun never sets on those who ride into it."



Coinciding with the release of the film, Ode Records issued the soundtrack album on vinyl and cassette in 1981, and later reissued it on CD in 1994.[2] The album includes longer versions of "Thank God I'm a Man" and "Carte Blanche", as well as two unlisted bits taken directly from the film, the Farley Flavors "commercial break" (after "Denton U.S.A.") and the rhyming dialogue, which directly precedes "Duel Duet" (after "Breaking Out").[3]

All editions are missing Richard O'Brien's solo version of the title song (which plays during the end credits and features backing vocals by Nell Campbell), though it was released as a 7" vinyl single,[4] and included on the CD Songs from the Vaults: A Collection of Rocky Horror Rarities,[5] which was exclusive to the Rocky Horror Picture Show 15th Anniversary boxed set.[6][7]

Song Chief singer(s) Other singers
Overture — (Instrumental)
Denton U.S.A. Neely, Harry, Emily, Vance,
Brenda, Frankie, Ralph, Macy
Bitchin' in the Kitchen Brad, Janet
In My Own Way Janet
Thank God I'm a Man Harry Audience
Farley's Song Farley Cosmo, Nation, Ansalong, Ricky
Lullaby Nation, Cosmo, Janet, Ansalong, Ricky
Little Black Dress Cosmo, Janet, Bert, Nation
Me of Me Janet Frankie and Brenda
Shock Treatment Cosmo, Nation, Ansalong Janet, Ricky, Bert, Harry, Emily
Carte Blanche Janet
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
Anyhow, Anyhow Brad, Janet, Oliver, Betty All characters (including chorus and other minor characters)


Chart (1982) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[8] 73



Following the unexpected and overwhelming success of The Rocky Horror Picture Show on the midnight circuit, Richard O'Brien approached producer Michael White with the idea of filming a sequel.[9] In 1978, he began work on a script titled Rocky Horror Shows His Heels,[10] which found Frank and Rocky resurrected, Brad and Dr. Scott now lovers, and Janet pregnant with Frank's baby. Director Jim Sharman was resistant to revisit the material and Tim Curry had no desire to reprise the role of Frank,[11] but O'Brien had put some work into the songs, so he decided to retain them and simply revise the story.

The new script was titled The Brad and Janet Show.[12] This version is closer to what ultimately became Shock Treatment and was planned to be produced, but the filmmakers were plagued with a variety of problems. Dr. Scott had also been included in the script, but Jonathan Adams refused to reprise his role.[11] The filmmakers intended to shoot on location in Denton, Texas,[13][14][15] but production screeched to a halt in 1980 when the Screen Actors Guild went on strike.[citation needed]

With only a small window when cast and crew were available, the filmmakers had to get creative. Television had been a heavy motif in the script, so production designer Brian Thomson came up with the notion to rework the story and set it in a giant TV studio, utilizing a film studio in England,[9] which shaved $1 million from the budget and gave them the luxury of working in a controlled environment. The script endured a final draft in which all of the locations were changed to television shows, and the role of Dr. Scott morphed into game show host Bert Schnick. "I was frightened the strike was going to finish too soon and we'd have to go back to our original conception," commented O'Brien.[citation needed]


Many Rocky Horror cast members returned for the film, but only Jeremy Newson reprised his role as Ralph Hapschatt. Many of the original film's Transylvanians appeared as audience members, while Imogen Claire was given the slightly-larger part of the Wardrobe Mistress. Raynor Bourton, who originated the role of Rocky in the stage production, portrayed one of the singing soldiers in "Thank God I'm a Man", and Chris Malcolm, who originated the role of Brad Majors on stage, was cast as Vance Parker, a local police officer. Founder and long-time president of Rocky Horror fan club, Sal Piro, also has a silent cameo appearance as the man using the payphone during the opening sequence.

With her career on the rise, Susan Sarandon demanded more money than the budget allowed.[16] Auditions were held at The Roxy theater to find a suitable replacement, and Jessica Harper, previously of Brian De Palma's cult musical Phantom of the Paradise, impressed the filmmakers with her singing skills.[15]

Cliff DeYoung had been Sharman's original choice for Brad in The Rocky Horror Picture Show after they worked together on the 1972 off-Broadway play Trials of Oz,[15] but DeYoung was starring on the television series Sunshine in California and was unable to appear. Upon learning that Barry Bostwick was unable to participate in Shock Treatment, Sharman tracked down DeYoung and gave him the role of Brad.[15] This afforded DeYoung the opportunity to reunite with Harper, with whom he had co-starred in a stage production of Hair.[15][17]


As is standard with musicals, music and vocals were recorded prior to principal photography[17][18] at the renowned Abbey Road Studios.[15] The first scene shot was the Farley Flavors commercial break with Macy Struthers and a group of children. Wendy Raebeck was ill and collapsed after one of her takes.[18]

DeYoung modeled his performance of Brad after David Eisenhower and based Farley on Jack Nicholson.[19] The elaborate opening shot begins on Farley in the overhead video booth, and the camera slowly does a 360° pan around the room as the crew prepares for the show and Brad and Janet enter the studio. For this scene, DeYoung had to do a quick change and quickly run downstairs to hit his second mark.[18] "Duel Duet" was shot over the course of a day, with DeYoung spending the morning shooting his scenes as one character and the remainder of the day costumed as the other.[15] He began with a very restrained performance of the song but was encouraged to go broader and was pleased with the final result.[15]


In spite of pre-release hype (including a promotional TV special called The Rocky Horror Treatment),[20] 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 limited release, Shock Treatment was an even bigger financial flop than Rocky Horror's original general release in 1975.[citation needed]

Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reports that 50% of 6 (3 of 6) surveyed critics gave the film a positive review; the average rating is 6.0/10.[21] According to Metacritic, which assigned the film a weighted average score of 36 out of 100 based on 7 critics, Shock Treatment has received "generally unfavorable reviews".

In one of his television reviews, Roger Ebert said that he felt Rocky Horror fans would reject a movie that was specifically targeted at them, remarking that "cult film audiences want to feel that they have seen the genius of something that everybody else hates. They discovered this film, they know it's good, everyone else thinks it's garbage."[22] Shock Treatment was quickly dismissed by most Rocky Horror enthusiasts who were put off by the re-casting of the leads and by the fact that Tim Curry did not participate. Fans also resented Richard O'Brien's infamous tagline, "It's not a sequel... it's not a prequel... it's an equal"[14] (O'Brien later recanted, frequently criticizing the film by going so far as to refer to it as "an abortion").[6] Gradually, however, Shock Treatment did build up a cult following all its own and, as Ebert wrote, many contemporary reviewers remark that it was initially condemned in part because it was too ahead of its time, being a prescient satire of reality television.[23][24][25]

O'Brien did write a rough script for a direct sequel to Rocky Horror titled Return of the Old Queen. In the story, Brad's brother Steve seeks revenge on the aliens in the first film after Brad becomes a Las Vegas go-go dancer and falls to his death from a trapeze wearing only six-inch heels and a rhinestone choker. Also revealed is Sonny, the illegitimate son of Janet and Frank and heir to the throne of Transexual. The script never made it past early draft stages but has been shared on many fan sites.[26]

Home media[edit]

The film first surfaced on VHS in Australia in 1982,[27] and this was quickly followed by other releases around the world on VHS, Betamax and LaserDisc.[28][29]

A special edition DVD, labeled as the 25th Anniversary Edition, was issued in the United States on September 5, 2006, both as a stand-alone release[30] and packaged with the 2-disc Rocky Horror special edition.[31] 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.[32]

Virtually every home video edition has suffered from audio flaws.[33] VHS and Beta editions included warbling anomalies[32] during the Overture and Farley's Song, which briefly knocked the sound out of sync. All DVD releases include a brief sound dropout before the last chorus of Denton U.S.A., and a chunk of the end credit Overture has been lopped off to prematurely fade into the single version of Shock Treatment. The original version features the complete Overture playing over the credits, with Shock Treatment continuing over a black screen as exit music. This edit shortens the film's running time from 94 to 92 minutes.[34]

In 2017, the British label Arrow Video released the film on Blu-ray in the UK which featured a new commentary with Quinn and Little Nell, as well as "The Rocky Horror Treatment".[35] It has not received a Blu-ray release in the States.

Stage adaptation[edit]


For nearly a decade beginning in the mid 2000s, director Benji Sperring, a fan of the film, attempted to convince Richard O'Brien to give him the rights to produce a stage adaptation of Shock Treatment.[36] O'Brien finally relented and gave his consent, stipulating that it had to be staged in a very small, intimate venue, as the original The Rocky Horror Show had been.[36] On this proviso, the show wound up at the King's Head Theatre in Islington, London, where artistic director Adam Spreadbury-Maher made the suggestion that Tom Crowley adapt the script.[37] Crowley had never seen the film, and read the screenplay first to prepare for his interview.[38] He was initially apprehensive about the project, but Sperring's vision was so concise that he agreed. It was reported that O'Brien adapted and produced the show, but otherwise remained fairly hands-off. O'Brien, co-composer Richard Hartley and Sperring agreed on the story's direction prior to scripting,[38] and they consulted primarily through email during the rest of the production process.[39]

Sperring and Crowley reworked the story, eliminating most of the supporting and peripheral characters. "A big point of inspiration for me came from the screenplay that became Shock Treatment, The Brad and Janet Show," commented Crowley, "wherein the major factor in Brad and Janet's marital difficulties was that Janet had just been promoted at the local TV studio and Brad had just lost his job."[38]

"The biggest shock is that in the original movie, there isn't any shock treatment," Sperring remarked.[36] "They don't really explore that, so we've put that back in."

The production premiered at the King's Head theatre in Islington, London in the United Kingdom in the spring of 2015.[40]


  • Julie Atherton as Janet Majors
  • Ben Kerr as Brad Majors
  • Mark Little/Pete Gallagher as Farley Flavours
  • Mateo Oxley as Ralph Hapschatt
  • Rosanna Hyland as Betty Hapschatt
  • Nic Lamont as Nation McKinley
  • Adam Rhys-Davies as Cosmo McKinley


The Daily Telegraph wrote "this sequel to The Rocky Horror Show can't match the original but still provides deliriously silly entertainment";[41] The Stage singled out Mark Little as being scarcely able to carry a tune,[42] but Carrie Dunn wrote in her review for Broadway World, "his sheer charisma and presence is absolutely perfect."[43]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "SHOCK TREATMENT (A)". British Board of Film Classification. July 8, 1981. Retrieved August 31, 2013.
  2. ^ "RockyMusic - Shock Treatment (Original Soundtrack) (1981)". www.rockymusic.org.
  3. ^ "Shock Treatment". April 7, 2001. Archived from the original on April 7, 2001.
  4. ^ "RockyMusic - Shock Treatment 7" Single". www.rockymusic.org.
  5. ^ Amazon.com: Songs from the Vaults
  6. ^ a b "Flubs And Facts". www.theshocktreatmentnetwork.com.
  7. ^ "Various - The Rocky Horror Picture Show 15th Anniversary". Discogs. 1990.
  8. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 283. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  9. ^ a b "Richard O'Brien - 1982" – via www.youtube.com.
  10. ^ "Studio Reader Notes: "Rocky Horror Shows His Heels"". www.theshocktreatmentnetwork.com.
  11. ^ a b "Tumblr". Archived from the original on November 17, 2015.
  12. ^ "RockyMusic - Shock Treatment ("The Brad and Janet Show" Draft Script)". www.rockymusic.org.
  13. ^ "DVD Verdict: Case Number 10015". Archived from the original on November 17, 2015.
  14. ^ a b DVD featurette ("DTV Presents: A Shockumentary"). 20th Century Fox. 2006.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h SinsCon 2010: Shock Treatment Q&A with Jessica Harper & Cliff De Young (Best Quality). 2010 – via YouTube.
  16. ^ "Shock Treatment F.A.Q. Page". www.theshocktreatmentnetwork.com.
  17. ^ a b "Jessica Harper Interview". www.theshocktreatmentnetwork.com.
  18. ^ a b c "wendy-interview". www.theshocktreatmentnetwork.com.
  19. ^ "TRHPS Official Fan Site: Shock Treatment: Production Notes". www.rockyhorror.com.
  20. ^ "THE ROCKY HORROR TREATMENT - RARE 1981 DOCUMENTARY" – via www.youtube.com.
  21. ^ "Shock Treatment (1981)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved June 8, 2021.
  22. ^ "Shock Treatment reviewed by Siskel and Ebert (Sneak Previews, 1981)" – via www.youtube.com.
  23. ^ "Shock Treatment, reviewed by Joe Blevins and Craig J. Clark - Unloosen". www.unloosen.com.
  24. ^ "YouTube". www.youtube.com.
  25. ^ "Criminally Underrated: Shock Treatment". Spectrum Culture. March 8, 2012.
  26. ^ "Shock Treatment: The Rocky Horror Sequel We Got ?(And The One We Didn't)". SYFY Wire. August 14, 2020.
  27. ^ "Shock Treatment Merchandise". www.theshocktreatmentnetwork.com.
  28. ^ "LaserDisc Database - Shock Treatment [SF078-1273]". www.lddb.com.
  29. ^ "LaserDisc Database - Shock Treatment [1184-70]". www.lddb.com.
  30. ^ Shock Treatment (25th Anniversary Edition)
  31. ^ amazon.com: The Rocky Horror Picture Show-Shock Treatment (3-Disc Anniversary Edition)
  32. ^ a b "TRHPS Official Fan Site: Shock Treatment: DVD Review". www.rockyhorror.com.
  33. ^ RockyHorror.org: "What Different Versions of Shock Treatment Exist?"
  34. ^ "Shock Treatment (1981) - IMDb" – via www.imdb.com.
  35. ^ "Shock Treatment Blu-ray | Arrow Films". arrowfilms.com.
  36. ^ a b c "Rocky Horror sequel gets staged for the first time in London". International Business Times UK. April 20, 2015.
  37. ^ "Playwright Tom Crowley speaks to Theatrefullstop about adapting Richard O'Brien's Shock Treatment for the stage!". May 4, 2015.
  38. ^ a b c "Shock Treatment Fan Club - Online". www.facebook.com. Archived from the original on February 26, 2022.
  39. ^ "Gay Star News: Shock Treatment bursts into life on stage in London". Archived from the original on November 17, 2015.
  40. ^ "As Rocky Horror sequel comes to stage, it seems creator was far ahead of his time | Stage | The Guardian". TheGuardian.com. November 30, 2014. Retrieved December 2, 2014.
  41. ^ Allfree, Claire (April 22, 2015). "Shock Treatment, King's Head Theatre, review: 'infectious'" – via www.telegraph.co.uk.
  42. ^ Vale, Paul. "Shock Treatment | Review | Reviews, Theatre".
  43. ^ Dunn, Carrie. "BWW Reviews: SHOCK TREATMENT, King's Head Theatre, April 21 2015". BroadwayWorld.com.

External links[edit]