From the Archives: ‘Shock Treatment,’ the ‘Rocky Horror’ Sequel You Didn’t Know Existed
Did you know that “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” had a sequel called “Shock Treatment?” Tim Curry, Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon would all bow out of this sequel (Brad and Janet would be recast), but original “Horror Show” director Jim Sharman and screenplay writer Richard O’Brien would both return to work on this odd sequel. This L.A. Times review by then-staff writer Kevin Thomas originally appeared on July 19, 1978.
When Brad and Janet, that sappy couple from Denton, U.S.A., “The Home of Happiness,” take shelter in that gothic castle in “the Rocky Horror Picture Show,” they entered film history. For on the midnight circuit across America, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” has become one of the most durable cult film of all time. Six years after its initial release it’s still going strong.
Meanwhile, Brad and Janet, having survived Dr. Frank N Furter’s Annual Transylvanian Convention, are back in Denton and ripped for another “Shock Treatment,” which happens to the “TRHPS” sequel. This time, Fox is bypassing a conventional release pattern entirely and has booked “Shock Treatment” at the UA Cinema Center in Westwood and Vista Theater in Hollywood for an indefinite run on Friday and Saturday at midnight only.
It’s unlikely, however, that “Shock Treatment” will be playing six months from now, let alone six years. While lively and frequently amusing in its own right, this sequel, like so many others, hasn’t the impact of the original and, if anything, plays more like a less impressive remake. Spoofing television is a pretty stale tactic by now, and TV as a target, for all its dangerous excesses, isn’t nearly as much fun as old horror pictures. What’s more, there’s no character in this sequel that comes near the dazzle-dazzle kinkiness of Tim Curry’s “Sweet Transvestite from Transexual Transylvania.” “Shock Treatment” offers some laughs, but never really jolts.
If seems that Denton, U.S.A., has become so addicted to TV that life there has become one big television show. Denton now seems to exist in a TV studio, in which its entire population seems to be either watching or participating in a never-ending series of TV programs. Sitting in the audience are Brad and Janet — Cliff De Young and Jessica Harper having capably taken over from Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon — who are chosen by heavily painted and German-accented emcee Bert Schnick (Barry Humphries) to participate in the “Marriage Maze” show.
“I know he’s a little boring, but neurosurgery…?” asks a bewildered Janet as Brad is whisked off to Dentonvale, a padded-wall sanitarium run by cadaverous Richard O’Brien (who co-wrote the film with its director Jim Sharman, as he did “TRHPS”) and his sexy sister (Patricia Quinn).
What are O’Brien and Quinn, who are the siblings Riff Raff and Magenta in “TRHPS” up to anyway?
De Young, who actually has a dual role and Harper both excel, as does most of the cast. (“Shock Treatment” offers a rare opportunity to see the outrageous and gifted Humphries, one of Australia’s most celebrated comedians.) But O’Brien’s lyrics, like his book, are not as inspired or as memorable as the first time around. More imaginative is Brian Thompson’s production design, but since “Shock Treatment” takes place entirely in a TV studio — the film, incidentally, was made in England— there’s a decidedly claustrophobic quality to it.
“Shock Treatment” (rated PG for some fairly mild adult situations and language) is of course not to be confused with the 1964 film of the same name with Lauren Bacall and Stuart Whitman, which also has a mental institution as a key setting.
Let’s do the “Time Warp” again:
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