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Film / Shock Treatment

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"Not a sequel... not a prequel... but an equal."

Shock Treatment is a 1981 musical film from the creators of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, with many key cast members — but although Brad and Janet are once again major characters (albeit played by different actors), it isn't a direct sequel and few characters aside from them return.

Denton ("The Home of Happiness")note , the town that the now-married Brad and Janet Majors (Cliff DeYoung and Jessica Harper) call home, isn't what it used to be. It's now dominated by DTV, a TV station run by fast food mogul Farley Flavors, and most of its residents serve as a permanent audience for its programming. Indeed, the entire movie unfolds within the giant studio. Brad and Janet have lost the passion in their marriage, and when they're chosen to be part of Marriage Maze by kooky host Bert Schnick (Barry Humphries), it doesn't take much convincing for Janet to allow her "emotional cripple" husband to be committed to the asylum/Soap Opera Dentonvale to see if he can't be cured by Doctors (and siblings) Cosmo and Nation McKinley (Richard O'Brien and Patricia Quinn). Actually, Flavors is manipulating these events from behind the scenes — he is interested in molding Janet into his newest star, and she's easily enticed into forgetting about Brad. The only people who see through the smoke and mirrors of Farley and his crew are Betty Hapschatt (Ruby Wax) and Judge Oliver Wright (Charles Gray), and they set out to find out the truth behind them and reunite the couple before it's too late...


It was both critically and commercially unsuccessful, and the filmmakers were disappointed with how it turned out. It was originally conceived as a direct sequel ("Rocky Horror Shows His Heels", which would have involved Dr. Frank-N-Furter being restored to life among other things), but for many, many reasons ranging from Tim Curry not wanting to play Frank again to the 1980 Screen Actors Guild strike, it was gradually transformed into a media spoof that is far removed from the kinky farce of the original. Within the Rocky Horror fanbase, it generates mixed reactions, with many RHPS devotees preferring to not acknowledge it; however, it does have its own fan club, the presidents of which provided an audio commentary on the 2006 DVD release.

Not to be confused with the 1964 neo-Noir film of the same title.


This film contains examples of:

  • Added Alliterative Appeal: The villain, his business, and his branding all use the letter F a lot. His name is Farley Flavors, he works in fast food, is premiering a show called "Faith Factory", and a slogan in an ad for his company is "Farley Flavors' Fabulous Fast Foods Feed and Fortify Families for a Fabulous Future!"
  • Alliterative Name: Most of DTV's shows have names like this; Denton Dossier, Faith Factory, Happy Homes, Window on the World and Marriage Maze.
    • Also, Kirk's Korner coffee stand.
  • American Gothic Couple: This portrait can be seen hanging in the prop room as a nod to the first movie.
  • And That's Terrible: The back of the DVD case says "Brad, on the other hand, has been imprisoned in a mental hospital and is not enjoying himself."
  • And You Were There: Oscar Drill and The Bits appear as the pool and arcade game players in Janet's dream.
  • Artifact Title: The title harks back to an early script where electroshocks are used to clear mold of a resurrected Frank N. Furter. Although the Title Theme Tune is still there, the movie doesn't feature any kind of electroshock treatment.
  • Art Imitates Art: The Brad and Janet Show script showed various families watching TV during "Denton USA" in the style of Norman Rockwell paintings.
  • Ascended Extra: Ralph and Betty Hapschatt make the transition from very minor characters, mostly meant to establish where Brad and Janet were going before winding up at Frank's place, to a secondary villain and one of the main heroes, respectively.
  • Audience Participation: As with Rocky Horror, "shadowcast" productions with audience props and callbacks have been mounted over the years. Aside from the film being less popular, a likely reason there haven't been more stagings is that far more performers are required.
    • You can read it here.
    • Also, in-universe, with the Studio Audience. They sing along with some of the songs, and even have a couple of dance numbers, along with getting prompted by the show hosts.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Although Farley doesn't get Janet, nobody stops him from brainwashing the town and locking them all in a mental institution!
  • Battle in the Center of the Mind: "Duel Duet". (Possibly.)
  • Bedlam House: Dentonvale, the TV hospital show, houses hallways of rooms and cells for patients kept under false pretenses.
  • Beta Couple: The Judge and Betty end up as one at the conclusion.
  • Blasphemous Boast: "Denton, USA" compares the town to holy sites like Mecca and Bethlehem.
  • The Blind Leading the Blind: Oliver quotes this when it's revealed that Bert's only pretending to be blind.
  • Blind Shoulder Toss; Oliver throws the ring of keys he stole behind him when it turns out Betty's hairpin opens Brad's cell in seconds.
  • Building of Adventure: Denton is all inside one TV studio, and the Dentonvale asylum hides many of the studio's operations.
  • Call-and-Response Song: "Duel Duet", between Brad Majors and Farley Flavors.
  • Call-Back: The first thing that Janet says to Brad is "It's all right, Brad -- everything's going to be all right."
  • The Cameo: Sal Piro, president of the Rocky Horror fan club, appears talking on the phone during the overture.
  • Canon Discontinuity: It helps that no attempt appears to be made at all to tie this plot in with The Rocky Horror Picture Show. To be fair, it's presented as a Spiritual Sequel rather than a direct sequel, albeit with some of the same characters from the previous film. Nothing that happened in Frank's castle has any bearing on this film's plot. O'Brien disowned Shock Treatment as "an abortion" not long after release, and future attempted sequels like Revenge of the Old Queen and Rocky Horror: The Second Coming seem to ignore it.
  • Casting Gag: Most of the Expy characters are played by their RHPS equivalents. Cosmo and Nation not only share actors with Rocky Horror's Riff Raff and Magenta, but both sets of characters are incestuous siblings in the employ of the villain. Though Cosmo and Nation aren't really siblings at all, but rather actors playing them who have a bad habit of letting their real-life relationship intrude creepily on their phony medic personas.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Janet is too overwhelmed with Brad's committment to sign his papers immediately, and Nurse Ansalong further advises her to wait because the first night of services will be free if she does. Janet is able to stop the studio from taking Brad back into custody when he's broken out because she remembers she never signed his papers.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Betty sure is handy at picking locks with a hairpin.
  • City in a Bottle: The entirety of Denton seems to be inside a TV studio.
  • Companion Cube: "Bitchin' in the Kitchen" is a song where Brad and Janet ask inanimate household objects being advertised for marriage advice.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Farley Flavors, who wishes to dominate the airwaves and the people consuming them.
  • Crapsaccharine World: Denton puts on an idealized face, despite having a population of mindless, sometimes bigoted slaves to television.
  • Creepy Gas Station Attendant: Kirk was a mild version of this in an early script, making perverted remarks about Janet while serving her father. In the final product, he works at a coffee stand but still makes the same comments.
  • Crowd Song: "Denton, U.S.A." Justified in that it's apparently the town's theme song/anthem.
  • Dark Reprise: At the end, "Denton, U.S.A." gets one: The studio audience is partying in Dentonvale — wearing straitjackets and happily singing while their "phony medics" drink champagne and trash the offices.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Despite proclaiming tolerance, Denton has prejudices, with the audience cheering on Janet's father's racism toward Mexicans and him getting a song about rigid masculine standards that disparages women and gay people.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: Bert sings "Ever since I was the ein klein herren". Which translates as "a small man". So he's saying "Ever since I was the a small man".
  • Digital Destruction: In the original theatrical cut, the end credits are underscored by a reprise of the overture, and once they've rolled the screen goes to black for several additional minutes while the single version of "Shock Treatment" plays (inspiring a stretch of jokes about the void in Audience Participation showings). This was preserved for the original VHS release through Key Video, though they stuck in the standard FBI warning image before going to black, while Fox Movie Channel airings just cut the music-only stretch. The 20th Century Fox DVD release's soundtrack jumps ahead to the second half of the overture when the credits start, so the single version of the song starts up midway through them and fades out as they end, meaning that neither is heard at their original length. Making matters worse, the end credits — particularly the photos of the actors — are clearly timed to the overture in the original cut, so an amusing touch is lost on the DVD.
    • Synching/transferring issues with the original music causes a brief but very noticeable audio drop towards the end of "Denton U.S.A." on the DVD.
  • Distant Duet: "Bitchin' in the Kitchen" was one in the draft script. Brad would have been singing in the kitchen while Janet sang upstairs in the bedroom and bathroom but the finished movie has them sitting on the set of Marriage Maze singing to advertisements on a TV monitor.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Farley Flavors' logo features five F's (standing for Farley, Flavors, Fabulous, Fast and Foods) arranged in a circle, all joined at the tail. It was designed to be reminiscent of a swastika.
    • The song "Breakin' Out" plays over scenes of Brad escaping from the asylum. But listen to the words, and it seems to be about another kind of coming out entirely... (This is not surprising, given that it was written when the project was a more direct sequel to Rocky Horror.)
  • The Dragon: Bert Schnick is Farley's most trusted subordinate and the one who recruits the other villains for the plot.
  • Dramatic Pause: Used to allow for Audience Participation. This forced attempt didn't work for the sequel.
  • Duet of Differences: Brad and Janet's troubled marriage is introduced in the song "Bitchin' in the Kitchen", in which Brad whines and Janet rages. Later in the film, Brad squares off against Farley in the song "Duel Duet".
  • Eagleland: Denton is striving to be a commercialized embodiment of Type 1. "You'll find happy hearts and smiling faces/And tolerance for the ethnic races/In Denton." In reality, it is more Type 2 since the citizens of Denton are presented as bigoted and easily manipulated.
  • Eccentric Townsfolk: It seems that if you live in Denton, you either work for DTV or permanently live in the audience stand. By the end of the film, the entire population besides the main characters are singing happily in a mental home while wearing straitjackets.
  • The '80s: Very early Eighties, most obviously in the new wave and punk stylings of the songs.
  • The Eleven O'Clock Number: "Duel Duet".
  • Establishing Character Moment: Brad is unable to clap in time with the rest of the town during "Denton, USA", estblishing how at-odds he is with the rest of Denton and his role as an uncorruptible character.
  • Everytown, America: The song "Denton U.S.A." invokes this trope. The film was supposed to play this trope completely straight by filming it in an actual American town called Denton, but a writers' strike resulted in that Denton had to be completely set in a film studio.
  • Evil Costume Switch: See The Little Black Dress below.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: "Duel Duet" is just that, a duet with two characters in a verbal duel.
  • Expy: With regards to the Rocky Horror characters, we have...
    • Doctors Cosmo and Nation McKinley for Riff-Raff and Magenta (who were supposed to impersonate doctors in the Rocky Horror Shows His Heels draft)
    • Nurse Ansalong for Columbia
    • Judge Oliver Wright for the Criminologist note 
    • Farley Flavors for Dr. Frank-N-Furter
    • Bert Schnick for Dr. Scott (Bert was Dr. Scott in the Brad and Janet Show draft)
  • Fanservice: Nurse Ansalong — see Panty Shot below. According to Little Nell, if she wasn't going to be allowed to show headlights, she was going to show caboose instead, and her part in "Look What I Did to My Id" even talks about her high hems as she tears a few inches off the bottom.note 
  • Film Comic: The fansite has an incomplete one. It's referred to as a Movie Novel after the one Richard Anobile did for the first film.
  • Foreshadowing: During "Looking for Trade", an imaginary Brad tells Janet, "I've just come to tell you how fabulous I am!", hinting he and "Fabulous" Farley have a connection.
  • Funny Background Event: Keep a close eye on the audience when Janet makes her big DTV debut ("Me of Me"), and see Cosmo and Nation getting really into her act over by the commissary.
    • More of a Funny Foreground Event, Bert just sitting on his bed somehow becomes more absurd throughout the entirety of "Lullaby" as the camera keeps panning over to him still sitting there even as the lights go out. This may be more of an attempt to hold onto Bert's apparent blindness.
  • Gainax Ending: Bordering on Happy Ending: Brad, Janet, Betty and Oliver happily sing and dance away, stealing the convertible. All of the citizens of Denton are committed to Dentonvale, but they seem happy about it, and they were assholes anyway.
  • Genre Shift: Doesn't have any of the science fiction or horror elements that its predecessor has. It's more of a straightforward musical comedy with heavy elements of satire.
  • Gratuitous French: Janet does a lot of this during "Me of Me".
    • Bert refers to Cosmo and Nation as "neuro-specialist par excellence.".
  • Hannibal Lecture: Farley Flavors tries this on Brad in "Duel Duet". Brad doesn't go along with it.
  • Happiness in Slavery: The people in Denton sure enjoy being locked up and in straitjackets at the end.
  • "The Hero Sucks" Song/ "The Villain Sucks" Song: "Duel Duet" is a Call-and-Response Song that is both of these between Brad and Farley.
  • Heteronormative Crusader: Janet's father. "Thank God I'm a Man" is one giant "I hate" song, despite being rife with what is, arguably, Hard Gay imagery!
  • Honest John's Dealership: Irwin Lapsey, president of Lapsey Autos, gives Janet a car when she's crowned Miss Mental Health.
  • Hospital Hottie: Nurse Ansalong.
  • Hypocrite: The studio audience cheers a racist remark towards Mexicans, despite Denton's supposed "tolerance for the ethnic races" as mentioned in "Denton, U.S.A."
  • "I Am" Song: "Thank God I'm a Man" for Janet's dad is all about his manly man philosophy.
  • Inherently Funny Words: "Hoopla" is used throughout the entire film.
  • Ironic Echo: "Denton U.S.A." during "Anyhow, Anyhow", showcasing that the protagonists have only escaped, but haven't stopped anything.
  • It's All About Me: The whole point of "Me of Me" is to show Janet's transformation into a fame addict as she performs for the audience the first time.
  • Jerkass: Pretty much everyone apart from Brad, Betty or the Judge. But Janet gets better.
  • Karma Houdini: Farley and all of his staff. Sure, they don't succeed at corrupting Janet and the main characters escape, but they to manage to get the entire population of Denton to commit itself to the looney bin and make a mint off it. They're last seen having a dance party in the asylum as money literally rains from the sky around them.
  • Lighter and Softer: At least compared to its predecessor. Nobody gets murdered or cannibalized in this movie! It went out with a PG certificate, though, due to some of its more bizarre moments, it would probably warrant a PG-13 now (the film was released three years prior to the creation of the PG-13 rating).
  • Little Black Dress: Provides the title of a song, as Janet gets this as part of her celebrity makeover and does Modeling Poses while pictures are taken of her in it.
  • Medley Overture: The overture to Shock Treatment is a medley of "Denton, USA" and "Anyhow, Anyhow".
  • Minion Shipping: Cosmo and Nation McKinley, who are depicted as a married couple (though they still pretend to be siblings), and Rest Home Ricky and Nurse Ansalong are also revealed to be paired off. note 
  • Musical World Hypothesis: Mostly diegetic because nearly everything in Denton is a series of reality TV shows, but "Looking for Trade" is a Dream Sequence that Janet has while unconscious due to drug use, "Duel Duet" might be a Battle in the Center of the Mind, and "Anyhow Anyhow" is a conventional finale for the heroes while everyone else is busy with the Dark Reprise of "Denton U.S.A."
  • Naughty Nurse Outfit: Nurse Ansalong is a Hospital Hottie already but a lot of the other characters dress in these during Look What I Did to My Id.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: Nurse Ansalong tells Janet to leave signing Brad's commitment papers or a day so she can get a day's treatment free. At the end Brad goes free because Janet hasn't signed the papers yet.
  • Not Named in Opening Credits: The narrator is uncredited, but voiced by Christopher Malcolm who plays Officer Vance Parker onscreen (Malcolm was also the first actor to play Brad in the original London staging of The Rocky Horror Show).
  • Obfuscating Disability: Bert isn't actually blind.
    • An early draft had Dr. Scott from Rocky filling his role. One scene would have had Nation walk in to find him standing in front of his wheelchair, then he would quickly get back into it.
  • Oddly Named Sequel 2: Electric Boogaloo: Proposed titles Rocky Horror Shows His Heels and The Brad And Janet Show would have averted this trope.
  • Old Hero, New Pals: Brad and Janet (and minor characters Ralph and Betty — and possibly the Criminologist) are the only Rocky characters to appear. In an unusual case, all except Ralph and the Criminologist are played by different performers, while several performers from Rocky appear in different roles.
  • Once Upon a Time: Kicks off the Opening Narration.
  • The Oner: "Lullaby" has the camera move back and forth across the windows of Dentonvale for several minutes without a cut.
  • Opening Chorus: "Denton U.S.A." "Denton, Denton, you've got *clap* no pretension..."
  • Opening Monologue: "Once upon a time, in a town not far from yours, there lived a real fast guy..."
  • Painting the Fourth Wall: One of Janet's final lines in "Bitchin' In The Kitchen" is delivered directly into the camera, addressing the "spectator". She technically means the studio audience in the film but is certainly aimed at the viewer as well. Bonus points for doing this while keeping up the rhyme scheme of the song.
  • Panty Shot: Nurse Ansalong, many times throughout.
  • Perky Female Minion: Nurse Ansalong, just like Columbia in the first film.
  • Phoney Call: Judge Oliver and Betty stand at adjacent pay phones to cover up the fact that they're actually talking to each other while listening in on a conversation between some nearby bad guys.
  • Pink Girl, Blue Boy: How Brad and Janet are dressed in the beginning.
  • Product Placement;
    • Coca Cola cans on Kirk's coffee stand and a bottle in Betty's office.
    • Kellogg's Corn Flakes, Chock full o'Nuts coffee, Joy dishwashing liquid and Charmin toilet roll can be seen in Emily's kitchen.
    • Most of the products seen in "Bitchin' In The Kitchen" were made by Oster.
  • Putting on the Reich: Farley Flavors' logo resembles a swastika made from letter Fs, and Bert, his right-hand-man, evokes Hitler in his appearance and some of his behavior.
  • Quarreling Song: "Duel Duet".
  • Reality Ensues: One would think Brad, Betty and Oliver literally crashing the live taping of Faith Factory and the resultant confrontation with Farley would be enough to prevent his rise to power, but while Janet does choose Brad over Farley, the villain is so beloved that his minions — including Janet's parents by this point— and the audience turn on her and her companions and forces them offstage, and he immediately saves face by elevating Macy Struthers into the position Janet held up to that point. Janet, Brad, Oliver, Betty, and Oscar Drill and the Bits decide to leave Denton and find greener pastures, leaving the rest of the town to its fate.
  • Reality TV: Parodied before its time. Instead of filming real life and using Manipulative Editing to make it more dramatic, they manipulate their actors into behaving in a way suitable for a studio audience.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: "Duel Duet" is two of them at the same time, directed at each other.
    "The best thing you could ever do is die!"
  • Recursive Canon: A copy of Time Magazine can be seen on Betty's desk with a picture of the Rocky Horror lips and "Cult Films" written on the cover.
  • Repeating Ad: In-universe example, we first see the Farley Flavors Fast Food commercial when a show on DTV takes a break, and if you listen closely, we can hear the commercial play again when Janet is at Brad's parents' house.
  • The Reveal: It turns out that Brad and Farley are identical twins separated as infants after the deaths of their parents.
  • Rhyming with Itself: Most of the lines in "Me of Me" end with the word "Me".
  • Riding into the Sunset: The lyrics "The sun never sets on those who ride into it..." appear in the final song.
  • Rock Me, Asmodeus!: Invoked in "Look What I Did to My Id"; "When heaven's in the music, Hell is in control. The angels got the voices. But the devil got the Rock and Roll!".
  • Separated at Birth: Farley and Brad; their parents died in a car accident and they were adopted by different families.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: In "Bitchin' in the Kitchen", Janet calls an alarm clock a "Micro-digital awaker" and a leg razor as a "depilatator".
  • Setting Introduction Song: It starts with "Denton USA" which describes the titular town.
  • Show Within a Show: All of DTV's programming.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Harry Weiss' stance in "Thank God I'm A Man" where he sing that men should be the "masters of their sisters".
  • Stepford Smiler: Played for Laughs. Denton is a hybrid of a TV station and a town, so naturally it encourages its residents to be shallow, cheerful consumers.
  • Stepford Suburbia: As a hybrid of a TV station and a town, Denton encourages its residents to be shallow, smiling consumers, or as "Denton U.S.A." puts it, "The acceptable face/Of the human race".
  • Studio Audience: Implied to be the entire population of Denton.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: Denton's theme song makes a point of highlighting their "tolerance for the ethnic races", and states that they've got no pretenses.
  • Tagline: "It's not a sequel... it's not a prequel... it's an equal". O'Brien's later comments that the movie was an abortion is usually considered more accurate.
  • Take That, Audience!: Shock Treatment parodies the only audience that would ever give it attention — Rocky Horror fans. The TV studio audience shouts in unison at what they're watching, seem hopelessly (and happily) glued to their seats, worship Brad and Janet's every move, and blindly follow the characters, even when they're all led into a mental institution. Subtly, they're also wearing costumes from Rocky Horror.
    • On top of that, cheerleader Francine DEMANDS to be called "Frankie". And only "Frankie".
    • On a fourth-wall-breaking basis, the film also includes quite a few tenuous references for those trying to make a connection between this and RHPS - to name a few, a fictitious Time magazine with Rocky lips on the cover sitting in plain view; dialogue references to "a rocky marriage" and "anticipation" (the latter being said while Frank's now-red throne is visible); the newspaper headline "UFO spotted over Denton"; Riff and Magenta expys discussing 'their old series'; etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
  • Theme Naming: All of Cosmo and Nation's phony surnames, which are those of U.S. presidents.
  • Throwing Off the Disability: Bert fakes his blindness so he can invoke this for the Denton audience, pretending Janet's presence cured him to give credence to the Dentonvale program.
  • Title Theme Tune: "Shock Treatment", of course. Interestingly, it was intended to be the most memorable number, but it was usurped by "Denton USA", "Little Black Dress" and "Anyhow Anyhow".
  • Trapped in TV Land: The back of the DVD case implies this to be the plot by saying "[Brad and Janet] find themselves stuck in a weird television-world".
  • Trash the Set: In-Universe. Janet goes gung-ho on the set during "Me of Me". It seems to make Farley even more excited.

"The sun never sets on those who ride into it!"

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