Retro Review: Shock Treatment

In the largely forgotten and much maligned sequel to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the citizens of Denton now live at a television station. Brad and Janet are broken apart by the evil Farley Flavors when Brad is institutionalised and Janet is tempted by fame.


Shock Treatment is not nearly as bad as its reputation. It is all about expectations and, unfortunately, when one hears “the sequel to Rocky Horror” those expectations are very high. In truth, the film is barely connected to its predecessor.

While cast members Richard O’Brien, Patricia Quinn, Charles Gray and Nell Campbell all return from Rocky Horror, they are in different roles. The only returning characters are Brad and Janet, but they are recast with Cliff De Young and Jessica Harper filling in for Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon. If you weren’t told they were Brad and Janet, you wouldn’t recognise them as such because the characters are written and played entirely different. It almost feels as if the characters were simply named Brad and Janet so as to be able to market it as a sequel when, in actuality, it is a standalone movie from the same creative team.

What absolutely works is the music, once again written by O’Brien and Richard Hartley. Musically, the film mixes 1950s rock with early 1980s New Wave with often strikingly infectious results. The songs are at least as good as anything from Rocky Horror with the title song, “Bitchin’ in the Kitchen,” “Duel Duet” and “Farley’s Song” easily matching “Time Warp,” “Sweet Transvestite” “Science Fiction/Double Feature” and “Dammit Janet.”

“Bitchin’ in the Kitchen” is a particularly cheeky stand out with lyrics like “Dear blender/Oh won’t you help a first offender/Oh, toaster/Don’t you put the burn on me/Refrigerator, why are we always sooner or later/Bitchin’ in the kitchen or crying in the bedroom all night.”

The film is held back though because it lacks a presence as commanding as Tim Curry’s Frank-N-Furter. There are plenty of kooky characters — O’Brien as an eccentric neuroscientist and Barry Humphries as a blind game show host are memorable — but no one comes close to the level of irrepressible scene stealer that Curry achieved.

Alec Kerr