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It must've been a terribly daunting task, I imagine... creating a sequel to the biggest cult-sensation motion picture musical of all time, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, especially when you consider that three of your biggest stars wouldn't be returning and your target audience practically worships at the alter of the original.

The way I see it, Rocky Horror scribe Richard O'Brien had two options. The first would've been to try to re-create the same bizarre camp-nature of the original, essentially resorting to self-imitation but probably winning at the box office. The second option would've been to create something fresh and new, to present an original idea to audiences and essentially risk it at the box office. O'Brien went the second route and in doing so created a film that's been horribly underrated and sadly overlooked for much of its life. Open your mind and follow me into the strange world of Shock Treatment.

Shock Treatment
Feature
Now unhappily married, Brad and Janet majors find themselves contestants on a game show in their home town of Denton, which has transformed into a giant television studio, DTV (Denton Television.) After making a fool of himself on the game show 'Marriage Maze', Janet agrees to have Brad admitted to the studio mental ward for help with his mental hygiene, if such a thing exists. With Brad out of the way, corporate tycoon and DTV owner Farley Flavors tries woo Janet by manipulating her into an overnight sensation with the DTV audience. Now under the evil spell cast by Farley Flavors' devilish charm, Janet is no longer the girl who was mad for Brad, but instead the self-absorbed queen of conceit! Our couple's only hope of escaping the madness of Denton is talk show hostess Betty Hapschatt and social scientist Judge Oliver Wright, the last two souls in Denton who haven't been brainwashed by Farley Flavors.

There is a very subtle brilliance about Shock Treatment that I find endlessly intriguing. It wasn't until my second viewing that I finally began to really analyze all of the social ridicule taking place. If you like your movies drenched with satire, this film may very well be for you, even if you hated Rocky Horror. The most obviously satirized subject is our culture's unhealthy obsession with all things television. Notice the DTV audience: they live their entire lives in those seats from program to program. They're told when to applaud, when to laugh and when to be silent. They have their celebrities given to them, people like Janet made popular for no reason whatsoever. They're drones of the media. You don't know anyone like that, do you? Speaking of Janet, her downfall speaks volumes about the dangers of celebrity to an individual. Not long after tasting fame, she begins to lose touch of reality and who she once was, popping whatever pill she's being handed and becoming as infatuated with herself as her soulless fans are.

If there's one thing about this sequel that fans of Rocky Horror should enjoy, it's the return of the supporting cast. Richard O'Brien and Patricia Quinn return as another incestuous brother/sister duo, 'doctors' Cosmo and Nation McKinley. Nell Campbell is also back, this time as the quirky Nurse Ansalog. Formerly the criminologist, Charles Gray returns in a very similar role as social scientist Judge Oliver Wright. The only performer to appear in both films as the same character is Jeremy Newson as the sleazy Ralph Hapschatt. New to the mix is Barry Humphries (aka Dame Edna Everage) as the outlandish Bert Schnick, blind host of 'Marriage Maze'. Schnick feels like the Frank-N-Furter of this film, but isn't given enough screen-time to work his way into our hearts the way Frank did.

Shock Treatment
Stepping in for a busy Barry Bostwick and overly-demanding Susan Sarandon as Brad and Janet are Cliff De Young and Jessica Harper. My initial reaction to this recasting was far from enthusiastic, but only initially. It's really unfair to compare these new performers to Bostwick and Sarandon considering how much these characters have changed since we last saw them. By changed, I mean a complete role reversal, a now domineering Janet and a quivering spineless Brad. I ask you, would Bostwick and Sarandon have even fit these roles had they returned? I think not, and I've now come to appreciate Young and Harper. They truly make these characters their own. Bravo.

I found the music of Shock Treatment to be every bit as enjoyable as the songs for Rocky Horror, if not more enjoyable. Richard O'Brien has cleverly penned over a dozen catchy tunes for this sequel which are brought to life exquisitely in several memorable sequences. The opening number, 'Denton, U.S.A.' is a humorous jab at your average white middle-class suburban town (You'll find happy hearts and smiling faces/And tolerance for the ethnic races in Denton.) How could anyone not love Brad and Janet expelling their marital frustrations in 'Bitchin in the Kitchen' (Tell me, spectator, why are we always sooner or later/ Bitchin in the kitchen or crying in the bedroom all night?) Cliff De Young is particularly impressive during 'Duel Duet', where he squares off against himself as both Brad Majors and Farley Flavors. Not until I saw the credits did I find out he played both parts, a compliment to his acting chops.

Aside from swell performances and catchy tunes, Shock Treatment is funny too. Notice the last screenshot on this page with blind game show host Bert Schnick lower left and Brad Majors on the right. Brad is about to accidentally knock over the pitcher of water by his hand and consequently be made fun of by Bert. "I don't need help" Brad exclaims, knocking over the pitcher. "But you do need glasses, eh stupid?" remarks Bert. A blind man just made fun of someone for needing glasses when they in fact have and are wearing glasses. It's this brand of ironic humor that really wins me over. That and the production design, which is deliciously 1980s.

Shock Treatment
They say that irony is wasted on the stupid and while I'm not exactly sure who 'they' are, I'm inclined to agree with them. The sort of people that don't even try to grasp the message of Shock Treatment, the ones that can't get past the fact that Tim Curry didn't return, are probably the same ones being made fun of here. I take comfort in the fact that there's a few of us out there who do 'get it', and of those few, some of us even liked the movie. Do yourself a favor and give this misunderstood gem a look-see.

Video
This is without doubt, the best the movie has ever looked on home video. Dust and scratches are few and far between and very importantly, the colors are rich. I found the image quality to be noticeably sharp for a film shot twenty-five years ago. Occasionally, the camera will zoom in on a DTV video monitor and for a moment, the quality will drop a few notches, but it's intentional. This is a very satisfiable transfer.

My only reservation about the video is that Shock Treatment was shot open matte, which means it was made widescreen after it was filmed and in doing so removed a substantial amount of image. Although shown theatrically in the 1:85:1 widescreen ratio, it has since been released onto VHS unmatted (fullscreen), giving viewers considerably more picture. In this rare instance, I actually prefer the unmatted version because the image feels tightly framed in widescreen. If you have the movie in 1:85:1 ratio, watch the opening song 'Denton, U.S.A.' and notice how crammed everything appears. The background letters that spell out 'Denton' barely fit onto the screen. Unfortunately, while I prefer unmatted, you can see that the quality of my old VHS is no match for the newly remastered DVD. At the end of the day, I'll take this new crisp transfer even if it doesn't have as much picture.

Shock Treatment
Unmatted VHS Transfer

Shock Treatment2006 Widescreen Transfer


Audio
This disc comes with both Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks. I rocked out (or shocked out?) while listening to the 5.1 track, which did the film justice, even if it did sound unimpressive for a 5.1 mix. Everything came across as it should have for a film remixed from a stereo track, but there wasn't a terrible lot of 'surround' to the surround sound. The exceptions being the musical numbers in which the volume simply increased. Again, even if unimpressive, the track does Shock Treatment justice and for that I'll give it a 6/10.

Extras
The first thing I took notice of when I popped in the disc was the animated menus. They're very well done, incorporating visual and audio elements from the film in design and transition. The first actual supplement I checked out was the audio commentary by fans 'Mad Man' Mike and Bill Brennan. They both offer up a treasure-trove of behind the scenes trivia as well as critical commentary (mostly praise) on the film. A surprisingly good listen, that track.

The first of two featurettes is 'DTV Presents: A Shockumentary', which runs fourteen minutes and some change in length. Like the menus, this supplement incoporates film elements in its editing and overall style, making for a fun piece. While it interviews many of the cast and crew, I was sad not have seen Richard O'Brien pop up anywhere in it. Still, a good watch. The second featurette is a six minute look at the music of the film titled 'Lets Rock 'n' Roll: Shock Treatment's Super Score Featurette'. Feeling more like a continuation of the first featurette than a seperate entity, this piece looks at the musical challenges brought about in creating the sequel. Another excellent feature, short but sweet.

Lastly, the disc has the original theatrical trailer (featuring a bizarre introduction by Richard O'Brien as Dr. Cosmo McKinley) and the international trailer, which is the same minus O'Brien's introduction. Before I close out this review, I'd like to point out a glaring typo on the back of the case. " ...recruited Janet to be thesexy star..." Come on 20th Century, you can do better than that!

Shock Treatment
Overall
For a film that's been unfairly-panned and rejected for so much of its life, it's been given a great deal of love by 20th Century Fox. Shock Treatment has never looked or sounded better and these supplements only sweeten the deal. For the low price of $19.98 (considerably cheaper at most retailers), this release is definitely worth the asking price. "Trust me, I'm a doctor."


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