This screwy sequel to original midnight movie The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) doesn’t quite hit all the marks or is as compulsively watchable as its predecessor, but it’s an oddly fun enough time.
Newlyweds Brad and Janet Majors (De Young, Harper) find themselves tagged to be the contestants on Marriage Maze, a game show hosted by blind Viennese nutcase Bert Schnick (Humphries) after they sit in on an episode’s filming.
To the cheers of the tackily-garbed audience, Brad is then committed to mental institution/reality show Dentonvale, hosted by sibling physicians Cosmo and Nation McKinley (O’Brien, Quinn) for being too “boring.” What they don’t realize is that this is all part of a nefarious scheme hatched by the show’s sponsor, Farley Flavors (De Young again). He wants girl-next-door Janet for himself… at any cost!
What follows is a surge of sweepstakes, straitjackets, and soulful rock ballads. Can Brad and Janet make it out of the studio before the program cuts to commercial?
It’s not easy living up to a precursor that’s gained cult status and become a favorite amongst fans, but the one aspect that cripples Shock Treatment is a lack of passion that’s evident on screen.
With Rocky Horror, Richard O’Brien’s love for the material emanated from the screen, whereas here the object seems to be satire on the game show-loving American public for the sake of satire. Still, O’Brien’s patented brand of bizarro 1950s pastiche and subversiveness is stamped all over this film.
And there’s definite pleasure to be had here, especially if you’re a fan of outlandish costumes and anything that carries a groovy tune. Many of O’Brien’s compositions worm into the listener’s ear (look no further than the opening mantra of “Denton, Denton!” and the title song—“Oooh, Shock Treatment!”), but others fall a little flat (Farley Flavors’ raging duet with Brad is just perplexing).
The cast is entirely game for the singing shenanigans though; in addition to returning members Gray, Quinn, O’Brien, and Campbell we have Jessica Harper giving her all and looking like she’s having a great time jiving around in her colorful wardrobe. Also enjoyable is Humphries as Schnick, coming across as Dr. Caligari’s flamboyant brother in his overwrought ravings. He perfectly emulates the deranged spark that made O’Brien’s first shock rock musical so tantalizingly off-kilter and naughty.
Not everyone’s beat, but it’s a hard one to shake off once you do give it a try.