TV Cream

Films: S is for...

Shock Treatment

“Learn how to care in the surgical chair!” Richard O’Brien’s minimalist pseudo-sequel to The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1976) stuck Brad and Janet in a world of small town domestic strife, caught between quack psychologists (O’Brien, Little Nell) and a demented, blind game show host (a film-stealing Barry Humphries) in a luridly lit TV station-cum-asylum. The single set stylings (a giant maze of padded cells which keeps folding back, Think of a Number-style, to reveal new rooms) lend a gaudily claustrophobic air to proceedings, and the songs are patchy (and allegedly written for a different, abandoned sequel which was to have resurrected Frank N Furter himself), but there’s great fun here in O’Brien’s tricksy ruse of filming the whole thing in front of a studio audience, and the incongruous joy of watching Charles Gray, Ruby Wax, Rik Mayall and, er, Sinitta in full song.

It’s all firmly set in that knowingly camp, ‘clever about being stupid’ style that’s all over the bleeding shop these days, but was still fresh then and has seldom been done quite this winningly. Take, for example, the game show set piece ‘Bitchin’ in the Kitchen’, in which Humphries’ oleaginous MC introduces a round where Brad and Janet vent their domestic strife in song, rhyming each maudlin couplet with a household appliance that appears on the screen in exquisitely contrived manner. (We particularly like the bit where, having run out of items to rhyme with the recurring phrase ‘sooner or later’ in the chorus – refrigerator, percolator – they resort to referring to an alarm clock as a ‘micro-digital awaker’. Lovely.) Perhaps best of all, most of the hardcore suspender-toting singalong Rocky Horror nuts who helped make the original such an overexposed bore hate this film with maniac passion (“Grr where is Susan Sarandon!??!”), enabling us non-nitwits to enjoy it both with a clear conscience and in splendid peace.

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