Monday, March 10, 2008

Shock Treatment: 25th Anniversary Edition (1981)

Tech Stuff:
Running Time: 92 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG
Format: Widescreen 1.85:1
Audio: Dolby Surround 5.1
Languages: English, Spanish
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
Region: 1
MSRP: $14.98

The Flick:
Filmed in 1981, SHOCK TREATMENT holds a very unique place in the realm of studio marketting: while most major studio marketting is geared towards creating the next "blockbuster" moneymaker or at the least making a quick buck and pulling the product from screens, it's quite possibly the first time that a major studio greenlit a project with hopes of creating a cult following. The story goes as follows: At some point in the early 1980s, the brass at 20th Century Fox took notice of a little phenomena that was occurring called The Rocky Horror Picture Show....

Rocky Horror had a very limited release during it's theatrical run, made very little money, and quickly disappeared from several venues....but,.....

...A little novelty known as the midnight showing had attracted a very loyal and rabid fanbase, gathering every Friday or Saturday night at select inner city and arthouse theatres. And, surprisingly.....6 or 7 years after the film's debut....Richard O'Brien's little perverted musical was making money. Not alot...but it was steady money. The little film about a transvestite alien and his singing and dancing friends that nobody knew what to do with during it's intial run was still generating revenue. So, someone at Fox decided that it was a brilliant idea to snag the guys behind this "Rocky Horror" thing (director Jim Sharman and composer/co-writer Richard O'Brien) and have'em crank out another one of these babies. And this time, they'd play it smart....they'd try and pawn it of not on a huge general audience, but instead market it to the smaller niche fringe that had embraced the earlier film.

All logical ideas.....but, surprise, intially it failed. Afte avery limited release, the film disappeared and inhabited that limbo of relative obscurity that several films of it's type lived in that were produced in the early 1980s, popping up for a few small VHS releases and nothing more. Which should go to prove just how intangible a concept a "cult following" is. It's something that can't exactly be just sorta happens (someone should fill-in Charles Band and Lloyd Kaufman on this). Even if all the ingredients are there, there's no guarantee. That's the fun of b-films and cult never exactly know what or why a small, select part of the audience is gonna find endearing enough to show further devotion to.

The story (in hindsight) is fairly inventive and to a creepy extent prophetic about the way we intake our media and pop culture today....O'Brien and Sharman are playing around with the concepts of media manipulation and reality television shows a full two decades before much attention was being thrust on them, which was followed by astronomic amounts of popularity. Brad and Janet Majors return from Rocky Horror, finally married and at a point in which, to say the least, the honeymoon's over. After becoming contestants on a game show, the real horror begins as Brad is locked away in a sanitarium and Janet (portrayed here by Jessica Harper) is molded into a shallow media star by bad guy media mogul Farley (half of a brilliant dual role performed by Cliff DeYoung, who also stars as Brad Majors).

The music's a step above...I say this because while I may enjoy the tunes of The Rocky Horror Picture Show more, I tend to listen to the soundtrack of Shock Treatment more often, because the tracks included in it show a sense of growth for O'Brien as a songwriter, especially the title tune.

Interestingly enough, SHOCK TREATMENT, due to renewed interest amongst RHPS fandom via convention showings, has finally garnered the cult following it deserves, and this 25th anniversary DVD release was welcomed with more fanfare than Fox was able to generate in theatres a couple of decades ago.

Extra Crap:
Full Length Audio Commentary by SHOCK TREATMENT Fan Club Presidents "Mad Man Mike" and Bill Brennan- Really informative and fun...these guys know their stuff and make it as light as possible.

DTV Presents: A Shockumentary: Nice littel featurette taking us behind the scenes with stories about the pre-production and filming.

Let's Rock n' Roll: Shock Treatment's Super Score Featurette: A retrospective look at the folks behind the songs of the film.

Original Theatrical Trailer
International Trailer

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