Sunday, February 20, 2005

Denton, Denton, you've got no pretensions

Damian Penny lists Shock Treatment among those films "which aren't necessarily bad movies, just movies nobody except studio executives wanted to see - or were contractually obligated to make." Aha, thinks the man whose pseudonym is partially derived from the fictional setting thereof: a challenge. Shock Treatment is, by any standard, a terrible movie. It's not exactly a sequel to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, but more of a thematic companion piece using two of the same characters (Brad and Janet Majors, not exactly the most unique of the dramatis personae in either work) and several more of the same cast members. If TRHPS dealt - however superficially - with changing relationship issues in the context of the hedonistic mess that was the late 60s to early 70s, Shock Treatment is clearly grounded at the high point of the Me Decade. That said, however, while the former actually has a coherent and (if you'll pardon the pun) straightforward plot - "square innocents seduced by groovy pansexual evil genius" - the latter makes quite a hash of "middle-class marriage on the rocks due to loser husband and vain wife, and related small-town Machiavellian machinations." I first saw Shock Treatment very early one Sunday morning, and I found it improbably difficult to follow even for being an overnight filler B-movie, if indeed featuring eminently catchy songs.There's a reason for that screwiness. The original script - then called The Brad and Janet Show - made a lot more sense, largely because the entire plot isn't shoehorned into the conceit of taking place in a single day and night, entirely inside a local television studio. (A 1979 SAG strike forced production into a London soundstage, instead of the intended on-location shoot.) With the psychiatric hospital Janet has Brad committed to an actual hospital (rather than a game show-cum-soap opera), Janet's parents not apparently living in a sitcom set on the main stage, and the studio audience not forced to sleep in their seats (!), the basic Peyton Place-esque setup requires a bit less suspension of disbelief. However, what remained almost unchanged through the rewrite were the songs. With score and lyrics also by Rocky Horror/ST writer-director Richard O'Brien, they're magnificent. Eminently singable, somewhat dark, yet bouncily pop-rockish, in the modern context; they're Broadway through a fisheye lens. The score is more than enough reason for the film to exist, though I'll cheerfully admit it stands better on its own, as an album-only rock opera à la Jesus Christ Superstar or Tommy (originally). It's one of the few musical soundtracks without a single track I usually skip. (A distinction it shares with Little Shop of Horrors and Sweeney Todd.) In fact, I actually prefer the first draft of some of the lyrics. The biggest change, lyrically, is in the song "Look What I Did to My Id," originally "Look What You Did to My Id;" it seems mainly to have been cut for length, which is a shame. It's clear the score wasn't finalized at this point, because some fragments (though recognizable in the final version, mildly changed) can't possibly synch up with the eventual accompaniment. To summarize, Janet's vanity and self-obsession - egged on by mysterious fast-food tycoon Farley Flavors - have encouraged the citizens of Denton to follow suit for the grand opening of his newest project, living out their fantasies in costume. The original has the advantage of being able to offer momentary portraits of a greater number of townspeople at large: Sc. 48 Janet's Parents' Place {Janet's mom has fancy-dressed herself into a gun-toting cowgirl. She fires caps at a mirror.} MOM: Like a chirp in a down town nitery I'll be higher than a flyer has a right to be The art will start when I play my part As the tart with the golden heart Oh look what you did to my id {Dad is in the next room. He's wearing a 1940's Zoot Suit.} DAD: Like Genesis this really is a first for me I'm really glad that Janet laid this curse on me I'm a brute in a cute zoot suit That wants to put in the boot, shoot and loot Oh look what you did to my id Sc. 49 TV Studio {Neely slipping into her 'on-camera' party outfit.} NEELY: Like a good-time girl I couldn't feel much finer Got a deep plum lipstick an' new eye-liner These bitch-heels are so damn vicious I feel weak with pleasure and so delicious Oh look what you did to my id... Sc. 50 Dentonvale {Mac and Nation changing into doctors' coats, stethoscopes and head-mirrors.} MAC AND NATION: When there's heaven in the music Hell is in control The angels got the voices But the devil got the rock and roll... {Scotty changing into jack-boots and lederhosen} SCOTTY: This could be the start of a whole career here This could take me to a town that's nowhere near here Sc. 51 Leisure Center {Ralph ties bow-tie} RALPH: To Betty I'm a chauvinistic ignoramus But I'm gonna find a way to wind up being famous Oh look what you did to my id Sc. 52 Dentonvale {Ansalong finishes alterations to uniform} ANSALONG: Got the hot flush symptoms an' I'm feeling freaky Got my hem so high they'll say I'm being cheeky Sc. 53 Parker's Place {Bathroom of Officer Vance Parker. He's in the bath (bubble). He has his leg stretched out and is soaping it in a languid manner...He sings...} PARKER: Male Caucasian tall and handsome With legs like mine I'm really made for dancin' Oh look what you did to my id... Sc. 54 Bank Vault {Mr. Clark is in his vault opening a security locker revealing bondage magazines and manacles.} CLARK: With my stocks and bonds I will secure completely A sizeable prize even if the whole bunch beat me Sc. 55 Gas Station {Kirk has just poured himself into skin tight light silk or cotton overalls and he now pours himself into his custom car...} KIRK: Feeling tuned and tight now that I've customised me If I win tonight a'well it won't surprise me Woah look what you did to my id Sc. 56 Brenda's Place {Brenda looks great in her party outfit} Brenda: In the best dressed contest There's bound to be some jealousy But the best dressed guest with whom I'm most impressed...Is *ME* ! Sc. 57 Leisure Center {We cut to the road outside the center...We see everyone arriving...They walk. Ride bikes...Motorcycles...Come in cars...There are flashes from cameras, TV mobiles...Anything and everything with a town of this size partying} ALL: You may say that we're being sexist An' we've got egos that are bigger than Texas But look what you did to my id Kid Look what you did to my id Compare it to the final soundtrack's version: MOM: Like a virgin with an urgin in a surgery I'll be swinging, I'll be bringing out the nurse in me DAD: The art will start when I play my part As a healer who will steal your heart MOM AND DAD: Oh, look what I did to my Id Oh, look what I did to my Id COSMO: With neurosis in profusion NATION: And psychosis in your soul COSMO: Eliminate confusion COSMO AND NATION: And hide inside a brand new role MACY: Like a good time girl, I'm gonna try some new tricks RALPH: This could be the start of a whole new career MACY: Got a deep plum lipstick, and some therapeutics RALPH: This could take us to a town that's nowhere near here ANSALONG: Got some heartfelt symptoms and I'm feeling sneaky REST HOME RICKY: Young male intern, tall and handsome ANSALONG: Got my hems so high, they say I'm being cheeky REST HOME RICKY: Legs like mine are really made for dancing CHORUS: Whoa whoa whoa! Hey hey hey! COSMO AND NATION: When heaven's in the music Hell is in control The angels got the voices But the devil got the Rock and Roll! ALL: We may look like we're phony medics But we took our look from a book by Frederick's Oh, look what I did to my Id - Id! Look what I did to my Id Some characters have been switched to facilitate the change of setting, but there seems to have been no need to cut the first three verses. I especially like the evocative lines "These bitch-heels are so damn vicious" and "Egos bigger than Texas." Oh well. All of which is to say: there can a lot more substance to a terrible sequel than might be obvious to the casual viewer, no?


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