Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night


  • Year: 1987
  • Director: Hal Sutherland
  • Starring: Scott Grimes, Tom Bosley, Ed Asner

Oh Filmation Studios, we meet again. Why did you think you could make sequels to classic Disney films and not lose in the end? How does a sequel to Pinocchio even make sense? I mean, he becomes a real boy in the end, right? That’s sort of the entirety of his character arc right there. I’m not saying someone brilliant couldn’t come up with something, but I highly doubt that Filmation studios is that someone.

As with Happily Ever After, Filmation had technically all rights to make this movie, as Carlo Collodi’s The Adventures of Pinocchio is in the public domain. As long as certain things unique to the Disney film were avoided, it was legal. That said, Disney did unsuccessfully try to sue.

We’ve got some strings to hold you down.

Pinocchio has been a human child for one year now, so Geppetto is celebrating his first birthday with him.


I suppose this is still set in Italy, although the accents would suggest otherwise. Tom Bosley voices Geppetto because why not, and it would seem that Figaro and Cleo pulled a Chuck Cunningham (again that pesky public domain), as he now owns the bird Alouette (Get it? Because Figaro was a musical thing and so is this.).

Pinocchio is now voiced by Scott Grimes, and he actually sounds a lot like the original Disney character, although at points, he almost feels like a parody of the original. Does anyone ever say “Gee Willikers”? Anyway, on his first birthday, The Blue Fairy (Rickie Lee Jones) appears and tells him that he should never take his humanity for granted. She then breaks into a song out of nowhere that does absolutely nothing to serve the plot. The song is painfully ’80s and completely ruins any timelessness the tale had otherwise. There is also some really weird animation here, like this face Pinocchio makes.


This isn’t just a frame—it lingers on this. Someone meme this please.

Pinocchio agrees to take a jewel box into town for the mayor, and accompanying him is his newly-brought-to-life bug friend Gee Willikers (Get it? Gee Willikers because Jiminy Cricket? It’s dumb.). He’s voiced by Don Knotts, who surprisingly doesn’t just ruin the whole thing by sounding like Don Knotts. I mean, you can tell it’s him, but he’s not going full Barney Fife or anything. He even sounds a bit like Jiminy Cricket at points.

On the way, Pinocchio gets distracted by a pair of animal con men who totally aren’t The Fox and the Cat. Instead, we have Scalawag the Raccoon and Igor (pronounced like in Young Frankenstein) the Monkey. If The Fox and the Cat are in fact in the original novel, why are they changed here? Well, if you want my opinion, their depictions in the Disney film are so iconic that it wouldn’t feel like the sequel they were hoping for if they were changed. Plus, they couldn’t use the Honest John and Gideon names from the Disney film, as those are film-only and not from the book. I hope the lawyers were billed in the credits of this thing.

So, we have the totally-native-to-Italy Raccoon (Ed Asner) and the Hispanic-stereotype Monkey (Frank Welker). Seriously, this guy makes Speedy Gonzalez look racially sensitive.


That said, Ed Asner has a much more interesting character than he did in Happily Ever After, and at least he doesn’t rap. I mean, he’s basically just playing Honest John, but at least he’s somewhat memorable.

The Raccoon and the Monkey (Just doesn’t have the same ring does it?) convince Pinocchio to trade his jewel box for their phony Pharaoh’s ruby. Pinocchio of course falls for it, because he learned his lesson in the first film—If you meet two anthropomorphic animals on the road, they’re only con men if they’re a fox and a cat.

I understand there has to be conflict, but Pinocchio has learned absolutely nothing here. He goes home, Geppetto gets upset, and Pinocchio decides he’ll leave and join the carnival that has just come into town. At the carnival, he falls for a puppet named Twinkle (Lana Beeson), and the evil puppeteer Strombarely uses this to get Pinocchio into his show. Alright, his name is Puppetino (they’re not even trying at this point), but yet again, they can’t use the Stromboli name Disney gave him because it’s not in the original story.


In a scene that apparently traumatized many a child (understandably), Strombarely slowly turns Pinocchio back into a puppet as Pinocchio tries unsuccessfully to escape. As Pinocchio begins to lose more control of his body and tells him to stop, Strombarely says “You’ll stop when I want you to stop.” That’s right, there’s a metaphor for rape in this kids’ movie.

It’s an effective scene, but very soon the Blue Fairy comes in and saves him. He lies and his nose grows, but then he tells the truth and he goes back to normal and is turned human. I get that these deus ex machinas existed in the original, but they feel even cheaper here, because they don’t advance the story or character development.

The carnival moves down river, and Strombarely promises gold to anyone who can bring Pinocchio back to him. Of course, the Raccoon and the Monkey are interested and meet up with Pinocchio. When Pinocchio yells at them about the fake Pharaoh’s Ruby, the Monkey says that maybe it was a fake Pharaoh instead, which I’ll admit actually gave me a laugh. They butter up Pinocchio and get him to go on the boat with them to the carnival.


Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run album represented a significant change in his public image. Gone were the loopy Dylanesque songs of Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J and The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle. In their place were Phil Spector Wall of Sound-esque numbers with hopeful lyrics and strong instrumentals. Oh I’m sorry, does it bother you I’m talking about something entirely unrelated to this film? Well, I promise you, it’s as relevant to this review as the Lieutenant Grumblebee subplot is to this film.

Let’s talk about the most pointless subplot in the history of cinema… heck, in the history of storytelling. Gee Willikers meets Lieutenant Grumblebee (Jonathan Harris), a stuffy British airman parody caught up in a war of insects vs. a frog. WHY IS THIS IN HERE?


It serves no purpose to the plot whatsoever. At one point, the battle was ending, and Gee Willikers was on a log going down river, so at least I thought that maybe it existed to get to that end, but then he goes back! It’s entirely pointless and it goes on for a long time.

Were kids just dying to have a Biggles parody in their movie? Was he really hot then or something? I can’t even imagine any American kids would know who that is. At one point, everyone worries that GW has died, and “Taps” is played. That’s right—A British army in Italy playing an American military anthem. WHY?

Apparently GW was supposed to get a spin-off cartoon that never came to fruition, so maybe this was really just a shoehorned pilot for that, but come on. Imagine if in Pinocchio, we suddenly stopped following Pinocchio and instead followed a member of the audience at Stromboli’s puppet show as he walked home, got ready for bed and drank milk. Why would we care? Is this simply filler for an 80-minute movie? Because that’s sad.

Meanwhile, if you’re still watching, stuff actually starts to get a little interesting. It turns out that the carnival’s home is The Empire of the Night. Pinocchio’s boat gets sucked into a boat that houses the empire (gotta get a Monstro shout out in there) and suddenly we’re in this gloomy, dark waterway. The animation in the film has been subpar so far (especially in comparison to the breathtakingly gorgeous Disney film), but this at least has some atmosphere.

Alright, Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night, you’re starting to interest me. Now seal the deal.

The Emperor of the Night is voiced by James Earl Jones.

Seriously, James Earl Jones. In spite of all the silliness in this movie, James Earl Jones creates a genuinely threatening character. He also voices all of the characters who tempt Pinocchio in the Empire, because they’re all the Emperor in disguise. Pinocchio is taken to The Land Where Dreams Come True, and obviously you can guess where that’s going. He gets his dreams to come true a la Pleasure Island, but his nightmares also come true.

He also has to promise to sign a contract (which gives up his freedom) after he’s had his fun, which makes no sense. Why doesn’t he sign the contract before? What’s the point in promising to sign a contract? That’s basically signing a contract that you’ll sign a contract! Plus, they never once make a “no strings” joke.

The song about The Land Where Dreams Come True is the only one in the film that isn’t painfully dated, and while it isn’t all that good, it’s bearable. Pinocchio then goes on stage with Twinkle as a painfully ’80s song plays, but the happiness can’t last long and we see the Emperor of the Night’s true form.


Well hey, if you’re going to scare kids, just go all out. It’s revealed that he and the Blue Fairy… or the Good Fairy… or the Fairy Godmother… or whatever they call her in this scene (they can’t decide) are caught up in a war, and Pinocchio was the first puppet to ever be given this much power (this was made more than a decade before the George W. Bush presidency). If Pinocchio is turned back into a puppet, The Emperor is almost guaranteed to win. Yes, it’s silly to make Pinocchio a war between gods, but it makes more sense than it did in Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July. I mean, in the original novel, the Blue Fairy is basically a stand-in for the Virgin Mary anyway.

The Emperor has shrunk Geppetto down to miniature size, because I guess he can do that, so Pinocchio agrees to sign the contract. However, he then defeats The Emperor with the power of free will and everyone goes home, including Twinkle who now comes to life. It’s cheap and contrived, but it’s still not entirely awful. The Raccoon and the Monkey even become friends with Pinocchio at the end, which isn’t surprising giving their relatively sympathetic characterizations.

This is not a good movie by any means, but there were points that were at least interesting. Happily Ever After was an absolute disaster, and this is not. James Earl Jones is quite good, and the hellish design of The Empire of the Night is pretty creepy. There’s a lot wasted, but outside of the bee sub-plot, you won’t be bored.

Story (12/30 Points)

I like the Empire of the Night scenes for the most part. They’re a spin on Pleasure Island without being a direct knock-off. I wish we could have seen more of the creepy carnival in the early scenes, as I feel there’s some wasted potential there. When it tries to just rehash Pinocchio, it’s disappointing. When it’s focusing on the bee subplot, it’s pointless.

Returning Characters (8/15 Points)

Pinocchio doesn’t change at all, but the voice sure sounds similar. The Blue Fairy’s voice is kind of grating, and Geppetto is fine, but he doesn’t have much to do.

New Characters (9/15 Points)

The Emperor of the Night is truly imposing, and while the Raccoon and the Monkey are obvious Fox and Cat knock-offs, I still really enjoy Ed Asner’s performance. Gee Willikers is tolerable, Strombarely speaks for himself, and don’t get me started on the bee.

Experience (10/20 Points)

The animation is hit or miss (there’s a chase scene over a repeating backdrop), but it’s never awful minus a few faces. There are a few genuinely creepy moments here as well. The score itself is fine, but the modern-sounding pop songs come out of nowhere and take you out of the film.

Originality (8/20 Points)

Like Happily Ever After, it gets an 8. At first it feels like a total rehash, but then it does pick up a little bit.


It’s not terrible. I know that’s a pretty low bar to set, but I expected this to be terrible, so I was surprised when I actually was entertained at points. It’s the better of the two Filmation knock-off Disney sequels.

Match-Up Home



Look What’s Happened to Rosemary’s Baby


  • Year: 1976
  • Director: Sam O’Steen
  • Starring: Stephen McHattie, Ray Milland, Ruth Gordon

In 1968, Roman Polanski directed one of the greatest (if not the greatest) horror films of all time. Rosemary’s Baby doesn’t rely on cheap scares, but rather uses deep psychological torment and paranoia to make comments on social issues. Featuring fantastic performances by Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer, deeply unsettling music and imagery, and a terrifying whopper of an ending, why would anyone think they should follow it up?

In the film’s famous climax, Rosemary looks at her baby and is told it has Satan’s feet and eyes, and while she is obviously terrified, we never see its face. Producer William Castle, famous for his fun schlocky b-horror, wanted to show a terrifying image, but Polanski vetoed this. He knew that the audience’s imagination could make up something much more terrifying than any special effect. If you make a sequel focusing on her son, you have to show him.

So what’s he look like in his first scene?


Oh great, just a normal kid. Maybe you could make the thin argument that Rosemary raising him has made him more “normal,” but it’s also clear that the cult still has an influence in his life. His eyes glow in one scene, and that’s even stupider than what you’re seeing here, but they could have at least gone all out with something.

Again, why would you make a sequel? It had been eight years since the original, and Ira Levin wouldn’t write a sequel himself until 1997 (and we do not talk about that one). It’s not like Roman Polanski had a new story to tell or Mia Farrow was dying to reprise her role. Well, you have to look at the air date of this television film—October 29, 1976. Just a few months earlier in July, The Omen was released. Staring Gregory Peck and Lee Remick, The Omen told the story of the Antichrist as young child named Damien Thorn. It was a smash hit, winning an Oscar for Best Original Score (in a fantastic movie year), and is considered a classic today. In a way, The Omen is a sort of spiritual successor to Rosemary’s Baby, so someone decided to quickly rush out a TV sequel to Rosemary’s Baby, regardless of what kind of integrity it went against.

Look What’s Happened is divided into three half-hour parts or “books,” making it kind of hard to sympathize or care about the new characters popping up. We start with “The Book of Rosemary,” picking up eight years after the first one left off. Rosemary is now played by Patty Duke, who auditioned for the role in the original film, and she does fine with what she’s given. Rosemary apparently still lives right next to the cult with her son Andrew (The cult insists on calling him Adrian after Roman Castevet’s father, so there’s a bit of a struggle).

For some reason, Rosemary decides that right now is the time to run away with Andrew. As to why she hasn’t done this before, we’re not given a reason. Anyway, the cult (who dress more modestly now because TV movie) try to locate her by placing her personal items on a board of mysticism (from Hasbro). The cult only locates her and Andrew by using his personal items, but at this point, the two have sought sanctuary in a synagogue.


The next day, Guy Woodhouse (now played by George Maharis) gets a call from Roman Castevet (now played by Ray Milland). Guy is of course now a huge movie star, and although he’s still legally married to Rosemary, they live on different coasts. Even though the end of the first one made it seem like she would never speak to him again (and rightfully so), they’re still married? This completely goes against her character. Why couldn’t they have given her some agency and made her be divorced instead? The plot wouldn’t play out all that differently.

Ray Milland replaces Sidney Blackmer as Roman Castevet, and I’m really split on this casting. Milland is obviously a great actor (Dial M for MurderThe Lost Weekend), and he looks and sounds a good bit like Blackmer from the first. That said, there’s just something off. He’s playing it just a tad too over-the-top or cocky perhaps, but it’s hard to pin down. The writing doesn’t help either, as the original Roman didn’t show off his power, while this one kind of throws it around a bit. It makes him seem a bit less intelligent. Sure, this sounds like a minor thing, but it occurred to me every time he was on screen, so maybe it isn’t.

Rosemary has escaped on a bus, and Roman believes she will call Guy for help soon. Roman tells Guy he must do whatever she asks, which turns out to be sending $5,000 to 12 different cites, so no one is sure where she ends up. However, before Rosemary gets too far, Andrew/Adrian gets into a fight with some kids. Rosemary and Andrew quickly leave the scene, but a prostitute named Marjean (Tina Louise) claims that she saw the kids die. She promises to protect Rosemary and her son, and watches as Rosemary gets on a bus.

However, before Andrew/Adrian/Ambrose can get on the bus, the doors close and Rosemary is trapped. She starts hearing the cult chanting throughout, although there is no one on the bus and…NO DRIVER?


OK, it’s not surprising at all that this evil bus has no driver. It just feels so out of place in a Rosemary’s Baby sequel. Let’s see how the characters died in the first Rosemary’s Baby:

  • Terry Gionoffrio: Corpse discovered after falling out of window. May have been suicide after discovering the cult’s plans, may have been murder.
  • Hutch: Dies from a coma brought about (presumably) by the cult putting a curse on him.

Now let’s see how some of the characters die in The Omen:

  • Damien’s Nanny: Hangs herself in front of a party crowd
  • Father Brennan: After running from a storm, gets impaled by a lightning rod.
  • Katherine Thorn: Pushed out of a top-floor hospital window, crashing through an ambulance.
  • Keith Jennings: Decapitated by a sheet of glass that falls off the back of a truck.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love both films. They both rank among my all-time favorite horror movies, as The Omen also has plenty of tense, subtly creepy moments. All I’m saying is which of these does a driver-less bus to hell bring to mind?

“The Book of Adrian” takes place twenty-ish years later in presumably the ’90s (that happen to resemble the ’70s quite a bit). Adrian (Stephen McHattie) is an adult who lives a pretty hedonistic lifestyle. He still lives at home with Marjean who now runs a casino and told him his parents died in a car accident, and Marjean and Adrian are awaiting his birthday where his Uncle Roman and Aunt Minnie will come visit.

In the opening scene of this portion, Adrian (now having dropped Andrew and any other names) is pulled over for speeding with his friend Peter Simon.


PETER SIMON! Sorry, I need a moment.

What have you done to it? What have you done to its subtlety?

What, did they cut the scenes where he is flown around by his pilot friend Pontius or goes on a date with Judy S. Cariot?

Anyway, Antichrist McAntichristyburg and his friend Peter Simon go to the bar where Adrian orders a Bloody Mary.


Minnie and Roman are planning to hold a ritual on Adrian’s birthday on which Satan will enter him and usher in his new era. However, they worry that Adrian hasn’t done enough evil to be ready. At one point, he gets in a fight with some bikers to show he’s becoming more evil, I guess.

Minnie and Roman knock Adrian out with a laced drink and prepare him for the ritual with what seems to be mime makeup.


Guy is also there for some reason. Apparently Minnie and Roman want Adrian to learn who his real step-father was. It’s confusing.

At first, it seems like the ritual fails and Roman and Minnie encourage Guy to kill Adrian to harvest his organs or something… it’s really confusing now. However, Adrian soon rises up, apparently possessed by Satan. So how does he spread the Devil to the world? By dancing to rock music. Seriously.


Who wrote this thing? JIMMY SWAGGART?

Guy gets stopped by Peter Simon on the way out, and they get into a fight. Peter cuts off his ear… OK no I’m kidding, but I was honestly expecting it at this point. In another death out of The Omen, Guy kills Peter with a power cord.

In “The Book of Andrew,” Adrian/Andrew/Whatever his name is now wakes up in a hospital, apparently believed to have killed his friend Peter Simon. In this scene we find out that he has been living under the name Adrian Dorn.

How close can we get to Damien Thorn without being sued?

He’s apparently completely unpossessed now, and he falls for a nurse (Donna Mills) who helps him escape. Meanwhile, Guy worries that Andrew might want to kill him, and when he asks Minnie and Roman for help, they turn their backs on him and leave Hollywood. Apparently, Minnie wanted to meet Charlton Heston first, which is kind of bizarre knowing his own religious beliefs. Maybe she wanted to tell him that even Satan thought he was laying the NRA stuff on too thick.

The nurse gives Andrew a drink that knocks him out, because apparently he’s still trusting on this kind of thing. She too is a member of the cult, and she rapes him so she can create the new Antichrist. Roman and Minnie are really making this up as they go along, aren’t they? Even though every detail in the first was meticulously planned, they’re now like “Oh yeah that didn’t work. Moving on…” What, are they in league with Winterbolt now instead of Satan?


This time, the mother and father will be a puppet.

I wish they were, because it would at least make this movie interesting. Guy gets drunk and chases down Andrew, but instead hits Ellen, causing Andrew to run off and leave the movie.

In the final scene, Roman and Minnie see that Ellen is giving birth to the new Antichrist, and Roman calls it a “resurrection,” putting us exactly back where we were, just with uninteresting characters and undoing everything that made the first great. Also, that’s not what a resurrection is, but that’s beside the point.

I really don’t understand why this movie is the way it is, barring the total cash-in on The Omen. Why does the cult suddenly have people of all ages and races? If the cult had young women, they wouldn’t have had problems finding a young woman to impregnate in the first! It was much creepier when it was a bunch of old people in an old apartment building (even if they were connected to a greater network).

It’s never as painfully boring as High Noon II, but it angers me way more. If you wanted to make an interesting sequel, you should never have shown the Antichrist at all, but rather Minnie and Roman trying to set things in place for his rise. You got Ruth Gordon back, and Ray Milland is in the movie. Make them worth it! Stephen McHattie is not good, and his character should have been left in the shadows anyway.

What’s with the exploitative title? Were they planning on calling it O-man, Look What’s Happened to Rosemary’s Baby? Why do characters age 20 years but look the exact same? How are Minnie and Roman still alive 20 years later? Why do they still think Guy needs to be a part of the happenings when he was just Adrian/Andrew’s step-father? Why do they refer to the year Adrian gets possessed as the Year One, when they called the year he was born (1966, because 66) that in the original? There is not one scary or tense moment, which is great for a follow-up to one of the scariest and tensest films ever made. Worst of all, it’s divided into three separate chapters, so even if something remotely interesting is about to happen, it ends and suddenly we’re on to the next one.

Story (6/30 Points)

The middle portion almost has a few interesting moments, but getting possessed by rock music ruins it.

Returning Characters (4/15 Points)

Ruth Gordon returns as Minnie, but she doesn’t add that much. I want to like Ray Milland as Roman, but there’s just something off, and the characterization of Guy Woodhouse is a bit weird. Patty Duke is perfectly fine as Rosemary in the opening third, but Stephen McHattie is just dull.

New Characters (3/15 Points)


OK, moving on. There is not one memorable new character here. Broderick Crawford cameos. Why? I don’t know. He does for some reason. No one ruins it, I guess, because there’s so little to ruin.

Experience (4/20 Points)

It’s not scary. There are a few moments that border on atmospheric, perhaps because director Sam O’Steen was the editor of the original and other great films like Chinatown, but since it’s a TV movie, he’s really limited here.

Originality (5/20 Points)

Well it’s not Rosemary’s Baby again—it’s just The Omen instead. There’s even a moment where they use a knock-off version of Jerry Goldsmith’s score from the original.


It’s two points better than High Noon II, because I wasn’t bored for every minute of the thing. The middle act could have been interesting if it was actually allowed to be scary, and it would have been interesting to see where Rosemary is a few years later if they actually wrote it believably. This was rushed out for Halloween and it shows.



Shock Treatment


  • Year: 1981
  • Director: Jim Sharman
  • Starring: Jessica Harper, Cliff De Young, Richard O’Brien

Most of the sequels I have chosen for this list are follow-ups to universally-loved films, films you will see near the top of almost every Greatest Movies list. I wanted to include the sequel to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, because while Rocky Horror is not a movie on the caliber of the others here, it’s unquestionably the biggest cult film of all time. I mean, there’s no competition. Rocky Horror has had midnight showings consistently since its release in 1975, meaning it technically has the longest-running theatrical release in history.

As for me personally, I’ve seen Rocky Horror and enjoyed it. I don’t plan on dedicating my whole life to it like so many fans do, but I completely get the appeal. It’s goofy, campy, overblown and has great music. So what would a sequel to the biggest cult film of all time look like? Would it pander excessively to its own base? Or it would it try to spread out and reach a wider audience?


Writer and actor Richard O’Brien originally claimed that Shock Treatment was not a sequel or a prequel, but rather an “equal,” which I find a bit odd. It doesn’t feature all of the same characters, but since Brad and Janet are still the main characters, wouldn’t that make it a sequel? O’Brien seems to have mixed feelings about the thing today, though, since he has more recently referred to the film as an “abortion.”

You make the joke this time.

The characters of Brad and Janet return, although they’re played by different actors, and actors Richard O’Brien, Patricia Quinn, Nell Campbell and Charles Gray return, although they’re playing different characters. Confused yet? Tim Curry sadly does not return, which some have said is due to him doubting whether he could do an American accent (Anyone who’s seen him try one will concede his doubts were fair). Meat Loaf is also absent, but this was probably just so he could show up in a third film and the audience could shout “Two out of three ain’t bad.”

A few years after the events of the first film, Brad Majors (Cliff De Young) and his wife Janet (Jessica Harper) are still living in the town of Denton, Ohio. However, Denton has now been converted entirely into an enormous television studio, run by the fast food mogul Farley Flavors (De Young in a double role). Everyone is either a character on a show, or is in the studio audience. The opening song “Denton USA” shows the sort of brainwashed, ’50s town this has turned into, and it sounds like a mix of a commercial for an amusement park and a game show theme.

A commercial shows a teacher going over the Five F’s of Denton with her students—Farley, Flavors, Fabulous, Fast and Food—revealing a logo that gave me a pretty good laugh.


Brad and Janet are selected to be contestants on the game show Marriage Maze, hosted by the blind German Bert Schnick (Barry Humphries), who’s sort of like if Dr. Strangelove entered The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.


Brad and Janet have been having marriage issues, because he’s too boring and dorky (It’s played up a bit more than the original film), so the Marriage Maze decides he gets to live in the medical soap opera Dentonvale for a week, where he will receive psychiatric treatment. Janet thinks this might be a bit extreme, but Schnick insists it is the only way.


When shown the prizes they can win on Marriage Maze, Brad and Janet start singing to them about how modern technology is ruining their lives in “Bitchin’ in the Kitchen.” Here’s the wonderful thing about a Rocky Horror sequel—You could literally put anything on the screen, and it won’t be too weird. Beyond the general weirdness, it’s just a great song. I applaud anyone who can sing “Oh toothpaste, don’t you put the squeeze on me” or refer to as an alarm clock as a “micro digital awaker” with a straight face, and Jessica Harper does it fabulously. She really has the perfect voice for the kind of pop rock music in this film, and even though this is probably going to get me killed, I far prefer her performance as Janet to Susan Sarandon’s in the original.


Susan Sarandon is a great actress, but Brad and Janet in the original were just the normal people surrounded by all the weirdness. Here, they serve similar roles, but they are far more jaded than they were before. Her character is a bit more interesting on paper, but it’s really Jessica Harper’s performance that makes her the best character in the thing. She has a such a powerful presence, helped along by her equally powerful singing voice, and she completely steals the show.

Brad is checked into Dentonvale Hospital, run by brother-and-sister Cosmo McKinley (Richard O’Brien) and Nation McKinley (Patricia Quinn). They encourage Janet to sign a contract regarding his stay, and she says she’ll sign tomorrow.


Janet then sings the touching ballad “In My Own Way,” which can easily be enjoyed outside the context of the film.

Meanwhile, Janet’s parents are quizzed about Brad’s family, where it’s revealed he was adopted. As a prize, they get to live in a dream house on Happy Homes for a week. While on the show, Janet’s father (Manning Redwood) sings an ode to his patriarchal views in “Thank God I’m a Man,” a Johnny Cash-esque growler that also samples the “Hallelujah Chorus” for over-dramatic effect.

Meanwhile, Janet is being groomed to be a model and the face of Farley’s upcoming show Faith Factory, on which he claims sanity will be restored. “Farley’s Song” is an overblown villain song, and while it’s obvious (painfully obvious) that it was written for Tim Curry, Cliff De Young does a good job with it. He definitely plays Flavors with just the right amount of smarminess.


While Janet is preparing to become Miss Mental Health, we discover that Schnick is actually not blind at all, as he peeps at her in the shower. Unsurprisingly, Schnick and the McKinleys are in on Flavors’ evil plan to take over Denton and force them all to get his shock therapy.

Janet is fitted for a little black dress, and in a song appropriately titled “Little Black Dress,” Richard O’Brien tries to do the “Time Warp” again. Look, it bothered me for about half-a-second that they’re trying to basically do the same song, because once the song started, I was totally into it. It’s almost self-parody, seeing as how the song even has ridiculously simple instructional lyrics (“Well first you go rip rip rip/Then you go snip snip snip”), but even if I should care, I don’t. Jessica Harper has such a strong voice, and everyone is clearly having a blast in this scene.


In a subplot, Judge Oliver Wright (Charles Gray) and Brad and Janet’s friend Betty (Ruby Wax) are investigating Farley Flavors and company. Betty was the one getting was married in the opening scene of the original, and her now ex-husband Ralph (Jeremy Newson) is the only returning character played by the same actor. Oliver and Betty soon discover that Cosmo and Nation McKinley are merely character actors and not doctors, and that Farley Flavors is actually Brad’s twin brother, separated at birth. He’s jealous that Brad has a good life while he’s had it tough, so he plans to bring down Brad, steal his wife, and corrupt the whole town as revenge.

This could have been really funny, since it’s playing with a ridiculously cliched twist, but the subplot to unveil it is just boring. Charles Gray and Ruby Wax really don’t add much at all to the film, and even though the place these scenes are headed is important, it feels like filler.

Meanwhile, Janet’s star is on the rise and she is growing increasingly vain. Her ode to vanity, “Me of Me” is the most ’80’s song in the film, but it is still quite good and fits in with the rest of the soundtrack. Brad is serenaded about the wonders of shock treatment in the irresistibly fun title song, which even features a lyric about being blinded by science a year before Thomas Dolby would sing about it.


The hospital staff sings and dances to the enjoyable “Look What I Did to My Id,” even though it’s entirely irrelevant to the plot. As Faith Factorbegins, a live band plays the rocker “Breaking Out,” which, again, could have been a hit outside the context of the film.

Janet is promised a new car if she agrees to be the spokesperson for Flavors’ new wave of sanity, but Betty and Oliver break Brad out and bring him on stage. Janet sees the error of her ways, and since she never signed the hospital contract, Brad has to be let go. For a minute, everyone stars inexplicably speaking in rhyme, and while it comes out of nowhere, the forced rhymes are somewhat enjoyable (“choose her”/”you sir”). Brad confronts his own twin in “Duel Duet,” and I have to hand it to Cliff De Young here. Flavor and Frad have different appearances, mannerisms and singing styles, and it’s a very well done song.



Although they both sing to the other that “The best thing you could ever do is die,” neither one actually kills the other. Flavors has Brad, Janet, Betty and Oliver held at gunpoint to be taken to prison, while he convinces the entire audience to get his shock treatment. However, Brad easily distracts the guard, who gleefully goes to get shock treatment himself. The four now have the studio to themselves and sing the ridiculously cheery closing number “Anyhow, Anyhow,” while dancing around the empty audience seats.


During this song, we get a brief reprise of “Denton” from the crowd of patients awaiting their shock therapy, and it fits in wonderfully. It turns out the band from earlier had been hiding in the car the whole time, so they all pack in (and on) the car and drive away from Denton for good.

Ultimately, I’m pretty conflicted in regards to Shock Treatment. One one hand, the plot’s just boring. For being a sequel to a total mindscrew of a film, it’s pretty straightforward. It’s goofy, sure, but nowhere near as wacky as Rocky Horror. I kind of wish it had gone full-blown in its weird vision.

On the other hand, the music is fantastic. Every song is good, and many of them are great. The soundtrack is at least as good as the original, and I think I may like it better. Songs like “Bitchin’ in the Kitchen,” “Little Black Dress” and “Shock Treatment” are just so catchy, and Jessica Harper is a phenomenal singer. I have to admit it’s easy to zone out when songs aren’t being sung, so thankfully there’s a lot of them.

hands pushing keyboard

Oh what’s that, internet commenter?

hands pushing keyboard
It’s satire and you just don’t get it!

Of course it’s satire. It’s just not good satire.

Alright, soapbox time. Sometimes, movie fans will get up in arms when someone doesn’t like a movie that’s one of their favorites. Many seem to think that using the “This is satire” argument universally means it’s a good film that the reviewer just doesn’t understand. Satire is simply making a comedic statement on the current state of affairs, so it can be done well, and it can be done poorly. There are plenty of films that satirize our obsession with television, and some are good like Network and The Truman Show, while others are EdTV. Simply making satire doesn’t mean it will be great. Could you argue this film predicted the rise of reality television? Sure, but so did a lot of films. It’s not like this film was the only one to ever have that kind of idea. It’s not done terribly, but it’s just not done particularly well.

Let’s get to the final score.

Story (9/30 Points)

The sadistic game show is an interesting premise, and this plot could have worked. Sadly, it’s boring and far too sane to be a Rocky Horror follow-up.

Returning Characters (11/15 Points)

Jessica Harper is incredibly charismatic as Janet Majors, making her a far more interesting character than she was before. Brad is locked up most of the film, and while they make him a bit too stereotypically nerdy, he’s still somewhat likable. The returning characters of Betty and Ralph don’t stand out even a little bit.

New Characters (8/15 Points)

Barry Humphries goes all-in as bizarre game show host Bert Schnick, and Cliff De Young gives a convincing dual performance as Farley Flavors. Richard O’Brien is rightfully creepy as Dr. McKinley, and Patricia Quinn and Nell Campbell are having fun, but there are a lot of side characters who don’t add much. The lack of Tim Curry is felt.

Experience (16/20 Points)

I love the songs, all of them. After watching this once, they’ll be stuck in your head for a while, and that’s a good thing. Any time the story was getting boring, a great song would start up and I’d be invested again. However, the sets are pretty boring due to a small budget, and it shows.

Originality (9/20 Points)

Better television satires have been done, and it doesn’t even play with its own ridiculous “evil twin” plot. They really could have had some fun with that, but it’s basically played straight. However, it’s not just being Rocky Horror again, so I’ll give it that.


As I said above, I’m not a die-hard Rocky Horror fan, but I had some fun with this film. The story is pretty dull, but the songs are so much fun that they somewhat make up for it. Unlike many sequels in this series, I am at least glad it exists, and while I may not feel the need to watch it again any time soon, I will definitely be listening to the soundtrack some more. With songs this good and a performance as good as the one Jessica Harper gives, this is by no means the “abortion” Richard O’Brien made it out to be (The only thing not carried to term is Charles Gray’s American accent). It will never have the following the original does, but it’s fairly enjoyable on its own terms. If you want to watch it, it will be worth your time. If not, please at least listen to the soundtrack.