It was perhaps appropriate that I had a dentists’ appointment on the day I interviewed Patricia Quinn, iconic star of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and its follow-up Shock Treatment, recently released on Blu-ray. Its groundbreaking story of vicious medical procedures fused with reality TV made it a cult hit, though it never scaled the heights of its predecessor. She plays Dr. Nation McKinley alongside a cast packed with comic talent, from Barry Humphries to Rik Mayall, not to mention creator Richard O’Brien himself (pictured below with Quinn).
Though I wanted to ask numerous questions about her roles in Rob Zombie’s The Lords Of Salem, Hawk The Slayer, I, Claudius and Doctor Who, the focus was very much on Shock Treatment, so I began by talking to her about the movie’s unique narrative…
THN: It’s safe to say the film is quite different to Rocky Horror. How was it explained to you before you got involved?
Patricia Quinn: It was never explained. None of us knew what it was about. (Laughs) Barry Humphries was sitting in the dressing room with me having his make up done and I was there and he said “Do you know what this is about?” and I said “No!” I was told Richard O’Brien went into his flat for three weeks and when he came out it was with the script for Shock Treatment.
So you worked it out as you went along…
Not sure we even did that. The thing was, it was a reality show and we didn’t know what a reality show was then. The characters live in the show, the audience never goes home, that’s what was so amazing… and my grandchildren love the film because they get it. I watch Shock Treatment with my grandkids now, I watch it more than ever because they love it!
When The Truman Show came out O’Brien felt it was the same idea. That film came out twenty years ago, so it shows how Shock Treatment was ahead of its time! I was thinking about that scene with Janet and the little black dress. They were trying to make the girl next door famous and she becomes ‘starry’… now girls just want to be famous, I hadn’t thought about that before.
There’s a heightened atmosphere to say the least! Everyone’s grinning and dancing around the whole time…
We were always doing that! It was different to Rocky Horror, we did that on stage. This film began as something else but there was a strike in Hollywood. They wanted to make this film in Texas for some reason. Quite exciting because I’d never been to Texas. The costume designer went there to do a recce and she bought the clothes in all these thrift shops, so the costumes the audience wore came from there.
At least the costumes were authentic.
(Laughs) Yes, though we had nothing to do with bloody Texas. We didn’t do Texan accents or anything. What happened was we couldn’t go to America at the time so we had to go very quickly to Wembley Studios. I did an interview about this for the Blu-ray with Mark Kermode. He’s a Shock Treatment fan, he went to see it thirty three times when it came out. And I told him they had no idea how to sell it. Rocky Horror was a sleeper for two years and then a genius boy at Fox suggested putting it on at midnight and we became a hit.
Then the idiots put Shock Treatment on at midnight, they never gave it a proper release. It’s not that sort of film, it’s very different. It disappeared without anything. The thing is Richard O’Brien thinks the songs are better than Rocky. They’re different because they’re not rock and roll. I think he’s one of the best lyricists alive. At the end you have that song between the two brothers. It’s almost like a battle with swords. They sing: “The best thing you could ever do is die!” Who would sing that in a song, they wouldn’t dare!
Shock Treatment is out now on Blu-ray.