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Shock to the System: A Donald Strachey Mystery

4.5 out of 5 stars 56 customer reviews

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(Feb 13, 2007)
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Editorial Reviews

(Gay Thriller) When private eye Donald Strachey finds his latest client dead, he decides to take matters into his own hands. Strachey’s investigation leads him on a dark and dangerous trail into the world of "gay conversion therapy" - a twisted mix of psychology and religion designed by a doctor to turn homosexuals "straight." Based on the best-selling series of novels by Richard Stevenson

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Chad Allen, Sebastian Spence, Michael Woods, Daryl Shuttleworth, Morgan Fairchild
  • Directors: Ron Oliver
  • Writers: Richard Stevenson, Ron McGee
  • Producers: Barry Krost, James Shavick, Jeffrey Schenck, Kirk Shaw, Lindsay MacAdam
  • Format: Multiple Formats, NTSC, Color, Widescreen, Dolby, Closed-captioned
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Regent Releasing
  • DVD Release Date: February 13, 2007
  • Run Time: 91 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000K2V7EG
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #29,788 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Shock to the System: A Donald Strachey Mystery" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This is a well-plotted, superbly cast follow up to the first Donald Strachey film, "Third Man Out." I personally found the subject matter---sexual "healing" for gays---more engrossing than the "outing" theme of the first film. Once again, Chad Allen is fascinating as the macho gay detective. And his back story---he's an ex-soldier who was drummed out of the service for being gay---more ably serves the screenplay this time around. The regulars all seem more comfortable in their roles, and it's nice to see Nelson Wong returning as Donald's secretary. Morgan Fairchild appears in a rather thankless cameo, and, although Sebastian Spence is a little less ditsy as Donald's lawyer boyfriend (Nora to Allen's Nick), Timmy, Allen's banter with Daryl Shuttleworth, as Detective Bub Bailey, and the other guys at the precinct is more fun. It's a first-class production, with director Ron Oliver making all the right moves, and Allen's acting is nothing short of brilliant: he does Emmy-caliber work (as he did Oscar-calibre work in "End of the Spear") in a surprisingly literate script.
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I find the Donald Strachey series immensely enjoyable and fun to watch. The series has dealt with two prevalent issues in the gay community at the moment...hypocrisy among the religious right with Third Man Out and gay regenerative therapy with Shock to the System. It's nice to watch films that address these topics but doesn't put them into the context of preaching.

The story addresses a young man who is in need of Strachey's help in finding someone (a nice little twist @ the end as to exactly whom that is). As usual, he winds up dead before Strachey knows who it is and must go undercover in a clinic that specializes in "curing" homosexuals. Morgan Fairchild makes a brief but touching turn as the dead man's mother...I wish she had been given more screen time. She managed to make a mother who pushes her son into regenerative therapy because of his "issues" seem loving and delusional at the same time.

I also like the noir touches (some find it amateurish because the colors are bleached out but it's obviously a predictable component to the film, i.e., it's supposed to look like that).

Chad Allen is a fantastic actor and he imbues the Strachey character with darkness, a sense of humor and a humility and humanness that is so often missing in trite, gay characters. Sebastian Spence as his husband Timmy Callahan is also great and I love the chemistry between Chad and Sebastian as they bring this relationship to life. This is one of the most honest and moving gay relationships ever depicted and it comes without all the clichés. These two men LOVE each other greatly and it shows and it's a NORMAL relationship. It's one of the best facets of these films.

And so what that the mysteries are predictable! Murder She Wrote, Matlock, Columbo, Perry Mason, etc.
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Format: DVD
Richard Stevenson's gay mystery novels based on his creation of Donald Strachey, Private Investigator have found the perfect crew to transform these very interesting and entertaining stories to film. SHOCK TO THE SYSTEM is the second in the series and as adapted for the screen by Ron McGee, directed with panache by Ron Oliver, and starring the very fine actor Chad Allen as the sleuth with couth and style and charisma the results are a polished little gem of a film. But aside from the fact that the film is so well put together, it presents gay people in roles that are so far away from the usual stereotypical types that their sexual proclivity is in many ways simply incidental: you have to look long and hard to find a solid healthy gay relationship as well portrayed as that between Strachey and his life partner Tim (the very fine Sebastian Spence).

The story this time around involves Strachey's being asked to help one Paul Hale (Jared Keeso), the supposed poster boy for the Phoenix Foundation, a 'turn gay people straight' institute run by Dr. Trevor Cornell (Michael Woods) and his wife Lynn (Anne Marie Loder). Paul is soon found dead and the implications are suicide. But Strachey suspects foul play (we later discover Hale was his first love in the Army!) and aided by Hale's mother Phyllis (Morgan Fairchild looking terrific and acting well) who encouraged her son's joining the Phoenix Foundation, he begins his own style of investigation.

Strachey wisely 'becomes a patient' with Dr. Cornell and in group therapy makes discoveries and friends with those who eventually help to solve the case: a strong group of actors including Rikki Gagne, Stephen Huszar, Ryan Kennedy, Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman, Shawn Roberts, Dany Papineau, and Gerry Morton.
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Format: DVD
Shock to the System is the second in a series of adaptations of Richard Stevenson's novels depicting gay private investigator Donald Strachy. When not solving problems in the Albany, NY, area, Strachy goes home to his partner, Timothy Callahan, a staff assistant to a state senator and former seminary student.

The film starts similarly to the novel. Paul Hale hires Strachy (Chad Allen) to find an unidentified person but is shortly found dead of a drug and alcohol overdose. Hale had recently made a scene at a gay-conversion therapy session, angering the leader, Dr. Trevor Cornell (Michael Woods), and had left the group. There are indications that Hale was about to make damaging public revelations about the gay-conversion organization.

Identifying some with Hale, Strachy infiltrates the group and pokes around. The issues raised at the group raise up old memories for Strachy, which lead to an emotional scene between Strachy and Callahan (Sebastian Spence), giving more depth to Strachy and to his partnership. Kenny Kwon (Nelson Wong), a desk clerk in the first film, Third Man Out, finds a new role in this one, lightening the mood. The film goes on to its conclusion.

The movie succeeds in providing character and noir atmosphere. We see the principals in more depth than in the novels. There is no issue of being too campy. The lighting, costumes, and sets are great.

Getting all that to work in 91 minutes did cause big chunks of the novel to drop out of the script. There is no more group prank against the group leader and far fewer individual interviews. The solution of the mystery is very compressed. It's a bit of a shame since I thought the underlying novel was the best at showcasing Strachy's sleuthing skills of the whole series.
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