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Shock to the System (2006)

A gay detective tries to solve the murder of a college student.



, (based on the book by)

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Dr. Cornell
Mrs. Hale
Lynne Cornell
Rikki Gagne ...
Katey Simmons (as Rikki Gange) (as Rikki Gagné)
Gerry Morton ...
Morgan Brayton ...
Leanne Adachi ...
Dr. Sung


Because of a feature article on him in the Advocate, Albany based Donald Strachey has gained some notoriety as a gay private detective. His latest client, Paul Hale, a scared young man, provides Donald with a $5,000 retainer to find "someone", that person unspecified before Paul is scared off. Soon thereafter, Paul is found dead. The official cause of death is deemed suicide by the coroner's office, but Donald wants to do right by Paul by finding who killed him as the police unofficially believe he was murdered. Another person who believes Paul was murdered is his mother, Phyllis Hale. Donald learns that homophobic Mrs. Hale sent Paul to the Phoenix Foundation, run by Dr. Trevor Cornell and his wife Lynn Cornell and for which Paul was the poster child. The Foundation's raison d'etre is repairative therapy i.e. to help people turn from gay to straight. Donald believes Paul's death has something to do with the Foundation, whether it be a connection to one of the Cornells or one of the ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


A Donald Strachey Mystery See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for some sexual content, nudity, language and a violent image | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

16 July 2006 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Donald Strachey: Systemschock  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$2,750 (USA) (4 August 2006)


$3,665 (USA) (18 August 2006)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs



(opening sequence)|

Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The character of Donald Strachey is known for always driving a beat up, old, poorly running circa 1985 Toyota Tercel hatchback. See more »


In the scene where Strachey thinks Kenny is breaking into his office, Strachey is wearing sunglasses. As soon as he busts through the door after Kenny, his glasses are off, and then reappear on his very next shot. See more »


References The Maltese Falcon (1941) See more »


I'm Over You
written by Peter Allen & David Hudgins
performed by Peter Allen, Vincent Mai and Sibell Thrasher
See more »

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User Reviews

A nice, complicated murder mystery with an interesting private eye. Don't forget to read the books by Richard Stevenson
6 February 2008 | by (San Antonio, Texas) – See all my reviews

"Trevor Cornell is one of the most successful reparative therapy providers in New York," says Timmy Callahan. "I wonder what his idea of 'successful' is," says Donald Strachey, a private eye. "Dressing badly," says Callahan, "decorating your home with duck decoys, breaking out in a rash whenever Barbra Streisand sings."

To explain: Reparative therapy means conversion from being gay or lesbian into happy, contented heteroes. Timmy Callahan (Sebastian Spence) is a political type in Albany, New York. Donald Strachey (Chad Allen) is not only a capable and tough private eye in Albany, he and Timmy are married. "At least," as Strachey says, "as close as two men can get to it...more important, I'm in love with him." Those who find a gay agenda under every leaf, revolver and bloody baseball bat may not like this movie. On the other hand, those with a fondness for well-constructed mysteries that feature politics, victimization, murder, martinis and phenalzine should enjoy the story, the style of Donald Strachey and the puzzle. Bet you don't guess the murderer. It's worth pointing out that you don't need to be a collie to enjoy "Lassie" or a guy with a gut to enjoy John Wayne. And you don't need to be gay to enjoy Shock to the System. The movie has it's faults...it was made for cable with awkward acting in some of the secondary roles and it has that clean, careful look of most made-for-TV films. But the mystery is satisfyingly complicated, with a nice number of red herrings. Chad Allen makes a believable, interesting private eye. And his happy home life with Timmy would probably be the envy of many married couples, gay or straight.

Paul Hale, a frightened 20-year-old man, wants Strachey to help him. But before he can tell Strachey what he wants, he is found dead. At first it's thought Hale died of a stroke, but when a lethal mixture of alcohol and barbiturates is found in Hale's system, Strachey decides to find out what was going on. And that takes him undercover to the Phoenix Foundation, a successful institution led by Dr. Trevor Cornell and his wife, where gays and lesbians, Dr. Cornell says, can find their true path to heterosexuality. It turns out that Hale was going to be a poster boy for the Foundation when Cornell announced a major push to go nation-wide with his cures. Not only does Strachey find himself taking part in group therapy and flashing back to his own earlier life, he gets threatened, beaten up, chased and shot. Almost as frightening, he encounter's Hale's wealthy, well-groomed and surgically-enhanced mother. "My son was not gay!" she says. "He was...confused." Strachey eventually solves the crime. Justice, formal and informal, is dealt out.

Donald Strachey is the gay private eye in eight mysteries written by Richard Stevenson, beginning with Death Trick in 1981. They are first-rate reads with clever, involved and sometimes violent plots. In other words, they aren't gay mysteries...they're mysteries that happen to feature a gay private eye. Two of the books have been made into cable movies; this one was shown in 2006 and Third Man Out was shown in 2005. The books are well worth reading if you like mysteries. This movie is no classic, but it makes it's "gay agenda" points low-key enough that they don't interfere with the story. And although there is a bit of beef cake that shows up from time to time, one or two friendly smooches and a quick flash of frontal nudity, the movie has none of the leering smarminess that seems built-in to many of the boy-girl Hollywood films nowadays.

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