Shock To The System: A Donald Strachey Mystery

  • 2006
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Crime

The second movie adapted from one of Richard Stevenson's popular gay-themed detective novels revolves around shady goings-on at the Phoenix Foundation for a Better Life, whose charismatic founder claims he can cure homosexuality. Albany-based private investigator Donald Strachey (former child star Chad Allen) is approached by Paul Hale (Jared Keeso), a young...read more

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The second movie adapted from one of Richard Stevenson's popular gay-themed detective novels revolves around shady goings-on at the Phoenix Foundation for a Better Life, whose charismatic founder claims he can cure homosexuality. Albany-based private investigator Donald Strachey (former child star Chad Allen) is approached by Paul Hale (Jared Keeso), a young man who pays him a $5,000 retainer to find someone, but dies — apparently by his own hand — before telling Strachey who he wants found. The police are satisfied by the medical examiner's conclusion that Hale's death was suicide but Strachey isn't convinced, which puts him in the uncomfortable position of siding with Hale's wealthy, homophobic mother (Morgan Fairchild), who sent Paul to the Phoenix Foundation for reprogramming. Paul's therapy was apparently successful: He was engaged to be married and was the smiling, all-American poster boy for the foundation's methods. Posing as an unhappy homosexual looking to go straight, Strachey infiltrates the Phoenix Foundation and comes away more convinced than ever that Dr. Cornell (Michael Woods) and his associates are hiding something, and that Paul was murdered because he was going to expose their secret. Meanwhile, the case takes its toll on Strachey's relationship with his supportive boyfriend, local legislative aide Tim Callahan (Sebastian Spence), as Cornell's therapy sessions dredge up deeply unhappy memories about Strachey's life as a gay man. This good-natured pastiche of classic light detective films, closer in spirit to the Nick and Nora Charles pictures than to brutal noir thrillers such as ON DANGEROUS GROUND (1952) or KISS ME DEADLY (1955), was produced for the gay network Here! but given a limited simultaneous theatrical release. Were it not for the fact that the hero and many of the major supporting characters are gay — it's a running gag that everyone seems to have read Strachey's interview with "The Advocate" and knows he's that queer detective — this breezy, disposable film could as easily have been a mainstream network pilot for a McMillan and Wife-style series: Tim and Donald are a cute-as-a-button couple, the story delivers enough twists and turns to be engaging without feeling like work, and the overall vibe is dangerous and flirty rather than brutal or excessively graphic, though the frontal locker-room nudity and shots of Donald and Tim kissing and cuddling will undoubtedly discomfit some viewers outside its target demographic.

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  • Released: 2006
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: The second movie adapted from one of Richard Stevenson's popular gay-themed detective novels revolves around shady goings-on at the Phoenix Foundation for a Better Life, whose charismatic founder claims he can cure homosexuality. Albany-based private inves… (more)

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