Dir: Frank Oz, 1986
Quite possibly, Rick Moranis’s best film and, arguably, his standout performance.
Seymour Krelborn (Moranis) is an deprived shop assistant, working at Mushnik’s (Vincent Gardenia) flower shop on Skid Row.
Buying an unusual looking plant, which Seymour names Audrey II after his colleague (Ellen Green), the flower shop becomes a booming business and the plant a famous sight.
However, the plant can only gain sustenance from fresh blood, which leads Krelborn to murder and chop up the dentist, Orin Scrivello (Steve Martin).
It soon becomes apparent, that Audrey II is an alien that is intent on world domination.
Can Krelborn defeat the alien and his offspring, or will the planet succumb to Audrey II’s reign of terror?
Well, that depends on which version you watch…
Taken from the 1982 musical stage play, which was based on the 1960 Roger Corman film, Oz’s big screen adaption is an absolute joy from start to finish.
Featuring abundance of cameos, Little Shop of Horrors is a feelgood, funny and refreshing movie with the odd, boundary pushing scene.
A ‘PG’ in Britain, the film has elements that would certainly raise the certificate in contemporary standards.
Domestic abuse, gas sniffing, chopping bodies up and a smattering of moderate bad language, firmly place this at the higher end of family certificates.
The cameos are, more often than not, better than the main cast. Bill Murray as a sadistic dental patient (in the role originated by Jack Nicholson in Corman’s film) is a particular highlight.
Manic, twisted and funny, Murray is outstanding in one of his most brilliant roles.
The real star of the film is Martin as the dentist. Vicious, with an evil glee, the character is given all the best jokes and has the best song from the whole soundtrack.
A relatively short screen time, Martin’s appearance dominates the film and is, easily, the most memorable, after the plant.
Which brings us on to the late Levi Stubbs. A member of The Four Tops, Stubbs makes Audrey II to life with His Harlem accent and devilish charm.
Jam packed with catchy songs and memorable tunes, Little Shop of Horrors finely balances tap along jaunty show tunes with the sad, yet powerful, melancholy as heard in Downtown/Skid Row.
So, what’s all this about “versions”?
The ending to the film adaption, differs significantly, from the Broadway production.
In the stage show, Audrey II kills and eats Seymour and Audrey, and progresses to take over America. This part of the play is narrated by the song The Meek Shall Inherit.
The film production followed the 1982 original very closely, and ended the same way.
But, preview audiences didn’t take to the heroes being killed and Audrey II taking over, so Frank Oz was given the orders to re-shoot the ending to a more positive one. Now, the film ends with Seymour destroying the plant, and marrying Audrey.
The original ending was thought lost, but a black and white workprint was found and included on the initial region 1 DVD. However, David Geffen executed his legal right to ownership and had the discs pulled after only a day of sale.
2012, finally saw the original cut, in full colour, released on Blu Ray.
The original ending is a lot darker and pessimistic and has a few nice touches. Lyle Conway and his special effects team, create a marvellous spectacle that is a magnificent creative effort.
It’s a shame that that ending was junked, as it’s sad to see all that awesome work, effectively, gone to waste.
On balance, I think the theatrical cut just has the edge for me and that’s, primarily, down to the music. The Meek Shall Inherit is too weak for an end song. A stronger number may have swung it.
Nevertheless, Little Shop of Horrors is a wonderfully fun and infectious film with years of life in it.