Monday, February 16, 2015

Little Shop of Horrors (1986) – Directors Cut – review

Director: Frank Oz

Release date: 1986

Contains spoilers

Regular readers will remember that we looked at the 1960 Roger Corman flick the Little Shop of Horrors as a “Vamp or Not?” and decided the killer plant was indeed a vampire – with specific reference to the fact that it is blood the plant craves and it is sentient. The hypnotic powers the plant apparently possessed were covered as a side issue.

the chorus
The film was the inspiration for a stage musical and this musical was then given the big screen treatment in the eighties. And musical it is, with chorus and all. The previous decision to class the original film as a vampire film lets me move straight to a review of this film. The film reviewed was the director’s cut, which had a significantly different ending to the theatrical release.

Vincent Gardenia as Mushnik
There are some changes to the roles. We are still at Mushnik’s flower shop but Mushnik (Vincent Gardenia) himself is less paternal than his original counterpart. This is strange as his employee Seymour Krelborn (Rick Moranis, Gravedale High) is an orphan in this (removing the character of his hypochondriac mother) and was taken in by Mushnik. Also working in the shop is Audrey (Ellen Greene) and when we first meet her she is sporting a black eye given to her by her abusive dentist boyfriend Orin (Steve Martin).

the plant arrives
At the head of the film Mushnik is going to lay the two workers off when Seymour is encouraged to show him the unusual plant he has been trying to nurture – and that he has called Audrey II (Levi Stubbs). The appeal of the plant – as it is put in the window – is instantaneous, drawing in customers. When asked where he got the plant we see a flashback of the plant arriving in a flash of light during an eclipse (it’s from outer space) and a Chinese flower seller (Vincent Wong) taking money for it from Seymour.

introducing Audrey II
Despite the booming business, things are not so good at the end of the day when Audrey II droops. Mushnik leaves Seymour to sort the plant out. Seymour has tried every horticultural trick he can think of but then he pricks his finger on a rose thorn and the plant makes sucking noises. Interestingly Seymour puts the bloodied finger near the plant and it snaps at it but an uncut finger (with no immediate blood access) makes it turn away. Later we hear (in song) that it must be blood, it must be fresh and it must be human. In truth, like in the original, the whole of the victim is later consumed but blood is the important element.

Audrey II suckles
Seymour nurtures the plant, literally allowing it to suckle at one point, causing it to grow bigger and bigger, but eventually is running out of blood to spare. At this point the plant begins to speak to him and offers him a Faustian deal – everything he could ask for in return for fresh blood. Seymour turns his attentions to Orin (though he doesn’t actually kill the dentist, he did intend to). Of course the deal turns sour; Seymour’s conscience gets the better of him and Audrey II’s true intentions are revealed.

like Kaiju
The film was given a happier ending than the stage show due to test audience reactions. This is cast aside for the director’s cut, which not only has a macabrely dark ending to the story we watch unfold but also has an apocalyptic coda that sees Kaiju sized Audrey IIs attacking New York. To me it just goes to show that listening to test audiences can be fraught as the darker ending suits the film and so I’d advise seeking this version out.

Seymour and Audrey II
Of course, it is an ensemble cast with Bill Murray reprising the role that Jack Nicholson had in the original and many other wonderful comic actors. I’m not the biggest musical fan, but this worked well – that said it does make me prefer the original on balance, due to the lack of song. There is no doubt, however, that this has a bigger budget and a tighter script. Great fun – 7 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


Jevron McCrory said...

I had no idea there WAS a directors cut! EASILY my favourite musical! I'll have to re-read your post! Thank you for thinking of this film!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Jevron, good to hear from you.

I'd probably put Rocky Horror as my fav musical but this is good (from someone who generally doesn't dig musicals)

The director's cut is a US release only - from what I can gather - but if you see it let me know what you think of the darker ending