Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
April 8, 2018 10:05 AM - Subscribe

A nerdy florist finds his chance for success and romance with the help of a giant man-eating plant who demands to be fed.

Roger Ebert: All of the wonders of "Little Shop of Horrors" are accomplished with an offhand, casual charm. The movie doesn't labor its jokes or insist on its virtuoso special effects, but devotes its energies to seeming unforced and delightful. The big laughs, when they come, are explosive (such as the payoff of Martin's big musical number), but the quiet romantic moments are allowed to have their coy innocence.

This is the kind of movie that cults are made of, and after "Little Shop" finishes its first run, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see it develop into a successor to "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," as one of those movies that fans want to include in their lives.

NYTimes: [I]ts best moments are delightful enough to make the slow stretches unimportant. Chief among the former is Steve Martin's show-stopping appearance as Orin Scrivello, the meanest dentist on the planet, and a man who is quickly and justifiably used as Miracle-Gro. Mr. Martin's solo number has been hilariously staged, as he combines Elvis Presley posturing with a wonderfully wicked delivery of phrases like ''root canal.'' Seldom has one single film sequence, in which Mr. Martin gleefully terrifies his patients and brandishes the most ghastly array of instruments, done as much to set back the integrity of an entire profession.


Little Shop Of Horrors demonstrates the fine art of setting the scene

Little Shop Of Horrors took a long route from screen to stage to screen again

The spectacularly tragic Little Shop Of Horrors that wasn’t

Bonus full version of 1960 edition!
posted by MoonOrb (13 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Wow, this cut dream sequence from "The Meek Shall Inherit" is bonkers. I always wondered why the full song was on the album but not in the movie. It's one of my favorites - from hope to horror to resignation in under three minutes. Rhyming "Audrey" and "tawdry" is one of Alan Menken's finest moments.

I love everything about this movie unironically and have since I was 10. The original ending (on the Blu-ray version in full glorious color) is fantastic, as is Frank Oz's commentary on why it was cut. Apparently as long as their beloved characters didn't have to die, the audiences were willing to ignore that the final version went from a basic Faustian tale to something more nihilistic. Good job Seymour, you made a deal with the devil, got everything you wanted, and came out on top! Moral: the ends justify the means, even if you have to literally sacrifice other people.
posted by Flannery Culp at 10:53 AM on April 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

I think the darker ending just doesn't work and the theatrical cut is perfect. We grow to care about these goofy characters so much, and it just feels cruel and awful to watch them die. The theatrical cut ends on just the right note, with Audrey's "Somewhere That's Green" dream coming true but another little Audrey 3 lurking nearby and waiting to cause trouble. The original cut has nice effects but it makes it a whole other film. I think it also had by far the weakest song in the film.

Moral: the ends justify the means, even if you have to literally sacrifice other people.

The ends don't justify the means. Seymour is weak and complicit up to a point, but in the theatrical cut he eventually wises up, fights back and destroys Audrey 2. He never kills anybody himself, and that's crucial. He never loses our sympathy and when he ultimately finds his courage we can buy it and we're rooting for him.

I love this movie so much, but in some ways it feels like the last time that everybody involved was interesting. Menken and Ashman went on to a lot of Disney princess stuff. Frank Oz never directed another movie that came within a mile of this one. Rick Moranis went on to be in a bunch of forgettable family comedies before retiring young. Steve Martin, Bill Murray and John Candy also lost their mojo, although Murray eventually got his back. This movie should have made Ellen Greene a star, but I don't think I saw her in anything ever again until she showed up as Syler's mom on Heroes.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:45 PM on April 8, 2018

The original has a group of girls wanting to put Audrey in the Rose Parade.
posted by brujita at 2:10 PM on April 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

The best thing about the alternate ending, though, is the delayed, awful, terrible, horrible smack to your gut when you realize Audrey's dream of ending up "Somewhere That's Green" has been realized in the sickest possible way.

Man, I love this movie. I can sing all of Seymour's parts.

Ellen Greene is a wonder.
posted by mochapickle at 8:25 PM on April 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

Menken and Ashman went on to a lot of Disney princess stuff.
Yes, but Beauty and the Beast? There's some profound and personal stuff there that raised it to a work of art. Ashman wrote the Beast's curse as a metaphor for AIDS as he was succumbing to the disease, and some of the songs reflect this. It's sometimes hard to listen to those songs knowing this.

Frank Oz never directed another movie that came within a mile of this one.
Well, there's Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, which is incredibly clever. He used Steve Martin and Michael Caine, two incredibly different lead actors in both method and humor, plus Glenn Headley (heart eyes!) to their best advantage to make a film that's funny and cohesive from start to finish.

Rick Moranis went on to be in a bunch of forgettable family comedies before retiring young.
This makes me so sad. Moranis lost his wife to breast cancer and retired to raise his kids. He rarely gets enough credit for being the best thing in pretty much any scene he's in.
posted by mochapickle at 8:38 PM on April 8, 2018 [8 favorites]

Oh, I didn't mean to knock Moranis really. Between SCTV and this movie, the guy is a king in my book. It was more that he, like a lot of other people involved with this movie, just seemed to kind of fade quickly after this. He was an amazing talent, and I'm sad he's not still working and doing movies that are worthy of him.

I think the Disney movies are fine, but after this movie I was expecting more edgy, dark stuff from Menken and Ashman. It's not that I hated the cartoons, it was more that I loved this movie so much it disappointed me that they followed it up with much lighter, family-friendly fare.

I saw Dirty Rotten Scoundrels once and it didn't grab me, although I did get a kick out of the scene with the cork on the fork.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 9:50 PM on April 8, 2018

Rhyming "Audrey" and "tawdry" is one of Alan Menken's finest moments.

fun fact, tawdry is a contraction of Saint Audrey

posted by prize bull octorok at 11:23 AM on April 10, 2018 [4 favorites]


OK, that is my new favorite linguistic fun fact, thanks!
posted by Flannery Culp at 8:12 PM on April 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

Oh god, this movie. I must have watched it a thousand times as a pre-teen. It came on HBO one day and I fell madly in love and promptly recorded it the very next time it played. I *wore* that tape completely out.
The songs, the evil twisted-ness of the whole plant business, and oh my gracious the sheer joy and terror of Audrey II. I loved this movie.

In my head, to this day, when something interesting happens and I'm alone, I quietly sing "Da Doo." to myself.
posted by teleri025 at 3:14 PM on April 11, 2018 [3 favorites]

I love this movie. Definitely my favorite musical of all time. I can't think of anything else that so perfectly strikes the balance between tongue-in-cheek and legitimately sad/emotional.

Maybe it helps that I was exposed to the play first, but I strongly prefer the downer ending. The happy ending just doesn't feel right. You really need the "Somewhere That's Green" reprise to complete the tragedy.

Also--it's a little subtle, but when Audrey's being fed into the plant, there's a reprise of the "someone show me a way to get out of here" theme from "Skid Row"! Just brutal.
posted by equalpants at 9:30 PM on April 11, 2018 [4 favorites]

I watched this again a few weeks ago for the first time since I was a teenager. I loved the film as a kid. I loved the annual school production as a high-school band geek. I used to listen to the soundtrack while studying in college. And, I was delighted to discover the film truly holds up to a grown-assed adult viewing today.

The harmony singers may not have names, but they get serious up-front screen time and genuine parts in the film. The story may be exaggerated mime, but it's good mime. For a film from the 80s filled with cheesy stereotypes, it does a pretty amazing job at not punching down. The heart-breakingly small dreams of our heroes remain just as devastating and believable as they seemed when I was 10. Of all the films I loved as a kid, this and Labyrinth are the only two I can claim are genuinely, objectively good. (I've largely stopped trying to watch those movies. It rarely ends well. But, I'm glad a made an exception here.)

My only reservation on rewatch was surprise that they kept John Candy in the final edit. I'd completely blotted out that awful waste of screen time. Steve Martin isn't exactly compelling in his role, and I'm sure there were tens of thousands of out of work actors in LA at the time who would have been far better, but at least one can argue that he's trying to participate in the same film as everyone else. John Candy is truly embarrassing. Fortunately, he doesn't stick around long enough to ruin the film.

Personally, I can't think of a work of fiction that wouldn't be improved if every character died in the end. But, I can appreciate that few people agree.
posted by eotvos at 5:58 PM on April 15, 2018

HBO currently has both the original and Director's Cut (with the restored apocalyptic ending) streaming; look in "Extras" for the DC. It's kinda fascinating watching the endings back-to-back to see how much they cut for the theatrical ending (a lot!) versus how much they re-shot (surprisingly little).

He never kills anybody himself, and that's crucial. He never loses our sympathy

Nope, firmly on team Seymour-is-terrible here: "you're a monster and so am I".

Seymour's a complicit bystander in Orin's accidental death-by-nitrous-oxide; but he's an active participant in murdering Mushnik by backing him into Audrey-II. (And notice how cleverly the script gives Mushnik, who's basically a decent man who took Seymour in off the street, the heel-turn of "you run and I keep the plant" so that we feel less awful about him getting chomped!)

Seymour's a terrible man who makes conscious decisions to do terrible things to further his own objectives. He doesn't deserve a happy ending.

Although all that said I find the extended ending just too long and too bleak; they clearly spent a lot of money and had a lot of fun filming the rampage scenes but they feel like they go on forever. The theatrical ending is snappier and the stinger at the end -- the little Audrey-II in the flower bed -- is just enough to suggest that Seymour will yet get what he deserves.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 10:37 AM on May 3, 2020

Steve Martin isn't exactly compelling in his role

posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 10:40 AM on May 3, 2020

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