Case Number 16487: Small Claims Court

RIFFTRAX: THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS

Legend Films // 1960 // 72 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Christopher Kulik (Retired) // May 29th, 2009

The Charge

"Shouldn't there be more bombs and hookers in Skid Row? This is more like Sunday morning in Mayberry!"

The Case

I would be hard pressed to meet anyone who's never seen or heard of the original The Little Shop Of Horrors. I'm sure many of you have seen the 1980 musical revival on stage at some point or even the 1986 film of the same name starring Rick Moranis. I've seen both film versions and it would be a tough call to pick which one is superior. The original 1960 version directed by Roger Corman and written by Charles B. Griffith may have been filmed in only two days. It also may boast a spent budget for a cheap set, some flowers, and a bunch of minimum-wage actors. It looks like a B&W cheapie on the surface, but it in fact it's a hilarious black comedy, and it doesn't matter if the laughs were intentional or not.

We should all know the story. A Skid Row flower shop is about to acquire a most unusual plant, one that nebbish assistant Seymour (Jonathan Haze, The Terror) bought from a Japanese gardener. His grumpy boss Gravis Mushnick (Mel Welles, Chopping Mall) suddenly turns ecstatic when the plant boosts his business. There's just one little catch: the plant must consume human blood in order to survive. As a result, Seymour must go out every night and find someone to serve as the plant's next feast. Things get even more complicated when Seymour starts dating Audrey (Jackie Joseph, Gremlins), whom he's had a crush on for the longest time (in fact, he names the plant after her).

I've seen The Little Shop Of Horrors several times and it never fails to make me giggle with glee. It's a preposterous story told with irreverence and fun, containing a host of wacky characters which would all come off as strange in the real world. For instance, we have ultimate character actor Dick Miller (Hollywood Boulevard) as a frequent Mushnick customer who comes in to snack on the flowers. Joseph's daffy turn as Seymour's love interest is utterly delightful and John (The Two Jakes) Shaner's demented dentist Phoebus Farb is enough to make anyone with toothaches stay home. Of course, the real scene-stealer is Jack Nicholson in one of his earliest roles as a bizarre masochist who demands to be drilled sans Novocain. However, credit must also be given to Griffith, who has several roles in this film, including the voice of Audrey, Jr.

Chances are fans of the film already own this film on DVD, so there really is no reason to recommend this latest incarnation...unless you are a die-hard fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000. I must confess that I've not seen a single episode of the cult show, although I've read enough about it over the years to tell me I would no doubt love it. That being said, the whole raison d'etre of this newest release is to have MST3K veterans Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett provide a RiffTrax (a commentary that playfully mocks the movie). It's obvious these guys have love and respect for these classics, even if some of their comments border on outright hazing. However, the real question is if this DVD is worth the purchase for the RiffTrax.

Sadly, if you already own the movie, I have to recommend giving this DVD a miss. The reasoning behind this RiffTrax runs too hot-and-cold. Don't get me wrong; there are surely some laugh-out-loud moments within these guys' banter. One example:

Gravis Musnick: Look, it grows like a cold sore on the lip.
Mike Nelson: We really need to know everything about his sex life?

Some are just plain stupid, however, like when Corbett says "You can't handle the tooth!" during the Nicholson sequence. In the end, the big laughs are too few and far between, especially when the guys are not interactive enough (even if that isn't the point). Plus, it's difficult to make a memorable mockery of something that is already so damn funny in the first place. I was certainly amused, but not enough to make me listen to RiffTrax a second time. True MSTies might get more out of the track than I did, and they no doubt will tell me it's not quite at the same level of any of the episodes.

At least the print of the movie is decent. There are the usual anomalies associated with age, but overall this 50-year-old print is quite clean, with the blacks and whites nicely saturated. Audio is also fine in the DD 2.0 track. However, there are no subtitles and no extras making this a pretty steep buy at $10. Hell, you might be better off going to RiffTrax.com and paying only a couple of bucks to download it. That is, if you already own the movie.

The Verdict

Not guilty.

Review content copyright © 2009 Christopher Kulik; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 78

Perp Profile
Studio: Legend Films
Video Formats:
* Full Frame

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)

Subtitles:
* None

Running Time: 72 Minutes
Release Year: 1960
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* None

Accomplices
* IMDb
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0054033/combined