Our review of Little Shop of Horrors (1986) (Blu-ray), published October 12th, 2012, is also available.
A singing plant. A daring hero. A sweet girl. A demented dentist. It's the most outrageous comedy in years!
In 1960, Roger Corman released the "quickie" low-budget flick Little Shop Of Horrors starring a then little known Jack Nicholson. In 1980 it returned as an off-Broadway musical with lyrics by Howard Ashman and music by Alan Menken. In 1986 director Frank Oz (Housesitter) brought the smash musical to the silver screen with an all-star cast. Though not the enormous hit Warner Brothers expected, Little Shop Of Horrors still has a following of fans who love their macabre humor with a dose of Fosse. Originally released in the early stages of DVD (then recalled because of a black and white alternate ending that wasn't supposed to be on the DVD's special features section), Little Shop Of Horrors has been released a second time by Warner with a small garden's worth of special features and a new dual layered transfer.
Facts of the Case
Skid Row is not the kind of place you want to live. It's where down and out schlep Seymour Krelborn (Rick Moranis, Ghostbusters) is spending his days sweeping out Musnick's Flower Shop with cranky old Mr. Mushnick (the late Vincent Gardenia) and bimbo bombshell co-worker Audrey (Ellen Greene, Talk Radio ).
All that changes when Seymour is out walking one day and spots this strange looking plant that looks like the ugliest flytrap on God's green earth. He takes it back to the shop where he feeds it, gives it sunlight…all the things to make a good flower grow.
At the same time, Seymour has a crush on Audrey. But pity poor Audrey. She is dating the creepiest loser this side of Skid Row in the form of Orin Scrivello, D.D.S. (a very funny Steve Martin). Yes, you got it right…Orin is a dentist. He enjoys causing people great pain both in and out of the chair, including giving Audrey a black eye once in a while.
Soon the plant (proclaimed "Audrey II" by Seymour) is growing and growing…and growing! But this plant doesn't eat just fertilizer. It wants something with a more passionate, juicy taste…Audrey II wants blood! And not just any blood. It must be fresh, it must be new. It must be HUMAN! Eeep! How does Seymour know this? Audrey II has started to talk…and not just talk, but Shaft-like jive talk.
And he can sing like Wilson Pickett.
He's one mean green mother (from outer space). This does not bode well for our hero.
"Hmmm," says Seymour as he starts to formulate a plan. Who deserves to become the next Audrey II plant poo-poo? Could it be…Orin? You bet your shorts it is. Seymour devises a plan to kill Orin and use his body for plant chow. Things don't go as planned, but no matter; Seymour gets his food anyways. Things start to snowball…Audrey II is being fed and Seymour is becoming a national celebrity (gardening shows just love Audrey II), and even starting to win over the heart of the woman he loves, Audrey. But Mr. Mushnick knows about Seymour's secret way of feeding Audrey II. And Audrey II is getting bigger and bigger…and meaner.
What's a nerd to do?
I loved this movie. I loved the music. I loved the performances and effects. I loved it. Loved it, loved it, loved it! Fun fun fun!
I just realized I sound like Jack from "Will and Grace."
For some reason this was not given the warmest reception when it hit theaters in 1986. I guess I can understand that. This certainly is not to everyone's taste. However, I enjoy it for three very important reasons: #1.) I love the old sci-fi horror films of the '60s (which this encompasses), #B.) I am a huge fan of the music this film emulates (the '60s produced style of Phil Spector and groups such as The Ronnettes), and #6.) It has Bill Murray, Rick Moranis, Christopher Guest (Best In Show), Steve Martin, James Belushi (Mr. Destiny) and the late John Candy. Throw in Chevy Chase and you have the perfect film. Sadly, Chevy is nowhere in sight. But hey, a near hit is just as good!
The cast does an excellent job with their roles, especially Steve Martin chewing up everything then spitting it out (dentist pun intended) as Orin Scrivello, the ultimate D.D.S. from hell. In this one supporting role Martin reminds us why he is one of the most talented comedic talents working in film. To see him interact with Bill Murray as a deranged patient in one of the funniest scenes in cinema history is a joy. Moranis is funny as nebbish Seymour Krelborn, playing his stock nerd character for the cheapest of laughs (yet pulling it off nicely). Moranis will never really be able to go beyond his stereotypical nerd roles, but what he does he does quite well. And then there's the plant, Audrey II (voiced by Levi Stubbs of the musical group the Four Tops). Even after almost 15 years Audrey II is a wonder to behold. Sure, we know that Audrey II is a puppet (àla Jabba the Hutt in Return of the Jedi), but the effects wizards behind these effects pull it off seamlessly. Watching Little Shop Of Horrors again I was constantly surprised at how accurate the filmmakers were able to sync up Audrey II with the musical numbers. Frank Oz shows nice director chops as he makes sure that the material he's working with stays true to the stage version, except for the ending (the one pulled by Warner). The original ending was thought to be a bit of a downer for film audiences, so they spruced it up a bit with what's in there now.
Menkin and Ashman (the guys behind the musical success of the Disney film The Little Mermaid) have penned some catchy songs, including "Mean Green Mother," which was written especially for the film (for Oscar consideration, I'm sure). Other standouts are Steve Martin's hysterical "Dentist" and the rock-bop tune "Skid Row." They're able to capture the essence of the film, sometimes with innocence, more often with deviousness. If you're a musical fan or a lover of the Disney musicals that seem to be released every month, Little Shop Of Horrors is up your alley. And can we just take a moment and thank the powers that be for the fact that there are next to NO dance numbers in this?
Little Shop Of Horrors is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen and looks great. This is the same transfer as the old DVD, except that now we get a dual-layered version. The picture is sharp and clear with slight grain running throughout, though nothing too major. There was some edge enhancement that I spotted, which is too bad as the rest of this film looks remarkably good. Colors were vibrant with no bleeding, blacks solid and thick. Overall Warner has done nice work on making this film look as good as possible.
Audio is the exact same 5.1 track that was used in the original DVD. Dialogue was smooth and clear with effects mixed in well. The music score and songs are balanced nicely and overall there was no straining to hear any one particular moment in the film. Also included on this disc are a French 2.0 surround track and a Spanish mono track, with all including subtitles.
Little Shop Of Horrors comes complete with some nice extras…and right off the bat (in case you're wondering) the B&W alternate ending on the original disc is not here. If you want that little beauty you're going to have to pay upwards of around $100 or more on eBay for that. What we do get is a nice commentary track by director Frank Oz. The track is filled with lots of information on the making of the film with anecdotes about the cast. Oz can sometimes be a bit monotonous (I still think all commentary tracks should have at least two people in it), but it's a great extra have for a fun flick.
Next is a 23 minute documentary/promo featurette "The Making of Little Shop Of Horrors" featuring interviews with Frank Oz, Rick Moranis, producer David Geffen and original creator Roger Corman (who basically made a bet to a friend in 1960 that he could make the original Little Shop Of Horrors in two days). Although this is a lot of promotional stuff, there are some great peeks behind the scenes at how the sets were built, the cast came to be, and how Audrey II became the lovable man-eating plant she is today. As a bonus, many scenes from the original Corman film are included. This isn't going to be something you'll watch weekly, but it's nice to have as a reference point for fans.
The "outtakes and deleted scenes" reel is a funny look at some of the blunders and jokes that went on during the filming. Oddly enough, Oz (the director, not the great and all powerful) is on hand to narrate us though different in jokes and flubs that went on. Funny in that Grumpy Old Men end credits sort of way. Two TV spots are also included which are in the vein of the old 1960s previews…goofy and fun. The two theatrical trailers are also like this as well. Typical fun trailers to watch (especially because they are from the middle 1980s). Also included are some production notes of behind-the-scenes stuff, blah blah blah…
Finally there's an alternate music only track which showcases the musical numbers and , even more importantly, the music score by the late Miles Goodman (who also scored Steve Martin's Dirty Rotten Scoundrels). It's always nice to see this feature on discs, as it often offers up music that was never on the soundtrack album (i.e. Goodman's scored). The songs by Menkin and Ashman are also played here. Great as background music while you're working on schoolwork, job stuff, or, if you're nuts, a plutonium bomb.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
A great disc, though I think that Warner really dropped the ball by not letting us see the alternate ending. I mean, we get an outtakes reel, everyone knows how the original ending is, so why not put it on the disc? Even if it is in black and white as a rough cut, it would still be a lot of fun to see. Baffling. Other than that this is a pretty nice disc, with lots to watch and listen to.
Oh yeah, and it comes in one of those sucky Warner snapcases.
For the price of around 20 dollars, this is an excellent buy for all you horror/musical fans out there (bet you never thought you'd ever see those two categories grouped together!). Steve Martin almost steals the show and the music is catchy and fun. Watch it with the one you love.
Free to go, but please…don't feed the plants. Court dismissed!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• Commentary Track by Director Frank Oz
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