Director: Frank Oz
Starring: Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene, Vincent Gardenia, Steve Martin, Levi Stubbs and Bill Murray
Taking the B-movie classic The Little Shop of Horrors from Roger Corman and turning it into a stage show was a stroke of genius. The next obvious step was to turn that into a film, which after a stop-start production was finally released in 1986. At one point the film was going to be produced by Spielberg with Scorsese directing. After disputes and delays, Frank Oz ended up directing Little Shop of Horrors, which is now considered a classic musical.
The premise is very similar to the original film, with a flower shop that isn’t doing to well. Seymour, this time played by Rick Moranis (Ghostbusters), has found a unique and original plant that attracts new customers. Seymour has to nurture the plant and there’s only one thing it can feed on: human flesh and blood. The biggest difference is the ending, but at one point the ending was going to a lot darker.
The original ending, which was filmed, involved Audrey (Ellen Greene, Pushing Daisies) being attacked and then eaten by Audrey II (the plant). Seymour goes to attempt suicide and then ends up trying to kill the plant, only to be eaten himself and for Audrey II to spend the final sequence attacking the American army from the Statue of Liberty. When shown to test audiences, they reacted very coldly to the ending, and this was re-written and shot to give the happier ending we have now. It’s a good example of test screenings changing films for the better.
The most important thing about of any musicals is the songs. The first few songs in Little Shop of Horrors from the opening title song up to ‘Dentist’are all great. They’re catchy and fun. The second song, ‘Skid Row’ is reminiscent of something from West Side Story and is one of the best moments in the film. It feels epic in scale. Sadly, the songs do run out of steam and the later half doesn’t match the first half.
The sets are great. Even though they are a little rough around the edges, and bring a very un-polished look to everything. The obvious fake scenery and set design makes it feel like you are watching a direct translation of the stage show. It brings you into the story and brings a charm. The whole film feels gritty and magical in a way that no other musical does.
The puppet Audrey II, is simply fantastic. It looks incredible, with how it moves so swiftly and smoothly. It’s impressive to watch, and it shows that this is directed by legendary puppeteer Frank Oz, who had previously worked on Star Wars and The Muppets. It’s honestly awe-inspiring at how well it is designed and moves around.
Everyone here is giving it their all from Moranis and Greene to the endless list of cameos, including Jim Belushi, John Candy, Christopher Guest and Bill Murray, who recreates the dentist scene that featured Jack Nicholson in the original. This time Murray is the masochist patient and Steve Martin (The Jerk) is the dentist. While the scene is funny and both are great (Martin is one of the funniest things in the film), it does pale in comparison to the original. There’s just something about the original that is unhinged and that’s missing here.
Little Shop of Horrors is a worthy adaptation of the original. It’s fun, has some catchy songs and some great comedic performances from the entire cast. It does lose a lot of steam in the second half, with all the great songs in the first half. By the end it has outstayed its welcome. The original is a better film, but this is a great musical regardless.