Movie Released: 1960 in b/w | DVD Release Date: July 1, 2008
The Little Shop of Horrors was produced in 1960 on $28,000 budget (according to my research the budget ranged between $24,000 and $30,000 — so your guess is as good as mine.) Directed by the legendary Roger Corman, this movie was produced within two days. Corman decided to use an earlier film setting that was due to be torn down in the next two days.
The movie is a horror-themed, black comedy B-movie that gained a cult following. The theme is said to be inspired by the novella Green Thoughts by John Collier and the science fiction short story The Reluctant Orchid by Arthur C. Clarke. In 1982, The Little Shop of Horrors was turned into an Off-Broadway, horror comedy rock musical and in 2003, it debuted as a Broadway production. If you don’t mind spoilers, continue reading.
The Blu-Ray edition offers a colorized version, as well as the original, restored, black-and-white movie. The Little Shop of Horrors is an outstanding flick in the B-movie category. Although produced on a low budget, this movie is convincing when it comes to dark humor, parody and punch lines.
The story is wacky, quick-paced and doesn’t waste much time. The viewer is put in the middle of a discussion taking place in Mushnick’s florist shop. Business is slow and the owner, Gravis Mushnick brilliantly played by Mel Welles, is having problems selling flowers and plants. Mushnick employs a beautiful, young woman, Audrey Fulquard, played by Jackie Joseph, and the rather clumsy Seymour Relboyne, played by Jonathan Haze.
At the beginning of the story, Mushnick is ready to fire Seymour for ruining the daffodils and fern that a dentist nearby ordered for his office. An onlooking, flower-eating customer, Burson Fouch, played by Dick Miller, tries to negotiate between Mushnick and Seymour after he hears that Seymour created a new plant. Fouch’s idea is to use Seymour’s plant as an attraction. An unusual plant would have people drop by to take a look, and therefore, more people would buy flowers.
Mushnick goes along with it and Seymour runs home to get the plant that he created by crossing a Venus fly eating plant with some seeds that he received from a Japanese businessman. Seymour is a very likable character. He is anxious, overconscientious and soft-spoken. He lives and takes care of his hypochondriac, alcoholic and demanding mother in a run-down, Victorian-style apartment. This makes him the typical fall guy that people tend to root for because every obstacle that’s thrown his way, he tries to overcome … and fails.
Seymour who is in love with the shop assistant, Audrey, names the plant after her, thus Audrey Jr. The plant Seymour created does poorly; it doesn’t flourish and by a matter of coincidence, he discovers that the plant thrives on blood. After pricking all his fingers and feeding the plant with blood, it begins to grow. He tries to keep up with feeding the plant — first with his own blood and then with the blood of the body of someone he accidentally killed. At this point, he finds out that the Audrey Jr. does not only eat blood but, in fact, is carnivorous and has no desire to stop eating and growing. When all else fails, he resorts to killing the dentist and the undertaker, Wilbur Force, played by the 23-year-old Jack Nicholson. Those viewers who may likely be accustomed to Nicholson displaying a more diabolic-cynical attitude will surely enjoy seeing him in this more humorous part. His excellently played psycho-maniac, sadomasochistic role is what became part of his acting trademark later in life.
Audrey Jr. keeps growing throughout the movie and Seymour tries to deliver bodies to keep its hunger at bay. Ultimately, people disappear and this brings two detectives to the scene — skitted in such a hard-boiled matter that it makes Raymond Chandler’s Sam Spade look like a Vienna choirboy.
After a wild chase in the dumps of some industrial complex that pokes fun at typical F.B.I. film noir movie chases and this one can compete with the best of them, Seymour returns to the florist shop.
Although, not a lengthy movie (72 minutes), Corman not only fleshes out and rounds his characters but also manages to squeeze in a lot of subplots starting with Seymour at home with his mother, Seymour at the dentist’s office, Seymour at the railroad tracks (to be continued …) and finally, Seymour romancing Audrey.
In 1986, A remake of The Little Shop of Horrors was produced on a $25 million budget. I’ve seen parts of it. Audrey, a dark-haired woman was replaced by a Dumb Blonde™ and the movie contains tons of special effects. But how does that play out regarding the budget of the original movie? I checked and calculated this with the consumer price index (CPI). Given, that may not be very accurate, but it gives a clue about the costs. In 1986, a budget of $30,000 would have been $111,082 inflation adjusted. Do the $25 million for the remake hold up? I’ll let you decide.
If you enjoy parody, horror and wackiness — check out this movie today.
The Little Shop of Horrors is available as a DVD, Blu-Ray and on Amazon Instant Video
|The Little Shop of Horrors
|Jonathan Haze, Jackie Joseph, Mel Welles,
|1 hour and 12 minutes
|July 1, 2008