Little Shop of Horrors (1986)

Who knows why exactly, but I experienced a sudden urge to re-watch the 1986 adaptation of the musical version of Little Shop of Horrors, so here we are. As a mental note to self, I really need to watch the original black and white Roger Corman movie some day, just to see Jack Nicholson’s version of the dentist scene.

Revisiting movies is usually fun because when there’s been a long time since the last time you saw something, you most likely are able to re-discover many things you either never registered in the first place or you simply had forgotten as time went by. Case in point, I was pretty much consciously aware of the basic structure of the story, but had completely forgotten things like John Candy and James Belushi having small cameos in this. Belushi’s part is pretty forgettable, so much so that it’s barely worth noting, but Candy’s pretty much in form here as the wacky radio personality. It’s akin to the small role he had in Home Alone, but more comedic. Another thing that only dawned on me on this viewing was that the director is the same Frank Oz as the Frank Oz who voiced the many of the Muppets as a puppeteer before deciding to chase a film director career.It really makes sense that somebody with a background in working with the Muppets would do this movie, as Audrey II, an alien plant from outer space and the nefarious villain of the story, is one giant elaborate puppet. You need a person like Frank Oz to be in charge to achieve the type of brilliant and life like effect in the movie where you almost can’t tell that everything besides on single scene of Audrey II is entirely performed by puppets. The talking, singing, moving, it’s all practical effects, and it looks gorgeous.

Little Shop of Horrors is actually one of my favorite movie musicals. It’s loads of fun, with a great combination of catchy music, good acting and unusual dark comedy. I could watch/listen Steve Martin’s dentist song endlessly, it’s so gleefully happy and over the top song about being a sadist that it never stops being amusing. The skid row number at the beginning was beautifully sad yet fantastical and catchy, and let’s not forget the song where Audrey seduces Seymour to feed him human flesh that was wonderfully dark and moody. There’s entertainment for the whole  family!

After finishing the movie, I went and watched the original, more bleak, restored ending for the first time on YouTube and surprisingly, I actually found myself preferring the theatrical cut. Usually I tend to steer to support what the director’s original vision was rather than what the studio or test audience wanted, but this seems to be an exception to that. The army of giant Audrey II’s conquering the world sounded like a cool idea to end the movie with on paper, but seeing it for yourself, it doesn’t quite work. The last ten minutes basically consists mostly of nothing but wanton destruction as multiple giant Audrey IIs wreck tall buildings, people screaming and running away in panic. It’s excessive and a bit too much of a downer ending. Especially the way it just keeps going and going and going. Maybe a shorter version wouldn’t have been as tedious. I did love the bit where one Audrey II swallows a complete train that’s still moving but that was because it actually was a good visual gag. Otherwise it was kinda dull repetition of giant alien plants smashing buildings down for several minutes while laughing maniacally. It was like watching weird, puppetry disaster porn. After a short while it just becomes dull.

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