Here’s the first of several movies reviews that I’ll
be writing this summer. This week, it’s about the
1986 version of Little Shop Of Horrors.

History of the Story

It should be noted that The Little Shop Of
Horrors
was first
made in 1960, and directed by none other than Roger
Corman
. (I’ll
get around to reviewing that version later.) Then it
became an
off-off Broadway play, which was the basis for the
movie I’m about to
review.

Cast

Rick
Moranis
as Seymour Krelborn.
Ellen
Greene
as Audrey.
Vincent
Gardenia
as Mr. Mushnik.
Steve
Martin
as Orin Scrivello, D.D.S.
Levi
Stubbs
as Audrey II.
Tichina
Arnold
as Crystal.
Michelle
Weeks
as Ronette.
Tisha
Campbell
as Chiffon.

Cameos and Smaller Roles

Bill
Murray
as Arthur Denton.
John
Candy
as Wink Wilkinson.
James
Belushi
as Patrick Martin.
Christopher
Guest
as the First Customer.

Crew

Written by Howard
Ashman
, based on his script for the off-off
Broadway play, which was in turn based on the script
to the original movie, written by Charles
B. Griffith
.
Directed by Frank
Oz
.
Numerous others who should be mentioned. They are
listed on the IMDB page here.

Synopsis

As the introduction states, “On the twenty-third
day of the month
of September, in an early year of a decade not too
long before our
own, the human race suddenly encountered a deadly
threat to its very
existence. And this terrifying enemy surfaced, as
such enemies often
do, in the seemingly most innocent and unlikely of
places…”

This enemy, in fact, is a carnivorous plant from
outer space. It
arrived on our world during a completely unexpected
total eclipse of
the Sun. (I’ll try not to penalize them for having
the special
effects guys make it an annular eclipse.) Seymour
Krelborn found this
plant, and placed it in the window of Mushnik’s
flower shop.
Mushnik’s flower shop was struggling financially, and
Seymour’s plant
proved interesting enough to keep customers coming in
the door.

It was around this time that Seymour discovered
the plant was a
carnivore, and required blood to live. Seymour began
by feeding it
his blood from pricks of his fingers, but that soon
wasn’t enough.

Seymour had named the plant the Audrey II, after
Mushnik’s other
employee, who Seymour happened to be in love with.
Unfortunately, she
was dating Orin Scrivello, D.D.S., a semi-sadist who
mistreated Audrey
physically and emotionally. The plant soon convinced
Seymour to use
Orin as plant food.

Seymour went to kill Orin at his work, but Orin
overdosed on
laughing gas before Seymour could work up the nerve
to shoot him.
Seymour brought the corpse to Mushnik’s, where he
chopped it up and
fed it to the Audrey II.

The next day, the police questioned Audrey,
suspecting foul play in
Orin’s disappearance. Seymour didn’t tell her what
happened, but they
did talk about Orin long enough to realize that
Audrey wanted out of
that relationship. Audrey and Seymour finally
realized that their
love was mutual.

Unfortunately for Seymour, Mr. Mushnik had seen
him chop up Orin,
and had found blood on the floor. Mushnik was
willing to let Seymour
leave town, in exchange for learning how to care for
the profitable
plant, but the Audrey II ate him first.

Seymour was ready to leave, and was planning to
escape with Audrey
the next day, using money he’d be paid for his public
appearances with
the plant. Then he was approached by a
representative of the World
Botanical Enterprises, who wanted to take cuttings of
the Audrey II
and sell them worldwide, and Seymour realized the
plant needed to be
stopped. After a final confrontation that destroyed
Mushnik’s flower
shop and the Audrey II, Seymour and Audrey escaped to
live happily
ever after.

High Point

There are a couple of moments that can be chosen
as high points.
Bill Murray’s guest role is possibly the funniest
part he’s ever
played. On the other hand, I can never stop laughing
at the back-up
singers during the final scene.

Did I mention this is a musical?

Low Point

I’d have to say that Orin Scrivello’s corpse was not
at all
convincing. I used to think that was intentional,
but Frank Oz has
the same complaint in the DVD commentary track.

Facts You Probably Didn’t Know

No, I’m not going to talk about the alternate
ending. That’s not a
well kept secret. What I am going to talk about are
some of the
little facts about the way some of these effects were
done. I had no
idea that the latex rubber used for the plant
couldn’t move as fast as
was required, so Rick Moranis and Ellen Greene were
forced to walk,
talk, sing, and dance in slow motion so the film
could be sped up
later. (Any scene in which the large plants move
their mouths were
filmed at 16 frames per second, rather than the usual
24.) To make
things even harder, they had to lip sync to the
vocals they’d recorded
three months earlier. I have far more respect for
Rick Moranis now
than I did before I listened to the commentary.

I have more respect for Ellen Greene, too. I didn’t
realize that she
was singing poorly on purpose; she won Tony awards on
Broadway. One
of her roles was playing Audrey in the stage
production, which is why
she played the part.

One final note to DVD owners: there are two versions
of the DVD. The
first version contained the full footage of the
original ending, but
was recalled because that footage was not legally
included on the
disk. The second version contains the storyboards to
that ending, but
not the footage itself. If you have the original
version, it’s a
collectors item.

The Review

The 1960 version of this movie, and the off-off
Broadway play were
original. However, this movie was
incredibly similar to the
play, so I’m afraid I can’t rate it very highly for
originality. I do
have to give it credit for some originality, though.
It was, after
all, a musical science fiction comedy. I give it 3
out of 6.

The effects in this version far surpass
those of the other
incarnations, on the other hand. The only two
effects that didn’t
seem real to me were the scene in which the plant
grew, and the
explosion at the end. It turns out that the plant
growth is a
physical effect. (A single plant was moved toward
the camera on a
track.) The explosion still bothers me, though. I
give the effects 4
out of 6.

The story and writing were very well done.
There are some
wonderful lines, and some highly entertaining songs.
I give the story
and writing 5 out of 6.

The acting was well done, and even better in
retrospect, now
that I know how much was done in slow motion. This
is an incredibly
talented group of people, who worked extremely hard
to make this look
like a cheap, low-budget play. They had to play over
the top, but
still make it seem like the events were real to the
characters
involved. Part of the acting job is to maintain the
comedic pacing
and delivery, which was done flawlessly. That’s not
easy given the
subject matter. I give the acting 5 out of 6.

In terms of emotional response, this movie
did well. I was
feeling Seymour’s fury as he watched Orin mistreat
Audrey, and I truly
wanted him to emerge victorious after his fight with
the plant. (This
is a better ending than the original.) I give it 4
out of 6.

The production value was very high, even
though they were trying to make it look cheap. There
was great transitions from one scene to another, the
photography was beautifully chosen to hide the wires
and puppeteers, and the pace was maintained as high
as it needs to be in a comedy. I give it 4 out of 6.

Overall, this is a very entertaining movie,
provided you
don’t want to think too hard. I give it 5 out of 6.

In total, this gets 28 out of 42.