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THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS

THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS1960
Unrated

The Little Shop of Horrors is a 1960 sci-fi film directed by Roger Corman that led to a 1986 remake of the same name. Gravis Mushnick (Mel Welles) owns a rundown florist shop that's just barely scraping by on Skid Row. He employs two workers: the nervous and dorky Seymour Krelboin (Jonathan Haze) and the ditsy but beautiful Audrey Fulquard (Jackie Joseph) with whom Seymour is infatuated. When Seymour ruins a customer's order, Mushnick threatens to fire him. In response, Seymour mentions that he has been nurturing a special plant the likes of which no one has ever seen. Mushnick gives him one week to bring the plant, which he aptly names "Audrey Junior," back to health in the hopes that the eccentric piece of flora can generate some revenue for the store. Seymour exhausts all the normal options for maintaining the plant's health, but one night, it begins to speak (with voice work from Charles B. Griffith), calling out "Feed me" just after Seyour pricks his finger on another plant. On a whim, he attempts to feed the plant drops of his blood, and it is immediately satisfied. The next morning, Audrey Junior has quadrupled in size, forcing Seymour to find other sources of blood and flesh to keep the plant healthy for his employer. As his life descends into a nightly string of murder, Seymour begins to question whether the new-found glory he has received as a brilliant botanist is worth the moral price of what he has to do in order to keep his prize alive.

For those of you who've been reading me long enough, you'll know that I immediately fell in love with the 1986 musical version of Little Shop of Horrors (the link to that review is given in the above paragraph). Because of that, I was rather interested to see the source material which was this 1960 film. Roger Corman, ever the king of B-movies, strikes gold here, providing more of a sci-fi comedy than anything truly horrifying as was the original intention of the film. Perhaps this was scary back in the day, but in a year where Psycho dominated the horror scene, I don't think that anyone truly could have been scared by this film's goofy premise.

"Goofy" is definitely the best word to describe The Little Shop of Horrors. Let's start with the screenplay. While the actual story is a little simplistic, it definitely does enough to captivate your interest. I mean, to be fair, if you're watching a movie about a human-eating plant, you're probably not looking for something terribly brilliant (although, with the musical, that's almost what you'd be getting). And this movie's by no means brilliant, but it's definitely fun. The dialogue is a little bit dorky, and there are a few lines where you'll be scratching your head wondering if you heard the character correctly. But while you're scratching your head, you're bound to have a gigantic smile on your face. That's exactly what this story and the dialogue do: bring a smile to your face, be it out of comedy or absurdity or just plain goofiness.

The actors help to bring that type of feel to the movie, playing each character to a tee (at least, I'm assuming, considering it seems like the characters were written a little bit awkwardly). Haze, Joseph and Welles are good as our three leads, and you can definitely see where Rick Moranis and Ellen Greene got the ideas for their characters in the 1986 version - they're nearly spot on from the original actors. Like the musical, we also have a number of smaller roles that are rather stellar. Dick Miller plays a random man who happens upon the flower shop in search of flowers he can eat. John Herman Shaner plays a local dentist with a knack for instilling pain on his patients (a role that Steve Martin played perfectly in the remake). But like the remake, the best performance has to go to the pain-loving dental patient, this time played by a young Jack Nicholson (he was played by Bill Murray in the musical). I'm not sure who I liked better in that particular role because I loved Murray's portrayal. However, Nicholson's manic energy is just too much to ignore, and he easily brings the best scene to the screen in this film. And it is a little bit shocking to see him as such a young man - I think he was twenty-three when this film was released. It's a short scene, so I've elected to insert it here:

Despite the fact that I put that clip in this review, you really should give this film a watch, especially if you're a fan of the musical. It's not quite as good as the 1986 version, but it serves it's purpose very well. The ending is a little bit different - and a little darker, at that - and I'm still debating whether I like it or not; however, it doesn't take away from the fact that this film is totally worth your time.

Movie Review Summary:Grade: B2 Thumbs Up