203. Little Shop of Horrors

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Movie: Little Shop of Horrors

Release Date: December 19, 1986

Director: Frank Oz

Starring: Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene, Vincent Gardenia, Steve Martin, James Belushi, John Candy, Christopher Guest, Bill Murray.

Tag Lines: “Don’t feed the plants.”

“A Singing Plant. A Daring Hero. A Sweet Girl. A Demented Dentist.”

Relevance: Walking in to the theater in 1986 to see ‘Little Shop of Horrors,’ I really wasn’t sure what to expect. I went with two friends I had known since grade school. All we really knew about the movie is that it starred Rick Moranis, a plant and Steve Martin singing about being a “dentist.” At that time, MTV was playing “Dentist!” from the movie as one of their videos to promote the movie. It worked. We were there. But little did I know that what I was about to see would open my eyes even wider to musicals and musical theater.

Being my mother’s son, I of course knew about musicals and was surrounded by them a big chunk of time during my childhood. She was a huge fan and had many Original Broadway recordings on vinyl and played them while she baked and cleaned. I liked them, and paid some attention to them. I was more a fan of her pop and disco music that she also played. (You can check out 241. Saturday Night Fever for a little more on that topic.) But I listened, hummed along and tapped my foot to a few of them. She loved those happy, upbeat love songs especially if they were being sung by Julie Andrews. Her favorite musical was ‘The Sound of Music.’ That was probably the first movie musical I ever saw and enjoyed it quite a bit. It is a movie that I will most definitely be watching later this year as part of this project. But with only that basic knowledge of musicals, one can see why ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ broadened my mind and made me realize that musicals are much more than upbeat, happy love songs.

Horror. Murder. Special effects. Comedy. And singing. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ seemed to take all of my favorite elements of film, add some popular comedic actors and have them sing. It was brilliant. There were even upbeat, happy love songs, and I didn’t mind one bit. I really don’t remember what my friends thought of the movie, but I left the theater humming the songs and wanting more, more, more.

Once ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ was released as a rental I of course revisited it. By that time, I had researched the original source material by going to the library (Remember when you had to go to a library to do research?) and reading its script as well as listening to the Off-Broadway recording. I fell in love with the stage version even more than the film version. It had a much better ending. Yes, darker. But better. That didn’t stop me from loving the film and watching it over and over again when it finally hit rotation on HBO. By that time, I was singing and dancing right along with all of the characters, probably to the dismay of my family.

In 2012, Warner Brothers released ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ on a special DVD and Blu-Ray with a reconstructed and restored ending. Apparently, the movie was originally scripted very similar to that of the stage version, but test audiences hated it so much, they re-shot the ending to make it “happier.” Test audiences really annoy me. I would have loved to have seen he film the way it was originally intended, but grateful I was able to see it years later in a somewhat final form.

Despite the “happier” ending, I still adore ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ and always will. I have watched it numerous times over the years and I am still greatly entertained. I have seen many different stage versions and productions and it never, ever gets old.

Today’s Thoughts: “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…”

I never tire of this movie. It was so much fun to revisit (and sing along with) today. Directed beautifully by Frank Oz, it is campy, catchy, charming and absolutely delicious. Pun intended. It is beautifully acted as well with stand-out performances by Rick Moranis and Ellen Greene. They were born to play these roles and shine brightly in them. I could watch “Somewhere That’s Green” and Suddenly, Seymour” on a constant loop. The cameos are just as brilliant. John Candy, Christopher Guest and Jim Belushi are all great, but Steve Martin and Bill Murray are sheer perfection. Not only is “Dentist!” a ridiculously clever song, the scene that those two share is one of the best comedic scenes ever put on film. A must watch for sure.

‘Little Shop of Horrors’ was well received by critics when it was released but it was not a huge box office hit. However, it has achieved cult classic status since then, one that it most definitely deserved. I highly recommend the movie as well as the “alternate original ending” so you can judge for yourself which one would have been better. But no matter what your thoughts on the ending, there is no way you won’t be at least tapping your feet to the catchy songs, smiling by the witty performances and quoting “Feed me, Seymour” along with Audrey II.

Awards: Academy Award for Best Effects, Visual Effects, Lyle Conway, Bran Ferren, Martin Gutteridge (nomination), Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song, “Mean Green Mother From Outer Space,” Alan Menken, Howard Ashman (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Original Score – Motion Picture, Miles Goodman (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Special Effects, Lyle Conway, Bran Ferren, Martin Gutteridge, Richard Conway (nomination), Writers Guild of America Award for Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium, Howard Ashman (nomination).

Ways to Watch: YouTube, Vudu, iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Prime, Hulu, DVD Availability.

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