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Little Shop Of Horrors (1986)

by Bart Skinhead

Little Shop Of Horrors is a film, based on an off-Broadway musical, which was based on a 1960 film by Roger Corman.

During a total eclipse, an alien plant comes down in a quick flash of green lightning.  Seymour Krelborn, who works at a florist shop and loves strange and interesting plants, buys the plant from an Asian shopkeep whose lot the plant landed in.

However, he soon discovers that the plant loves to eat blood and humans.  He keeps this secret while the plant with its unusuality makes the florist shop and later also Seymour a very big success.  Seymour also gets the woman of his dreams, Audrey, whom he also named the plant after - Audrey II. 

But before the plant might take over the world through its offspring being sold to households all over, its plan being to have Audrey II's eating humans everywhere, Seymour confronts the plant in a "Only one of us gets out of here alive!" moment.  The plant retaliates by destroying the shop and making it collapse on Seymour. 

But using an exposed electrical cable, Seymour electricutes the alien until it explodes.  In the end Audrey (the human) and Seymour go live in a track housing house as a happily married couple.  

Little Shop of Horrors was shot on the Albert R. Broccoli 007 Stage at the Pinewood Studios in England, where a "downtown" set, complete with overhead train track, was constructed.

The Plant puppet effects make this movie version extremely memorable, if not actually make the film.  For the musical numbers a technique was used where the plant puppets were filmed at 16 frames per second.  When actors were with the plant on screen, usually Rick Moranis (Seymour), they had to lip sync in slow motion.  This would then look totally normal and cool when played back at the normal film speed of 24 frames per second.

When Audrey II was fully grown, 60 technicians were necessary to operate the one-ton puppet.

If like me this movie was your first exposure to the story of Little Shop Of Horrors, this is what is Little Shop Of Horrors to you as this is what you got to know and love.  However, originally this movie was filmed to end much less charming, to conform with the stage musical's plot.  Not sure if it would have been one of my favorite movies if it had this ending though WITHOUT the current one also existing:   

Audrey is attacked by Audrey II and dies in Seymour's arms, begging him to feed her to the plant so that Seymour will get all the fame he deserves. Seymour does so, and in the process coincidentally fulfills Audrey's great wish, that she be "somewhere that's green".

After Seymour feeds Audrey to the plant, he attempts to commit suicide by jumping off Audrey's apartment complex. Before he can, Patrick Martin (played originally by Paul Dooley) climbs to the roof to persuade Seymour to let him cut samples of the plant so that they can grow into little Audrey IIs and be sold across America.

Seymour quickly slides down the ladder and crosses the street to Mushnik's while Martin reminds him that plants are in the public domain and can be sold without his permission. After confronting the plant as it sings "Mean Green Mother from Outer Space", the plant tears down the shop, plucks Seymour out of the rubble and eats him. It then spits out his glasses, and laughs evilly as the scene fades to black.

The three chorus girls appear in front of a sparkling American flag (a pastiche of the opening scene of Patton) and narrate how Audrey II becomes a consumer craze like Pet Rocks. People are shown fighting over miniature potted Audrey IIs in an A&P. But soon, Audrey II (along with its army of duplicates) takes over Cleveland, Des Moines, Peoria, and New York City, as the song "Don't Feed the Plants" warns the audience not to give in to evil temptations.

In the dramatic finale, Audrey II takes over New York City, attacks the Brooklyn Bridge, fights the U.S. Army, climbs the Statue of Liberty and, in homage to the 1933 classic monster movie King Kong, scales the Empire State Building. There are also various nods to the 1953 film The War of the Worlds.

Audrey II on top of the Statue of Liberty

Finally, in the last shot after the title "THE END?!?" has appeared, the plant crashes through the screen of the film and laughs as the camera (the audience) comes closer and closer to its gaping maw.

Test audiences reacted negatively to this too disturbing ending, so it was rewritten and reshot to have Audrey II die in the end, and Seymour and Audrey survive and get married.  The entire final rampage scene was cut from the film, even though it cost $5 million to create.   Two actors weren't available for the reshoot, and so the guy from "World Botanical Enterprizes" was in the final version played by Jim Belushi, while one of the chorus girls Tisha Campbell was replaced with a standin who was only shown from the waste down to her feet in the final shot before we see a new little Audrey II bulb in their flowerbed. 

Levi Stubbles, also known as Levi Stubbs provided the perfect voice for Audrey II.  Stubbs was best known as the lead singer for Motown R&B group Four Tops.  He died in 2008.  

Having a plot unique from the stage play version, and songs written only for the film while other songs from the play do not appear in this version, this version of Little Shop Of Horrors truly is a unique version of this story.  In my opinion the best :)


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