Real talk: this is one of my all-time favorite movie musicals. I find very few flaws within it (mind you, the version that I own is the director’s cut, as I do have trouble with the original theatrical ending. But, I’ll get into that in a little bit).
So, for those of you who don’t know, Little Shop of Horrors is a movie musical that is an adaptation of the original Off-Broadway musical which was inspired by the original 1960 film by the same name. It stars the forever delightful Rick Moranis as the main character of Seymour Krelborn. Seymour is a down on his luck guy, who works in a flower shop that is on the verge of going out of business. I guess there’s not a lot of people in Skid Row who find the need for fresh flowers. Anyway, Audrey, who is played by Ellen Greene, suggests to their boss that they display this new plant that Seymour had come across. You see, strange plants are his hobby,
This plant immediately attracts attention, in almost an unearthly way.
I mean, this guy is clearly not from here.
But, at the end of the day, the plant needs taken care of. Seymour has been trying to figure out how to feed the plant and to help it grow, but he just can’t seem to figure it out. It’s not until he cuts his finger, exposing some blood, that he realizes that is what the plant wants. The plant wants fresh blood. After it grows, he discovers the plant can speak, and the plant tells him, if Seymour continues to feed him, the plant, Audrey II, will make sure Seymour receives everything he has ever wanted. And this is where it really all begins.
One of my favorite things about this film is that it still has the look and feel of the original 1960s film, but with the fun musical flare of the 1980s. It truly is unique. The music and lyrics are written by none other than the Disney composers themselves, Alan Menken and Howard Ashman. Truly, every song has a genius moment in it, whether that moment be lyrically or musically. It’s really hard for me to pick out just a few lyrics as examples because there are so many great ones, but I’ll try.
- “Show me how and I will, I’ll get outta here. I’ll start climbin’ up hill and get outta here. Someone tell me I still could get outta here. Someone tell lady luck that I’m stuck here!” – “Skid Row”
- The juxtaposition between the song “Some Fun Now” and what we are seeing as the lyrics “Some fun now. Hot damn. What’s he having? Some fun now” is genius.
- “You’ll be a dentist. You have a talent for causing things pain. Son, be a dentist. People will pay you to be inhumane.” – “Dentist!”
- “If you wanna be profound and you really gotta justify, take a breath and look around. A lot of folks deserve to die.” – “Feed Me (Git It)”
- “If you want a rationale, it isn’t very hard to see. Stop and think it over, pal. The guy sure looks like plant food to me.” – “Feed Me (Git It)”
- “They say the meek gonna get it. “And you’re a meek little guy.” You know the meek are gonna get what’s comin’ to ’em” – “The Meek Shall Inherit”
Musically, every song is so crazy catchy. My favorite moment, I’d have to say, is the piano during the opening of the song “Suppertime”. That piano helps to build the tension in such a great way.
Also, using the three women as modern Greek Muses throughout the film is brilliant.
Let’s talk about this cast for a minute, please. This cast is filled with all-stars. Honestly, it is. First and foremost, you have Rick Moranis, and this was his hey-day. He seemed to be all over the place. And his singing. I remember the first time I saw this film. I remember trying to figure out if I actually liked his singing voice or not. And then came the song “Feed Me (Git It)”, and he sang the line “I don’t know” in such a way that any doubt I had disappeared immediately. You know the part (and if you don’t want to listen to the whole thing, the part I’m referring to is at the 2:00 minute mark. Although, I do highly recommend watching the whole video):
Ellen Greene reprised her role as Audrey in the film version and, honestly, I can’t picture anybody else playing this role. She played this character with such sensitivity. Sure, she had self-image issues. She seemed a little out of sorts. But, ultimately she was self-less and only wanted the best for those around her. Steve Martin crushes it as Orin Scrivello, D.D.S., Audrey’s abusive dentist boyfriend who’s only reason for even being a dentist is that he likes to inflict pain on people. He plays it with just the right amount of crazy so it isn’t overwhelming. The cameos strung throughout this film are some of my favorite. In particular, John Candy and Bill Murray. John Candy plays a radio host; or rather he plays ALL of the radio hosts. His part is quick, but he’s a joy to watch. And Mr. Bill Murray plays Arthur Denton, the masochist who stops in for a dentist visit. His performance is very much on par with Jack Nicholson’s, who originally played the character in 1960. Although, Murray’s performance comes off as more comedic, while Nicholson’s definitely bordered on the edge of creepy.
This film was directed by Frank Oz. Now, you may recognize his name from a number of different things, such as Star Wars or literally anything having to do with The Muppets before 2011. It’s not surprising that he directed this film, when you look at all the puppetry that went into it for the plant, Audrey II. First and foremost, I would like to commend them for using a puppet and not just creating it via a computer with cheesy 1980s graphics. Thanks very much. The most fascinating thing about the puppet, besides how unbelievably beautiful and detailed it is, is that, in order to make the puppet’s talking seem normal and fluent, they had to film it at a slower speed. I believe they filmed the puppet sequences at either 12 or 16 frames per second. They would then speed up the footage to what we see now.
The most incredibly part is that, when any actor would have to interact with the puppet directly, they would have to mime and lip-sync in slow motion, so when it was sped up, it would look normal. Rick Moranis was the guy who had the most interaction with the puppet. Guy was a trooper.
The last thing I want to talk about is the original theatrical ending vs. the director’s cut and how one is as equally as sad as the other. So, initially, the director’s cut of the film did not test well with audiences. I mean, it may have had something to do with the main characters all dying, I don’t know. Regardless, it was the original ending to the musical. So, understandably they wanted to have that one end the film. That is, everybody wanted that save for David Geffen, the film’s producer. So, upon the discovery that test audiences disliked the ending of the film, part of it was rewritten. Let me break this down:
The director’s cut ending is as follows:
The plant lures Audrey to the shop, in order to eat her. Seymour arrives just in time to pull her out of the plants mouth. He then takes her outback to the alley to see if she’s okay. She proceeds to die in his arms, but not before telling him that, once she dies, she would like to be fed to the plant. You see, Audrey II had revealed to Audrey that several people she knew were already inside the plant and that’s how Seymour had gotten everything he ever wanted. Audrey wanted Seymour to continue to get the things she felt he deserved. And, in her mind, if she was in the plant and the plant was always with Seymour, then she would always be with Seymour. So, he feeds her to the plant. He then climbs to the top of some buildings with the intention of jumping. He’s about to do it when a gentleman meets him up on the roof, informing him that they’ve come up with a way to breed and sell little Audrey II’s all over the country. That is when Seymour realizes that Audrey II must be stopped. Unfortunately, Audrey II does win this fight and Seymour is eaten. The plants are then sold all over the country, ultimately growing to very large sizes and literally destroying America.
Now, the theatrical ending:
The same thing happens. Audrey is lured over by the plant and almost eaten. Seymour shows up in time to save her. She lives. Seymour is still addressed by the salesman who wants to package and sell little Audrey II’s, and he reacts in the same way: Audrey II must be stopped. He learns, as he does in the director’s cut, that Audrey II is actually an alien from outer space and this was the plan all along. However, this time, instead of Seymour dying, he manages to electrocute Audrey II, ultimately killing it. Seymour meets up with Audrey and they leave. They get married and end up in the house that was seen during “Somewhere That’s Green”. As they walk inside, the camera pans down to the ground and the plants that are planted there. Within those plants, we see a small Audrey II, who smiles.
Now, which ending do you prefer? I absolutely prefer the first. However, both are equally as sad. It’s obvious why the first one is sad, so let me discuss the second one. The second ending is sad because it alludes to the same fate for our characters. They didn’t escape the plant. They never can.
I just briefly want to touch on one of the themes of the film: Greed. It’s present throughout the entire film. It shows in the character of the store owner Mr. Musnik. It shows in Audrey II. And it shows in our main character, Seymour Krelborn. Sure, he has the best intentions, but ultimately, it’s greed that drives him to do the things he does. Greed and the want for, in his mind, what is the perfect life. Greed remains present the most in the director’s cut ending. The entire country is greedy. First, everybody wants an Audrey II. Then it cuts to the news report of one of the plants, now rather large, destroying Cleveland (it had to be Cleveland? Come on, guys, cut us some slack.) And, eventually these plants destroy and take over everything. We know how the plants grow larger: blood. Fresh blood. So think about this: how many people killed because they were greedy? It’s scary to think about.
Alright. Well, with that, I leave you. And I leave you with one final reminder:
Whatever they offer you, though they’re slopping the trough for you, please whatever they offer you, don’t feed the plants!