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Little Shop of Horrors

From Academic Kids

The Little Shop of Horrors is a 1960 dark comedy/horror film produced by Roger Corman, later adapted as a stage musical and then a 1986 musical film and a 1991 animated television series Little Shop.

The plot, a comic variation of the story of Faust, is similar in all three versions: a geeky young man discovers a mysterious plant, not unlike a venus fly trap. Eventually, it is revealed that the plant's interests are in serious conflict with the interests of the humans around it.

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Contents

1960 Film

"Little Shop of Horrors" is one of the most famous B-movie cult classics in film history.

The film gained notoriety as the fastest film ever shot. According to legend, the manager of Producer's Studio had informed him that a film was about to wrap that included a large office set. Corman's brother Gene bet him that he couldn't make a film with the set. Corman arranged for the set to be left standing and had it redressed as a flower shop.

However, new information has revealed the true reason that Corman shot the film so fast: money. On January 1, 1960, new industry rules were to go into effect preventing producers from "buying out" an actor's performance in perpetuity. After that date, all actors were be to paid residuals for all future releases of their work. This meant that Corman's B-movie business model would be permanently changed and he would not be able to produce low-budget movies in the same way. Before these rules went into effect, Corman decided to shoot one last film and scheduled it to happen the last week in December of 1959.

Corman and writer Charles B. Griffith purportedly wrote the script over the course of a single evening, writing in all-night Hollywood coffee shops. The film was cast with stock actors that Corman had used in previous films. They rehearsed for three days before filming began.

Principal photography of "Little Shop of Horrors" was shot in two days and one night by Corman, with other material shot over two successive weekends. He used three cameras at once and shot every scene with only one take. As a result, some scenes run continuously for two or three minutes. The total budget for the production was $27,000 (some reports say $34,000).

"Little Shop" is also noteworthy for featuring a young Jack Nicholson in a small role as Wilbur Force, the dentist's masochistic patient.

Plot summary

Little Shop of Horrors tells the story of a nerdy young florist's assistant named Seymour Krelboyne, an employee of Gravis Mushnik's Skid Row Florist Shop in Los Angeles. The incompetent Seymour is about to be fired by Mr. Mushnik, when Audrey, another employee, urges him to bring out a mysterious new strain of plant that he's been tinkering with. Seymour, who has a secret crush on Audrey, names the mysterious plant after her. Mushnik gives Seymour one week to see if the "Audrey Jr" plant improves his lackluster business.

Audrey Jr. which looks a bit like a venus fly trap, begins to immediately attract new customers to the flower shop. But the plant is very sick and Mushnik demands that Seymour make it well so that he will continue to make money.

That night, while trying to figure out what's wrong with the plant, Seymour cuts his finger on a coffee can and begins to discover that Audrey Jr. has an odd quirk: it feeds on human blood. To keep the carnivorous plant alive, Seymour begins to feed it blood from his fingers.

By the next morning, Audrey Jr is now double its size and attracts an even bigger crowd to the shop. Mr. Mushnik is making much money from the growing business and tells Seymour to call him "Dad." Seymour is becoming a minor celebrity and Audrey begins to fall in love with him. But when the plant begins to get sick again, Seymour is at a loss as to how to feed it. The answer comes from the plant itself, who now begins to speak, begging Seymour to "Feed Me."

When a frustrated Seymour accidently kills a hobo by the railroad tracks, he conveniently decides to feed the body to Audrey Jr. But as he's feeding the chopped-up body to the plant, he is discovered by Mr. Mushnik. Now a rich man, Mushnik decides to turn a blind eye to the gruesome discovery.

Unfortunately, the hobo was really an undercover cop. Soon Seargeant Joe Fink and his partner Frank Stoolie begin to investigate the disappearance of their missing colleague and discover evidence directly linking Mushnik's Flower Shop.

Audrey Jr. continues to demand food, creating a bigger and bigger problem for Seymour. In order to maintain the shop's popularity and win the affections of Audrey, Seymour is forced to secretly kill people and feed them to the increasingly large and cruel Audrey Jr.

Other characters in the film include Dr. Phoebus Farb, Mushnik's sadistic dentist; Burson Fouch, a customer who enjoys eating flowers; Mrs. Shiva , a customer who comes by daily to buy flowers for yet another dead relative; Mrs. Krelboyne, Seymour's hypochondriac mother; and Wilbur Force, a masochistic dental patient.

Although Corman has described his original film as humorous (especially in its use of Jewish humor), it was more in the traditional horror genre than its successors. In the musical and film musical versions, the storyline is lighthearted and campy, despite some gruesome scenes, with the action punctuated by songs.

Film Cast

1982 Off-Broadway Musical


ORIGINAL OFF-BROADWAY CAST:

Seymour Krelborn - Lee WIlkoff
Audrey - Ellen Greene
Mr. Mushnik - Hy Anzell
Chiffon - Marlene Danielle
Crystal - Jennifer Leigh Warren
Ronnette - Sheila Kay Davis
Audrey II (voice) - Ron Taylor
Audrey II (manipulation) - Martin P. Robinson
Orin, Bernstein, Snip, Luce and everyone else - Franc Luz

LIST OF MUSICAL NUMBERS:

ACT ONE
"Prologue/Little Shop of Horrors"
(Chiffon, Crystal, Ronnette)
"Skid Row (Downtown)" (Company)
"Da-Doo" (Seymour, Chiffon, Crystal, Ronnette)
"Grow for Me" (Seymour)
"WSKID" (incidental music)
"Ya Never Know" (Chiffon, Crystal, Ronnette)
"Somewhere That's Green" (Audrey)
"Closed for Renovation" (Seymour, Audrey)
"Dentist!" (Orin)
"Mushnik & Son" (Mushnik, Seymour)
"Feed Me (Git It)" (Audrey II, Seymour)
"Now (It's Just the Gas)" (Orin, Seymour)
"Act I Finale"

ACT TWO
"Entr'acte"
"Call Back in the Morning" (Seymour, Audrey)
"Suddenly, Seymour" (Seymour, Audrey)
"Suppertime" (Audrey II)
"The Meek Shall Inherit" (Chiffon, Crystal, Ronnette)
"Sominex/Suppertime II" (Audrey, Audrey II)
"Somewhere That's Green" (reprise) (Audrey)
"Bigger Than Hula-Hoops" (underscoring)
"Finale Ultimo (Don't Feed the Plants)" (Company)]]

In 1982, the film was adapted for the stage by composer Alan Menken and writer Howard Ashman, who later went on to write songs for Disney's The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin.

Titled "Little Shop of Horrors," the musical had its world premiere on May 6, 1982 at the WPA Theatre. It opened off-Broadway at the Orpheum Theatre on July 27, 1982. When it closed, after 2,209 performances, it was the third-longest running musical and the highest-grossing production in off-Broadway history.

The original production, directed by Ashman, was critically acclaimed and won several awards including the 1982-1983 New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical, the Drama Desk Award, the Outer Critics Circle Award and the London Evening Standard Award for Best Musical.

The score, composed by Menken in the style of 1960's rock and roll, doo-wop and early Motown, included several show-stoppers including "Skid Row (Downtown)," Somewhere That's Green," Suddenly Seymour" as well as the title song.

The musical is faithful to the comic tone of the film, although it makes a few slight changes to the story. The setting is moved from Skid Row in Los Angeles to Skid Row in New York. Seymour's hypochondriac Jewish mother is omitted and Seymour becomes an orphan. Also dropped is the subplot involving the two investigating cops as well as the character of the gleefully masochistic dental patient (played in the original film by Jack Nicholson). The musical does introduce three new characters: a Greek chorus of female black street urchins named Crystal, Chiffon and Ronnette, named after famous 1960s girl groups. The evil plant, now called Audrey II, has been changed from a strange breed of Venus Fly Trap to a creature from outer space. It was brought to life through a series of elaborate puppets, some of which were life-sized.

In addition to the off-Broadway production, the musical has been performed all over the world including productions in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Hungary, Spain, and Germany. Because of its small cast and relatively simple orchestrations, it has recently become popular with community theatre and high school groups.

An original cast recording, released in 1982, omits the songs "Closed for Renovations" and "Call Back in the Morning" as well as the underscoring and incidental music "WSKID," "Entr'acte" and "Bigger Than Hula-Hoops." This recording features Leilani Jones, who replaced Marlene Danielle as Chiffon two weeks after the musical opened.


1986 Film

Template:Infobox Movie Frank Oz directed a 1986 screen adaptation of the stage musical. The budget for this film was reportedly $30,000,000 (over one thousand times the budget of the 1960 Roger Corman original).

The film was generally faithful to both the original and the stage version of the story. The character of the masochistic dental patient, played in the original by Jack Nicholson and cut from the stage version, was added back to the story and was played by Bill Murray, who reportedly ad-libbed his lines.

The film's biggest change is its ending which was re-shot when it received negative reviews from test audiences. While the off-Broadway musical version, like the 1960 film, has a bittersweet ending in which Audrey II goes on a rampage and kills everyone, including Seymour and Audrey, the 1986 film has a happy ending in which Audrey II is killed, while Seymour, Audrey and humanity survive.

The 1986 version of Audrey II was an extremely elaborate creation, using puppets designed especially for the film by Oz's colleagues from the Jim Henson Company. During Audrey II's final stage of growth, over 40 people were enlisted to operate the puppet.

Musically, the film differs only slightly from the stage play. The title song is expanded to include an additional verse to allow for more opening credits. The song "Ya Never Know" was re-written into a calypso-style song called "Some Fun Now," although some of the lyrics were retained. Five other songs ("Closed For Renovation," "Now (It's Just the Gas)," "Mushnik and Son," "Call Back In The Morning" and the dramatic reprise of "Somewhere That's Green") were cut from the original production score and one, "Mean Green Mother From Outer Space" was written for the film. The full version of "The Meek Shall Inherit" and the "Finale Ultimo (Don't Feed the Plants)" which were recorded, but cut from the film are included on the soundtrack album.

The 1986 movie was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Song for the song, "Mean Green Mother from Outer Space", written by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken. It caused a small controversy at the Academy Awards because it was the first Oscar-nominated song to contain foul language and thus had to be censored for the show.

1986 Film Cast

The Lost Ending

The film has become legendary for a widely-unseen 23-minute alternate ending that retains the darkness and B-movie roots of the original source material. As originally conceived and filmed, the story follows the stage musical's plot: Audrey is attacked by Audrey II and dies in Seymour's arms, begging him to feed her to the plant so that he can continue his success. After Seymour does this, there is a showdown between him and Audrey II and Seymour is killed and eaten, The three chorus girls are enlisted by Patrick Martin (played in this version by Paul Dooley) to cut shoots from the plant in order to sell them around the world. Soon, Audrey II clones take over the planet as the song "Don't Feed the Plants" warns the audience not to give in to evil temptations.

Oz and his special effects team went to great lengths to create this dramatic finale during which Audrey II takes over New York City, attacks the Brooklyn Bridge, fights the U.S. Army, strangles the Statue of Liberty and - in an homage to the 1933 classic monster movie King Kong - scales the Empire State Building. The entire action sequence cost $5 million to produce (some reports say $2 million). But 1986 preview audiences - perhaps under the sunny spell of the Reagan Administration - rejected this ending as too disturbing. Afterwards, director Oz commented: "They hated us when the main characters died. In the play, they're eaten...but you know they're coming out for a curtain call. But the power of movies is different."

Oz scrapped Audrey's grim death and the finale rampage and reshot a happier ending with Jim Belushi replacing Paul Dooley as Patrick Martin. The showdown between Seymour and Audrey II remains intact, but now Seymour wins by electrocuting the plant as Audrey is seen safely observing through a window. Seymour and Audrey get married and move to the suburbs, where a little Audrey II grows in the garden, paving the way for a sequel.

Oz's subsequent re-edits, while making the film lighter and thus more palatable to general audiences, had the unfortunate effect of making the film morally questionable. While Seymour never actually kills anyone in the story, he does participate in luring people to their deaths, hacking up their bodies and feeding them to the plant. In both the stage play and the original edit of the film, the song "The Meek Shall Inherit" was designed to illustrate Seymour's moral dilemma via a musical soliloquy. As his fame grows, he is tempted by offers from Hollywood, but cringes at the idea of having to continue to do evil deeds. He finally decides to destroy Audrey II, but at the last minute changes his mind because he feels that without his plant, Audrey won't love him anymore. He signs the Hollywood contracts and seals his fate. Later, when he is killed and eaten by Audrey II, it is because he made a wrong and greedy decision. The theatrical version of the film retains only the very beginning and end of "The Meek Shall Inherit," with the soliloquy cut entirely so as not to raise the idea of Seymour's moral dilemma. He now blissfully chops up bodies and wins the girl in the end without paying the consequences.

The DVD Fiasco

Little Shop of Horrors was the first DVD to be recalled for content.

In 1998, Warner Brothers released a Special Edition DVD of the the 1986 musical film. This DVD included approximately 23 minutes of unfinished footage from Oz's original ending, although it was in black and white and was missing sound, visual, and special effects.

David Geffen, the film's producer and owner of the rights, apparently wanted to re-release the film to theaters with the original ending intact. Geffen became angry at Warner Brothers for including this footage on the DVD and as a result, the studio yanked it off the shelves in a matter of days and replaced with a second edition without the extra material. The original first edition DVD is now a much sought-after collector's item and sells for upwards of $150 on eBay.

No plans have been made to re-release the film or DVD with the alternate ending, although modern audiences may be better prepared for a darker version of what is essentially a morality play.

1991 Television Cartoon

Following the success of the 1986 theatrical film, Frank Oz developed an idea for a prequel with Seymour as a junior high school student. After Warner Brothers turned down the concept, the idea was made into an animated children's cartoon with the following voice-over cast:

Despite the gruesome theme of murder and abuse presented in previous versions of the story, this version of "Little Shop" was aimed at children and was thus not violent. The plant (here called Junior) doesn't eat humans and blood, but a variety of foods.

The 30-minute program aired on FOX from September of 1991 to September of 1992. It was paired with an animated version of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.

2003 Broadway Revival

In 2003, a new $8 million revival of "Little Shop of Horrors" was planned with the goal of opening on Broadway on August 14. Despite its popularity, the original show had only played off-Broadway and was thus ineligible for the 1982 Tony Awards. The revival would qualify for the awards despite the fact that the material was two decades old.

Seymour () holding Audrey II in the 2003 Broadway Revival of "Little Shop of Horrors"
Enlarge
Seymour (Hunter Foster) holding Audrey II in the 2003 Broadway Revival of "Little Shop of Horrors"

Pre-Broadway Version

To kick off the revival, a $1 million pre-Broadway start-up production debuted at the Actor's Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre in Coral Gables, Florida on May 16, 2003 with the following cast:

The revival featured several people involved in the original 1982 production. Wilkoff, who created the role of Seymour was here cast as Mr. Mushnik. The production was directed by Wilkoff's wife, Connie Grappo, who was the assistant to Howard Ashman during the original production. Robinson, who designed the original Audrey II puppets and was a muppeteer for Sesame Street, enlisted his friends at The Jim Henson Company to create new, high tech puppets especially for the show.

This version of "Little Shop of Horrors" received mixed reviews, with some critics complaining that the intimacy of the show was lost by expanding it to a fit a larger (and thus more profitable) theatre. Other critics were harsher, calling the show "flat" and "unispired" with several actors miscast. On June 2, 2003, producer Marc Routh announced that the Broadway production was being canceled because "the magic, the chemistry just wasn't there." Hours after the announcement was made, the producers had the Virginia Theatre paint over the marquee with black paint.

Revised Revival

Despite the fact that the revival was officially canceled, the production was not quite dead. In an effort to save the show, producers ousted Grappo in favor of veteran Broadway director Jerry Zaks and fired everyone in the cast except Foster and Robinson. New casting began on June 3 and the producers held the lease on the theatre for September previews. Miraculously, the show finally made its Broadway debut at the Virginia Theatre on October 2, 2003 with the following cast:

Hunter Foster was nominated for a 2004 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for his performance.

The revival was faithful to the original 1982 production, although it did use the expanded version of the title song heard in the 1986 film. In addition, the mechanics of stage puppetry had become more advanced to allow for a more "realistic" portrayal of Audrey II, which even leapt off the stage during the show's finale to snap its hungry jaws at the audience.

The cast album of the production was recorded by the original cast on September 15, 2003 and was released on October 21.

The Broadway revival of Little Shop of Horrors closed on August 22, 2004 after 372 performances and 40 preview performances. The closing Broadway cast included Joey Fatone (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Anthony_Fatone_Junior) (of the boy band *NSYNC) as Seymour and Jessica-Snow Wilson as Audrey.

National Tour

On August 11, 2004, a national tour of Little Shop of Horrors began just as the Broadway version was about to close in New York. It featured the following cast:

In December of 2004, Rapp left the national tour to film the movie "Rent" and was replaced by Jonathan Rayson. Marc Petrosino joined as an additional puppeteer for Audrey II.

Themes and motifs

Predation

Most of the characters are predators. The plant preys on humans. But this reflects the other relationships going on around the plant. The dentist preys (brutally) on his girlfriend (and others), the shopkeeper on Seymour, Seymour on anybody who can feed the plant. The story is set in a flower shop on Skid Row, a location where every human is either predator or prey.

Morality play

Seymour demonstrates a gradual slide into evil. At the beginning of the story he is innocent and interested in the plant because it is unique. When Audrey II demands food, Seymour first feeds her his own blood. It's only a prick, and it's a good cause. His escalation to feeding other humans to Audrey II happens one step at a time. The first victim is already dead. Seymour rationalizes that he was a bad man, so there is nothing wrong with using his death to the plant's good. With the second victim, Seymour knows he is tricking his mentor to his death. The third death is justified not to help the plant, but to help Seymour's fortunes. Seymour accepts evil one step at a time. In this slide into evil, Audrey II is a tempter. Finally, Seymour unsuccessfully attempts to correct his actions. Seymour is an example of an anti-hero (a character type that was not known to traditional morality plays).

Looking at the story from a different literary light, the plant is a more literal Devil. Little Shop of Horrors is essentially the plot of Faust, reworked into modern times in a flowershop. Seymour seals his deal with the plant in blood. He hopes to gain from the plant the Devil's traditional payments to Faust: fame, fortune, and romance. In the end, Seymour is completely destroyed by the plant.

In Faust, Faust initiates his deal with the Devil in full knowledge of what he is doing. Seymour, in contrast, does not understand what is happening until he is deep into a relationship with the plant. Like Faust, Seymour comes to recognize how he has become evil, attempts to correct his sins, but fails to do so and is claimed by his devil.

Both Little Shop of Horrors and Faust have been reworked by different authors into different versions, presented in different media. In both, in some versions the protagonist is lost, while in other versions he is saved.

As in some versions of Faust, the love interest is caught up in the destruction, but remains innocent.

Seymour's story (ignoring the "happy ending" version) is also a tragedy in the ancient Greek sense. Seymour starts out intending good, but comes to a bad end due to his own character flaws. Once the action is set into motion by the discovery of the plant, it moves unstoppably towards the protagonist's destruction.

Black comedy

The work makes fun of violence, sadism, masochism, and humans as plant food. In all but the second movie version, the plant succeeds in the end, spreading across the world as a successful predator on humans. This ending is characteristic of black comedy: it is the logical outcome of the events that in more traditional art would be unsettling, but in this work is the source of humor.

Genre parody

Little Shop of Horrors uses the vocabulary of the horror genre, but in self-referencing and mocking ways. The plant is a monster that feeds on humans, but enlists Seymour's aid in obtaining victims. Seymour describes his debt to his mentor, but pairs each example with an example of how the florist also abuses him.

Corman (also in many of his other works) used the horror genre to make a work that consciously sets itself apart from that genre. This is made more explicit in the musical version. A chorus in the musical functions much as a classic Greek chorus, offering meta-commentary about the story. Many of these comments specifically poke fun at the horror themes.


The basis of Little Shop of Horrors would later be used to create a much less-known B-movie; Please Don't Eat My Mother.

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