Combustible Celluloid
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With: Jonathan Haze, Jackie Joseph, Mel Welles, Dick Miller, Myrtle Vail, Karyn Kupcinet, Toby Michaels, Leola Wendorff, Lynn Storey, Wally Campo, Jack Warford, Meri Welles, John Herman Shaner, Jack Nicholson, Dodie Drake, Robert Coogan, Charles B. Griffith
Written by: Charles B. Griffith
Directed by: Roger Corman
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 70
Date: 08/05/1960

The Little Shop of Horrors (1960)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Feed Me Now!

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Charles B. Griffith wrote many screenplays for Roger Corman, but he found his groove came when he discovered the merits of black comedy, turning in A Bucket of Blood (1959), which is one of Corman's best films, and The Little Shop of Horrors. The latter is not nearly as clever or as streamlined as A Bucket of Blood, but it contains enough good ideas that the much better musical remake Little Shop of Horrors (1986) was possible. Jonathan Haze plays the bumbling Seymour, who works in Mushnik's plant shop on skid row. He's in love with his co-worker Audrey (Jackie Joseph) and manages to get her attention when he invents a plant he calls "Audrey Jr." Of course it turns out that the plant thrives on blood, and before long Seymour is hauling dead bodies back to the shop for the plant, who cries "feed me!" (Griffith provides the plant's voice.) There are several wild coincidences, such as the fact that Seymour accidentally kills a hobo just when he needs some blood. And the movie really only has a handful of jokes that it milks over and over, such as that Seymour's mother is a hypochondriac (she eats medicine for every meal) and that one of the shop's customers (Dick Miller) eats flowers. A nasty dentist (John Herman Shaner) turns up for a long sequence, adding very little to the film, and two "Dragnet"-like cops (Wally Campo and Jack Warford) occasionally turn up and narrate the film in a deadpan clip. And Mushnik (Mel Welles) is your typical Jewish stereotype, concerned only with money. Jack Nicholson famously makes an early appearance as a masochistic dental patient, and it's a wonder that he went on to become one of the screen's greatest actors. Aside from all this surface nonsense, there's something interesting about the film (perhaps all the emphasis on eating and mouths). And Corman gives the movie a good, lived-in feel; it moves at a pretty quick pace, and it's harmless fun.

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