Combustible Celluloid
Stream it:
Download at i-tunes iTunes
Own it:
With: Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene, Vincent Gardenia, Steve Martin, Tichina Arnold, Michelle Weeks, Tisha Campbell, Levi Stubbs (voice), James Belushi, John Candy, Christopher Guest, Bill Murray, Stan Jones
Written by: Howard Ashman
Directed by: Frank Oz
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 94
Date: 12/19/1986

Little Shop of Horrors (1986)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Feed Me

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Frank Oz went from Muppeteering to directing humans with this lively musical remake of Roger Corman's 1960 low-budget comedy, based on Howard Ashman and Alan Menken's off-Broadway play. It's an all-star comedy jam with former "Saturday Night Live" and "SCTV" players mixing it up.

Rick Moranis stars as Seymour Krelborn, the ultimate schlub, working in a skid row plant shop for tyrannical boss Mr. Mushnik (Vincent Gardenia). He loves his co-worker Audrey (Ellen Greene) but lacks the confidence to ask her out. He finds a strange little plant, brings it back to the shop, names it "Audrey II" and raises it. Unfortunately it turns into a carnivorous monster that craves blood and moans "Feed me!" Levi Stubbs, the singer for the Four Tops, provides the plant's deep speaking and singing voice. Three backup singers named after 1960s girl groups, Crystal, Ronette and Chiffon, turn up as well.

But Steve Martin steals the show as the motorcycle-riding sadistic dentist currently dating Audrey; he even generated a small amount of Oscar buzz at the time. Other comedians include Bill Murray, Christopher Guest, James Belushi and John Candy. Oz was no doubt hired to handle the plant monster puppet, but his brisk, lightweight direction spreads satisfyingly across the entire movie.

In 2012, Warner Home Video finally released Oz's director's cut -- along with the theatrical cut -- on a new Blu-ray edition. The movie's strange color scheme really pops in high def, as does the audio of the musical score. Extras include a commentary track by Oz for the theatrical cut, as well as an isolated commentary track for the new footage of the director's cut. There are also a couple of featurettes, one new and one vintage, some fascinating outtakes, and trailers. This edition is one of Warners' "Blu-ray books," which contains several full-color pages of pictures and text.

(Note: the following contains spoilers.)

The director's cut, which is based more closely on the play, is quite shocking, and far more satisfying. The changes start after the scene in which the plant tries to eat Audrey, and Seymour carries her out into the alley. In the theatrical cut, she pops up and says, "I'm OK," but in the director's cut she makes a dying request to be fed to the plant, so she can be close to Seymour. She then sings a reprise of "Somewhere That's Green," which now makes a LOT more sense. Next, Seymour dies while battling the plant (the plant spits out his broken glasses).

And, finally, an army of giant, blood-slurping plants starts rampaging the world, tearing down buildings and bridges and terrorizing victims everywhere. This last bit goes on far too long, and on the whole the director's cut is about ten minutes longer than the theatrical cut. Additionally, James Belushi does not appear in this cut; his scene was filmed to fill in the holes in the theatrical cut. It's fairly clear why test audiences balked at this version, but I now prefer it -- by far -- to the theatrical cut.

Movies Unlimtied