Take a classic film + a better ending - James Belushi and what do you get?

While wandering through Target on one of my few bachelor trips back home, I happened upon the Bluray release of the Director's Cut of Little Shop of Horrors. Two thoughts jumped right into my head. First, John Candy was in this? How did I forget that? Secondly, Frank Oz didn't get to put everything he wanted in an already hectic and bizarre musical? What else could he have in mind?

What is the Geffen Company hiding?

Well far be it from me to let a mystery like this go to waste, so I sat down with the re-release to see what the, as the kids say, deal-e-o.com was.

Hows that for drawing in the under 30 audience?

The first thing that hit me was how little the look of this film has changed in the transition to the HD medium. Maybe I am just getting used to seeing everything in HD now, or maybe it was the encoding of this particular version (erm...disc...yeah, the disc...) that made it look like a DVD, but as it stands this release feels a lot like the Bluray version of "Rocky Horror Picture Show" in that from a visual standpoint it hasn't been touched up all that much, but the audio tracks are a vast improvement; which, I suppose, makes sense for a musical.

Now as for the movie itself, of course "Little Shop of Horrors" is based upon the Roger Corman film "Death Race 2000" staring Sly Stallone and David (Don't Look In the Closet) Carradine. OK, I am not saying I made the Death Race 2000 joke just to make an auto-erotic asphyxiation joke, but, let's be honest, I couldn't leave you hanging with out one. Just the thought of it gets me all choked up.

David Carradine hung himself in order to achieve sexual gratification. That's the joke there. You're welcome.

Anyway, "Little Shop of Horrors" is based upon the Roger Corman film of the same name. The original is famous for being really, really bad and giving Jack Nicholson his film start as a man who has a crazy dentist fetish, a role he would later reprise in "As Good As it Gets". Notoriously shot in two days for a budget of under $30,000, the film was massively terrible and should never be spoken of in polite society.

Someone, at some point looked at that steaming pile of movie and said, "Hey, you know what would look good on that? Musical theater!" and made an off Broadway version of the story which managed, among other things, to make the story make sense and take away much of the stigma being created by Roger Corman normally leaves on you. Jumping on the success of the stage show, a movie version was green lit, and, after being bounced around a bit, finally fell into Frank Oz's hands. So, this is a movie, based on a musical, based on a movie. Everybody got that?

In the film, Rick Moranis plays Seymour Krelborn, a man who is, in a word, a schlup. He works in a small flower shop in Skid Row, he also lives in a small flower shop in Skid Row, eats in a small flower shop in Skid Row, dreams...OK you get the idea. As the film is quick to point out, nothing good ever happens in Skid Row, people are poor, hungry and miserable. Seymour is a man of dreams, but the world had put a boot to his throat enough that he knows that to follow those dreams would be pointless. Sure he is madly in love with his coworker Audrey, but she has a guy, and would never go for a schlup working in a flower shop, even if he has Sundays off. Audrey on the other hand is madly in love with Seymour, but there is no way that a nice, wonderful guy could ever want a woman from Skid Row, and so she finds a nice, psychopathic dentist with a handcuff fetish and an addiction to laughing gas.

Really it's a classic boy meets girl story.

Seymour strikes fame, however, when he buys a strange little plant in Chinatown during a TO-TAL EC-LISPE OF THE SUN, no one has ever seen such a plant, why it is a sensation! Little does the public know how the plant eats however, as Seymour has to keep it on a steady diet of his own blood. As the plant grows, so to does it's appetite, and soon Seymour has to find larger buffets. And so it is that our story begins.

What is very interesting about the format of the movie, and the stage musical, is that it borrows heavily from Greek tragedy. At the start of the film we are greeted by a choir made up of three, omnipotent woman who sing us thru the...wait a minute...
Gina? GINA? And to a lesser extent Gina's friend?! Did I grab the wrong movie? Is this the long lost pilot for "Martin" where we find out that the title character was born of a cracked out space mushroom it is rumored Fox keeps in the archives next to the only DVD copy of the entire run of "Andy Richter Controls the Universe" to be pressed and a copy of "Cool Runnings" where one of the bobsledders slips up and says the N word?

I want to believe.

Anyway, the whole movie is laid out like a normal tragedy, until the ending, which, in the theatrical version switches up to an test audience approved "happy ending" which throws the whole dynamic of the story into abject chaos. In this director's cut however, the story stays true to the stage version, and stays very, very dark.


Everyone dies. Everyone. Even him. And you. You especially.


The new, old, ending makes the film play out like the B movie it is supposed to be, with killer plants taking over the world, while our God Singers tell us all about it in song. This was how the film was built to end from the first frame. Seymour isn't a hero, he is a tragic figure, drawn into a world of murder and bloodshed, not by his own design, but rather to try to escape the fates which bind him. We know from the start that there is no escape from the hole that he is in, and that is what makes the ending all the better from a literary standpoint. But, you know, focus groups and all that.

AIDS is sad, what if instead of it Tom Hanks has a monkey friend named AIDS and THAT is why he is fired. I would like that movie better because then my think parts wont hurt so much.

As for the rest of the movie, it is pretty much the same no matter what version you see (save for the fact that the Director's Cut is mercifully free of James Belushi, which makes it a must buy for that alone), and in both movies, everything is fantastic. The music is wonderfully hummable, and Levi Stubbs (Mother Brain in Captain N, and, oh yeah, lead singer of the Four Tops) does a PHENOMENAL job as the voice of Moth...um...Audrey 2. In fact, even if you haven't seen the movie, you know the voice he uses already, as if I type "Feed Me Seymour!" you read it in his voice. Tell me you didn't.

The cast is full of everyone who has ever been in anything ever. Besides the aforementioned Rick Moranis and Mr. Stubbs, we have John Candy, Bill Murray, Steve Martin (in his best roll since "The Jerk"), Vincent Gardenia (you would know him if you saw him), Damn Gina and friend, and Christopher Guest. The puppetry is beyond wonderful and, because they used physical effects exclusively and the Jim Henson Company is made up of a bunch of demigods who came to earth on some sort of immortal dare or something, the effects don't just hold up, they are amazing. What is more amazing is the fact that, when singing with the larger puppet of Audrey 2, the film was shot slow and sped up, so Rick Moranis had to lip sync to a song playing at half speed, and you would never know it.

All of this movie is made of awesome. All of it. In fact, it is the drop down diggity dubstep, yo.

Rating - A

That is because I am a bastard.

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