Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Little Shop of Horrors (1960)

My brother left me a bunch of movies on DVDs.  These weren’t great movies, mind you.  They were those 50-movie packs filled with all sorts of public-domain movies.  That’s why it surprised me to find The Little Shop of Horrors among the titles.  My mind immediately went to the version staring Rick Moranis and Ellen Greene.  No.  This one predates that version by 26 years.  This one was directed by none other than Roger Corman.

If you’ve seen the 1986 remake, you won’t be surprised much by the plot of the 1960 original.  Seymour Krelborn is a klutz, so much so that he gets fired for ruining an arrangement.  He is able to redeem himself by bring in an unusual plant.   Gravis Mushnick, who owns the show, agrees to tie Seymour’s fate to the plant’s.  If Audrey, Jr., can bring in customers, Seymour can stay.  (The plant is named for Seymour’s coworker, Audrey Fulquard.)

The plant becomes a local celebrity.  Seymour finds that this comes at a cost, though.  Audrey, Jr., needs blood to grow.  The bigger the plant gets, the more blood it needs.  This leads Seymour (and Mushnik) down a slippery slope, as the missing victims attract the attention of the police.  Seymour eventually becomes a victim of his own success, quite literally.  The movie ends with Seymour being eaten by the plant, which eventually dies.

As with other public-domain movies, you’re probably going to find this movie readily available.  (YouTube seems to have several different versions available.)   I don’t imagine that too many will have great sound or video quality.  Many are packaged with profit in mind.  In fact, Roger Corman was known for knocking out a lot of movies, presumably for the same reason.  IMDb has him listed as producer for 415 titles and director for 56.  This is an example of what happens when you favor quantity over quality.

The movie was made in under two days for about $28,000.  A lot of this shows.  Charles B. Griffith, who wrote the script, filled in for the voice of Audrey, Jr., during shooting.  According to IMDb, Corman decided to keep his voice in the final print.  Part of this was because Griffith did a pretty decent job.  Not having to spend the money also factored in to the decision.

The movie is on par with other b-movies that I’ve seen.  It’s not going to be great, but it will probably be watchable, even if just once, by most people.  For me, a lot of that had to do with having seen the 1986 version.  I kind of wanted to see how it played out.  It’s also interesting to note that Jack Nicholson appears as the masochistic dental patient, so there was that.

If you have to decide between renting the two movies, I’d say watch the 1986 version.  The humor in this one is very different and seems to be more a product of its time.  I did feel like a lot of the humor was going over my head.  The two police officers, for instance, ask for just the facts.  It would seem to be a play on Dragnet, but I wasn’t necessarily prompted to laugh at it.  It seems like there‘s a lot I don‘t understand about the movie.

Aside from the print quality, the only thing of concern would be the plant eating people.  This is shown on screen.  There’s no blood, but it’s pretty clear what’s going on.   (It’s the kind of thing that maybe impressionable children might have a problem with.  I don’t imagine too many adults having a problem with it.)  I’d really only recommend watching this version if you can get it streaming for free.  I’m not entirely sure it would be worth the price of one of those 50-movie sets.

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