Little Shop of Horrors (1986, Director’s Cut)

Synopsis:

A timid flower shop clerk, Seymour Krelborn (Rick Moranis, Ghostbusters), discovers a strange plant he names Audrey II, which attracts a great deal of attention at his work place. Unfortunately, the plant feeds on human blood and Seymour struggles to find food for the menacing and ever-growing greenery monster.

Reaction & Thoughts:

“I’m just a mean green mother from outer space…”

Zany movie version of the hit stage musical of the same based on Roger Corman’s cult classic The Little Shop of Horrors. I’ve got to give credit where credit is due: Kudos to the makers of the stage production for turning some cheap Corman movie into an award-winning musical! Though it isn’t without flaws, this adaptation manages to recapture most of the magic that made the Off-Broadway show such a runaway success.

Imaginatively directed by Frank Oz (The Dark Crystal), Little Shop of Horrors features one great song after another, courtesy of lyricist Howard Ashman and composer Alan Menken. My personal favorite is “Suddenly, Seymour,” but that’s just one fabulous song among many. Ashman and Menken wrote a brand new tune, the Oscar-nominated “Mean Green Mother from Outer Space,” specifically for the movie.

It was sheer luck that the musical was adapted into a movie during the 1980s, the decade that produced the best comedians. Rick Moranis gives what may be his best screen performance as the timid Seymour. John Candy (Uncle Buck) plays a radio personality. Steve Martin (The Jerk) is a sadistic dentist. Billy Murray (Groundhog Day) plays a masochist dental patient — as much as I like Murray, it would have been really cool to see Jack Nicholson (Hoffa) reprise his old role from the Corman movie!

Ironically, the least famous people steal the movie. Ellen Green is brilliant as Audrey, Seymour’s love interest, and Levi Stubbs (of The Four Tops) is unforgettable as the voice of the ravenous plant. Tichina Arnold, Michelle Weeks and Tisha Campbell play the three singing ladies, a sort of Greek Chorus, who appear throughout the film. And that’s Christopher Guest (Best in Show) as a shop customer and Paul Dooley (Breaking Away) as the mysterious entrepreneur (Jim Belushi, Red Heat, in the theatrical cut).

Little Shop of Horrors suffered significant changes after preview audiences reacted negatively to the ending. At considerable extra expense, the producers reassembled the production team to re-write and re-shoot the movie’s grand finale. The revamped version was released to critical acclaim and respectable box-office business (the movie wasn’t, unfortunately, the smash hit the producers were hoping for).

A screenshot of the restored footage

I’ve seen the theatrical version (approx. 94 min.) numerous times, but this was the first time I watched the longer cut (approx. 103 min.). I’ve always enjoyed the official version, but I’ve never been crazy about it — something was off, but I could never figure out the problem. The Director’s Cut solves the mystery: The theatrical version’s happy-go-lucky ending doesn’t fit with the rest of the movie. I don’t want to spoil any surprises, so let me just say that the longer version feels more sincere and complete.

The restored ending is appropriately dark. After all, the story takes place in a depressingly impoverished urban area and deals with serious issues like domestic violence, cannibalism and sadomasochism. The longer cut also restores actor Green’s best scene, a heartbreaking encore of the beautiful song “Somewhere That’s Green.” Having said that, I would have preferred it if the ending of the stage musical had been kept — the Off-Broadway show has a perfect ending that didn’t need to be tweaked.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

I have a love/hate relationship with extended versions of movies. They are great curiosities that should be studied with a grain of salt. For example (feel free to disagree), I’m not a fan of the longer versions of The Exorcist, Apocalypse Now and Alien. In my opinion, Little Shop of Horrors: Director’s Cut (by the way, Frank Oz didn’t participate in the restoration) completely obliterates the 94-minute movie. My rating: Theatrical Cut (7/10) and Director’s Cut (9/10). Color, 103 minutes, Rated PG-13.

9 responses to “Little Shop of Horrors (1986, Director’s Cut)

  1. Great post! I’ve heard of the film, but I’ve never seen it, except for some small scenes back in the day and a trailer. Even though I’m not a huge musical movie fan, I might check this one out nonetheless😊

    Liked by 1 person

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