Saturday, June 18, 2016

freakboy on film: THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS (Nature's Fury Blogathon Edition)

I would like to take a moment and thank Barry P. ( of Cinematic Catharsis for inviting me to participate in his Nature's Fury blogathon.  My initial concern was the film I chose wouldn't fit within Barry's guidelines, but it thankfully squeaked by, mainly thanks to the fact outer space is never suggested in the plot. 

Screenplay by: Charles B. Griffith
Directed by: Roger Corman

"I didn't mean it."
- Seymour

It all starts in a rundown little florist shop on Skid Row.  Within its bleak walls, Seymour, a young nebbish man introduces a new species of plant to an unsuspecting population.  A cross between a butterworth and a Venus flytrap, from seeds that originated on a plantation near a cranberry farm, Audrey Junior, named after Seymour's sweetly offbeat coworker, is quite a remarkable plant. Delighted to have the plant named after her, Audrey Fulquard's feelings for Seymour seem to grow along with her namesake.  As Audrey Junior grows, it brings in customers, which makes Gravis Mushnick, the gruff proprietor, happy and mostly willing to overlook some strange goings-on in his little shop.

It's an acquired taste.
Meanwhile, Detective Sergeant Joe Fink and Detective Frank Stoolie, emulating Dragnet with their curt, rapid fire speech, are not overlooking the strange goings-on on Skid Row.  People are disappearing, from a drunken railroad cop to a sadistic dentist, and this eventually leads them to Mushnick's Florist.  On the evening Seymour's botanical genius is to be recognized by Mrs. Hortence Fishtwanger, from the Society of Silent Flower Observers of Southern California, the horrible truth literally blossoms in front of everyone as Audrey Junior's buds open, revealing the faces of the missing Skid Row residents. 

Maybe it's the plant's cross species, or the cranberry farm, but Audrey Junior can talk and enjoys humans as its primary food source.  Seymour, now being revealed as a murderer, goes on the run.  Detectives Fink and Stoolie, along with Mushnick, chase him all around Skid Row but lose him among the toilets.  Seymour then hurries back to the shop for a final confrontation with Audrey Junior by feeding the plant like it has never been fed before.  The end leaves a few questions behind.  Is Audrey Junior dead or is this just the beginning?  Are there other seeds from the plantation near that cranberry farm just waiting to be planted, needing to be cared for, and eager to consume humanity?  The world may never know...until nature's fury is upon us!

A boy and his plant

THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS is a nutty film filled with nutty scenarios and nutty characters.  Jonathan Haze as Seymour is somehow likable in a dorky way, even as he finds "food" for his plant.  Jackie Joseph as Audrey is delightfully quirky and funny, especially when interacting with Seymour.  Mel Welles as Mushnick is blustery, but not without his charms.  Dick Miller as Burson Fouch, a flower-devouring customer, is dryly funny.  Myrtle Vail as Seymour's hypochondriac mother is endearingly bizarre.  Then top the whole nuttiness off with an elderly florist customer (Leola Wendorff) who seems to have a family member die every day, a sadistic dentist (John Herman Shaner), Detectives Fink & Stoolie (Wally Campo & Jack Warford), and the uncomfortably tense Mrs. Fishtwanger (Lynn Storey).  Oh, and I almost forgot to mention the little known actor, Jack Nicholson, as Wilbur Force, a masochistic dental patient.

The darkly comic screenplay is by Charles B. Griffith, who also provides the voice of Audrey Junior and appears as a couple of side characters.  Adding to the eccentric mix is legendary B-movie director Roger Corman, who achieves low-budget excellence with THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, especially since it is said that the film was shot in two days.  The perfect compliment to this eccentric film is the funky, jazzy score by Fred Katz.  He implanted each selection with a memorable flair and the entire soundtrack can be enjoyed on its own merit.

Music to grow plants by.

I first saw THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS many years ago, before experiencing a local production of the stage musical and its cinematic counterpart.  Given my mood, or perhaps the day of the week, I may say that I prefer the non-musical 1960 version more than the later adaptations.  If you should catch me in that mood, or on that day, I would probably tell you the reason is because the original is a strange little film that shouldn't be any good, but is, in my opinion, deliciously twisted and fun.  Though, I would then whisper discreetly how Rick Moranis as a musically-inclined Seymour will forever hold a special place in my heart, but that is another post for another day...or mood.

So pour yourself a glass of Dr. Phlegm's Cough Syrup and chow down on one of my favorite films, but please remember...

"No novocaine  It dulls the senses." - Wilbur Force

Freak Out, 

P.S.  I searched the Internet and the notes on the soundtrack, but couldn't find a specific way to spell Seymour's last name.  It varies from Krelboyne to Krelboin to even Krelboined.  Well, I guess there's just no accounting for people's tastes, as Seymour once said to Audrey Junior.

P.P.S.  I am going to take a moment and shamelessly plug my little, and inexpensive, e-book about a small town experiencing some strange disappearances...


  1. Great review, John! Thanks so much for joining the blogathon festivities.

    I agree with your comments, and enjoy the cheapo original and the musical remaike for their relative merits. I also love Jack Nicholson's frenetic little performance. And it's always a treat to see Dick Miller in anything he does.

    Nice job with your custom banner as well!

    1. Thanks, Barry!
      I love either version, and I may have to go on and on about the musical one day!

  2. I paired this with A Bucket of Blood for a review on my blog earlier this year. I enjoy Corman's movies, made on the cheap, but always entertaining. Good review.

    1. Thanks!
      Bucket of Blood and Little Shop are definitely the perfect Corman double feature.

  3. Nice post ! I haven't revisited this one in awhile and now it's in my "to be watched" stack of DVD's. Thanks !

    1. Thank you and you're welcome!
      It is a yearly viewing for me, if not more.

  4. I've never seen the 1960 version, and I can tell I've been Missing Out.

    Really enjoyed your thoughtful review. :)

    1. Thank you!
      The 1960 original is different from the musical, but is still very much the same.

  5. I keep meaning to revisit this one as a big fan of Nicolson. Fell I have thanks to your sterling review. Thanks John

    1. Thank you and you're welcome, Gill
      He really shines in this film and it's just a lot of fun!