This exuberant 1986 sci-fi musical film version of Little Shop Of Horrors came from an off-Broadway stage hit based, in turn, on Roger Corman’s 1960 film.
Poor orphaned, nerdy Seymour Krelborn (Rick Moranis) works in the failing flower shop belonging to old Mr Mushnik (Vincent Gardenia) on the Lower East Side of New York City – as does Audrey (Ellen Greene, reprising her Broadway role), with whom Seymour is in love.
Audrey, however, has a boyfriend, Orin Scrivello (Steve Martin), an obnoxious and sadistic motorbike-riding, nitrous oxide-abusing dentist.
One day, just after an eclipse of the moon, Seymour finds a strange plant. He names it Audrey II.
The plant starts to grow and grow, and soon it is enormous. Seymour becomes famous and popular but is beginning to think he must give up his new-found fame because the plant – with the voice of Levi Stubbs of The Four Tops – feeds on blood, and now it’s big enough to eat whole corpses.
The songs – a gloriously infectious mish-mash of 50s doo-wop, 80s pop-rock and Broadway balladry – keep things moving along at a breathless pace.
While some of the big names of American comedy – Bill Murray, John Candy, James Belushi – make guest appearances and Steve Martin threatens to steal the show, the real star of Little Shop was definitely Audrey II, who was ‘puppeted’ by Jim Henson’s workshop. The Muppets were never like this!
The film concludes with Seymour defeating the giant evil plant, which was a massive deviation from the stage version, in which Audrey II eats Seymour and Audrey, then goes on to devastate the world beyond Mushnik’s Flower Shop.
Originally, director Frank Oz intended to replicate that ending and shot an elaborate special effects sequence that was 23 minutes long and cost $5 million. In it, Audrey II spawns a bunch of other man-eating plants, which then go on a rampage through New York City.
Buildings are toppled, citizens flee in terror, and Seymour and Audrey are consumed. The plant smashes through a movie screen in the final shot, indicating that it’s coming to eat the viewer, as well.
Sadly, test audiences wouldn’t accept seeing the two leads perish, so a new happy ending was shot. The original ending – which is quite magnificent – later became a bonus feature on the Blu-ray release.
The film was shot on the largest soundstage in Western Europe – the 007 stage at England’s Pinewood Studios.