A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Little Shop of Horrors (1960)

April 26, 2011

Little Shop of Horrors (1960)

I’ve never seen this movie before today. I’ve seen the musical that was based on it many times – both the film version and the stage version, but I’ve never seen the original movie. I have to say I was somewhat surprised.

What I was expecting, given the movie’s pedigree, was cheesy Roger Corman horror. I feel I’m familiar with his particular brand of film from this era. Things like The Wasp Woman or the Viking Women vs. the Sea Serpent. But this movie is instead a cheesy Roger Corman comedy, and although some of his films have comedic elements this is the first I can recall seeing that was played almost entirely for laughs. I knew, of course that the plot of the movie had great comedic potential, because that is what is played up in the musical, but it was kind of strange to realize that although this movie had the word “horrors” in the title it was not a horror film.

The plot here is largely the same as in the musical that was spawned from this film. Bumbling young stock boy Seymore Krelboin is working for Mr. Mushnick in his struggling flower shop on skid row. He has a crush on his co-worker Audrey and he is raising a mysterious plant of his own design that he doesn’t really understand. Eventually he discovers that his strange plant, which he has dubbed the Audrey Jr., thrives on human blood. Over the course of the movie he reluctantly feeds the plant as it grows to enormous proportions. Mr. Mushnick’s little shop wins all sorts of acclaim from the Audrey Jr, but it is all doomed and ultimately Seymore’s complicity in the crimes necessary to satiate the plant catch up with him.

It sounds like the plot of a serious horror film, and that’s what I was expecting. I was expecting the majority of the humor in the movie to come from its laughably low budget and cheesy production values. What I was not expecting was that virtually the entire movie was going to be played for laughs. My first hint was when a visitor to the flowershop declared that it was his intention to eat the flowers he had just purchased. “That’s odd” thought I, but that was onlt the very beginning of the strangeness.

Mel Wellis as Mr. Mushnick is all about the crazy accent and the rediculous foreign character he is playing. Jonathan Haze as Seymore is all bumbling pratfalls. Excised from the musical version is Seymore’s hypochondriac mother, who cooks all of her meals with various homeopathic remedies in them. There’s a pair of high-school girls who are constructing a rose parade float and offer to buy the necessary flowers from Mushnick because they are impressed by the Audrey Jr. There’s the hard boiled pair of cops who communicate in clipped cliches.

Of course there’s also the sadistic dentist (though in this movie he’s only tangentially related to the overall plot) and his masochistic patient – famously played by a very young and manic Jack Nicholson. Of course I knew that this movie gave Jack his big break (in the same way that Tarantula did for Clint Eastwood) and it was indeed a pleasure to watch him hamming it up with the rest of the cast.

I had fun watching this tonight. It wasn’t anything like what I was expecting, but it was fun. I’m not saying it’s flawless. Much of the humor is rather strained (particularly the pratfalls, which never struck me as particularly funny) and the ending is a big “so what” that feels like it needs to be accompanied by a “wah-wah” trombone effect. The entire production is do broad and over-the-top that it doesn’t actually feel all that funny. It is a unique film, though, and somewhat of an iconic one. I very much wish, however, that I now had the movie musical to follow it up with.

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April 26, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,

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