The Little Shop of Horrors
Release year: 1960
Director: Roger Corman, Charles B. Griffith, Mel Welles
Writers: Charles B. Griffith, Roger Corman
Starring: Jonathan Haze, Jackie Joseph, Mel Welles, Dick Miller, Myrtle Vail, Wally Campo, Jack Nicholson
Moviegeek Sunday Classic #71, week 42 2015
Shy, clumsy and unsuccesful Seymor (Jonathan Haze) works for Mr. Mushnick (Mel Welles) at his flower shop while yearning for Audrey (Jackie Joseph) who works there too. One day, when Mushnick once again threatens to fire Seymor, he revelas a new strange and unknown plant he has found. Hopeful that it will bring more business to the struggling shop, Mushnick orders Seymor to make the plant grow, only problem is the plant doesn’t live on normal plant food but something much bloodier.
This, the original, is less known than the 1986 Little Shop of Horrors that is a musical based on the music play based on this. Consequently it is also quite different considering it has a more serious approach to the story though still with a bit of comedy mainly evident in the farce and the strongly drawn stereotype characters. Made on a bet of whether or not Corman could make a movie in just two days, which was the remaining time he had left on the set of his former movie A Bucket of Blood (1959), Corman shot the movie in two days and one night and with a budget of only $30.000. The result is a low key black comedy that may own a lot of it’s attention to the more popular musical based on it, but that truly deserves to be regonized for it’s own charming self. Haze (The Terror, 1963) and Joseph (Gremlins, 1984) are cute as the young couple falling in love despite Seymor’s overprotective and hypochondriac mother and Welles (Attack of the Crab Monsters, 1957) a delight as the penny-pinshing Mr. Mushnick whose greed is the catalysator for the story. There is also a small part for a very young Nicholson (The Shining, 1980) as the great comic character Wilbur Force. Despite it’s low budget The Little Shop of Horrors found an audience through mouth-to-mouth when it was released as the B movie in a double feature with Mario Bava’s Black Sunday (1960) with audiences enjoying the dark humour of the movie and only gained in popularity when the music play and musical adaptions brough attention back to it. Today it is seen as a classic of it’s genre and well worth a watch. Just don’t expect anyone to break out in song!
Charles B. Griffith stood of-screen and provided the voice of Audrey Junior to give the actors a reference. The voice was supposed to be dubbed in post-production but as Griffith’s voice work got laughs, and Roger Corman was notoriously cheap, his voice remained in the final print.
Charles B. Griffith filled out several extras and smaller parts with his family. For example, Myrtle Vail playing Winifred Krelboyne was his grandmother and the hobo Dr. Farb tortures in his office is his father.
The film’s concept is thought to be based on ‘Green Thoughts’ a story by John Collier from 1932 and Arthur C. Clarke’s ‘The Reluctant Orchid from 1956.
Picture copyright: Filmgroup