‘The flowers that kill in the Spring TRA-LA’
The Little Shop of Horrors is a 1960 American comedy horror feature film directed by Roger Corman from a screenplay written by Charles B. Griffith ( Doctor Heckyl & Mr. Hype; Death Race 2000; A Bucket of Blood; et al). The film’s concept is thought to be based on a 1932 story called “Green Thoughts”, by John Collier, about a man-eating plant.
The movie stars Jonathan Haze, Jackie Joseph (Gremlins and sequel; The New Scooby-Doo Movies), Mel Welles (who later directed his own killer plant film, Maneater of Hydra) and Dick Miller, all of whom had worked for Corman on previous films.
Produced under the title The Passionate People Eater, the film was allegedly shot on a budget of just $30,000 in two and a half days – plus a couple of weekends for exterior shots – utilising sets that had been left standing from A Bucket of Blood.
The film gradually gained a cult following through word of mouth when it was distributed in the US in a double feature with Mario Bava’s Black Sunday and later with The Last Woman on Earth. The film’s popularity increased with local television broadcasts, in addition to the presence of a young Jack Nicholson (Mars Attacks!; Wolf; The Shining), whose small role as a masochistic dentist-patient was prominently promoted on home video releases of the film.
In 1973, it was loosely remade as a sex-comedy horror, Please Don’t Eat My Mother!
The movie was the basis for an ‘Off-Broadway’ musical, Little Shop of Horrors, which was made into a 1986 feature film and then enjoyed a Broadway revival. A thirteen-part animated television series inspired by the musical film, Little Shop, was shown in 1991.
The film was colourized twice, firstly in 1987. This version was poorly received. Legend Films colourized it in 2006, and this version was well received.
On Los Angeles’ skid row, penny-pinching Gravis Mushnick (Mel Welles) owns a florist shop that is staffed by him and his two employees, the sweet but simple Audrey Fulquard (Jackie Joseph) and clumsy Seymour Krelboyne (Jonathan Haze).
Although the rundown shop gets little business, there are some repeat customers; for instance, Mrs Siddie Shiva (Leola Wendorff) shops almost daily for flower arrangements for her many relatives’ funerals.
Another regular customer is Burson Fouch (Dick Miller), who eats the plants he buys for lunch. When Seymour fouls up the arrangement of Doctor Farb (John Shaner), a sadistic dentist, Mushnick fires him.
Hoping Mushnick will change his mind, Seymour tells him about a special plant that he crossbred from a butterwort and a Venus flytrap. Bashfully, Seymour admits that he named the plant “Audrey Jr.”, a revelation that delights the real Audrey…
“Corman’s secret was to play it all — the comedy, the cop sequences, the sight gags — even more deadpan than Webb’s work, so that the jokes were in the past once people tried to figure out what they had just seen. This was a style of comedy later perfected by the makers of Airplane and Police Squad and its offshoot, The Naked Gun movies, but Little Shop of Horrors is where it started.” All Movies
“The Jewish humour is occasionally stretched a little thin, but whenever this happens Corman soon switches to one of his inexhaustible supply of splendid comic characters like the manic dentist drilling his blues away at the expense of his patients…” The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror
“Instead of the camp, Grand Guignol grotesqueries of Oz’s version, you’ll find a lean, fleet, darkly comic farce. The stark and, frankly, ugly photography and presentation make the numerous gruesome deaths in the film both more disturbing and more ridiculous.” Battleship Pretension
“Many decades after its first release, Little Shop remains one of the most successful horror-comedies. The emphasis is on the comedy and it’s a combination of deadpan Jewish humor, sly Beat subversiveness, and pun-laden dialogue … Not a minute passes without a funny quip or solecism.” David Elroy Goldweber, Claws & Saucers
” …there’s something interesting about the film (perhaps all the emphasis on eating and mouths). And Corman gives the movie a good, lived-in feel; it moves at a pretty quick pace, and it’s harmless fun.” Combustible Celluloid
“The Little Shop of Horrors strikes a tone of anarchic absurdity from the start. Its characters are broad stereotypes played to perfection. Jonathan Haze is adequate as the whiney, empty-headed Seymour but Jackie Joseph is both sexy and adorable as the ditzy Audrey, always fumbling her diction and finding a rainbow in every disappointment. Griffith’s script is thick with Jewish humor, making Mel Welles’ Gravis Mushnik a fulminating volcano of frustrated avarice.” DVD Talk
” …the real star is Charles Griffith, who was given by Roger Corman the task of cloning his script for the successful Bucket of Blood, and did such an amazing job of converting a dark satire into a slapstick farce that unless you were aware of it, you might not notice that the story is same in both of the movies […] one of the funniest comedies around, and a perfect example of just how good a low-budget movie can be with a strong script and a good cast.” Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings
“Superbly funny black comedy … Nicholson is particularly good as a masochistic dental patient. Fun all the way and a minor masterpiece of ‘Z’ film-making.” Alan Frank, The Horror Film Handbook
“The sets, production values and plant effects are frightfully threadbare and the camera moves are so static that the film seems more like a stage-play […] All of the performances are surprisingly good – with Mel Welles stealing much of the film as Mushnick – and well-rehearsed, despite the incredibly small shooting/rehearsal schedule.” Moria
“The setting is Skid Row, but this one hails straight out of Poverty Row; an unabashedly quick and dirty production that’s practically gagging on the tongue that’s shoved in its razory maw. Its wit isn’t always that sharp, but it’s successfully goofy, silly, and not very horrific. Boasting a jazzy, brassy score and a half-hearted attempt at a film noir style narration, Little Shop of Horrors revels in its B-movie status.” Oh, the Horror!
“This may be a black comedy, but Seymour cannot be blamed for what he feeds Audrey Junior, he never means to bump victims off and drop them into the plant, it simply happens that way. Add in a Dragnet parody and enough smart wordplay (“I could eat a hearse!”) to keep events bubbling away, and you have no budget fun that against the odds produces laughter.” The Spinning Image
” …cleverly penned by Charles Griffith (writer for 1959’s A Bucket of Blood), this benefits from likable performances. Haze is great as the bumbling schmuck, and there’s a hefty handful of off-kilter moments. Nicholson shines in an early role as the masochistic dental patient.” The Terror Trap
“While its story doesn’t make for very funny reading, Little Shop of Horrors is a hilarious (and yes, quite silly) film filled to the brim with enough little vignettes and character quirks to sustain laughter throughout its brief 70-minute running time.” TV Guide
“This flick is chockfull of bizarre little bits and entertaining black humor. The Dragnet style cops are hilarious and some of their banter will leave you in stitches. The scenes of Seymour feeding Audrey Jr. disembodied hands and feet while the plant screams “Feeeed Meeeee!” are also pretty great. And not only does the movie features a man-eating plant, but also a plant-eating man played by the always awesome Dick Miller.” The Video Vacuum
Fouch (Dick Miller): “I’ve got to get home; my wife’s making gardenias for dinner!”
Wilbur Force (Jack Nicholson): “Now, no novocaine. It dulls the senses.”
Cast and characters:
Jonathan Haze … Seymour Krelborn
Jackie Joseph … Audrey Fulquard
Mel Welles … Gravis Mushnick
Dick Miller … Fouch
Myrtle Vail … Winifred Krelborn
Karyn Kupcinet … Shirley (as Tammy Windsor)
Toby Michaels … Shirley’s Friend
Leola Wendorff … Mrs Shiva
Lynn Storey … Mrs Hortense Feuchtwanger
Wally Campo … Sergeant Joe Fink / Narrator
Jack Warford … Detective Frank Stoolie
Meri Welles … Leonora Clyde (as Merri Welles)
John Herman Shaner … Dr Phoebus Farb (as John Shaner)
Jack Nicholson … Wilbur Force
Dodie Drake … Waitress
Robert Coogan … Tramp (uncredited)
Jack Griffin … Drunk (uncredited)
Charles B. Griffith … Kloy Haddock – Hold-up Man / Screaming Patient / Audrey Junior (voice) (uncredited)
Frank Mills … Man in Crowd Outside Shop (uncredited)
Black and white
Aspect ratio: 1.85: 1