Review No. 573
“Horrors”! I laughed myself to death!
Director — Roger Corman
Producer — Mr. Corman
Screenplay — Charles B. Griffith
Jonathan Haze — Seymour Krelboyne
Jackie Joseph — Audrey Fulquard
Mel Welles — Gravis Mushnick
Dick Miller — Burson Fouch
Jack Nicholson — Wilbur Force
Narrated by Wally Campo.
Distributor — Filmgroup
Release Date — September 14, 1960
Language — English
Country — USA
Running Time — 1 hour, 13 minutes
Flags (allmovie.com) — adult situations; questionable for children; violence
THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS WAS WATCHED ON AUGUST 13, 2013.
SIDE NOTE: This is not the ’80s musical version. That one wasn’t quite as good.
Roger Corman earned the Academy Honorary Award in 2009. It’s well deserved, but for the same reasons, I have to laugh. No way in hell would Corman have earned a standard Oscar anywhere in his lifetime, but he’s indeed worth mentioning for the lovable trash he directed and produced. For those who don’t know, this is a guy who deconstructed Ed Wood. Ever heard of A Bucket of Blood? Yes? No? Well, it’s a cult classic from 1959, made by Corman on his ultrafamous low-budget attire. Sometime in 1960, Corman learned that the sets he had prepared, but never used, for A Bucket of Blood were about to be torn down. The two days before the day of bulldozing these façades were devoted to the shooting of The Little Shop of Horrors.
Corman’s homage to the B-movie age remains one of the funniest movies ever made. Why? It wants you to think it’s a “guilty pleasure,” but it takes just moments to become entirely self-aware in its black comedy. The poster looks like the ad for something utterly benign and (save for the tagline) even Mary Poppins-like. You could take the simple route, too: the budget is reportedly as low as $28,000, which is just over $180,000 in today’s money. (Make no mistake, the reports are correct, as the sound and visual qualities are so low-key, they’ve proven difficult to remaster.)
Amid the low-key production design, there’s a rather tastefully B-movian story: Seymour is a man with a plant, and he works in a florist shop. That’s the gist of the narration. We learn that he’s pining for his co-worker Audrey, whose mental capacity is rather insufficient enough to find it attractive when he names the Venus flytrap Audrey, Jr. But this isn’t just any Venus flytrap–it has a flesh-eating virus! What will Seymour do? Will he try to endure the pain of every “Feed me!” uttered by Audrey, Jr.? Or will he just become a murderer and, uh, feed it?
And that’s just where the writing comes in. I’d rather not spoil anything too side-splitting, but what separates this from an Ed Wood movie, is Ed Wood doesn’t give you exchanges like the following:
Leonara: Speak for yourself, John.
Seymour: My name is Seymour.
Leonara: (mockingly) “My name is Seymour!”
Seymour: That’s my name too!
To call the movie sharp would be an understatement. Its approach is so clever and alert in its eye for humor. The screenplay isn’t concerned with flamboyance–in fact, it’s as low-key as the rest of it. The only thing the script pays any mind to at all here is the matter of intelligence. The Little Shop of Horrors was written by Charles B. Griffith, who’s such a mind, he’s more likely a chimpanzee than a human.
Though this chimp did seem to slow things down near the end…I beg you, Seymour, don’t feed me to Audrey, Jr. for that!