With its wicked and warped sense of humor, catchy song numbers and camp sensibilities, Frank Oz's big screen adaptation of the off-Broadway show inspired by the Roger Corman movie Little Shop Of Horrors was destined to be a cult classic. And like any cult classic worth its street cred, it has its own mythos of troubled moviemaking. While the source material ended with the story's plucky hero Seymour Krelborn and his beloved Audrey being gobbled up by his greedy extraterrestrial plant, test audiences for the movie musical were mortified by this finale, which included scenes of all out alien world domination. So, the film's finale was scrapped and Oz was urged to reshoot a more upbeat ending.
With the finale revision, Little Shop of Horrors went on to score rave reviews, and earn Oscar nods for Visual Effects and Best Song. From there, the original ending was shelved, but not forgotten. In 1998, Warner Bros. released a special edition DVD that included an unfinished version of the former finale, but it lacked color correct, sound design, and some visual effects, and, thus, was quickly recalled. Now, following its premiere at the New York Film Festival, Frank Oz's the Director's Cut is now available in all its intended glory on Blu-ray.
The sole difference between this director's cut and the theatrical release is the final 23-minutes. Otherwise the story is unchanged. Set in a 1960s slum called Skid Row, Little Shop of Horrors tells the cautionary tale of Seymour (Rick Moranis), a nerdy, back alley botanist who foolishly feeds a strange new plant his own blood, leading him down a slippery slope of fame, fortune, and homicide. As the plant—named Audrey II after his crush and co-worker Audrey (Ellen Greene)—grows, it demands more than a few drops of blood, and as Seymour craves the wealth that he hopes will win him the notice of Audrey, Audrey II manipulates Seymour to feed him more, even if it means murder! How this turns out all depends on which version you watch; thankfully, both are available on this Blu-ray.
As someone who has long loved this movie, I admit I've grown very attached to the happy(ish) ending I knew where Seymour and Audrey get their dream home…with the threat of an Audrey II reprisal lurking. While I happily sang along as Seymour begs Audrey II to grow, Audrey II demands to be fed, and Audrey dreams of "Somewhere That's Green," my stomach churned with dread as I anticipated their terrible fast-approaching fates. However, while far bleaker, the original ending makes much more sense story-wise. It offers payoffs to the warnings belted out by the Greek chorus of street urchins, reaffirms the inescapable nature of the soul-crushing Skid Row, and delivers a carnage-filled finale that is true to the film's B-movie inspirations as Godzilla-sized Audrey IIs terrorize New York on their way to world domination.
Ultimately, Oz's Little Shop of Horrors is a masterfully made dark comedy, and with its uncompromising original ending back in place it's sure to garner a whole new level of admiration among cult movie lovers. The songs are as wildly entertaining and bitingly funny as you remember, and combined with the willfully campy set design and performance style that playfully apes that of B-movies, it makes for entertainment that's sharp, yet satisfying and safe for the whole family. Guest performances by heavyweight comedians including Steve Martin as the demented dentist, Bill Murray as his gleefully masochistic patient, John Candy as a loony radio personality, and Christopher Guest as an overzealous customer of the little shop, are unhinged and hilarious, but the real star of this film is not among the the human cast. Hands down, it's Audrey II who steals the show, with the inventive animatronic puppetry that is still an inconceivable marvel to watch as the massive marionette jives, lunges and fights with its living co-stars. Basically, from its stellar song numbers to its colorful characters and stupendous spectacle, this is still one of the best movie musicals ever made.
Nonetheless, with a vivid restoration this is a must-have for fans of Little Shop of Horrors. Sure some special features are duds--the bloopers and deleted scenes options are slapdash scraps that are more befuddling than fun or revealing. However, the behind-the-scenes documentary short A Story of Little Shop of Horrors originally created in 1987 is a welcomed addition. The segment unveils the incredible amount of work and manpower it took to operate the full-sized Audrey II, which was over 12 feet tall and weighed more than a ton with miles of cable within his vines.
The glossy embedded 36-page booklet of photos and production notes is likewise enticing as it offers some more details on the filmmaking, as well as fun facts like Orin Scrivello, DDS's implements of torture later resurfaced in Batman when Joker's new face is revealed.
The only thing this edition lacks is a sing-along option. But of course, if you're eager to buy this title, you probably need no help from a bouncing ball to belt out any of this movie's memorable songs.