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The musical Little Shop of Horrors became as popular a film as it was a stage production. However, the two have one massive difference between them, the ending. Director Frank Oz now explains why he made the decision to make such a drastic change. In the original Broadway show, the plant, Audrey II, wins, taking over the Earth and obliterating the human race. Oz says that the same ending in the movie didn't work for audiences because on stage actors never stay dead like they do on film. According to Oz...
The audiences loved (the movie), I felt like I was on a wonderful Hawaiian island lying on the sand. Until the two characters they love dearly get killed. And then it was an icebox. It was palpable. Killing them was a disaster. ... We wanted to be true to the show, in which both characters died and the plant won. But in theater, (a character) dies and then comes back to take a bow. In movies, the great lesson is you die and you die. You don't come back for a bow. That's what upset the audience. And I learned a great lesson.
It's a perspective that we had never really considered but what Frank Oz tells USA Today makes a certain amount of sense. Audiences tend to prefer happy endings in general, which is what the film version of Little Shop of Horrors eventually went with, but on stage, they always get one, as even an actor who dies on stage gets to come back and the audience gets to applaud. In a movie that option isn't there.
The entire premise of Little Shop of Horrors is off the wall. An alien plant is found and nurtured by a flower shop employee named Stanley, played by Rick Moranis in the film. Eventually, it's discovered that the plant, which Stanley names Audrey II after his co-worker he has a crush on, has a taste for blood, which eventually leads to Stanley helping Audrey II to grow to a massive size by feeding it people (it's cool, they're all assholes). The plant then becomes too much to handle and takes control of the relationship. On stage, Audrey II eats Stanley and Audrey, but in the film, Stanley is able to electrocute the plant, killing it. Thematically, the original ending works, but audiences grew so attached to the protagonists that they simply didn't want to see the heroes die.
If you're a fan of the original version of the story, or just like musicals full of mass murder, the good news is that there's now an opportunity to check out the original version of the film, complete with the "plant takes over the world" ending. Little Shop of Horrors is coming back to theaters as a Fathom Events presentation on October 29th and 31st with the original ending intact. A perfect Halloween themed experience.