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Film Review: The Little Shop Of Horrors (1960)

“Seymour is a young man who works in a flower store. He manages to create a carnivorous plant that feeds on human flesh. Nobody knows about it, so Seymour and the plant become ‘good friends’. The plant needs food to grow up, so it convinces him to start killing people.” (courtesy IMDB)

This week I wish to discuss the second film in my Charles B. Griffith retrospective, and his greatest contribution to the world of cinema, the low-budget classic The Little Shop Of Horrors (1960), the first film to be turned into a musical, then back into a film again. Directed by Roger Corman and starring Jonathan Haze and Jack Nicholson, I take great pride in discussing one of the quickest films ever made. Ladies and gentlemen, purportedly shot in only two days, here is Little Shop Of Horrors.

Regular readers may have noticed a certain similarity between Little Shop Of Horrors and last week’s A Bucket Of Blood (1959), in that they both have the same plot. Corman, being a cheap bastard, didn’t like to throw anything away, and Charles, having to produce a script quickly to take advantage of leftover sets, decided that if the structure worked for one film, it could work for another. Remember, this was in the days before the Cut-And-Paste command replaced writers in Hollywood, so Charles B. Griffith was way ahead of his time.

Jonathan Haze, who plays Seymour, was a friend of Griffith’s and the person to introduce him to Corman. He was in the Griffith-penned films It Conquered The World (1956), The Gunslinger (1956), Not Of This Earth (1957) and Naked Paradise (1957), which was remade as the third film in our mini-festival, Creature From The Haunted Sea (1961).

Jackie Joseph, who plays Audrey, is better known as the voice of Melody in Josie And The Pussycats In Outer Space – or perhaps not. She was also in Police Academy II (1985) and Police Academy IV (1987), as well as playing Dick Miller‘s wife Mrs. Futterman in Gremlins (1984) and Gremlins II (1990) – someone else Joe Dante owes money to. She was also married to Ken Berry of F-Troop fame – somehow, everything leads back to F-Troop.

Mel Welles, another old friend of Griffith’s, had a long, if not entirely distinguished career. Everything from Abbott And Costello Meet The Mummy (1955) to Invasion Earth The Aliens Are Here (1988). If it was obscure and unmemorable, he’d be in it, with Little Shop Of Horrors being the exception. He even directed films like Joy Ride To No-Where (1977), another work of Self-Evident Cinema, where everything you need to know is right there in the title.

Wilber Force, the masochistic dental patient was played by someone called Jack Nicholson – I’m not exactly sure what happened to him after this film – and of course Myrtle Vale, Griffith’s grandmother, once more appears. Griffith himself is not just the burglar and the dental patient who runs screaming from the surgery, but is also the voice of Audrey Junior – talk about throwing yourself into your work!

Apart from the hit stage musical that became a non-hit film in 1986, The Little Shop Of Horrors was turned into a short-lived animated series called Little Shop in the nineties. It was scheduled against something with the ridiculous title of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, so somehow it failed to get renewed. There was also a softcore p*rn version also written by Griffith called Please Don’t Eat My Mother (1972), and its Oedipal sequel, Don’t Worry I’ll Do It Myself.

The film was famously shot in two days, however years later Jonathan Haze admitted that he had to return to do re-shoots. There were re-shoots of Audrey Junior, too, but she had to be re-grown from scratch. The Little Shop Of Horrors is a triumph of imagination and humour over budget, something Hollywood has forgotten during the age of Adam Sandler. So without further ado, best return now to the climax of Little Shop Of Horrors.

In a totally unexpected twist, the creator is devoured by his creation – I sure didn’t see that coming. Join me next week for the third and final film in my Charles B. Griffith mini-festival for Horror News, the underrated and hilarious Creature From The Haunted Sea (1961). Until then, toodles!

The Little Shop Of Horrors (1960)

About Nigel Honeybone

"Rondo Award Winner Nigel Honeybone's debut was as Hamlet's dead father, portraying him as a tall posh skeleton. This triumph was followed in Richard III, as the remains of a young prince which he interpreted as a tall posh skeleton. He began attracting starring roles. Henry VIII was scaled down to suit Honeybone's very personalised view of this famous king. Honeybone suggested that perhaps he really was quite skeletal, quite tall, and quite posh. MacBeth, Shylock and Othello followed, all played as tall, skeletal and posh, respectively. Considering his reputation for playing tall English skeletons, many believed that the real Honeybone inside to be something very different, like a squat hunchback perhaps. Interestingly enough, Honeybone did once play a squat hunchback, but it was as a tall posh skeleton. But he was propelled into the film world when, in Psycho (1960), he wore women's clothing for the very first time. The seed of an idea was planted and, after working with director Ed Wood for five years, he realised the unlimited possibilities of tall posh skeletons who dressed in women's clothing. He went on to wear women's clothing in thirteen major motion pictures, including the Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) and Star Wars (1977), heartbreaking as the remains of Aunt Beru. With the onslaught of special effects came the demise of real actors in these sorts of roles. After modeling for CGI skeletons in Total Recall (1990) and Toys (1992), the only possible step forward for a tall posh skeleton was television, imparting his knowledge and expertise of the arts. As well as writing for the world's best genre news website HORROR NEWS, Nigel Honeybone also presents the finest examples of B-grade horror on THE SCHLOCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW seen every Friday night on TVS Television Sydney." (Fantales candy wrapper)

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