Saturday, 18 August 2018

I've Just Seen: Little Shop of Horrors (1960) (1986)

Directors: Roger Corman; Frank Oz

Of all the films to be give a musical makeover to, surely Little Shop of Horrors is the least obvious choice. The plot revolves around a nice guy, Seymour, forced to kill people to feed a carnivorous, talking plant named after the girl he loves (there is also a sadistic dentist thrown into the mix). If musicals have horror plots, they tend to be gothic (Sweeney Todd, Phantom of the Opera), but Little Shop is a horror-science-fiction-comedy, making it rather unique. Corman's original focuses on the destructive relationship Seymour has with Audrey Jr., while Oz's films ups the stakes, fleshing out Seymour and Audrey's romance, and giving Audrey II a rather sinister motive.

Corman's film is pretty good considering the smallness of the budget. The weirdness of the plot suits the indie nature of Corman's filmmaking, and his abilities with horror shows. The cameo from Jack Nicholson, though small, is fun for modern audiences. The ending is rather bleak, but considering the strangeness of the whole plot, the story could have gone in any direction and it could have worked.

Frank Oz's film, which is based on the stage musical, is more polished by comparison, and it does develop the plot and some of the characters more than they were in Corman's film. Audrey is in a relationship with the sadistic dentist (played wonderfully by Steve Martin), who is abusing her, making Seymour's tenderness with her striking in comparison to what he does with Audrey II. The songs are brilliant, unsurprising as they were written by Alan Menken (who did the scores for many 80s and 90s Disney films). My particular favourite is "Dentist."

Of the two films I did enjoy the musical more, though I will note I did watch it first, making it the default despite being chronologically after (This is why I usually try to see remakes chronological, so I can see the development of ideas through the versions). Regarding the alternate ending to Oz's film, I honestly don't know which one I prefer. While I like the sweetness and romance of the theatrical version, the alternate is dark in a way most musicals are not. At least in this world of Blu-ray extras you can explore both.

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