I loved this movie when it first came out. The humor is sly, the songs are hum-able and the performances were hysterical. I’d actually read about the changes made to the film before it was released. There was an article in the LA Times back in 1986 and Frank Oz talked very openly about how the previews just lost all their energy and enthusiasm when the originally planned ending was shown. “Little Shop of Horrors” is based on a Roger Corman cheapo film, that was turned into an off-broadway production and it was getting a big screen treatment. It’s not as if they were hacking away at a classic and deciding that Rick and Ilsa should end up together. The stinger at the end of the film still kept the biting edge alive, without losing the two characters that we had just spent an hour learning to love.
Tonight’s Fathom event features the original ending and I have to say there was a lot about it that was impressive, but they made the right choice thirty-three years ago. To call this a director’s cut is to ignore that Frank Oz himself could see what was happening to the audience, and that is why changes were made. The whole of the movie would be done ten minutes before the film ended. The originally planned ending plays out like a Joe Dante film. Not that that is a bad thing, but it is so different from the tone that was established in the first two acts. We start off with a great musical that sets up scene and characters in act one. Act two establishes the drama and romance that makes a story worth paying attention to, and then act three turns into a Japanese Monster movie with repetitive buildings collapsing. It might have felt like a bigger film but it is not a better film. I had seen some of this material on YouTube but in black and white. There was supposed to be a special edition fifteen years ago but it got pulled at the last moment. It is available now so this is really a commercial for the blu-ray.
Everyone in the movie is terrific. Seeing this tonight reminds me of how much I miss having Rick Moranis in a movie. I also could not believe that Steve Martin was ignored for a best supporting actor nomination, he is pitch perfect in his role. Because the songs were from the original stage play, they were not eligible for nomination, with the exception of one original song written mostly for the new ending. “Mean Green Mother from Outer Space” may not be a classic, but it was a way to honor the music and lyrics of Alan Menkin and Howard Ashman. Of course two years later, they would be showered with awards for their work on “The Little Mermaid” and the prolific work that follows is impressive.Ellen Greene was so good in this film. She has had a nice career but this most certainly was her crowning achievement and it came early.
This might have been a film I saw with Bob and Susan Gass along with my wife and Dan Hasegawa. I have a distinct memory of talking with Bob about the Greek Chorus of singers and him responding to it because he did not really like musicals. I could be conflating this conversation with the theatrical experience however. I do know that I saw the film again at the home of a Glendale Physician who had a spectacular view from a hillside residence in Glendale. My friend’s sister was house sitting for the Doctor and she invited us to come and look at his home theater. There was a descending screen and a projector that was hooked up to a Laser Disc player. We looked at his discs and selected”Little Shop” for our evenings pleasure. It sounded great and the picture left VHS presentations in the dust. It was just a couple years later that I made the jump to Laser myself.
This is the end of a long week that held some sadness for our family. This seemed just the recipe to get us back on track after the disruption and frustrations. We ate popcorn and basically sang along with the movie. “Suddenly Seymour” and “Somewhere that’s Green” are standouts for me, but I giggled throughout the film at the clever lyrics of Howard Ashman.