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Audrey II on the statue of liberty in the original ending of "Little shop of Horrors"

The original ending was planned as the finale to the 1986 movie but it was scrapped after receiving overwhelmingly negative reviews by test audiences, forcing the crew to revise portions of the film and tack on a happier ending. It quickly became legendary but the footage was not seen until 1998, when an extended black-and-white version of the sequence was briefly issued as an extra on a DVD (which was recalled 5 days later). In 2012, a so-called "Director's Cut" debuted with the alternate ending, featuring newly-restored color footage and completed sound and special effects.

Plot

Audrey II had finished the phone call to Audrey, and she has come into the shop, not able to believe seeing a talking enormous plant. Soon, Twoey asks Audrey for a cup of water, and after Audrey with the can, the plant grabs her body with vines, and brings her into his mouth, adding that she should join Orin and Mr. Mushnik inside. A loud crushing chomp sound is heard, and Seymour comes back into the shop, trying to rescue Audrey. This is where the original ending's plot begins. Soon, Seymour runs to the alley carrying Audrey, who is still half-alive, but has internal injuries that won't let her keep alive. Seymour begs her not to die, but Audrey instead tells him that if he feeds her to the plant, he will get the fame and fortune from the Meek and they will always be together. She sings to Seymour as if she were a plant, inside of Audrey II (Revision of Somewhere That's Green). Soon, Audrey faints after shuddering her last breath and dies. Seymour holds her closely one final time, and he decides to do something he wishes never happened.

Little Shop of Horrors - Audrey's Death Ellen Greene
Seymour brings Audrey's body to Twoey's mouth, and sad tragedy music strikes. Seymour is so upset he can't speak, and after Audrey is inside Twoey's mouth, the plant slowly swallows her, & Seymour tries to touch her hand, but her hand disappears for the very last time. Then, he runs out of the shop, nearly gets hit by a car, climbs a ladder on a building, and tries to commit suicide by jumping off a building. However, Patrick Martin shows up (the actor who portrays Martin in the original ending is Paul Dooley, instead of James Belushi in the happy ending). Patrick Martin shows Seymour that he will cut samples of Twoey and sell them globally across the country, but first asks Seymour for permission. Staring at the little pod sample cut from the plant, Seymour sees the plant pod grinning wickedly at him. Then, he runs back to the Flower Shop and Patrick Martin angrily complains at him for not answering his question. Martin barks down at the fleeing Seymour that Audrey II is public domain and that the samples of him will be taken, with or without his approval.

After running back into the shop, Seymour complains at Twoey that he was planning to spread offspring-like clones across America all the time, then Seymour says, "You ate the only thing I ever loved!". Twoey laughs evily to shame Seymour. He remarks "You're monster, and so am I! It's gotta end! It's gotta stop right here!" But then, the plant shoves him and starts the same song as in the real ending, "Mean Green Mother From Outer Space". Though in this ending, when Seymour tries to shoot the plant with a 6-Shooter, the gun's bullets bounce off of the plant's strong head-pod and fail to damage the plant, and the "movie" ending returns when the plant takes away the gun from Seymour and starts shooting near him. Most of the same version of the real ending's song is used. Twoey grows bigger and taller and still causes destruction in the shop, and Seymour is hopelessly attacked trying to avoid death. Twoey removes the support beam to the shop, which crushes Seymour with falling debris. Another thing that greatly separates this part of the ending from the one in the movie is that Seymour still survived the debris falling on him. He breaks out of the rubble, only to be grabbed by the plant's vines. The plant pods sing a humming hymn as a screaming Seymour is slowly lifted and eaten by the plant. Twoey then burps out his glasses, and laughs evilly.

Then, the Chorus Girls show up, and they tell the audience that the plant pods were taken into sale without permission into florist stores. Hundreds of people buy the plant pods, and business runs rapid at the florist stores. Then, a TV shows that Cleveland is being attacked by a giant monster, and it is a giant Audrey II pod! The Chorus Girls tell the audience, no matter what the plants offer you, you should never feed the plants. ("Don't Feed the Plants"), and 2 plants attack New York City in a style of "The War of the Worlds".

Little Shop of Horrors - Audrey II at the Roxy

Buildings are destroyed, people and pets run for their lives to avoid getting eaten or killed by the plants, and the human race becomes more threatened of existence in America. One Twoey blows into the smokestack of an industrial business and blows up the entire building. A train is eaten by one pod, there is massive destruction, and there are several fire explosions in the city. Then, the U.S. Military come and attack an Audrey II pod on the Empire State Building. They soon turn their attention and fire rifle bullets at an Audrey II on top of the Statue of Liberty, and the Chorus Girls with the voices of Seymour, Audrey, Mushnik, and Orin sing to the audience, "Don't Feed the Plants". A big sentence, "THE END?!?" comes in the screen, and one more Audrey II pod bursts through the movie screen, cackling with laughter as the camera zooms into his throat.

Cast

Songs

  1. Somewhere That's Green (revised) by Audrey
  2. Mean Green Mother From Outer Space by Audrey II and Mini Audrey II Pods
  3. Finale Ultimo (Don't Feed the Plants) by the Chorus Girls and the Little Shop of Horrors Choir.

Production

Richard Conway directing Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
Richard Conway was hired to direct the FX-laden climax in which the plants conquer the world, at the urging of Audrey II's creature designer, Lyle Conway (no relation), who'd been dazzled by Richard's work on Terry Gilliam's "Brazil." Originally contracted for 6 months, production of the sequence stretched on for 11, as Richard's special effects technicians, designers and cameramen swelled from a tiny crew of 8 to 36 people.[1] Artist Mike Ploog storyboarded 120 shots, which required as many models to be created.[1] Although it's implied that the pods are eating and trampling people, Conway was instructed to keep the tone light, with the plants eating trains, bursting through walls, and causing general mayhem and destruction. Much of the footage was shot from low angles to give the impression that the plants are looming over the panicked citizens.

A dozen building models were made at 1/24 scale, and they were continuously being rearranged and redressed to create the illusion that they were in different locations, plus a 30-foot long duplicate of the Brooklyn Bridge was erected. Only two plants were used for the majority of this sequence, with heads measuring roughly 3 1/2 x 2 feet.[1] Because of general wear-and-tear during the lengthy shoot, the plants were reskinned 4 times, which the crew tried to avoid doing due to the sensitive and temperamental nature of the latex rubber.

Little Shop of Horrors - Audrey II's in Manhattan
Although film plays at 24 frames-per-second, Conway shot at high rates of up to 360 f.p.s. to ensure the miniatures looked realistic, resulting in countless complications. For example, a six-second shot of the giant plants tromping through the streets of Manhattan required the crew to pull off all of the action in little more than a single second. "It's difficult for most people to understand high speed work," Conway remarked. "You blink and it's over."[1] Background plates were created to be matted into a few shots which required actors to be seen at the same time as the FX, but the vast majority of the sequence was created live in-camera.

Initially there were plans to have the oversized pods singing "Don't Feed the Plants," but since Richard Conway's crew was far removed from Frank Oz's more experienced puppeteers and they were working with miniatures, this idea was eventually abandoned.[1] Generally the crew was left alone to create the scenes as they saw fit, though Oz and Lyle Conway wandered in from time-to-time to check in on the progress, and Mike Ploog was a regular visitor to the set, sometimes operating the cables.[1]

Gallery

Deletion

Producer “David Geffen said it right off, you can’t kill your lead characters in a movie,” director Frank Oz later stated,[2] however, he gave Oz and writer Howard Ashman free reign to shoot the movie as they intended.[3]

After spending months assembling the film, it received a test preview in Orange County, California, populated by a "family oriented audience"[4] who stomped and cheered and applauded after each song. But the situation changed when Audrey died, "and then the theater became a refrigerator, an ice box," Oz remarked.[5] Unlike the original film and stage play, where Seymour nobly sacrificed himself in an attempt to kill the plant, viewers were horrified when Audrey dies and Audrey II becomes an unabashed monster, devouring Seymour and letting his podlings loose upon the world in the abridged version of the Director's Cut ending.[6]

The way that the test screenings worked is that the studio gave out cards with various questions, concluding with, Would you recommend this movie to a friend? "You have to have a 55% ‘recommend’ to really be released and we got a 13%," Oz noted.[5] The movie received a second test screening in hopes of getting a better reaction from a different audience, but it fared about the same.

Little Shop of Horrors Reshoot - NY Magazine 1986-09-22

New York Magazine, Sept. 1986

Ashman and Oz realized something drastic had to be done to get the film released, and since the initial reaction had been so overtly positive, they chose the moment in which Seymour pulls Audrey from the jaws of the plant to begin their revision. Delaying the film's release, the crew partially reconstructed sets and cast members returned to Pinewood Studios in September 1986 for two weeks of reshoots, at an exorbitant additional cost of $2 million.[4] Unfortunately, two actors were unable to return, so they creatively worked around the absence of Tisha Campbell by hiring a body-double, and Paul Dooley's role was rewritten for Rodney Dangerfield (whom honchos at The Geffen Company wanted in the movie) but ultimately James Belushi got the part.

The new "happy ending" fared better with viewers, so it was ultimately released in theaters and on home video. Unfortunately, it was up to Oz to break the news to Richard Conway. "I had to call Richard, it was the worst phone call... it was awful," Oz remembered.[7] Conway was devastated. "It seemed so indulgent to wipe away $5 million worth of footage because the ending was deemed too relentless," Conway commented at the time, further lamenting that he'd never even had the opportunity to see the footage cut together, and the studio wouldn't allow him to screen it.[1] All that remained of Conway's work in the theatrical version were the background plates that he'd shot for Steve Martin's motorcycle ride during the Dentist song. There was talk that Warner Bros. might utilize the costly footage for a sequel,[1] but that never materialized.

Little Shop of Horrors Topps Trading Card - Rick Moranis and Audrey II on the Brooklyn Bridge
Due to the reshoot and delayed release, a variety of stills from the original ending (as well as from the excised midsection of The Meek Shall Inherit) made their way onto merchandising like the Topps trading card set, and movie buffs got to read all about the blunderful ending in publications like Cinefex, Cinefantastique and The Little Shop of Horrors Book, cementing the film's legendary status as one of Hollywood's costliest test-screening disasters.

Releases

Workprint

During the film's editing process, several workprints were created to present how the movie could be potentially be cut together. It was not unusual for workrpints of the era to be transferred onto black-and-white film stock, as this was cheaper than color film, and it was only intended as a guide for the production team (a complete B&W print of Oz's previous film, The Dark Crystal, is in circulation in fandom[8]). At least 4 different B&W variations of scenes from the film exist, each with slightly different edits.[9]

In 1998, a 23 minute black-and-white copy (beginning during the reprise of Suppertime), which was duplicated from director Frank Oz's personal VHS of the workprint, was issued as a DVD extra - without the knowledge or consent of executive producer David Geffen.[10] Presumably this was from the longest edit, with every shot that could potentially be used. Geffen, who'd planned on someday reissuing the film with its original ending intact, was absolutely incensed, resulting in the world's very first DVD recall - a mere 5 days after the discs hit store shelves.[11] Although the gag reel and documentary were retained, workprint footage was removed and the disc was quickly reissued with a promise that it would be re-released in color. And then nothing else happened for years. Although Geffen initially stated that he possessed a color print of the original ending, he later discovered that he'd made a false claim.[12]

Awareness of the lost footage was boosted with the rise of You Tube and other online video sites, allegedly prompting Warner Bros. reps to state in 2007 that the original negatives were destroyed in a fire in 2002.[13] It's unclear where this rumor originated, but it was repeated ad nauseam across the internet, leaving fans heartbroken and serving to inflate prices for the recalled DVD, which had already been selling on eBay well into the triple-digits for years.

Director's Cut

In January 2012, curiosity and excitement swelled when the MPAA Ratings website issued a PG-13 rating for an "edited version" of "Little Shop of Horrors: The Intended Cut," featuring "content different from the" original 1986 release.[14] As the year progressed, Frank Oz signed off on letting them issue it with the subtitle "The Director's Cut," although this was in-name only, as he had no direct involvement with the movie's restoration.[15] However, it did afford him the opportunity to make up for the devastating phone call he'd made to Richard Conway a quarter of a century earlier. "That was my joy!" Oz remarked of his follow-up call informing Conway that his work was finally being restored, completed and officially issued.[7] The director's cut had its debut at the 50th New York Film Festival on September 29, 2012[16] and it was released on Blu-Ray on October 9.[17]

When Frank Oz attended the 2012 premiere, he was bracing himself for a negative reaction similar to the ones he'd endured during the test screenings,[3] but something unexpected happened: The 2012 Film Festival audience applauded Audrey and Seymour's respective deaths and cheered on the plants during their rampage. “Sadly, I think audiences have gotten more cynical,” he remarked of the modern audience's enthusiasm.[2]

Restoration

The restoration was carried out under the tutelage of Kurt Galvao, Warner Bros. V.P. of Assets & Technology/Post Production, who had garnered tremendous acclaim for his work on "Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut," "Woodstock: The 40th Anniversary Edition" and the "Final Cut" of Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner." Galvao went over Frank Oz's notes to try to stay true to the filmmaker's vision, once joking that, "“Luckily, he has no notes.”[2] Although this was untrue, Oz's notes were minor. For example, upon seeing a plant climbing the Statue of Liberty, a soldier clearly exclaims, "What the f---?!," and Oz had made a specific note saying that the foul language was not to be audible.[9]

Work on the restoration was done by a small team of 12 people[9] and took nearly a year-and-a-half - beginning 25 years after the film's original release, by which point the various elements had been scattered all over the world. 200 boxes boxes of film were found in vaults in Hollywood, Kansas and London,[3] and Galvao's crew had to go through each bit of footage to find the correlating shots.[18] Unfortunately, they kept overlooking the shot of Audrey II bursting into the bar at the disco, which was the final piece of footage found - after the crew had double-and-triple checked all of the film.[7]

The original 24-track music tapes were located, but there were a few sound issues, such as an inexplicable banging noise which had to be filtered out of the final reprise of Somewhere That's Green.[2] Although the music was generally well-preserved and intact, the finale's special effects extravaganza was never completed, so all of the sound effects were newly created for this version of the film.[2][7]

Little Shop of Horrors Director's Cut - Audrey II The End

Digital composite effect in the Director's Cut

The closing shots of the movie, featuring the plants overtaking the statue of liberty and ultimately bursting through the movie screen were never completed (and background plates for the statue were never created) so these few shots had to be finished with the aid of modern-day digital FX.

Additional Deleted Scenes

The Meek Shall Inherit - Workprint
Two months after the release of the Director's Cut, a slew of additional footage surfaced in two videos on Vimeo.[19][20] Duplicated from a color workprint that was shorter than Oz's black-and-white version, it included the missing dream sequence from "The Meek Shall Inherit" and alternate versions of many scenes, such as a different opening to "Grow for Me," an extended version of Orin's dismemberment, and the original version of Seymour's proposal to Audrey in which Mr. Mushnik's abrupt disappearance is finally explained. The second video also includes a severely truncated copy of "Don't Feed the Plants" which runs roughly 3 minutes, and it is this version that was originally screened for despondent test audiences in 1986.[21][1][6]

Subsequently, numerous versions of workprints began to circulate among fans and deleted footage found its way to You Tube, including Audrey's monologue in "Somewhere That's Green"[22] and several comprehensive comparisons of alternate footage.[23]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 Cinfantastique, Volume 17, No. 5 (September 1987)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 MTV Interview: Film Restoring With Kurt Galvao, From 'Little Shop of Horrors' To 'Blade Runner'
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 The Dissolve - The spectacularly tragic Little Shop Of Horrors that wasn’t
  4. 4.0 4.1 Cinefantastique, Volume 17, No. 1 (January 1987)
  5. 5.0 5.1 Monster Legacy: Audrey II Conquers the World
  6. 6.0 6.1 Yahoo Entertainment - MVPs of Horror: The 'Little Shop of Horrors' Puppet Master Who Brought the Blood-Thirsty Plant to Life
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 NYFF Q&A: Little Shop of Horrors
  8. The Dark Crystal B&W workrprint
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 AWN - Bringing Horror back to 'Little Shop': WB’s Kurt Galvao on the creation of The Director’s Cut decades in the making
  10. Collider - Frank Oz on ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ Original Ending, ‘The Dark Crystal’ and Jim Henson
  11. Entertainment Weekly - Little Shop of Horrors: Rare Footage Recalled
  12. Entertainment Weekly -'Little Shop of Horrors: A Q&A with Frank Oz
  13. Film Buff Online - Don’t Feed The Plants!! LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS Original Ending
  14. Coming Soon - Latest MPAA Ratings: BULLETIN NO: 2205
  15. Next Avenue - Happy Halloween: Revisiting ‘Little Shop of Horrors’
  16. Playbill - 50th New York Film Festival Kicks Off Sept. 28; Festival Includes "Little Shop" and Tribute to Nicole Kidman
  17. amazon - Director's Cut Blu-Ray
  18. IFC - How “Little Shop of Horrors” got its ending back
  19. Little Shop of Horrors - Deleted Scenes, Part 1
  20. Little Shop of Horrors - Deleted Scenes, Part 2
  21. Little Shop - FOUND Deleted Scenes
  22. Somewhere That's Green: Early Workprint
  23. You Tube - Little Shop of Horrors Workprint