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Little Shop of Horrors is a 1986 musical comedy directed by Frank Oz, starring Rick Moranis and Ellen Greene, with a special appearance by Steve Martin and cameos by John Candy and Bill Murray.

Plot

The film opens with the words read by Stanley Jones: "On the twenty-third day of the month of September, in an early year of a decade not too long before our own, the human race suddenly encountered a deadly threat to its very existence. And this terrifying enemy surfaced, as such enemies often do, in the seemingly most innocent and unlikely of places..."

A florist's nerdy young assistant named Seymour Krelborn (Rick Moranis) is trying to store pots, but breaking them by accident. The day of an unexpected solar eclipse, Seymour discovers a mysterious new plant at a Chinese Flower Shop,(Da-Doo), which is later revealed to have come from outer space. He names the plant "Audrey II", because of his secret crush on his co-worker Audrey Fulquard (Ellen Greene). However, when the shop closes for the day, Seymour discovers that Audrey II is wilting from lack of food. It refuses to eat anything normal plants would feed on, such as soil, water and sunlight. Seymour accidentally cuts his finger and discovers that Audrey II has an appetite for human blood. (Grow for Me) As the plant thrives, business booms at Mr. Mushnik's (Vincent Gardenia) failing Skid Row flower shop, and Seymour becomes a local celebrity all because of his incredible plant.

Eventually, the now-huge Audrey II (voiced by Levi Stubbs) begins to talk to Seymour, demanding more blood than Seymour can give. He convinces Seymour to kill Audrey's abusive and sadistic dentist boyfriend, Orin Scrivello, D.D.S(Steve Martin) and by promising him favors in return for feeding him, such as a new car and other wealthy privileges (Feed Me (Git It)). Seymour books an appointment with Dr. Scrivello and arms himself with a revolver. However, Orin, disappointed with his previous masochistic patient Arthur Denton (Bill Murray), decides to amuse himself by sniffing nitrous oxide. His gas mask malfunctions and Seymour allows him to die laughing hysterically from asphyxiation.

Seymour drags Orin's body back to the flower shop, where he chops it up for the plant. He is in the middle of dismembering the body with an axe when Mr. Mushnik passes by the flower shop and witnesses it. He does not confront him, but runs off scared. Seymour feeds the body parts to the plant.

After Seymour has spent a sleepless night, he discovers two policemen questioning Audrey about Orin's disappearance. She says that she feels guilty about Orin's death, even though she did not cause it, because she always secretly wished that he would die. Seymour tells Audrey that she is beautiful and shouldn't have such low self-esteem, and she realizes that she loves him back.(Suddenly Seymour)

That night, Mushnik finds Seymour and accuses him of being an axe murderer. Seymour confesses that he chopped Orin up but denies that he killed him. Before leaving the store, Mushnik decides to bargain with Seymour, offering Seymour protection if he allows Mushnik to take care of the plant. Seymour is undecided and stands by while Mushnik investigates Audrey II and gets killed and swallowed whole by the carnivorous plant. Seymour's fortune continues to grow, and he becomes a media star, but he is very worried about Audrey II's growth and insatiable appetite.

Seymour decides to leave town with Audrey, leaving the plant to starve to death. While Seymour momentarily

Audrey2

Audrey II in "Mean Green Mother from outer space"

leaves the shop, Audrey II telephones Audrey and asks her to come over, and then tries to eat her. Seymour saves her. They go out of the shop, and a salesman named Patrick Martin (James Belushi) from World Botanical Enterprises offers to breed Audrey II and make a fortune by selling the plant to families around the world. Seymour, frightened, realizes that Audrey II must be destroyed before more lives are lost. Seymour confronts and fights the gigantic plant, who now has little offspring in tow. Audrey II bursts out of his pot and reveals to Seymour that he's in fact an alien from outer space (Mean Green Mother from Outerspace). After brawling with Seymour, Audrey II manages to latch onto the store's support beams and yank the shop to pieces, assuming he's killed Seymour thanks to mass amounts of debris and bricks crushing him. Luckily, Seymour's arms burst through the rubble in which he has been buried and grab two broken exposed electrical wires, which he uses to shock the massive plant, causing Audrey II to blow up.

Seymour and Audrey wed and move to the suburbs, but as the credits start to roll we see a little smiling Audrey III bud in front of their picket fence. The film then ends.

Director's Cut Ending

Main article: 1986 Film Original Ending

The original ending for this movie followed the plot of the musical, featuring the death of Audrey and Seymour, and the plants taking over the world in a multi-million dollar special FX extravaganza. This ending scored stupendously low with test audiences, and thus it was removed, with initials plans to use the FX sequence for a sequel that never materialized.[1][2] However, it briefly blipped on DVD as an extra in 1998, and it was later reinstated in a "Director's Cut" of the film.

Characters

Songs

Production

Development

Rumors of a film version began to circulate soon after the play opened, with Hollywood heavyweights Steven Spielberg producing, Martin Scorsese[3] or Barbara Streisand[4] directing, and it was even rumored that it may be shot in 3-D.[5] Howard Ashman began outlining a screenplay in November 1982, and completed a first draft in December 1983.[6]

Ashman had been partially inspired to write the show based on the then-overwhelming popularity of Muppets' star Miss Piggy,[7] so the man behind the pig, Frank Oz, was approached early on, but he turned it down. "I said no, I couldn’t do it, because I didn’t really have a way in — a cinematic way in," Oz recalled.[8] Soon after, Oz realized that he could use the show's urchins, Crystal, Ronnette and Chiffon, as a Greek chorus to frame the narrative, and he wrote his own revision of the script in November 1984,[6] cutting unnecessary dialogue and dropping the songs Mushnik & Son,[9] Closed for Renovation and Now (It's Just the Gas). Ashman and producer David Geffen were so enamored with Oz's script that Ashman went to work cranking out three more revisions over the next three months.

Casting

The role of Seymour was basically handed to Rick Moranis. "Before we had even started the process, I always wanted Rick Moranis for Seymour," producer David Geffen recalled.[10] I ran into him at a concert and said 'You're gonna star in my movie.' He actually was the only person I ever considered." The attraction for Moranis was the opportunity to sing. "Until now, I'd been limited to mostly parody," he said,[11] referring to Tom Monroe, his lounge-singing recurring character on "SCTV."

Ellen Green - Little Shop of Horrors Screen Test 04

Ellen Greene Screen Test

For the role of Audrey, Warner Bros. wanted to cast a celebrity, and some of the names bandied about included Streisand,[10] Madonna and Cyndi Lauper, who reportedly was offered the part but had to turn it down due to scheduling conflicts.[12] Ellen Greene, who'd originated the part Off-Broadway and performed it for a solid two years in New York, Los Angeles and London productions,[13] was told that the part was hers when John Landis was set to direct the movie,[14] but the situation changed when Frank Oz came aboard. Greene's then-boyfriend Marty Robinson, who had worked on Sesame Street and created/puppeteered Audrey II for the original stage version, introduced them[14] and encouraged Oz to give her the part. Although she had a little bit of screen experience, the bulk of her career had been relegated to live stage performance. "They wanted to know how I could handle the lip-syncing," she said. A screen test was set up,[15] and she was so dazzling and performed such perfect lipsync on "Somewhere That's Green" that Oz phoned two weeks later to inform her she had the part. "I just screamed!" she exclaimed.[14] "I was proud of what I had achieved on stage with Audrey, but I was convinced they would go for a name [actress]." Oz later remarked, "I couldn’t imagine any other Audrey."[8]

Nearly 1,000 young women auditioned for the roles of urchins Crytal, Ronnette and Chiffon,[16] with teenagers Tisha Campbell and Tichina Arnold paired up for several of their auditions[10] and Michelle Weeks replacing the third auditioning actresses a little later. All New York natives, the girls were each roughly a year apart in age, but familiar with one another from school and various performance ventures.[11] "It was really just a coincidence that we already knew each other," Weeks said.[16] Arnold was on the verge of moving to Los Angeles for TV pilot season,[16] but fate had other plans for the young actress, who would soon find herself on the other side of the world shooting a movie.

Rounding out the cast as Mr. Mushnik was Vincent Gardenia, who claimed he got the job because "Frank Oz liked my name,"[11] and Hollywood heavyweight Steve Martin as sadistic dentist Orin. In cameos, popular comedy star John Candy had worked extensively with Moranis on "SCTV," and Moranis had co-starred with and directed Paul Dooley in "Strange Brew" (though Dooley was unavailable for the reshoot and his role was given to James Belushi). Geffen explicitly requested Bill Murray for the masochistic dental patient[17] and Christopher Guest had just completed his one-season run as a regular SNL cast member, and presumably caught Geffen's attention in the modestly-successful future cult classic "This Is Spinal Tap."

Pre-Production

During a production meeting with Ashman and Oz, Geffen recounted the tale of "Risky Business," a film which originally ended on a bleak note and scored low with test audiences.[18] He suggested writing a new happy ending in which the boy gets the girl and they live happily ever after, but Ashman countered that letting Seymour survive after feeding humans to the plant would leave him on "morally shaky ground."[18]

Geffen wanted to shoot the movie close to home in Los Angeles, but Oz, who'd worked extensively in England with Jim Henson on various Muppet productions, wanted to shoot there - and in a real-life Fozzie Bear moment, he cowed as if he was about to be fired on the spot for making such an audacious suggestion to Geffen.[18] Oz's instincts were on the mark with the currency exchange rate such as it was at the time, which was supposed to save the company $4 million in production costs.[18]

A budget was set at $18 million, but reports claimed it had doubled by the time initial filming wrapped,[19] and an additional $2 million was spent for reshoots.[14] Coincidentally, $38 million is also what it took in at the box office.[20] Other estimates claim it cost $25[21] and $26 million,[14] and Oz once remarked that it cost $30 million,[22] so a precise budget is difficult to tally.

Some preliminary audio tracks with the cast were recorded in April, but the playback soundtrack was recorded in July under the direction of Robby Merkin (who'd orchestrated the original New York productions[23]) and "Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons" member Bob Gaudio.[14] Ashman had committed himself to a 1986 flop Broadway adaptation of the 1975 film "Smile,"[14] but he frequently corresponded with the crew.[6]

Sets were erected in the world's largest soundstage, the 007 building at Pinewood Studios.[14]

Promotion

A Story of Little Shop of Horrors

Main article: A Story of Little Shop of Horrors

In 1987, The Geffen Film Company released a promotional TV special featuring a wealth of behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with cast and crew members. It has been included as an extra on virtually every home video release around the world since 1998.

Galleries

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References

  1. Cinfantastique, Volume 17, No. 5 (September 1987)
  2. New York Magazine, September 22, 1986
  3. Cinefantastique, Volume 14, No 2 (December 1983/January 1984), "Little Shop of Horrors: Corman's now-classic B-Film ends up on stage - and in court" by Dennis Fischer
  4. http://barbra-archives.com/bjs_library/80s/lhj_84.html Ladies' Home Journal August 1984: What's next for Barbra?
  5. People - Jaws 3D is the Great White Hope for a Resurging Fad That May Again Go Belly-Up
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 The Library of Congress: Howard Ashman papers, 1973-2010
  7. Chicago Tribune: Howard Ashman And `Little Shop`: How A Good Idea Can Grow And Grow
  8. 8.0 8.1 'Little Shop of Horrors: A Q&A with Frank Oz
  9. Collider: Frank Oz on ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ Original Ending, ‘The Dark Crystal’ and Jim Henson
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 A Story of Little Shop of Horrors
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Little Shop of Horrors press kit - Production Information
  12. IMDb: Little Shop of Horrors trivia
  13. Chicago Tribune: Role Enchants 'Little Shop' Star
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4 14.5 14.6 14.7 Cinefantastique, Volume 17, No. 1 (January 1987)
  15. eBay: Little Shop of Horrors 35mm screen test Rick Moranis Ellen Greene Frank Oz 1986
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 L.A. Times: 'Little Shop' Turns Into A Delight For Doo-wop Trio
  17. MTV News - Frank Oz Reopens his 'Little Shop of Horrors'
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 NY Times: On the Go with David Geffen
  19. AFI Catalog
  20. Box Office Mojo
  21. Mental Floss: 11 Bloodthirsty Facts About Little Shop of Horrors
  22. YouTube - Frank Oz Introduction And Q&A From "Little Shop Of Horrors Screening" At BAM
  23. Broadway World Credits: Robby Merkin