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Monday, June 4, 2012

Little Shop of Horrors

Happy June!  Since it is my birth month, I am being self-indulgent and writing about all of my favourite movies.  For some of the more well-known movies out there, I will be mostly reflecting on the why it is one of my favourites, as opposed to the usual format of a plot rundown and a wee little bit of reflection.  Not all of my favourite movies are classics – some fall into the guilty pleasure category – but whatever.  It’s my birthday month, deal with it.  OK, disclaimer out of the way, let us begin…
Oh, and from this post out, the movies are pretty much at random.  The first three were my three all-time absolute faves.  After that, it’s just movies I really, really love. 

#349: Little Shop of Horrors (1986).  OK, if you follow my other blog, The Next Step?, or know me personally, you know that I have a borderline inappropriate crush on Rick Moranis.  That is not why this is here.  This is here because it is made of awesome.  Besides, my obsession crush is starting to wane a little, anyway… So, here we go!

The Players:

Seymour Krelborn:  Played by Rick Moranis.  He’s clumsy, nerdy, an amateur botanist.  He works in Mushnik’s Flower Shop, and is in love with his co-worker Audrey, but he feels she is completely out of his league.  Sadly, his best friend seems to be this little plant (The Audrey II.  Cute or creepy?  I’m leaning towards cute with a hint of creepy) and does things that he never thought he would, all in the name of… love?

Audrey: Played by Ellen Greene.  She’s beautiful, dresses kinda slutty, is in an abusive relationship, but feels that she doesn’t deserve better. She has a little crush on Seymour, but barely admits it to herself, let alone anyone else.  Really, all she wants is to move to the suburbs and become a Betty Crocker/Donna Reed hybrid.  Which is really all I ever wanted, so I really related to her in that respect growing up.

Mushnik: Played by Vincent Gardenia.  Mr. Mushnick owns the flower shop, and is a father figure to Seymour.  He’s also a bit of a father figure to Audrey, as he knows exactly what is going on with her, and worries about/lectures her regularly.  He also gets real greedy real fast when the shop becomes suddenly successful. 

Orin Scrivello – D.D.S.: Played by Steve Martin.  He’s a sadistic dentist who loves inflicting pain on everyone, from his patients to Audrey.  He’s also not very bright.  What did Audrey see in him?

Michelle Weeks as Ronette, Tisha Campbell-Martin as Chiffon,  Tichina Arnold as Crystal

The Doo-Wop Girls:  Played by Tichina Arnold, Michelle Weeks, and Tisha Campbell-Martin.  These ladies are the “Greek Chorus” of the film.  They sing the opening number, and are present throughout, offering sassy commentary and kickass back-up vocals.  I had the pleasure of playing one of the Doo-Wop Girls in college when we put this show on in 24 hours… more about that later.  The girls are named after popular girl-groups of the 1960s: Crystal, Ronette, and Chiffon. 

Audrey II: Voiced by Levi Stubbs.  Audrey starts off as a cute little fly-trap looking thing, but in order to grow big and strong, it needs human blood.  As the plant grows, sucking the blood out of Seymour’s fingers isn’t enough.  People start mysteriously disappearing…

CAMEOS GALORE!  We’ve got John Candy, Christopher Guest, Jim Belushi, Bill Murray, and a handful more.  Like, seriously.  So many people in this movie…

The Rundown:
So, I realize not everyone has seen this, but really?  OK…

Seymour, Audrey and Mr. Mushnik work at Mushnik’s Flower Shop on Skid Row.  Business sucks.  So, Seymour (with a little prodding from Audrey, aw) suggests that they put this “strange and interesting new plant” in the window to draw customers in.  We learn through song (hey, it is a musical) that the plant mysteriously appeared during a total eclipse of the sun the week before. 

Well, putting the plant (Audrey II) in the window works, and they have an awesome sales day.  Now, I’ve seen this movie a million times, and upon the latest viewing, something occurred to me: they show this mini-montage of people popping in the store door and inquiring about the plant.  They are all dressed up super fancy-like.  This is day one of Audrey II in the store.  Why are all these fancy rich people shopping for flowers on SKID ROW?!  I mean, I understand when the show gets really successful, but this is still early on.  I blame costuming for putting sparkles and fur on the ladies…

Anyway, Mushnik is super pumped that customers do exist!  He offers to buy Audrey and Seymour dinner, but Audrey has a date, and Audrey II suddenly keels over.  Seymour is given the task of nursing the plant back to health.  Cue the erectile dysfunction song!

Audrey II grows, and Seymour appears on the radio with it.  Great scene with John Candy here, nice little SCTV reunion!

Audrey missed the radio broadcast, and gets an earful from the Doo-Wop girls about how bad her boyfriend is for her.  She’s in a sling, by the way.  She shoos them away, denying she deserves anything better than this jerk who beats her and makes her wear handcuffs (well, the handcuffs thing isn’t that bad, Audrey!).  She retreats to her cute little ruffle-filled apartment, and sings about the life she wants, “Somewhere that’s Green”.  It is beautiful and heartbreaking.  Just like Audrey.  Aww…

Cue song/montage of Audrey II getting bigger at the expense of Seymour’s health.  Suddenly, the plant is huge, and the shop is busy, and poor little anemic Seymour forgot an order.  While Audrey helps him put it together, they bond some more, but then she brings up her stupid boyfriend.  Which leads to the best thing Steve Martin has ever done:

So, the Dentist meets Seymour while he’s picking up Audrey for their date, is a dumb asshole, and they ride off.  Then it is revealed that the Audrey II can speak!  And in a sexy, deep African American voice.  After the song “Feed Me”, and a brief scene of Orin beating on Audrey (which is witnessed by Seymour and Audrey II), it is determined that Orin has to die.  And be fed to the plant.  Dude, I’d kill people for Levi Stubbs, too. 

So, Seymour goes to shoot Orin, but he accidentally kills himself by O.D.-ing on laughing gas.  Well, ok, then!  I mean, he’s dead already, might as well just chop him up and feed him to a plant!

The next day, Seymour sees the police outside Audrey’s apartment, and he rushes over to make sure he’s not wanted for murder.  After a really beautifully done scene (Ellen Greene kicks major ass in this role), we have this song.  (And this song completely justifies my love for Rick Moranis, BTW):

Side Note: I have watched this movie a lot, and only on a more recent viewing, did I notice something really subtle and well-done here: throughout the film, Seymour and Audrey have scenes together, but they never make physical contact until the very end of this song, when they are ready to make the jump together.  Well done, Frank Oz.

Seymour returns to his little room in the basement of the flower shop, deliriously happy.  But he’s not alone!  See, Mushnik saw Seymour cut up the dentist, so he tries to make a deal with him.  Resulting in him being eaten, too.  Geeze, everyone’s dying around here!

Now Seymour is super famous and successful.  The plant is freaking ridiculous at this point.  He tries to get away, but the plant tries to eat Audrey, and after a little scene in the alley with a guy played by Jim Belushi offering to sell cuttings of the Audrey II, thus making it “Bigger than hula-hoops” (probably my favourite line in the whole movie, don’t ask me why).  Realizing that this is what the plant wanted all along, Seymour decides to go in and kill his best friend.  Aw, sad…

So, it is then revealed that the Audrey II is “A Mean Green Mother from Outer Space”.  Well, duh!  OK, so here’s the song:

That’s ALL PUPPETRY, MOTHERFUCKERS.  Back to that point in a sec…

So, we have our happy ending with Seymour defeating the monster, and he and Audrey go live in her little suburban dreamhouse.  And a tiny little Audrey II (III?) hidden in their garden…

OK, so this is one of my all-time faves for a few resons:

The story.  It’s just.  Fun!  It’s an homage to the 1950s It Came from Outer Space type B-movies.  Which is funny, because it’s a musical re-imagining of a 1960 Roger Corman movie of the same name.  Which was shot, by the way, in two days.  So cool!  Anyway, it’s a quirky story, and I like it.

The characters.  They are all so distinct, and all of them are flawed in one way or another; Mushnik is greedy, Seymour is easily influenced and success-obsessed, Audrey is in some ways very broken and has low self-esteem, Orin is a sadomasochist, the Audrey II is a fucking alien plant form who eats people.  And yet, they are all enjoyable on some level. 
Ashman and Menken

The music.  Ashman and Menken were the best musical team in the 1980s/’90s, most well-known by many for their work on the Disney flicks of the late ‘80s/early ‘90s.  Sadly, we lost Howard Ashman to AIDS shortly before Aladdin.  He was a masterful lyricist, and I am forever grateful to him for giving me “Somewhere that’s Green”.

Frank Oz
The effects.  OK, I know I went off a little about special effects when I talked about The Wizard of Oz.  Well, here we go again.  This film had about 3 optical effects throughout.  Everything else was practical, on-set effects and puppetry.  Like, holy shit.  That plant is fucking awesome, and you know when they remake this (there are serious talks.  I might have to protest) the powers that be will most likely opt for an at least partial CG Audrey II.  Which is fucking cheating.  Now, of course, the director for this was Frank Oz, of Muppets fame, so he kinda knows his way around puppets, but of this size?  Damn.  There was some miniature work and cheating angles done, but mostly with the medium Audrey II.  The big one we saw in “Mean Green Mother…” is legit.  They shot everything at a slowed-down tempo and sped up the film later.  So, when you see the plant on screen interacting with Seymour?  Rick Moranis was acting in slow-mo so the plant looks real.  That amount of effort is astounding, especially when you see the final effect.  It’s just so damn impressive.

OK, off my soapbox.  This is a terrific movie, and everyone should check it out.  Totally worth watching.  I was lucky to have been in a production of it in college, in which we cast, rehearsed and put the show up in 24 hours.  I was Crystal, one of the Doo-Wop Girls, and it was a blast!  If you ever have a chance to see the stage production, do it!  There are extended versions of songs, songs that were left out, and the ending is quite different. 

I will now leave you with one of my most favourite things ever: a video of a bloopers/gag reel from the set.  It’s also found on the DVD.

Well, that’s a wrap for today!  Yet another musical tomorrow!

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