BluRay/DVD Reviews

THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS (1960)

By • Oct 21st, 2002 •

Share This:

Eureka Video
Black & white / Running time approx 70 mins

Seymour Krelboyne, an inept but well-meaning assistant at Gravis Mushnik’s Skid Row flower shop, is haplessly in love with fellow shop assistant Audrey. When Mushnik threatens to fire him unless his work improves Seymour brings in a plant of his own, a unique one that he’s been propagating at home and which he calls ‘Audrey Jnr.’, hoping it will interest the customers and get him back into Mushnik’s good books. It works and the shop is suddenly bustling with new customers. Unfortunately Seymour discovers that Audrey Jnr. needs a special kind of food to keep it alive: Human blood. And the bigger it gets, the more it needs, but without the plant he will not only lose his job but also his beloved Audrey…

With a working title of THE PASSIONATE PEOPLE EATER, LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS is very similar in plot (?) line to Corman’s offering of the previous year, A BUCKET OF BLOOD (not surprisingly also written by Griffith) in which Dick Miller, the plant chewing Burson Fouch (‘I like to eat in these little out of the way places’) of LITTLE SHOP (and who would play in many other later Corman and similar genre flicks), plays a Seymour-esque nerdish character working in a Bohemian cafe and who is jealous of his artistic customers. One day, after accidentally killing his landlady’s cat and encasing it in plaster to conceal his crime, he is suddenly acclaimed as a brilliant sculptor. Obviously to maintain the illusion he must produce more works of art and, like LITTLE SHOP, things start to get nightmarishly, but amusingly, out of hand. A BUCKET OF BLOOD doubtless served as a dry run for this slicker and funnier follow up.

With a script written in a week and filmed, according to Corman, in two days and one night, LITTLE SHOP makes Robert Rodriguez’ EL MARIACHI pale into insignificance as an exercise in low-budget movie making. Corman even made use of an existing store-front set to serve as Mushnik’s flower shop and had to rush filming before the set was due to be demolished. The beauty of this piece though is that the low (reportedly $22,500) budget doesn’t matter. Other low-budget B-movies suffered because they were over ambitious, took themselves too seriously and were consequently let down by their meagre budget. LITTLE SHOP does none of this. It accepts it’s limitations and glorifies in them. It’s many charms are probably, and most likely, a result of the rushed filming, like the fact that the shop owner’s name listed in the credits is Mushnik, but the sign outside the shop reads ‘Mushnick’s’. With it’s witty black comedic script, it’s bizarre scenario, it’s preposterously melodramatic performances, it’s quirky, sleazy jazz score and it being a parody of those other B-movies, the cardboard sets are totally appropriate. As a serious piece of work it would have failed miserably; as it is it’s a gem.

Roger Corman himself cites this as the movie that established him as an underground legend. Screenwriter Charles Griffith, who had also penned IT CONQUERED THE WORLD (’56), ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS (’57), the aforementioned BUCKET OF BLOOD and would go on to write, amongst many others, PLEASE DON’T EAT MY MOTHER (’73), DEATHRACE 2000 (’75), and SWINGING BARMAIDS (aka EAGER BEAVERS (no; I don’t believe it either) (’75)), also appears as an ill-fated hold-up man and gave voice to the insatiable Audrey Jnr. with the infamous bellowing cry ‘Feed me! Feed me now!’. The film also importantly features Jack Nicholson in his first feature role, albeit about five minutes, as a masochistic dental patient, a role in which he takes a relish that hints of things that were to come.

The Eureka release has no features to speak of except for some minimal onscreen text information about the production, but both picture and sound have been digitally remastered and fully restored and the menu is carefully designed to be complimentary to the film’s opening titles. It’s a reasonably nice package but a Corman commentary would have been a plus. Maybe in the future.

The film is also available from Dark Vision, Waterfall Home Ent. Int. Ltd and Elstree Hill Entertainment. It is also to be found on two compilation DVDs: ALIEN PREDATORS from Brentwood Home Video which also reportedly features DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS, GRAVEYARD TRAMPS and TRACK OF THE MOONBEAST (but actually does not feature DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS but instead KILLERS FROM OUTER SPACE which in itself is a measure of the quality of this release) and also on 3 CLASSIC HORRORS OF THE SILVER SCREEN VOL.3 from Classic Entertainment which also features Vincent Price in THE BAT and Ed Wood Jnr’s BRIDE OF THE MONSTER. Out of all these I believe the Eureka release to be the best currently available.

Wherever you acquire it, it’s a minor classic, retaining the rough edge that the subsequent stage and movie musical versions sadly polished away.


Cast:
Jonathan Haze: Seymour Krelboyne
Jackie Joseph: Audrey Fulquard
Mel Welles: Gravis Mushnik
Dick Miller: Burson Fouch
Wally Campo: Det. Sgt. Joe Fink/Narrator
John Shaner: Dr. Farb
Jack Nicholson: Wilbur Force

Crew:
Directed by Roger Corman
Written by Charles (B.) Griffith

Tagged as: ,
Share This Article: Digg it | del.icio.us | Google | StumbleUpon | Technorati

Leave a Comment

(Comments are moderated and will be approved at FIR's discretion, please allow time to be displayed)