Allow me to be 100% honest here. I did not know this movie existed until the 21st century. Shocking, I know. Me, a huge Roger Corman fan, and yet I did not know that he made this movie. I was only aware of the musical movie from the 80’s. However, at some point someone had mentioned Jack Nicholson being in The Little Shop Of Horrors, and I remember thinking that I didn’t recall seeing him in that movie. Luckily, there was this thing called the internet that people had found out could be used for things besides porn and, after looking it up, discovered this movie and the rest is history.
The plot: In Los Angeles’ skid row, Gravis Mushnick runs a floral shop with his two employees, Audrey and Seymour. One day, Seymour is charged with putting together an order for Dr. Farb, a local dentist, while Mushnick and Audrey help out two other customers, Mrs. Siddie Shiva, who is always buying funeral arrangements for her deceased family, and Burson Fouch, who eats the flowers he buys. When Seymour screws up the order for Dr. Farb, Mushnick fires Seymour. Seymour tries to keep his job by telling Mushnick about the special plant he grew, but Mushnick refuses to budge until Burson mentions that stores with rare plants tend to do more business. Seymour goes home to get the plant, he first must deal with his hypochondriac mother, Winifred, Seymour grabs the plant and heads back to the shop. At the shop, he shows everyone the plant, which he named Audrey Jr., to Audrey’s delight, and Mushnick tells Seymour that he has one week and if the store doesn’t receive more business, he will fire both Seymour and Audrey. As Seymour tries to care for the plant, he accidentally pricks his finger on another plant’s thorns and notices that Audrey Jr. reacts to the blood so he proceeds to prick his fingers and let the blood drip into the plant’s mouth. The next day, Seymour is shocked when an excited Audrey and Mushnick greet him and show him Audrey Jr., which has grown almost a foot overnight. As the business begins to increase, Mushnick is excited, but after he gives Mrs. Shiva some carnations for free, they notice that Audrey Jr. has begun to wilt. As Seymour tries to figure out what he can do, he is shocked when Audrey Jr. suddenly begins to speak, continuously saying “feed me.” Feeling anemic from giving the plant too much blood the night before, Seymour is unable to do anything and decides to go for a walk to clear his head. As he is walking by the train tracks, he grabs a rock and throws it, inadvertently hitting a man and knocking him onto the train tracks, where he is run over by a train. Scared over what he did, Seymour grabs the body parts in a sack and heads back to the store, where he ends up feeding Audrey Jr. the bloody pieces. Meanwhile, Mushnick and Audrey have gone out to eat but when Mushnick realizes he left his money at the shop, he goes back to the shop and sees Seymour feeding Audrey Jr. a bloody foot. He plans to go to the police the next day, but when he sees the crowd of people standing outside his store, he changes his mind after seeing all the money he is making. When Seymour comes in, Mushnick talks to him about Audrey Jr., learning from Seymour that it is a cross between a butterwort and a Venus flytrap. When Seymour says that he doesn’t think Audrey Jr. will need to be fed again, Mushnick sends him to see Dr. Farb. When Seymour arrives at the dentist’s office, Dr. Farb plans on removing several of Seymour’s teeth, without the benefit of anesthesia, as revenge for Seymour ruining his plants. Seymour fights back and ends up stabbing Dr. Farb, but before he can get rid of the body, Wilbur Force, a local undertaker, arrives at the office. Seymour is forced to pretend to be a dentist in order to get rid of the strange man, then he takes the dentist’s body back to the shop and feeds it to Audrey Jr. The next day, Seymour and Audrey are surprised to see how much Audrey Jr. has grown and after Audrey kisses Seymour, she admits to liking him and the two agree to go on a date. When Mushnick arrives, he is shockedto see how much Audrey Jr. has grown, but he begins to feel even more nervous when two detectives, Joe Fink and Frank Stoolie, arrive at the shop and question him about the two missing men. Even though Mushnick acts guilty, the police believe he doesn’t know anything and leave, allowing Mushnick to grab Seymour and question him again about Audrey Jr. They are interrupted by Audrey, who tells them a strange lady is outside. The lady turns out to be a representative of the Society of Silent Flower Observers of Southern California, who plans to give Seymour an award the next day when Audrey Jr.’s buds open. Seymour and Audrey go on their date, which is simply dinner at Seymour’s house with his mom. Meanwhile, Mushnick stays at the shop to keep an eye on Audrey Jr. When the plant begins to speak and demand to be fed, Mushnick refuses to feed it but when a robber breaks into the shop and demands all of Mushnick’s money, Mushnick tells the thief that the money is in Audrey Jr. and when the thief looks inside, the plant proceeds to eat the thief. The next day, Mushnick declares that they will get rid of Audrey Jr. after Seymour gets his award. That night, Seymour and Audrey are having a picnic at the shop but when Audrey Jr. begins to yell out for food, Seymour pretends to be a ventriloquist to keep Audrey from getting suspicious, but she gets mad and leaves. Seymour argues with Audrey Jr. and refuses to feed it but the plant manages to hypnotize Seymour and makes him go out and get a new victim. Seymour wanders the streets of L.A. and runs into a persistent hooker, who he accidentally knocks unconscious with a rock and proceeds to feed her to Audrey Jr. The next day, a crowd gathers as Seymour is going to be given the award. However, when the buds open, each one has a face of one of the missing people. Joe and Frank, who happened to stop by, go to question Seymour but he runs off, saying “I didn’t mean it”, and the two cops chase after him, followed by Mushnick. Seymour manages to evade them and heads back to the shop, where he grabs a knife and tries to kill Audrey Jr. from the inside. Later, Mushnick, Joe, Frank, Audrey, and Winifred are at the shop, with Winifred commenting how Seymour used to be a good boy, when a fifth bud opens up, revealing the face of Seymour and says “I didn’t mean it” before it wilts and dies.
The Little Shop Of Horrors was met with a lot of praise from the critics, as shown by the 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While Jack Nicholson was at a screening, he noted that the audience “laughed so hard I could barely hear the dialogue. I didn’t quite register it right. It was as if I had forgotten it was a comedy since the shoot.” The movie was released twice as part of a double feature and both times it received positive word of mouth from the audience but Roger Corman didn’t believe it had much financial prospect after the theatrical run and so he didn’t copyright it, thereby letting it fall into public domain.
I love Roger Corman movies but this is probably one of the most well made movies he has ever done. The acting was great, primarily between Jonathan Haze (Seymour) and Mel Welles (Mushnick), though you really have to give some credit to the brief roles that Dick Miller (Burson) and Jack Nicholson (Wilbur) had. The writing was really good, with a lot of play on words and dark humor that really made this a great comedy. I really liked the two cops, that were a parody of Joe Friday and Frank Smith from Dragnet, but their names were common nicknames for informants. There wasn’t much in the way of special effects but the little bit that they had, primarily regarding Audrey Jr., were pretty good. This is a classic dark comedy that everyone should see.
Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5