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The Little Shop of Horrors-1960

January 26, 2010
 Image result for little shop of horrors 1960
50 years   back, 1960
  • The  deepest  point on  Earth, Marianas  Trench  was  accessed  using  a bathyscape  Trieste.
  • African  nations  were  breaking  off  their  shackles, while  Algeria  witnessed a bloody  uprising against the French.
  • Adolf  Eichmaan  was  captured by  Mossad  and  bought to trial.
  • Sirimavo  Bandaranaike  became  the  first  woman to be elected  as head of  Govt.
  • A  certain  Cassius  Clay  won the  heavyweight  gold in the Rome Olympics.
In  the  movie  world,  it   was  an  exciting  times  to be.  The  old  order  in  Hollywood  was  giving  way, most of  the  directors  of   the  Golden  Era- John  Ford,  King  Vidor   were  slowly  reaching  the  end  of  their  careers.  It  would  be  the  beginning of  a new  era,  of  directors  like  John  Frankenhemier,  Stanley  Kubrick,  Sidney Lumet,  Stanley Kramer,   as  also  the  period  when  European &  British  cinema  would  hit  the  American   shores,  that  would  lead to the emergence  of  the  70′s  brat  pack.   1960  had  the  big  budget  epics   Kubrick’s  Spartacus,   John  Sturges  reworking of   Akira  Kurosawa’s   The 7  Samurai  into  the  The Magnificent  7,   it  was the year when Hitchcock  scared  women  into  taking  showers  with Pyscho,  Billy  Wilder  explored  the  angst of  an  average  American  employee  in  the  satiric  The  Apartment, it  was also  the  year  of   Goddard’s  Breathless,  Antonioni’s  L’Avventura and   Fellini’s  La  Dolce  Vita.
It   was  also  the  year  of a  little  known  B&W   movie,  that   combined  elements  of  comedy,  camp  horror  and satire,  and  has  become  a  cult  favorite  down  the  years.  It  has  influenced  a  Broadway  stage play,  and  a 1986  musical  movie  version.    It   featured  a  very  young  Jack  Nicholson in  a small role,  that  has now  become something  of  a  movie  folk lore.   And  it   was   B-Movie  making,  at  it’s  best,  incorporating  all the  elements,  cheesy  effects,   equally  cheesy  VO’s,  whole  cast of  not  so  known  actors,  over the top.   The  movie  i  am  referring to is  the  1960  version  of   The  Little  Shop  of  Horrors.   One  of  the  earlier  movies  to  achieve  cult  status,  this  movie  by  now  is  something  every  cult  fan  swears  by.  Forget  about  the  ratings on  IMDB,  forget  about  what  the  critics  say  on Rotten  Tomatoes,  this  is  in  every  sense,  a  true  cult  movie.
Image result for little shop of horrors 1960
What  is  the  story  about?
A  small  florist  shop  on  Los  Angeles  skid  row  is  owned  by  a  miserly  Jewish  owner,  Gravis  Mushnik( Mel  Welles),    and  it’s  a run down  place, not  doing  too  greatly,  except  for  one  regular  customer, Ms. Siddie Shiva( Leola  Wendorff),  who  always  seems  to  be attending  some  or  other  funeral,  and  keeps  ordering  flowers  daily.  The  only  2 employees  in the  shop   are  a  sweet, buxom, airhead   Audrey  Fulquard( Jackie  Joseph) and  a  goofball   called  Seymour  Krelboin(  Jonathan  Haze). Seymour  keeps  driving  Gravis  nutty, with  his idiotic  ways,  his  propensity  to  screw up  things.   And  when  he  messes  up  a  delivery  to  the  dentist  he  is  fired.

You didn’t mean it. You never mean it. You didn’t mean the time when you put up the bouquet with the ‘get well’ card in the funeral parlor, and sent the black lilies to that old lady in the hospital. You’re fired and this time, I, Gravis Mushnik, mean it!

Desperately  seeking  to  hold  on  to  his  job,  he   tells  Mushnick about a  special  plant, he has  bred,  a cross  between a   Venus  fly  trap  and a  butterwort.  And he  names  it  as  “Audrey 2″,  after  the  female  employee for  whom he has the hots.  Seymour  is  the  typical  loser,  goofy,  bumbling  and  add to it,  has  to  deal with  an  ailing  hypochondriac mother, Winifred. Mushnick is  not  impressed  with  the  plant, while  Audrey  is  thrilled  to know  that  the plant  is named  after   her,  “the  biggest  honor done to me” she says.
Seymour  know  begins to  take  care of  the  plant,  watering  it,  talking to it.  During  an  incident, when  he  cuts  his finger,  he  comes to know  that   the  plant  loves  blood,  and  then  he  begins to feed it   daily  drops of  his  own blood. The  plant  keeps  growing, on the  steady  diet  of  blood  it  receives  from  Seymour, who on the other hand, becomes  increasingly  anemic.  In  a  bizarre  twist,  Audrey2  becomes  an  attraction,  Mushnick  now  begins to  treat  Seymour  like  a son,  all the  while   Seymour  becomming  more  and more  anemic.
Audrey 2  begins  now  to  speak,  “Feed  Me”,  demanding to be  fed,  Seymour,  now is  facing  loss of  blood  as he  tells the plant  “I  need some blood  for  myself”. He  takes  a walk  along  the  railway  tracks,  and  when  a  freak incident  causes   a man  to be  run over by  a  train,  he  takes  the  body  to be fed to the  plant.   As  he  feeds  the  pieces,  Mushnick  back  in  the  shop  to  get  some money,  observes  him  stuffing  the  body  parts into the plant. Thus begins a  never  ending  nightmare  as   the  plant  now begins  to  increase  in  size  and  appetite,  turning  into  a  monster.
Image result for little shop of horrors 1960 jack nicholson
The  Little Shop  of  Horrors was  shot  on a  shoe  string  budget  of  just  30,000  $.  And  the  tackiness  shows  in  every  frame,  right  from the  dull  B&W  print  to  the   rather  stagey  looking  settings,  to  the  B  actors,  to  the  hooky  looking   plant,  that  far  from  scaring,    looks  more  campy.  In fact  though  its  quite  in  effect  a black  comedy, with  quite  a dark  ending,  the  movie  is  camp  for  most of  the  time.   It  is  cheesy,  over  the  top, tongue in cheek,  not to be taken  too  seriously.  And  yet  for  a  movie  that  in  effect  is  B grade,  camp  horror, it  sparkles  with  some  really  witty  humor  and  excellent  writing.
The  theme  does  echo  Frankenstein,  in  which  a person’s  creation  turns  on,  and  finally  ends  up  destroying  him.  The  Frankenstein  here  is  Audrey 2,  which  morphs  into an  out of  the  control  monster,  devoring  everything  that  comes  into it’s  way.   The  more  you  feed  it,  the  more  it  wants.   Was  this  some kind of  veiled  attack on  American  style  consumerism,  the  more  you have  something,  the  more  you  want it?  If   taken in  a  metaphorical  way,  i  feel  Audrey  2,  the  carnivorous  plant,  does  satirize  the  American  consumer,  as  it’s  wants  grow and  grow,  it  becomes  larger,  it  becomes  hungrier.    In  another scene,  Musnick,  begins  to  dream  about  owning  a  florist  store  in  Beverly  Hills,  where  he  could sell  the  plants  at  over  priced  rates.  While  in  one  way, the  story  does  pay  tribute to  the  typical  American  innovativeness  and  ingenuity,  in  the  same  sense,  it  pokes  fun  at  the  American  “success  at  all  costs” capitalism,  as  well  as  the  typical  consumerist  mentality.
Seymour  starts  out  as  loser,  begins  to  win,  when  his  plant,  attracts  customers,  and  yet  finds  his  life  being destroyed  slowly  by  the  same  plant.   As  he  says  in  one  scene.

I don’t care what you need. Look what you’ve done, you not only made a butcher out of me but you drove my girl away.

Mushnick  is  scared  of  the  plant,  concerned  about  it’s  capacity  for  destruction, but  does  not  want  to destroy it,  as  the  plant  brings  in the  business  for  him.   Under  it’s  satire,  it’s   dark  comedy,  The  Little  Shop  of  Horrors  does  carry  a moralistic  fable  about  Greed  ultimately  destroying it’s  creator.
Not sure  though,  if  all  this  hidden  sub  text would  be  something  that  fits  in  with  director  Roger  Corman.  One of  the  most  popular  B Movie  makers,   of  his  time,  his  earlier  work  prior  to  this  were  such  classics  like Attack of the  Crab  Monsters,  The Wasp  Woman,  A  Bucket  of  Blood, and  he  was  the  same  director behind  the biker  classic,  Wild  Angels,  that  starred  Peter  Fonda,  Diane Ladd  and  was  one  of  the  defining  movies of  the  counter  culture  movement.   He  is  also  noted  for  his  series  of  movies  in  the  60′s  that  starred  Vincent  Price,  and  were  based   on  Edgar  Allan  Poe’s works,  The  Raven, The Pit  and the Pendulum,  House of  Usher,  Masque of  Ligeria. Major  leading  lights  of  the   70′s   cut  their  teeth  on  Corman’s  movies,  Francis  Ford Coppola,  Jack  Nicholson,  Martin   Scorsese (Corman  produced  Boxcar Bertha one of  his  earlier  directorial  efforts).
To  all  cult  movie  lovers,  i  would  request  to  go  for  the  1960 B&W  version of  the  movie,  it is  movie  making at it’s  most   passionate.   Overcoming  constraints  of  budget, cast &  actors,   Roger  Corman  manages  to  give us a movie  that  is  cheeky,  campy,  fun,  and  has  an  underlying  sub  text.
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6 Comments
  1. Great review x Thanks for this addition to my Here’s Jack blogathon and thanks for joining x Gill from Realweegiemidget Reviews xx

  2. mda4life permalink

    I love Jack in this movie! I really like this movie lol!

  3. Did a double feature review of this and “A Bucket of Blood” last year. Corman’s movies are great. I like Nicholson’s brief spot, too.

  4. Oh, I didn’t realize Roger Cormon was responsible for this! I’ve begun watching some of his movies and now think I need to see this more than ever. Thanks!

  5. Jack Nicholson looks SO YOUNG here – I almost didn’t recognize him. I’m not a fan of the later film, but this one looks like it was done right. I’ll be watching for it. Thanks!

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