Howard Ashman and Alan Menken bring their bring science fiction b-movie musical to the big screen, ably directed by Frank Oz, in this 1986 adaptation that is the next stop in the Monstrous Aliens section of DK Canada’s Monsters in the Movies.
Rick Moranis plays Seymour, a bit of a schlub with an affectation for working with plants. An orphan he’s been working for Mr. Mushnik (Vincent Gardenia) in his flower ship on skid row alongside his dream girl, Audrey (Ellen Greene – who has been playing the role long before and after the film happened).
Set in the 60s (as all good b-movie sci fi is) a strange, total eclipse of the sun, delivers a strange plant into Seymour’s life. A plant that only grows and thrives, on human blood, which Seymour slowly gets tempted into feeding it.
And murder follows.
All set to some great songs, laughs, and performances, from the Greek chorus designed and named after Motown girl groups, to a scene-stealing Steve Martin as a sadistic dentist who gets what he deserves this one is a lot of fun, poking fun at the tropes of the genre while having fun as a musical.
There are some great cameos as well, most notably John Candy and Bill Murray, who both bring a lot of laughs to the film. But the show’s centrepiece is the design and manipulation of the giant puppet that is the plant, Audrey II (voiced by Levi Stubbs). Everything happens on set, and lends it a bit of reality even as it pushes believability – I mean people are breaking out into song and dance, and we’re going to quibble about a man eating plant?
In fact the effects garnered an Oscar nomination as did the song Mean Green Mother From Outer Space (though neither won).
The film is big, and while not quite ostentatious, there is a sense of confidence in the direction, and staging that captures the eye and attention and refuses to let go. Moranis is perfect as Seymour, and you totally buy into his character and his arc, even as each character belts out their ‘I want’ songs which help defines them and their story.
When I was first introduced to this film back in 86, I was still getting into musicals, I didn’t know a lot about them, couldn’t tell you who I prefer or like, but I knew that Little Shop did it for me. And here, some thirty some years later… it still does.
There is more space monsters coming our way in DK Books’ Monsters in the Movies, so pick up a copy today and find something monstrous to watch tonight!
And if a plant tells you to feed me, Seymour, maybe just avoid it.