The Little Shop of Horrors – USA, 1960

‘The flowers that kill in the Spring TRA-LA’

The Little Shop of Horrors is a 1960 American comedy horror film directed by Roger Corman. Written by Charles B. Griffith, the film is a farce about an inadequate young florist’s assistant who cultivates a plant that feeds on human flesh and blood. The film’s concept is thought to be based on a 1932 story called “Green Thoughts”, by John Collier, about a man-eating plant.

It stars Jonathan Haze, Jackie Joseph, Mel Welles (who later directed his own killer plant film, Maneater of Hydra) and Dick Miller, all of whom had worked for Corman on previous films.

Produced under the title The Passionate People Eater, the film employs an original style of humor, combining black comedy with farce and incorporating Jewish humour and elements of spoof. The Little Shop of Horrors was shot on a budget of just $30,000 in two and a half days utilizing sets that had been left standing from A Bucket of Blood.

The film gradually gained a cult following through word of mouth when it was distributed in the US in a double feature with Mario Bava’s Black Sunday and later with The Last Woman on Earth. The film’s popularity increased with local television broadcasts, in addition to the presence of a young Jack Nicholson (Mars Attacks!; Wolf; The Shining), whose small role as a masochistic dentist patient was prominently promoted on home video releases of the film.

In 1973, it was loosely remade as comedy horror, Please Don’t Eat My Mother!

The movie was the basis for an ‘Off Broadway’ musical, Little Shop of Horrors, which was made into a 1986 feature film and then enjoyed a Broadway revival. A 13-part animated television series inspired by the musical film, Little Shop, was shown in 1991.

The film was colorized twice, firstly in 1987. This version was poorly received. Legend Films colorized it in 2006, and this version was well received.

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Plot:

On Los Angeles’ skid row, penny-pinching Gravis Mushnick (Mel Welles) owns a florist shop that is staffed by him and his two employees, the sweet but simple Audrey Fulquard (Jackie Joseph) and clumsy Seymour Krelboyne (Jonathan Haze). 

Although the rundown shop gets little business, there are some repeat customers; for instance, Mrs. Siddie Shiva (Leola Wendorff) shops almost daily for flower arrangements for her many relatives’ funerals.

Another regular customer is Burson Fouch (Dick Miller), who eats the plants he buys for lunch. When Seymour fouls up the arrangement of Dr. Farb (John Shaner), a sadistic dentist, Mushnick fires him.

Hoping Mushnick will change his mind, Seymour tells him about a special plant that he crossbred from a butterwort and a Venus flytrap. Bashfully, Seymour admits that he named the plant “Audrey Jr.”, a revelation that delights the real Audrey…

Reviews:

“Superbly funny black comedy … Nicholson is particularly good as a masochistic dental patient. Fun all the way and a minor masterpiece of ‘Z’ film-making.” Alan Frank, The Horror Film Handbook

“The Jewish humour is occasionally stretched a little thin, but whenever this happens Corman soon switches to one of his inexhaustible supply of splendid comic characters like the manic dentist drilling his blues away at the expense of his patients…” The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror

“Many decades after its first release, Little Shop remains one of the most successful horror-comedies. The emphasis is on the comedy and it’s a combination of deadpan Jewish humor, sly Beat subversiveness, and pun-laden dialogue … Not a minute passes without a funny quip or solecism.” David Elroy Goldweber, Claws & Saucers

Choice dialogue:

“No novocaine, it dulls the senses.”

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Cast and characters:

  • Jonathan Haze … Seymour Krelborn
  • Jackie Joseph … Audrey Fulquard
  • Mel Welles … Gravis Mushnick
  • Dick Miller … Fouch
  • Myrtle Vail … Winifred Krelborn
  • Karyn Kupcinet … Shirley (as Tammy Windsor)
  • Toby Michaels … Shirley’s Friend
  • Leola Wendorff … Mrs. Shiva
  • Lynn Storey … Mrs. Hortense Feuchtwanger
  • Wally Campo … Sgt. Joe Fink / Narrator
  • Jack Warford … Detective Frank Stoolie
  • Meri Welles … Leonora Clyde (as Merri Welles)
  • John Herman Shaner … Dr. Phoebus Farb (as John Shaner)
  • Jack Nicholson … Wilbur Force
  • Dodie Drake … Waitress
  • Robert Coogan … Tramp (uncredited)
  • Jack Griffin … Drunk (uncredited)
  • Charles B. Griffith … Kloy Haddock – Hold-up Man / Screaming Patient / Audrey Junior (voice) (uncredited)
  • Frank Mills … Man in Crowd Outside Shop (uncredited)

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