In 1960, Roger Corman made two of his great­est films.  One of them was House Of Usher, which found him adapt­ing pres­tige mate­ri­al from Edgar Allen Poe and work­ing with a real star, Vincent Price, to prove he could make a cost effec­tive hor­ror movie that could com­pete with major stu­dio fare.  The oth­er film was made in three days on left­over sets from anoth­er film.  That might sound like the for­mu­la for a nowhere quick­ie but that is not the case here: that sec­ond film was Little Shop Of Horrors, a quirky blend of hor­ror and black com­e­dy that has become one of Corman’s most pop­u­lar and beloved films.

Charles B. Griffith dreamt up the fast-mov­ing sce­nar­io, which takes place pri­mar­i­ly in a skid-row flow­er shop.  Seymour (Jonathan Haze) is the neb­bish hero of the sto­ry, a hard-luck type who lives with his hypocondriac/alkie mom, Winifred (Myrtle Vail) and works for mon­ey-fix­at­ed tyrant Gravis Mushnik (the great Mel Welles).  He’s got two things that make his life worth­while — his pret­ty and kind co-work­er, Audrey (Jackie Joseph) and a lit­tle plant of mys­te­ri­ous, exotic orig­in that he’s try­ing to nurse to health.  The rela­tion­ship with Audrey has promise but the plant looks like it’s going to die.

However, Seymour makes a ghast­ly dis­cov­ery about the plant when he acci­den­tal­ly pricks his fin­ger and bleeds over it — caus­ing it to open its Venus fly­trap-like mouth.  Seymour feeds it with his blood for a short while and it begins to talk demand­ing more.  When our hero acci­den­tal­ly bumps off a hobo, he feeds the body to the plant — now dubbed “Audrey Jr.” — and it grows into a large, ornate size.  This draws in patrons, pleas­ing the boss and mak­ing it pos­si­ble for Seymour to get closer to Audrey.  Unfortunately for all, Audrey Jr. demands more food — and Seymour finds him­self resort­ing to dras­tic mea­sures to appease the plant as it grows big­ger in size and pop­u­lar­i­ty.

Little Shop Of Horrors remains a favorite with the Corman fan­base because it’s a great dis­play of the skills he’d been build­ing up over five steady years of work as a direc­tor.  The bud­get and time con­straints don’t ham­per his cre­ativ­i­ty in any way: the end result is eco­nom­i­cal­ly made but styl­ish, fun­ny and fast.  He keeps the fre­quent dia­logue sce­nes inter­est­ing by stag­ing them at a break­neck tem­po and using a well-sea­soned cast of reper­to­ry play­ers.  When he gets to step out­side the flow­er shop — name­ly in an odd­ball chase finale set in a junk­yard — he shows a nat­u­ral flair for com­po­si­tion and stag­ing that man­ages to daz­zle the eye at a min­i­mum of cost.

However, just as much cred­it must go to stal­wart Corman scripter Griffith, who turns in one of his best screen­plays here.  The dia­logue has real snap, mix­ing word­play and Jewish humor with verve, and the plot­line offers a blend of hor­ror and humor that oth­er gen­re film­mak­ers wouldn’t catch up to for a long while.  Most impor­tant­ly, Griffith is con­sis­tent­ly cre­ative and throws in a unique touch every few min­utes: fan favorite moments include a flow­er shop patron named Burson Fouch (Dick Miller) who likes to eat flow­ers and a masochis­tic patient (played by a young Jack Nicholson) who thrills to the idea of den­tistry with­out anes­the­sia.  The film also pokes fun at Dragnet via hard-boiled nar­ra­tion and a cou­ple of hilar­i­ous­ly sto­ic cops.

Finally, the act­ing is top-flight for a film at this bud­getary lev­el, main­ly because the cast draws from a group of actors that Corman had worked with on sev­er­al pre­vi­ous films.  Haze shi­nes in a rare lead per­for­mance as Seymour, cre­at­ing a like­able nood­nik pitched some­where between Jerry Lewis and Gilligan-era Bob Denver.  Welles is a tyran­ni­cal delight as the boss, show­ing great chem­istry with Haze and sly­ly wring­ing every comedic nuance from Griffith’s dia­logue.  Joseph is charm­ing as the bub­ble-head­ed but sweet love inter­est, offer­ing a sur­pris­ing­ly low-key vari­a­tion on the usu­al ditz arche­type.  Finally, Miller deserves praise for his dead­pan, fast-talk­ing turn as the flow­er-eat­ing cus­tomer and Nicholson hints at his future over-the-top per­for­mances as the crazed den­tal patient.

In short, the odd­ball charm of Little Shop Of Horror hasn’t dimmed one iota. Corman would go on to big­ger, more impres­sive films and Little Shop Of Horrors would be revived as a musi­cal, first on the stage then on the screen, but the orig­i­nal arti­cle remains an ener­get­ic blast of pover­ty-row fun.

Trailers From Hell! Vol. 2

Trailers From Hell! Vol. 2

As our gift to you, we’re offer­ing a free copy of Vol. 1 with the pur­chase of Vol. 2. Supply is lim­it­ed. Vol. 1 trail­ers include cult clas­sics such as The Sentinel, Squirm, The Birds, Rabid, Phantom of the Paradise and more with great com­men­tary from some of the best gen­re direc­tors in the busi­ness (Eli Roth, John Landis, Joe Dante, Edgar Wright) plus a new dig­i­tal trans­fer of the full-length fea­ture film The Vampire Bat (1933).The award-win­ning Trailers From Hell web­site is the brain­child of not­ed film direc­tor Joe Dante (Gremlins, The Howling) in which some of the best known names in the horror/sci-fi gen­re provide amus­ing com­men­tary on rare vin­tage cult film trail­ers. (Viewers also have the choice of watch­ing them with­out the cri­tique as well.) Trailers From Hell! Vol. 1 (released last year) includ­ed most of this mate­ri­al but in Vol. 2, the trail­ers are only exclu­sive­ly avail­able in this DVD set.Entertaining com­ing attrac­tions from long lost cult films includ­ing Donovan’s Brain, Little Shop of Horrors, The Invisible Ghost, Fire Maidens from Outer Space, Flesh Gordon, Deep Red, Gorgo!, Ski Troop Attack and many more! Includes com­men­tary by Joe Dante, Mick Garris, Guillermo Del Toro, John Landis and Roger Corman.This DVD also includes a bonus movie, one of Roger Corman’s first hits, Little Shop of Horrors! Featuring Jack Nicholson in one of his first roles, the film is seen for the first time in a new anamor­phic widescreen trans­fer.