Friday, May 4, 2018

Little Shop of Horrors (1960) – A Humble Flower Shop On Skid Row

Review by Steve D. Stones

If you're a fan of director Roger Corman, you can't help but recognize the plot similarities of his 1960 film – Little Shop of Horrors to his 1959 film – A Bucket of Blood. Both films are great fun and make an entertaining double feature.

Actor Dick Miller, who played the struggling coffee house waiter and sculptor in A Bucket of Blood, plays a floral shop patron who eats flowers by sprinkling salt on them. Myrtle Vail, who played Miller's annoying landlady in A Bucket of Blood, is also cast in this film, only this time she is Seymour Krelboin's hypochondriac mother. 

Pay close attention for an appearance by very young Jack Nicholson as Wilbur Force.
Seymour Krelboin, played by Corman regular Jonathan Haze, works as an incompetent floral shop clerk owned by Yiddish owner Gravis Mushnik (Mel Welles). Mushnik blames Krelboin for his slow business, even though it is located in a run down part of town known as skid row. He threatens to fire Krelboin for the slow business. Krelboin pleads for his job by telling Mushnik that he has invented a unique plant by crossing a butterworth plant and a Venus fly trap. He believes this new plant will attract new customers to the flower shop.

Krelboin brings the plant to the shop and names it after Mushnik's daughter – Audrey (Jackie Joseph). Mushnik and Audrey are pleased with the plant and Krelboin is able to keep his job. Audrey is greatly flattered that Krelboin would name the plant after her, so she gives him a kiss and the two become very close and eventually engaged. The plant begins to look unhealthy, so Mushnik once again threatens to fire Krelboin if he cannot nurse the plant back to life.

That evening Krelboin pricks his finger and accidentally flicks blood on the Audrey Jr. plant. The blood brings the plant back to life. The plant even talks to Krelboin by saying “feeed me!” and “I'm hungry!” Krelboin eventually pricks all his fingers to provide blood for the plant. This makes for a funny scene when Mushnik asks about the cuts on all ten fingers and Krelboin tells him it is from ten bee stings.

Krelboin feeds the plant body parts of a town drunk, a prostitute he accidentally kills, and his murdered dentist – Dr. Forbes. The plant grows bigger and bigger with each feeding. This begins to greatly concern Mushnik, who witnesses Krelboin feeding body parts to the plant one evening when he returned to the shop. The growing plant catches the attention of the Society of Silent Flower Observers of Southern California and two giddy teenage girls who want to purchase a thousand dollars worth of flowers from the shop for a high school parade float.

When the chairwoman of The Society of Silent Flower Observers of Southern California arrives one evening to give an award to Krelboin for this plant, some of the buds open up on the plant to reveal the heads of victims fed to the plant. Krelboin then flees the shop. Two police detectives named Fink and Smith chase after Krelboin through a tire factory and toilet accessories warehouse.

Like the ending of A Bucket of Blood, Krelboin returns to the scene of the crime and offers himself as a sacrifice to the Audrey plant by killing himself inside the plant. Walter Paisley (Dick Miller) in A Bucket of Blood also returns to his scene of the crime and hangs himself in his apartment where he made sculptures molded from his murdered victims.

Both Paisley and Krelboin in both films are shy, quiet, constantly hounded by their boss, and later paid great attention to by the opposite sex for creating something unique. Both characters are also investigated by police detectives and chased through warehouses at the end of the film.

It's interesting to note that director Corman completed this film in only two days, which was a record for him at the time. He quickly utilized sets from another film that were soon to be torn down. Budget estimates for the film range from $22,000 to $100,000 according to Danny Peary's book – Cult Movies (Gramercy Books – Random House 1981). The film was later remade in 1986 as a big budget musical starring comedian Steve Martin in the role of a dentist named Orin Scrivello. This 1986 version also has a strong cult following of fans. Happy viewing!

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