The Little Shop of Horrors Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ October 4, 2014
Think of a roomful of people all doing Jerry Lewis' New York Jew boychick routine for a little over an hour and you've got an idea of the comic goals sought after here, like an Mad magazine parody brought to life already. There are some laffs, granted, but let's remember it's a Corman effort, with the corresponding amount of thought behind it.
Daniel Mumby
Super Reviewer
December 13, 2012
Assessing the value of old films is tough at the best of times, but assessing old horrors or comedies is especially difficult. Both genres are the subject of constant innovation and changes in taste, and it is almost impossible to predict how well a given joke or scare will date. All a filmmaker can do is to convince themselves of the quality of the material they are presenting at the time; then they must step aside and let things take their course.

The Little Shop of Horrors is a tricky customer for this very reason. Both as a horror and a comedy, it has dated very badly over 52 years, to the point where it is hard to tell whether it was intended to be scary, funny or both. It is of great historical and technical interest due to the circumstances under which it was made and its context within Roger Corman's wider career. But like Battleship Potemkin, technical admiration can only take us so far before we reach the obvious conclusion: as well as the film is mounted, it doesn't really work.

You have to hand it to Corman for the speed at which the film was put together. If you wanted to damn it with faint praise, you could say that it is the best-looking film ever made in two days and a night (plus reshoots). This might not seem like much in our digital age, when the likes of Channel Awesome can shoot something as good-looking as Suburban Knights or To Boldly Flee in under a week. But when you're dealing with 35mm film cameras and 1960s lighting setups, achieving anything significant in two days is quite something.

The Little Shop of Horrors epitomes Corman's principles as a filmmaker: efficient, crowd-pleasing storytelling on a very low-budget with plenty of ingenious spectacle. All the sets in the film were left over after shooting wrapped on Corman's previous film, A Bucket of Blood. The title sequence finds the director unashamedly cutting corners, giving us an animated opening more reminiscent of St. Trinian's than Skid Row. No scene is allowed to overstay its welcome, and the whole film is very short, clocking in at just over 70 minutes.

The film has a number of resemblances to its great contemporary The Twilight Zone. The plot has the scope of a short story or half-hour TV episode, with self-contained characters occupying a microcosm rather than an expansive, cinematic landscape. It feels like a teleplay in places, partly due to Corman's camerawork and direction, and partly due to the hammy acting of most of its main players. You could almost call it a Twilight Zone episode in search of a moral, or perhaps one that had forgotten what its moral was.

Like many films of the period, The Little Shop of Horrors often lets its music do the work for the actors. Because none of the main stars are particularly charismatic or memorable, we spend a great deal more of our time focussing on the other means by which Corman conveys emotion or creates tension. This is not a bad thing in and of itself, and when used correctly it can be a good way of giving a more upmarket feel while covering over budgetary shortcomings (Thunderbirds did it all the time). In this case Corman works well with two separate musical forces - Ronald Stein, who scored a great many of his films, and Fred Katz, who appeared with Chico Hamilton in The Sweet Smell of Success.

As good as the music is, however, it can't cover over the campy and clichéd nature of its characters. The cast are a catalogue of Jewish stereotypes - the money-lover (Gravis Mushnick), the hypochondriac (Seymour's mother), the woman in constant mourning (Mrs. Shiva) and the well-meaning klutz (Seymour himself). For all the appeal of Jewish humour, it's over-egged to such an extent that none of the characters seem remotely likeable or charming beyond their peculiar neuroses. Even if Corman intended the film as a spoof, the main couple are still annoyingly ditzy.

The big problem with The Little Shop of Horrors is that is too goofy to be scary. Much like the Abbott and Costello features of the same time, it falls into the trap of trying to make us laugh at dated horror conventions which still expecting us to find them creepy. It is very difficult to be simultaneously hilarious and horrifying, and for all the potential in both the comedy and horror elements, the film ends up feeling as lifeless as Audrey does at the end.

The film does have an intriguing central horror concept, around which most of the comedy is built. The idea of a man-eating plant, which in some way takes on the form of its victims, is a cunning combination of both vampire fiction and the pod people from Invasion of the Body-Snatchers. There's nothing as creepy in this film as there is in Don Siegel's work (let alone the Philip Kaufman remake), but the scene where Seymour drops blood into the plant's beak is still a little unnerving.

There is also potential in the film's comic conceit, namely Seymour's attempts to keep the plant from his boss and Audrey, so he can keep his job and get the girl. In the right hands, this could have been a really good, edgy black comedy in the manner of The Ladykillers or Kind Hearts and Coronets, another story that combined romance with murderous impulses. But in Corman's hands, he opts to play both kinds of potential against each other for goofy humour, and the result is altogether lacklustre and disappointing.

The best scene by far in The Little Shop of Horrors is the celebrated cameo by Jack Nicholson as the masochistic undertaker Wilbur Force. Despite this only being his third film role, Nicholson has ten times more presence, charisma and control than anyone else. He's so good that when we first see him on screen, we feel like we've only just met the main character, and spend the remainder of the film wondering what became of him. The role plays to Nicholson's strengths, treading on the fine line between being in on the joke and just straight-up warped. The dental scene is proper horror-comedy, foreshadowing Steve Martin's appearance in the far-superior remake.

If we attempt to ignore the film's many shortcomings as a genre piece (of either kind), it is possible to enjoy The Little Shop of Horrors as something of a camp classic. It's never as endearing or as effective as the camper offerings of Hammer, but it retains a kind of odd, misshaped charm which may lead audiences to embrace its flaws as much as loving it in spite of them. Just as we can enjoy Showgirls as an unintended comedy, so it's entirely possible to ironically appreciate the film as a poorly-done, vampy horror movie.

When viewed in this light, the technical aspects of the film start to gain a little more weight. The special effects used to create Audrey are really no better or worse than those in Invasion of the Body-Snatchers, and because Audrey's movement is far more restricted, it is easier to maintain the illusion that she is more than just a man in a beak costume. The faces in Audrey's flowers may be too close to Bill and Ben to be in any way scary, but Corman does at least build up to the big reveal in a decent way.

The Little Shop of Horrors is a dated and disappointed offering from Roger Corman, though it isn't by any means bad enough to tarnish his glowing reputation. For all the potential in both the comedy and horror elements, the film never successfully meshes them together and ends up collapsing into a lifeless, shambolic heap. It's still of interest on an historical level, or for film students who want to learn just how quickly you can shoot a scene. But for casual fans, young or old, this is one instance in which it's best to plump for the remake.
Super Reviewer
September 10, 2007
saw the orignal now yay!! i liked it i think i preferred the remark but i did like this it was funny as well!!
Super Reviewer
August 12, 2010
Like the seminal 1986 musical with a similar title, this 1960 film has some very sick dark humor, this shorter film actually very innovative and grotesque for the time it was set in. Much of the musical and the movie it is based of off are similar in some respects: the character of Audrey is bubble gum adorable but lovable, Seymour is down and out, and strangely the voice of the plant is still very deep and soulful. A bit less upbeat as the remake, Little Shop was filmed in only two days, which shows in the overhead tracking shots, and some scenes where the dialogue trips all over itself. Still, between the great scene involving Seymour feeding Audrey Jr. human appendages, and the hilarious humor this is certainly a classic. Besides that we get to watch a very young Jack Nicholson as a deranged dental patient, which Bill Murray would soundly emulate years later with the help of dentist Steve Martin. Yes, the ending is significantly different, playing out more like a morality tale than a science fiction/fantasy crossover, but with the nostalgia angle of a black and white picture that wasn't given all too much confidence, it was surprisingly good.
Super Reviewer
½ June 24, 2011
Meek Seymour Krelboyne grows a weird and very hungry plant that brings fame to Mushnik's Flower Shop on Skid Row in this black horror comedy. Great comic supporting characters (including a young Jack Nicholson as a masochistic dental patient) and snappy dialogue are the reason it's considered the best movie ever shot in two days.
Super Reviewer
May 15, 2011
Low budget, fun, and silly. It's obvious this was shot over 3 days, but it's much better than you would expect it to be. Yeah, it's campy and funny without meaning to be at times (despite being a dark comic tale), but it's way too enjoyable to be written off as mere B movie fodder. Hell, it even has Jack Nicholson in a bit part. :)
Super Reviewer
September 5, 2010
This is the original Little Shop of Horrors movie! And no, Nicholson doesn't play a huge part, but he has a great scene. It's a low budget sci-fi horror that comes off as more of a comedy, and I really like it.
Super Reviewer
½ May 24, 2009
How is Jack Nicholson in the first billed? He was in for six seconds... still it was pretty funny.
Super Reviewer
December 22, 2009
This Movie reminds me of another Movie, but the Plant was not bloodthirsty, it was infact a very nice and helpful Plant and at the End there were baby plants.
Regarding this Movie If I am not mistaken not really a creepy Movie but nice classic.
Super Reviewer
June 23, 2007
Jack Nicholson does not star in this! He's a minor character. I wish they'd quit plastering his face all over the marketing. Overall, a funny low-budget comedy with sci-fi horror elements. No songs in this one. It's like a school play in scale. There's no music to entertain. I prefer the colorized version, which enhances the cartoony feeling.
Super Reviewer
July 4, 2007
nice movie. Some fine dark humor. Jack nicholson was very good
Super Reviewer
½ November 10, 2006
This movie was made in a day and it shows. But I love it.
Super Reviewer
½ March 22, 2007
This was in a cheap set of horror DVDs. Even though it was made by Roger Corman, so I probably shouldn't have been surprised, I was surprised by how much this movie goes straight for the laughs. It contains almost nothing that anyone would really consider to be part of the horror genre. The rock bottom budget is evident at every turn. The opening credits are sketched street scenes of skid row even though long shots on location in skid row are used a few times in the film. The dialog is pretty ridiculous and mostly consists of jokes about Yiddish stereotypes. The prat falls and humor derived from the brief scenes with the sadistic dentist and masochistic dental patient (Nicholson) are banal after the first instance of each. OK, the names of the cops, Detectives Fink and Stoolie gave me a laugh. So many strange coincidences lead Seymour to continue killing and the plant to continue growing. You can see all the starting points that became the more familiar musical, but I only thought this was funny in a bad way.
Super Reviewer
October 8, 2011
....This film is too cheesey for me, I'm sorry..
Super Reviewer
February 7, 2012
Campy and strange as can be, "The Little Shop of Horrors" is one of the best films made in only two days of filming. While this fact shows in some scenes that look and sound clumsy and silly, isn't that the point of the film in it's entirety? This is a film that just has to be seen and digested and while the absurdity is at insane levels, the movie itself is a culmination of multiple genres and unlike most other films out there. This is the original film from Roger Corman who was famously cheap and enjoyed the cheesy feel and look of his work and he holds nothing back here. You will see what I mean when the plant starts talking and the many other outrageously campy scenes throughout the film. Make no mistake the mood and feel is the intention of Corman and his crew and once you get that and are able to grasp the silliness you will be able to turn your brain off and just enjoy it for the piece of campy fun it is.
Super Reviewer
½ March 16, 2012
It's an actually pretty impressive film, shot in only 2 days. The film's black humour was just about right for my liking, it's also a treat to see Jack Nicholson too. One of the best low budget films ever.
Super Reviewer
½ July 21, 2009
Jack Nicholson in one of his first roles, and he was as crazy and hilarious back then as he is now. The production was cheesy and goofball just the way I like it, and I really enjoyed the film, but it dragged a little bit in the middle and the ending left me feeling a little cheated, but it is the very definition of a cult classic, and is Roger Corman at his best.
Super Reviewer
½ October 25, 2007
Not horrifying enough to be scary and not funny enough to be a comedy. Surprisingly, the remake is better - though still poor. This one doesn't have the songs (or Steve Martin overacting), and it also lacks the attention to detail that Oz bought to it. There is a great idea here, but it needs a director like Dante, Silberling or Burton to do it justice
Super Reviewer
½ April 2, 2009
That giant plant gave me nightmares as a kid
March 26, 2008
This is a low budget movie made by Roger Corman in 1960. It's about a guy who grows a plant that is based on a Venus fly trap but he feeds it human blood. When it gets bigger he feeds it dead bodies. The movie became a cult classic. It's a comedy horror movie. It also spoofs the TV show Dragnet. The main reason to watch it is because it has a young Jack Nicholson in a small part. This was the kind of movie up and coming movie directors would make to show off their skill at directing and to see how young actors look on film. The movie is in black and white. This movie would have disappeared if it hadn't inspired a musical Broadway play in New York. The play then inspired a big budget musical color movie in 1986.
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