Monday, July 7, 2014

The Little Shop Of Horrors (1960)

The Little Shop Of HorrorsUnfortunately, Little Shop of Horrors and every other Roger Corman Filmgroup production lapsed into public domain years ago and have generally been available on VHS and DVD only in poor-quality editions ranging from merely bad to atrocious. (The only Filmgroup features to get a decent official or semi-official release so far are Bucket of Blood, Beast from Haunted Cave, and Night Tide.) After researching every DVD version of Little Shop of Horrors available (there are at least eight!) I played a hunch and went with GoodTimes to replace my VHS copy, and I'm very pleasantly surprised at the overall excellent quality of the source print. When I saw the "preserved using the best available elements" line at the beginning of this disc I thought 'yeah, right,' but I have to admit that this is the brightest, cleanest, sharpest (if not exactly razor-sharp) print of this film I've ever seen. The black level, contrast, gray values, and shadow/highlight detail are fine, and physical damage is limited only to some very light speckling and blemishing (!!). On the downside, the transfer itself seems to be somehow deficient (low bit rate?), causing areas of flat white or smoothly gradated grays in the image to exhibit some very faint but noticeable pixelation or banding, especially during the opening credit sequence (areas of flat color seem to be DVD's Achilles Heel). The casual viewer probably won't notice this phenomenon unless it's pointed out, but it's there. That said, the superior quality of the source print more than makes up for this one barely noticeable flaw; this is still most likely the best edition yet available of this classic 'sick humor' gem and well worth the bargain price. It definitely blows away every TV print and cheapjack PD video version I've ever eyeballed. Grab this before it goes out of print.

The movie itself still entertains tremendously today, a funny, goofy (dare I say charming?) horror-comedy that basically plays like a stage farce (most of the action takes place on one or two sets). The story is essentially a remake of Bucket of Blood with a change in locale and a few fresh twists. This time Jonathan Haze portrays everyschlep Seymour Krelboine, who lives with his alcoholic hypochondriac mother (she listens to KSIK radio) and works at Mushnick's skid row flower shop. Seymour (temporarily) finds fame, fortune, and romance by nurturing (and eventually murdering for) an exotic talking cannibalistic plant. Mel Welles, in his finest hour (literally), steals nearly every scene with his droll portrayal of perpetually exasperated Gravis Mushnick, and Jackie Joseph (Andy Griffith Show, Who's Minding the Mint) seems born to play pretty, ditzy Audrey. Corman regulars adding to the fun include Dick Miller (Walter Paisley in Bucket of Blood) as Fouch, a flower-eating client, John Shaner as a sadistic dentist, and 14th-billed Jack Nicholson (featured prominently on most tape and disc box art) as his masochistic patient. Shot on a shoestring in just three days (at least all the interiors), Little Shop holds up better than many big-budget comedies of the day (anyone watched Story of Mankind lately?). Much credit must be given to Charles B. Griffith, unsung hero/architect of the AIP/Allied Artists/Corman style. His list of credits reads like Corman's greatest hits: It Conquered the World, Attack of the Crab Monsters, The Undead, Not of This Earth, Teenage Doll, Bucket of Blood, Beast from Haunted Cave, Wild Angels, Death Race 2000, etc. Griffith's clever, witty screenplay is a model of late-50s sick humor, working in a dead-on Dragnet parody, some wonderful malapropisms and bits of wordplay, lotsa Yiddish humor, and a handful of his patented icky-creepy moments. (Griffith also voiced the plant, Audrey Jr., played a few walk-ons, and directed some second unit scenes, all uncredited.) Fred Katz's memorable score is alternately goofy and spy-jazzy, and, unlike some of Roger Corman's other attempts at comedy (e.g. Creature from the Haunted Sea), I find his touch just right here, ably supporting Griffith's verbal bits with complementary editing patterns (check Sgt. Joe Fink and Det. Frank Stoolie's hilarious introductory scene). Lighter in tone and a bit broader and more farcical than Bucket of Blood (which I personally prefer), Little Shop, judged on its own terms, is still fresh and engaging, though the low budget is obvious at times. I'm not sure how fans of the Broadway show or movie musical will react to the original (I admit to being a purist myself), but if they share a taste for low budget horror or 50s-style sick humor they'll probably find it an offbeat treat.

Roger Corman's Original 1960 version of "The Little Shop Of Horrors" is considered by many as a true cult classic comedy of B-Movies,even the most respected of film critics.Unfortunately depending on the tastes and opinions of film fans that were used to seeing this legendary film comedy through the public domain since there was a lack of copyright in the titles,(same thing had happen to "Night Of The Living Dead") and for many years since the dawn of the videocassette and late late movie shows,those versions were vastly inferior and often poor-looking in terms of presentation and contrast.Now the great folks at Legend Films have finally put out a brand-new definitive and excellent restored presentation of this cult hit on DVD in both the original black & white version as well as the disc's main presentation of showcasing a brand-new restored digitally colorized version too.As with previous selected Legend releases of classic horror/B-movies in their DVD series,the disc features a well-done and at times hilarious commentary by MST3K's Mike Nelson and the great thing is that you can listen to the track on both versions of the film,giving the b&w version sort of a MST3K-flavor to it (I love how he refers to the opening Filmgroup logo as little Reese Cups !).Despite packaging claims that is the first time the film has been colorized,it's actually the second colorized incarnation of the film.First colorized on videocassette in the very late '80's with lousy and at times amateur results,this Legend version completely blows away the first attempt and looks like it was actually filmed in color,but of course this films' legendary budgetary constraints prevented from actually filming it in color.Of course lets not forget that the film features a very very young Jack Nicholson,in his fourth film role,in a memorable role as a crazy dentist patient.I must say,this Legend version of "Little Shop" is probably the most superior and sharpest looking out of all the previous versions of the film that you're possibly going to see and no wonder it was transferred from an excellent 35mm print of the film ! Other extras,besides the Nelson commentary,round out the package including both restored color/unrestored b&w trailers to "Little Shop",and the following colorized trailers for "Plan 9 From Outer Space","House On Haunted Hill","Carnival Of Souls",and "Reefer Madness".Plus a gallery of nine man-eating plants,if any kids are planning to do a school project on man-eating plants,this could actually be a fun reference guide,and also a very short clip called "Man Eating Plants" which is actually the president of Legend Films Barry Sandrew vigorously eating vegetable plants such as celery (always eat your vegetables folks !).Well-done packaging,excellent eye-catching menus and a sparkling transfer of both versions will definitely please any film buff,both Hollywood and B-Movie fans alike ! This is by far one of the first best DVD releases of 2006 and is highly recommended for old and new fans alike instead of those who only prefer the 1986 spectacular Frank Oz musical remake with Rick Moranis and Steve Martin.Highly recommended !

UPDATE 11/24/06:

Just Recently,Buena Vista Home Entertainment in association with Roger Corman have finally released an "authorized" DVD release of "Little Shop Of Horrors" as well as a nicely restored original black & white version of Nicholson's debut film "The Cry Baby Killer".Unfortunately,the recent disc's presentation of "Little Shop" is in fact the ORIGINAL colorized version,slightly mentioned above,that was first produced and eventually released to video in 1987 by Color Systems Technology.The source print used for the color version (other than the fact that the quality was directly copied off a video master for the DVD) is surprisingly in quite good condition,but it really truly is one of the worst examples of 1980's colorization technology I've ever seen and will probably be the last.The colors are often the same as certain objects (ie: the outside of Mushnick's Shop and the greens for the flowers,etc.),tons of continuity errors (ie: clothing,signs,etc.) and does anybody wish to care seeing Audrey Jr. looking like a talking watermelon plant? Reportedly,that color version was authorized by none other than Corman himself and it's easy to see why many directors above his stature hate and disregard colorization.Nicholson/Corman fans alike aren't going to be impressed with that bust of a release and it's very easy to see why the '87 colorized version was out of circulation for many years.Easier said than done,the newly restored Legend Films release is by far,hands down,the real winner due to the technology,version options,and bonus materials !

Buy The Little Shop Of Horrors (1960) Now

I had origanlly seen this movie on a late night horror movie host and loved it having already seen the musical version. I bought the DVD expecting DVD quality. The transfer to DVD is bad. It's proably one of the worse ones I own. It's a little choppy, very grainy and somewhat blurry. There's also a spotlight effect once in awhile that I don't remember being there before (where the egdes of the movie are a little darker then the center). If you look carefully you can see waves going though the picture during the first part of chapter 2. The sound is a little muffled. I rate the transfer at 2 (I'm sure there's a worse one) and only gave it a 3 becasue of the movie it's self.

Read Best Reviews of The Little Shop Of Horrors (1960) Here

This is the original that started it all, in 1960 which the film was shot for only two days. It's an good film, with a lot of grainy feel to it in black and white.

This version is about the bumbling Seymour who was almost out the door by his boss, Mr. Mushnick, for his incompetence. Seymour finds an unusual plant and Mushnick told Seymour if the plant turns out to be ok and fed, Seymour gets to stay at his job. Seymour names this plant, Audrey Jr., after his coworker, Audrey, who he loves. Before long, Seymour finds out that this plants wants nothing other than blood and human flesh...and ends up bringing dead people to the plant that were accidently killed. The cops were trying to find out what happened to the missing people (they were already eaten by the plant), and Mr. Mushnick stumbled on Seymour's secret. Mr. Mushnick offered a robber in the shop to the plant to save his life. The cops find out that Seymour is the one who killed the people when the pods of the plant opened up, showing the faces of those that were eaten, and there was a junkyard chase after Seymour. When Seymour goes back to the shop, he was mad at the plant, and intending to cut the weeds to kill it, he jumped in and the plant ate him. When the others came back to the shop, they found Seymour's face in one of the pods, then the movie ends.

There are some funny parts, and some silliness in other scenes (like the tramp that Seymour ran into, and their conversation is humorous!), plus you can find a young Jack Nicholson as the pain-loving dental patient.

This movie reminds me a little bit of the 1920s or 1930s films by the way some of the acting and the grainy image has portrayed in this 1960 movie, but overall, it is a good movie to watch.

Want The Little Shop Of Horrors (1960) Discount?

I recently watched the musical remake of Little Shop of Horrors and enjoyed it immensely, and my curiosity about the genesis of that film lead me to its progenitor. I hadn't realised that Roger Corman's original was intended as a comedy--I'd thought that it was a cheapie horror film with camp humor arising from its unintended absurdity. This is absolutely not the case, and I was very pleasantly surprised. The absurdity of Little Shop, and there is plenty, is all fully intended. At times it is almost as if the Monty Python troupe is doing a black-and-white horror spoof, it is so good. I find it impossible to say whether the musical remake or the original is "better"--they are simply different, and each amusing in its own way. I prefered Rick Moranis's Seymour to that of Jonathan Haze, but Jackie Joseph's Audrey had funnier lines and was less pathetic than Ellen Greene's. But what really surprised me was that the comic touches I had thought were signatures of the Saturday Night Live/Second City crowd were all in the original: the sadistic dentist and his masochistic patient; "Pain" magazine, "Feed me!", and more. Futhermore, the original had some more absurd characters that didn't make it into the remake, including a parody of the detectives from Dragnet and Seymour's mother, a hypochondriac whose home cooking is all flavoured with medicine! Although the sound and picture quality of the version I watched was poor, it was worth sitting through if you enjoyed the more recent version. Also worthy of note was the spiky, xylophone-timpani-and-baritone-saxophone-laden score by Fred Katz.

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