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(Director's Cut)

Going from screen to stage and back to screen again, LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS ($35) is one of the greatest triumphs of tenacity. Who would have thought that anyone could make a great musical comedy out a grade "Z" Roger Corman horror movie? Not only did Howard Ashman and Alan Menken succeed at that daunting task, but they also managed to readapt their shining off-Broadway stage show into an absolutely terrific motion picture. It took director Roger Corman two days to film the original movie on a single set. By contrast, it took director Frank Oz six months to shoot the musical remake, plus he utilized England’s largest soundstage at Pinewood Studios (where the James Bond movies are filmed) to create skid row setting and the flower shop where most of the action takes place.

The plot of LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS concerns a nebbish florist named Seymour Krelborn (Rick Moranis), whose skid row existence takes a turn for the better when he discovers a strange and unusual plant, right after a total eclipse of the sun. Seymour names the plant after Audrey (Ellen Greene), a girl in the flower shop whom he secretly loves. Placing the strange looking Audrey II in the flower shop window attracts the attention of the people on the street, which stirs up the floral business... much to the delight of Seymour’s dour boss Mr. Mushnik (Vincent Gardenia). However, not everything is coming up roses for Seymour. It seems that Audrey II has a strange dietary need that involves human blood, plus Seymour’s sudden horticultural success hasn’t gotten him any closer to Audrey, due to the fact that she is dating a sadistic dentist. However, things begin to spin out of control when Audrey II begins talking... with the plant offering Seymour a bloody deal the will solve both of their problems. Sure, the story line of LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS sound utterly ridiculous, but the movie is warm, winning and totally entertaining.

Rick Moranis is an absolute delight as Seymour. Seymour is probably the best role of his career; Moranis displays his usual wonderful comic timing, which is perfectly complemented by a surprisingly good singing voice. Ellen Greene originated the role of Audrey on the stage and played it for a number of years, so Greene really owned this role by the time the movie went into production. Of course, having a record of Greene’s marvelous performance on film makes LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS a genuine motion picture treasure. Steve Martin steals whole sections of the movie as Orin Scrivello, Audrey’s sadistic dentist boyfriend. Martin’s musical number is one of the film’s many highlights, as is his scene with Bill Murray, who is unbelievably hilarious as masochistic dental patient Arthur Denton (a part which was not part of the stage version, for which Murray adlibbed his dialogue).

In addition to its leading performers, the cast of LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS also includes Tichina Arnold, Michelle Weeks, Tisha Campbell, James Belushi, John Candy and Christopher Guest. The Director's Cut of LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS features Paul Dooley in the role played by James Belushi in the Theatrical Version, as Dooley was unavailable at the time that the new ending was re-shot. Finally, I have to mention the film biggest star/special effect- namely Audrey II (devilishly voiced by Levi Stubbs). All of the various sized Audrey II puppets in the film really look alive; especially the largest puppet, which required upward of fifty operators to fully animate it.

Director Frank Oz brings a slightly askew visual style to LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, which is perfectly suited to the material. Only after viewing LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS several times did I become aware of the film’s brilliant compositions and superb camera work, which is so fluid that it is virtually invisible. Speaking of the director, this brings us to the Director's Cut of LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, which features the film’s original ending *in color* for the first time, and integrated back into the body of the motion picture. The original ending for LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS appeared once before... on DVD as a supplement, consisting of black and white workprint footage. Unfortunately, producer David Geffen did not approve of the original ending being made available on DVD and forced that DVD to be withdrawn from the market, resulting in a minor collector’s item for those able to get their hands on that particular disc.

So why all the hubbub about the original ending??? Well, when LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS went before the cameras, the intention was to use the same, albeit unhappy, ending that worked so well in the stage show. However, what works on stage, doesn't necessarily translate to film... hence the test audiences that saw LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS absolutely hated the ending. Without the actors coming out for a curtain call to negate the fate of their characters, the test audiences rejected the unhappy ending. During the test screening, the audiences had loved every bit of this bouncy musical... that is, up until things turned dark and disturbing. The unsuccessful test screenings resulted in the filmmakers having to devise a new happy ending, for which the cast returned to Pinewood to shoot. This happy ending is the one that has graced the Theatrical Version of LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, and the one that the movie's fans are most familiar. So what do I think of the original ending and the Director's Cut of LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS? I think it is fantastic that the film has been restored to its intended form, and I find the Director's Cut to be a very entertaining and very different version of LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS. Do I prefer the Director's Cut to the Theatrical Version? The short answer is no. I am a sucker for a happy ending, at least as far as musicals are concerned, so I think the audiences at the test screening of LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS were right to reject an ending that was better suited to the stage, than it was to a film.

Warner Home Video has made both the Director's Cut and the Theatrical Version of LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS available on Blu-ray Disc in 1.78:1 aspect ratio presentations that have been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec (both versions are identical up until just after the Suppertime reprise). The 1080p presentations are terrific and right on the money for a film released in 1986. Image sharpness and fine detail are all very strong performers, even if the picture doesn’t deliver the stunning clarity of newer movies. Some shots are a bit softer than others, but that has more to do with the cinematography and optical effects, than any flaw in the transfer. Colors are nicely saturated and do pop in places, especially where the costumes (usually on the Greek chorus) are concerned. The picture also produces attractive flesh tones. Blacks are inky and deep, while the whites appear crisp and stable. Contrast is quite good and shadow detail does a fine job for eighties vintage film stocks. The elements from which LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS has been mastered are free from excessive defects or signs of age. Mild grain is ever present, but helps maintain a truly film-like quality for the presentation.

Both versions of LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS are presented on Blu-ray Disc with 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks. Okay right up front let me say that LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS doesn't sound like a modern film soundtrack, but for an eighties musical from the Dolby Surround era, the track sounds pretty great on Blu-ray. Thanks to the lossless encoding, the musical numbers sound terrific, plus it is the music that makes the best and most consistent use of the outlying channels. Sure, there are sound effects, in addition to environmental and ambient sounds that are spread to the outlying channels, but they are not as consistent or as well integrated as they are in modern, all digital soundtracks. The bass channel keeps things grounded, but isn't artificially deep. Dialogue is cleanly rendered and always easy to understand. A French Dolby Digital 2.0 channel, plus a Spanish Dolby Digital monaural track have also been encoded onto the disc. Subtitles are available in English, French and Spanish.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental materials, many of which have been ported from the previous DVD releases. Starting things off is a running Audio Commentary with director Frank Oz on the Theatrical Version. Frank Oz is informative, entertaining and occasionally sounds like Fozzie Bear. This commentary is chock full of good stuff that fans will want to hear. Oz also provides comments on the Director’s Cut Ending, as a separate commentary track. We also get a ten minute Introduction entitled Frank Oz And Little Shop Of Horrors: The Director’s Cut featuring Oz and visual effects supervisor Richard Conway. The Story Of Little Shop Of Horrors is a vintage featurette that runs about twenty three minutes that serves as a "making-of" the movie. We also get Outtakes/Deleted Scenes with optional comments from Frank Oz. Two Theatrical Trailers close out the supplements. LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS features book styled packaging that contains forty pages of photos and production notes.

LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS is a delight of a movie and remains a personal favorite. It is an absolute treat to finally be able to see the Director's Cut and the original ending in color, even if I my personal preference is for the Theatrical Version. LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS is absolutely, positively recommended.


Little Shop Of Horrors: Director's Cut [Blu-ray] (1986)


DVD & Blu-ray Disc reviews are Copyright 2012 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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