Retro: our movie & TV vault... a fresh look
at neglected classics and cult favourites
"Feed me ... feed me ... FEED ME!"The Little Shop Of Horrors is one those movies that has a legend attached to it that far outstrips its true worth. I can remember seeing the movie more years ago than I care to recall at a sci-fi convention - it was a terrible print, dark and grainy, with frames missing, dirty and scratched, and yet for many at that convention it was the highlight of the weekend. I only have vague memories of watching it - thanks to the liberal licensing laws for hotel bars I was probably enjoying my own personal happy hour at the time...
"Gee, Junior, I'd like to feed you ... but I used up all my fingers."
It's reputed that The Little Shop Of Horrors was shot over a period of two to three days, using sets from another movie that were due to be torn down, making it one of the fastest productions ever. And when you watch it you can understand this, it has all the production values of, say, an episode of Bilko from the same period - rickety sets, third-rate actors hamming it up, and a thick vein of slapstick Yiddish humour. One could almost feel that Phil Silvers would be bursting through the florist's door any minute.
And yet, this tale of the universal loser, Seymour (Jonathan Haze) and his man-eating mutant plant, set in the New York Skid Row, has had a shelf life few could have expected at the time. The Little Shop Of Horrors became a cult movie that inspired a stage musical and then a large budget movie version that almost managed to match the charm of the original. For many the highlight of the Corman original is the debut performance of Jack Nicholson, all flashing sharks' eyes and teeth as a pain junkie, insisting on having all his teeth pulled by the local dentist. There are other joys as well, Seymour's dipso mom sucking back the 100 proof 'Dr Buzzard's All Purpose Knee Salve', and then there was the great Dick Miller brandishing a mean-looking cruet set from his pocket and munching his way deadpan through bunch after bunch of carnations... the hip jazz score that soundtracks the movie. Ah, sweet memories.
The last thing I ever expected in this digital age was to find such a half formed memory given flesh on DVD, and yet one day when my father arrived home clutching hold of a DVD copy he had picked up for a fiver the pulse raced and that memory was unlocked. The Little Shop Of Horrors was directed back in 1960 by Roger Corman, a hack director and quickie merchant whose work wouldn't acquire its deserved artistic reassessment until decades later when video allowed his work to be appreciated by a more movie savvy generation.
I have to say that Eureka Video's treatment of The Little Shop Of Horrors is exemplary, considering its budget price. The movie has been digitally re-mastered, and I mean that in the full sense, the 4:3 aspect ratio print is almost crystal clear, as is the sound, which considering the cheap film stock and equipment used to shoot the movie initially certainly highlights how good re-mastering techniques have become. Obviously the quality is not going to match a recently produced mega-budget blockbuster, but the print is almost clear of any artefacts, scratches, or graininess, and this is something I didn't expect. The DVD has a menu with scene selection, and options for pages containing trivia and synopsis data.
The Little Shop Of Horrors is not the best movie ever made, and it has no artistic pretensions at all, but it is a classic of low budget movie making, and the cheesy camp humour gives it a unique charm. It should be in all movie buffs' collections.