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Little Shop of Horrors: "Expunged from their C.V" W/O
Written: Nov 12, 2002 (Updated Jan 1, 2003)
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
Pros:As far as camp goes, it's rarely been better or funnier.
Cons:Roger Corman's best efforts can't hide a 'take a penny, leave a penny' budget.
The Bottom Line: By all means, this should have been a terrible movie. Yet the cast and crew are able to rise above. I'll try to explain why.
Earlier this fall, Simply_Crispy proposed an idea for his first write-off: Expunged from their C.V. The rules were that you can review any movie so long that has, in a supporting role, a cameo or a glimpse, an actor who went on to be a superstar. When I heard of the write-off, I had to think for a moment as to what film I would take on. I thought of Thirty Seconds over Tokyo, a WWII era picture featuring the great Robert Mitchum in a bit part. There was just one problem: I ALREADY REVIEWED THE DAMN FILM! (http://www.epinions.com/content_70371806852)
But then a light came on (From the tennis courts over at the high school), and the idea of the perfect movie came to me. I sent an electronic mail to Chris, who agreed I belonged on the write-off boat.
And now, Weirdo_87 presents (Mostly with pride): My contribution to Expunged from their C.V
To start this review, I will use an opening for my upcoming opinion of Roger Eberts The Great Movies:
As I was reading Roger Eberts The Great Movies, a thought came to me. All of the films in this book could have failed. (The passage continues on for a few lines, listing films and the troubles they faced. I want to still keep the review secret, so Ive concealed this information). Yet all of these films are today classics in some, if not most, critical circles. Why?
Yes, why? Why is Roger Corman, the master of shoestring budget films, one of the most successful filmmakers of all time? Why are his movies still seen by people, while countless films from the silent era have been lost forever? (Face it: The eight-hour negative of Greed has probably been melted into coins by now). Im not sure, but the answer maybe one out of giving the people what they want for free (That and Cormans studio New World Pictures was responsible for giving many up and coming actors and directors their first work). The Little Shop of Horrors (1960) may be Cormans masterpiece. Or at least from the films of his Ive seen. Which come to think of it isnt that many (One to be exact).
A stuffed-up reviewer on amazon.com panned this movie for being cheap. Is that right? You cant tell me that a film shot in only two days for a budget of $27,000, and with a C-list cast, will have Gone With the Wind production values. Its obvious that scenes here were either shot in studio sets or filmed on location (In Los Angeless Skid Row). The film is so low budget that, according to the IMDB, theres no costume designer and screenwriter Charles Griffith made three uncredited cameos (Which I shall mention in the review). Fortunately, the one thing that couldnt be put on budget was Griffiths script. This is the reason the movie is great: It may not have had a high budget, but the creativity of the filmmakers was limitless and can be seen throughout the film. It ranges from clever dialogue to interesting characters to spoofs not only of horror films, but also of the movie itself (A satire of satires?). One commentator on the IMDB said that this film wouldnt have been as good with a big budget. He may be right.
The oddball plot goes as follows: Seymour Krelboyne (Jonathan Haze) is stuck in a pathetic job in a pathetic flower shop located, as said above, in the cheap part of L.A. The owner of the shop, Gravis Mushnick (Mel Welles), is not getting much business: The only regular customers are Burson Fouch (Dick Miller), who buys flowers to dine on them, and Mrs. Sadie Shiva (Leola Wendorff), who seems to have daily family funerals. And the shop gets a visit from two girls of the Cucamonga High School float committee who have nothing but two thousand dollars to spend on flowers for floats. Otherwise, things are slow until Seymour brings a plant from home, which he named Audrey Jr. after his girlfriend Audrey (Jackie Joseph). The plant, as it turns out, is a carnivorous Venus flytrap (Voiced by C. Griffith) who tricks Seymour into killing people for food. As Audrey Jr. grows more and more, the number of missing people gets larger and larger.
Being that it was shot in 48 hours, the technical values arent all that stunning. Archie Dalzells cinematography is one or two inches above a home movie, but only one or two. I have a feeling that one or two sets were used throughout the picture. For example, the bare interior of Seymours house looks somewhat familiar in shape and design to a restaurant that Mushnik and Audrey (Senior) go to and similar to a dentists office. But the music score by Frank Katz is very good. The main theme, in fact, is among the most memorable in history, right alongside the Colonel Bogey March or The Harry Lime Theme. No, that probably wouldnt be true if a poll was taken (Though such things are rarely correct). How about the most memorable theme for a B movie? Nah, Touch of Evil has a kick a$$ jazz score. How about the most memorable for a low budget horror film? That would be true if Psycho was discounted.
Fine. How about the best music theme in the genre of low budget horror film spoofs? Yeah, thatll do.
There are several quotable lines in the film. Heres one of the best, said by Fouch to Mushnik:
Fouch: I remember in one flower shop there was a whole wall covered with poison ivy and people came from miles around to look at that wall and they stayed to buy.
Mushnik: And the owner got rich?
Fouch: No, he scratched himself to death in an insane asylum.
Then theres one between Seymour and Audrey Jr.:
Seymour: I'm getting pretty tired of you!
Audrey Jr.: I need food!
Seymour I don't care what you need! Look what you've done, you not only made a butcher out of me but you drove my girl away!
Audrey Jr.: Shut up and bring on the food!
The film even makes spoofs of Dragnet. Detective Joe Fink (Wally Campo), who also narrates, investigates the missing persons case with his partner Detective Frank Stoolie (Jack Warford). The two talk to one another in a monotonous sort-of way (Hey Joe, Morning Frank. Hows the wife, Frank?, Not bad, Joe).
Its the little bits in this film that I most like. Take this example: One night, Mushnik decides to stay at the shop to watch over the plant. He finds out that the plant can talk and asks the plant Who do you want tonight?, to which the plant replies Hmm, you look fat enough (Laugh). Just then, Mushnik is held up (By D.W, er C., Griffith). Mushnik tells the robber that his money is in the plant. The robber knocks on it, like a door (Chuckle), and goes in. As hes being devoured, the plant belches out the crooks gun (Chuckle).
Finally, as Wolkelstein points out in his excellent review, there maybe little jokes throughout the film about Judaism. For example, a very frustrated Gravis Mushnik remarks, seeing his hope for a large flower shop go down, that the Writing in the sky now says R.I.P Seymour Krelboyne-in Arabic!. Wolkelstein discusses this topic better in his opinion, which I recommend: He overturns every rock there is (Leaving me only pebbles to work with).
There is one thing I can say in closing: The Little Shop of Horrors is one of the oddest yet strangely entertaining movies I have seen. Many prints of it seem to be, at best, of average quality (Or at least my bargain bin DVD from Hollywood Classics). Still, its more fun than a quarter or even half the multi-million dollar budget films Ive seen. Maybe youll agree, maybe you wont, but watch it anyway.
What the hell was the point of the last paragraph? It sounds like some cheap, sentimental Hallmark card. Besides, this review is far from over: I need to state why this film was chosen for the Expunged from their C.V write-off. Here goes:
The funniest little bit in the film comes around the half-hour mark. Seymour goes to visit psychotic dentist Dr. Farb, who makes Laurence Olivier in Marathon Man look like an amateur (Guess who plays the man running out of the office in pain). Seymour kills Farb when he goes too far. Just then, a boy named Wilbur Force enters the office. He heard that Dr. Farb was very good and wants to get drilled for fun. He even asks Seymour, masquerading as Dr. Farb, for no novocain (It dulls the senses).
This scene was amusing to audiences in 1960. But today, it causes a belly laugh. The reason? The man who played Wilbur, at the time a D list actor, went on to be the biggest success of the cast. And this is where my part in the W/O comes into play. This actor owes his screen success to Corman, who had allowed him to debut in The Cry-Baby Killers (1958) and later assigned him to such prestigious films as The Raven and The Terror (Both 1963). But this actor also got parts in several films of cult director Monte Hellman like Wild Ride (1960), Flight to Fury (1964), Back Door to Hell (1964) and Ride in the Whirlwind (1965) (Hellman, interestingly, also started his career with R. Corman, directing/co-directing Beast From Haunted Cave (1960), Creature From the Haunted Sea (1961) and The Terror.
It wasnt until the very end of the decade, though, that this actor was able to hit it big with a supporting part in Dennis Hoppers Easy Rider (1969), playing a stoned-up lawyer or something (I must admit that thats one of the films I havent seen yet). His star rocketed further in Five Easy Pieces (1970), Carnal Knowledge (1971), The Last Detail (1973), Chinatown (1974) and, most notably, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest (1975). By the time he went cuckoo (!) in The Shining (1980), he was one of the top actors in America. By today, with his recent performance in 2002's "About Schmidt", hes something of a modern Humphrey Bogart, in terms of notoriety, fame, legacy, charisma and talent (Though he may not have developed much since his Corman days). Oh and hes a great fan of the L.A Globetrotters, erm Lakers. Who is he?
Previously, I would have said Jack Sommersby, in reference to the legendary critic on this site. But I have decided to now leave the real answer to yourselves. If you don't know it, I pity you.
As explained above, this entry is a part of Simply_Crispys inaugural write-off, which is dedicated to the worst of the best (Though, in this case, it was fun to see an actors low point). Do check out the work of the other participants: These folks are among the best Epinions has to offer.
Simply_Crispy (Our courageous host)
Weirdo_87 (Hmm, he sounds awfully familiar)
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