The Little Shop of Horrors: Review
Playfully quaint and loaded with fanciful humor, The Little Shop of Horrors is a very cheaply made science fiction/comedy so full of whimsy it’s sure to charm even the snobbiest cinephile.
Roger Corman, the king of the B-movies co-wrote, produced and directed this inexpensive little gem. With more than 400 titles in nearly sixty years, Corman is best known for his slam, bam, thank you ma’am style of filmmaking, which includes shooting scenes with two cameras rolling at once while placed at different angles. This form of shooting is now a Hollywood standard, but when Corman started the practice it was unprecedented. Of course Corman rarely shot re-takes and spent little time on lighting scenes. With such a streamlined pace Little Shop was made in just two weeks for an estimated $27,000. And it certainly shows, but what the film lacks in production value it certainly makes up for in appeal.
Jonathon Haze (a Corman regular) plays Seymour, a shy and awkward but likable young man who works in a floundering flower store. Seymour really likes his job and dedicates himself to nurturing an unusual plant; unaware it’s a carnivorous plant that feeds on human flesh. As the plant grows it becomes sentient and forms a close friendship with Seymour. And since it needs food to continue growing it convinces Seymour to kill people in order to survive. The little man complies until the plant grows to outrageous proportions and Seymour is obliged to help destroy it, both saving and winning the girl in the process.
The rest of the cast is really quite good as well, especially flower shop owner, Mel Welles and love interest, Jackie Joseph. Even the smaller roles are well handled by such Corman vets as Dick Miller and a very young Jack Nicholson. The quality of the performances actually elevates the film above its financial confines, and you soon forget about the poorly made sets and murky looking cinematography. No offense to cinematographers Archie R. Dalzell and Vilis Lapenieks (who both went on to have long successful careers in television), but the look of the film definitely suffers from the lack of money. However, the film isn’t meant to impress film critics but to entertain the masses. And that’s pretty much Corman’s manifesto for which he makes no apologies, and I got to hear that first hand from the man himself at the Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival in 2011.
Of course, I had heard about The Little Shop of Horrors for years, but had never gotten around to seeing it. So, when it landed on the TCMFF schedule with the promise that Corman would be there in person to introduce the film I was particularly keen to see it for the first time on the big screen. And as it turned out my mother joined me for that particular screening. I was a little surprised because I didn’t think the film would have appealed to her in any way. As it turned out she had a special reason for wanting to see it. Besides all the little inside production secrets Corman shared with the audience that night, my mother shared one of her own. Apparently The Little Shop of Horrors was the film my parents saw on their first date. I never knew that before.
I don’t know how much the film had to do with it, but I suppose I owe some thanks to Corman. Not just for my existence, but also for proving through a long and successful career that good cinema doesn’t have to equate with expensive. And visa versa. For a financially challenged, independent filmmaker that means a lot. For Roger Corman it means a life’s work.