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Review by Dragan Antulov
3 stars out of 4
One of the saddest facts of modern Hollywood is almost total
absence of musicals. Two years ago, it looked like the genre
might be revived with Parker's EVITA and Woody Allen's
EVERYONE SAYS I LOVE YOU. But now almost everyone can agree
that the musicals are nothing but history, at least as long
as Hollywood producers are concerned. The ending chapter in
that bright and shining history were 1980s, with the advent
of MTV and video-clip revolution. With the audience already
accustomed to the three-minute videos, musicals became
obsolete and too expensive form of mixing music with motion
pictures. Despite that, even in such bleak times, couple of
musicals shone, becoming the swan song of the genre. One of
them, LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS by Frank Oz, remains one of the
most memorable viewing experiences of the previous decade.
The interesting thing about that movie is its background.
The screenplay by Howard Ashman was based on his own stage
play, itself based on a movie called LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS,
1960 horror comedy by Roger Corman. The musical loosely
follows the original plot, set in the seedy part of town
called Skid Row. Local flower shop is run by Mr. Mushnik
(Vincent Gardenia), who, seeing no financial perspective,
wants to lay off two of his workers. One of them is nerdy
orphan Seymour Krelborn (Rick Moranis), who dreams about his
colleague, lovely shop clerk Audrey (Ellen Greene). However,
he hasn't got enough courage to express his love, especially
because Ellen goes out with sadistic dentist Orrin Scrivello
(Steve Martin). He finds consolation in his hobby- exotic
plants. One of them, named 'Audrey II', suddenly begins
drawing hordes of customers to Mushnik's shop. Mushnik is
happy, but not for long, because the plant begins to die.
Seymour soon finds out that the only thing that can feed the
plant is human blood. At first, it doesn't seem to be the
problem, but as the plant grows, so do Seymour's moral
dilemmas about possible plant food.
Corman's work had already earned the cult status itself and
Ashman had a difficult task to match its weird quality.
However, thanks to the efforts of composers Miles Goodman
and Alan Menken, the play very successfully used the
opportunity to turn horror comedy into musical, following
the contemporary trend of 1960s nostalgia. Cinematic
adaptation was given to Frank Oz, talented and experienced
entertainer, who had made a reputation working on THE MUPPET
SHOW. The result was splendid combination of Old Hollywood
artistry with the modern 1980s sentiments.
Apart from nostalgic costumes and settings, LITTLE SHOP OF
HORRORS is most recognisable by its music. Songs are
original, yet very in tune with the popular trends of 1960s.
Very ingenious element is the "Supremes"-like trio of three
young singers, who serve as some kind of Greek chorus. Apart
from that, musical numbers don't interrupt the normal plot
like in most other musicals - they actually enhance it. The
best example is a scene when Seymour must make a tough
decision, and the song lyrics illustrates his choice.
The actors in this movie performed beautifully. Rick
Moranis, short Canadian almost always typecast as nerdish
sidekick, here brilliantly uses the opportunity to play main
hero of the movie. His Seymour is a deeply flawed person
born in poverty, and his desire for the plastic-wrapped
middle class reality brings a lot of humour to his
ironically tragic situation. His partner, Ellen Greene, was
very experienced in playing the part of Audrey on stage, so
it shouldn't surprise anyone that the cinematic version
remains the best and most convincing role of her career -
especially her singing of _Suddenly Seymour_ when she
rejects her helium-voice, together with dumb blonde
stereotypes. However, even some supporting actors have their
share of glory, even in short appearances - Steve Martin as
sadistic dentist, late John Candy as weird radio host, and,
finally, Bill Murray as masochistic dental patient. His
scene with Martin is so funny and so intense, that it should
be worthy of a movie itself.
Stellar performances and catchy tunes overshadowed Frank Oz
and his directorial skills. The best achievement of the
movie was the creature - cannibalistic plant designed by
Lyle Conway; Frank Oz gave the plant a mouth and that was
enough for it to have a human traits. With the help of 40
operators and suggestive voice by Levy Stubbs, 'Audrey II'
should have earned its place in the Hall of Fame for Science
Fiction monsters. Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be
because the finale of the movie - Seymour's battle with
'Audrey II' - happened to be a little bit disappointing.
Despite that, LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS still remains one of
the most entertaining movies of the previous decade, even
for those who aren't crazy about weird musicals.
Copyright © 1998 Dragan Antulov