Little Shop of Horrors: The Director’s Cut

  • Reviewed by: Dr Adam Jahnke
  • Review Date: Oct 18, 2012
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Director

Frank Oz

Release Date(s)

1986 (October 9, 2012)

Studio(s)

Warner Bros.

Review

These days, it’s become commonplace to see campy stage musicals based on low-budget (and, in some cases, big-budget) horror movies. We’ve seen stage versions of Re-Animator, The Evil Dead, The Silence of the Lambs, The Toxic Avenger and others. But in 1982, when Howard Ashman and Alan Menken adapted Roger Corman’s 1960 quickie The Little Shop of Horrors for the stage, it was still a novelty. Little Shop paved the way for all the movie-inspired musicals to follow and it remains one of the best.

In Frank Oz’s movie version, Rick Moranis gets what may be the best role of his career as Seymour Krelborn, the Skid Row flower shop assistant who discovers a strange and interesting new plant that he dubs Audrey II. The plant brings an influx of curiosity seekers and new business to Mushnik’s Flower Shop but Seymour soon learns that to thrive, Audrey II requires a steady diet of human blood. Fortunately, there’s a solution close at hand that’ll also allow Seymour to court his unrequited love, Audrey I (Ellen Greene). The plant convinces him to off Audrey’s abusive boyfriend, Orin Scrivello, D.D.S. (Steve Martin).

Little Shop hasn’t had the best luck on DVD. An early 1998 special edition that included the legendary original ending in black-and-white as a bonus feature was quickly recalled at producer David Geffen’s insistence. The Blu-ray finally includes that sequence, fully restored and in color, reincorporated into the film, at last giving audiences a chance to see the director’s cut in its entirety. Happily, the disc also includes the theatrical version. The restored footage does not disappoint. It’s a thrilling homage to B-movies of the 50s and 60s with some absolutely stunning effects work by Richard Conway. I’ve always been a fan of Little Shop but this is one director’s cut that makes a good movie great.

Little Shop of Horrors arrives on Blu-ray hidden behind some pretty blah cover art that includes a very nice 36-page DigiBook. It’s a fairly dark, dingy movie punctuated by carefully chosen bursts of color and the HD transfer preserves that look beautifully. This isn’t going to hold up next to most newer movies on Blu-ray but it looks like a pristine 1986 theatrical film print. The only thing to really worry about with the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is how the music sounds and the disc delivers a crystal clear rendition of the infectious Menken/Ashman songs.

In addition to the two separate cuts of the film, the disc includes primarily material from the previous DVD releases including a terrific audio commentary by Frank Oz. He also contributes commentary to the alternate ending, accessible as a separate feature and not from the complete director’s cut. There is a new featurette with Oz and Richard Conway discussing the director’s cut and a vintage documentary called A Story of Little Shop of Horrors featuring interviews with Oz, Roger Corman, Rick Moranis and others. The outtakes and deleted scenes lean heavily toward the former and come with another optional commentary by Oz. Finally, the disc includes two trailers. Missing from the previous DVD are two TV spots and an isolated music track, which is a bit of a shame.

Howard Ashman and Alan Menken set the gold standard of movie-based musicals with Little Shop of Horrors and Frank Oz delivered a pitch-perfect film adaptation. The music and puppetry are brilliant and the main cast is so appealing that it’s easy to forget the hilarious cameos by John Candy, Christopher Guest, Bill Murray and James Belushi (or Paul Dooley, depending on which version you prefer). It’s a thrill to finally see the movie the way it was originally meant to be seen. And, if for some reason you’re partial to the theatrically released version, it’s equally exciting to see and hear it in such high quality. I have a feeling this disc will be getting a lot of play at Chez Jahnke.

- Dr. Adam Jahnke

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by Adam Jahnke