The Little Shop of Horrors
The Little Shop of Horrors was made in 1959 by the famous B-movie producer Roger Corman, who to-date has produced almost 400 films & TV shows.
Corman shot the film very quickly and very cheaply.
The movie was made for about $30,000, in 2 days and 1 night.
The reason it was made so quickly was so that Corman could beat changing industry rules that would stop producers from "buying out" an actor's performance in perpetuity.
After January 1, 1960, actors would have to be paid residuals for their appearances, not a one-time payment. And that meant Corman would not be able to produce low-budget movies in the same way.
So before these rules went into effect, he decided to shoot one last film and scheduled it for the last week in December of 1959.
The screenplay was written by the prolific Charles B. Griffiths, who wrote dozens of classic B-movies. Griffiths and Mel Welles, who plays Gravis Mushnik, also helped direct the film.
Griffith also appears several times in this film - he’s the voice of the carnivorous plant, Audrey Jr. & he’s also the burglar who breaks into the flower shop only to meet a sad end.
Griffith got his family into the act too - his father appears as a dental patient, and his grandmother is Seymour's hypochondriac mother. To keep costs down, Corman utilized sets from another production that had been left standing.
And the street shots were filmed in the actual skid row area of Los Angeles instead of on a sound stage. Corman hired real bums to appear as extras for ten cents apiece.
For the chase scene, Corman paid a group of children a nickel each to run out of the subway tunnel. He also convinced a funeral home to let him shoot the scene with the hearse for free and - that is a real corpse that you see in the hearse.
But after a disappointing initial theatrical run, Corman didn’t believe The Little Shop of Horrors had much financial prospect, so he didn’t bother to copyright it, resulting in the film falling into the public domain.
In 1982, it was remade as a successful stage musical which was later made into a film with Steve Martin and Rick Moranis in 1986.
Home video releases of The Little Shop of Horrors would lead you to believe that Jack Nicholson is the star of the film. But he has only one scene and is barely credited. But boy is that scene great!
Nicholson later said that because Corman originally hadn't wanted him for this film, he decided that he couldn't play it straight. He said, “So I just did a lot of weird “stuff” that I thought would make it funny.”
He must have made an impression because Corman cast him in 3 more films (The Raven, The Terror and The St. Valentine's Day Massacre) before he got his big break in Easy Rider. But contrary to popular opinion, this is not Nicholson’s film debut.
He had appeared in 2 previous films, The Cry Baby Killer (his film debut) & Too Soon to Love.
Look for Dick Miller, the customer who eats the flowers - he’s an immediately recognizable character actor, and has appeared in well over 150 films & TV shows.
He has parts in every movie made by director Joe Dante, including Gremlins, Gremlins 2, Amazon Women on the Moon & Small Soldiers and he was also in The Terminator and Pulp Fiction.
Jackie Joseph, who plays Audrey in the film, had a long TV & film career and appeared again with Dick Miller in Gremlins, Gremlins 2 & Small Soldiers. She married Ken Berry right after this film was released and they were married for 17 years before he dumped her for a younger model.
A few years later she co-founded the Ladies Club (or the Hollywood Dumpettes), the original First Wives Club. It’s a support and recovery group for divorced wives of stars, often after many years of marriage.
Members include the ex Mrs. Leonard Nimoy (Spock), the ex Mrs. Jerry Lewis, the ex Mrs. Michael Landon, the ex Mrs. Gene Hackman, the ex Mrs. Flip Wilson, the ex Mrs. George Segal & the ex Mrs. Don Knotts. She is still president of the Club today.
The film employs an original style of humor, combining black comedy with farce and incorporating Jewish humor and some witty lines.
For example, the name of the character Mrs. 'Siddie Shiva' is a pun from the phrase 'sitting Shiva', a Jewish funerary ritual, as well as a direct reference to her unlucky and constantly dying relatives.
And look for some malapropisms like a “caesarian salad”.
Seymour’s character is a direct satire of (or homage to) Jerry Lewis, who was very popular at the time. The homicide detectives, Sgt. Joe Fink, who does the over-the-top voiceover, and his assistant Frank Stoolie are blatant take-offs of the cops Joe Friday and Frank Smith from Dragnet.
And we all know what a fink & a stoolie are.
The acting is hammy, the story is goofy, nothing in it is scary and we laugh at all the wrong moments but The Little Shop of Horrors has been called the greatest movie ever made....in 2 days!