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Often confused with the 1980s musical that it inspired, The Little Shop of Horrors is a low-budget Comedy Horror movie by Roger Corman, released in 1960. The rather loose plot concerns a bumbling florist's assistant whose plant cross-breeding experiments accidentally create a talking plant with hypnotic powers that feeds on human blood.
It was famously filmed in under 48 hours, using pre-existing sets that were built for a different film. The other thing the film is famous for is a small role by the then-unknown Jack Nicholson as masochistic dental patient Wilbur Force, who consequently tends to get top billing whenever the film is released on home video.
Although the movie was profitable, it wasn't a major hit by any stretch of the imagination, but developed a cult following via drive-in and television screenings, eventually leading to a successful stage musical adapted by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken. The musical streamlines the plot, ditching a lot of incidental characters and giving it a proper dramatic arc. The film and/or musical also probably served as partial inspiration for the plant in Stephen King's The Plant. Probably the biggest impact this movie had on pop culture? The Piranha Plants in Super Mario Bros.
The film provides examples of:
- Adorkable: Seymour and Audrey.
- All Jews Are Cheapskates
- Big Eater: Audrey, Jr., of people
- Brainwashed: Audrey Jr. hypnotizes Seymour to make a final kill.
- Brain Bleach
Mr. Mushnik: I must get drunk!
- Brick Joke: Frank Stoolie speaks extremely casually about his child dying in a fire. Turns out that the child is yet another relative of Siddie Shiva.
- Catch Phrase: "I didn't mean it!"
- "Feed me!"
- Creepy Physical
- Depraved Dentist
- Disappeared Dad
- Eat the Evidence
- Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Subverted, in that Seymour comes across as being basically good-hearted, but stupid and incompetent, and none of the deaths in this film were really his fault.
- Fed to the Beast: Mushnik tries this on a robber.
- Fluffy the Terrible
- Hey, It's That Guy! / Retroactive Recognition: The big one is Jack Nicholson, who was an unknown when the movie was originally released, and now gets top billing on most home video releases, even though his role, as memorable as it may be, is very small. Dick Miller and Jackie Joseph are the second and third most recognized cast members, due to their later roles in Gremlins. Fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000 may recognize Jonathan Haze and Mel Welles for their roles in a couple of different movies shown on that series.
- I Didn't Mean to Kill Him: The final line, a repeat of Seymour's Catch Phrase.
- I Need a Freaking Drink: Mushnik, after he catches Seymour feeding body parts to the plant.
- Jewish Mother: Seymour's mother.
- Karma Houdini: Mister Mushnik actually killed one of the victims. This does prevent the blame falling squarely on Seymour.
- The Klutz: Seymour Krelboin
- Large Ham: Pretty much everybody, but Mel Welles as Mister Mushnik really stands out.
- Lethal Klutz: Seymour. First, he throws rocks at a bottle on a roof until one of them hits a bystander who falls onto train tracks and gets hit by the train. Then he stabs a dentist with one of his own instruments in self-defense, and then he throws yet another rock while under the plant's hypnosis and hits a call girl in the head.
- Lighter and Softer: than the Broadway or Frank Oz versions, to the point that people criticize the plant being killed in the Focus Group Ending of the Oz version even thought the plant dies in this movie.
- Malaproper: Both Audrey and Mr. Mushnik.
- Man-Eating Plant
- Meaningful Name: The detectives Fink and Stoolie, as well as Siddie Shiva ("sitting shiva") and the masochist, Wilbur Force.
- My God, What Have I Done?
- New Powers as the Plot Demands: Audrey Junior's hypnotic ability.
- Offscreen Teleportation: The very persistent woman going after Seymour seems to do this often.
- One-Scene Wonder: Despite his limited screen time, Nicholson's appearance is one of the most popular scenes in the movie. A testament to the popularity of this scene is the fact that it was cut out of the musical, but written into the screenplay of the Frank Oz movie, where the role is instead adopted by Bill Murray, under a different character name.
- Only Sane Man: Mister Mushnik and the robber.
- Padding: Like many Corman flicks, this one has tons of walking scenes... and running scenes!
- Paste Eater: Burson Fouch buys flowers from the shop as take-out meals, and furthermore is something of an epicure, having eaten at florist shops all over the country. He even sees Audrey Jr. as a potential food item (complaining that it looks "stale"). When he finally leaves it's because his wife is making carnations for dinner.
- Planimal: Audrey, Jr. is a plant, but has vocal chords and apparently, a full digestive system in its stalk.
- Police Are Useless: What a bunch of finks!
- Public Medium Ignorance: Fans of the Frank Oz movie are not aware that it derived from this movie, and the two are often confused as a result. Jack Nicholson is also not the star of the movie, despite a memorable role and being top billed on many home video releases (a noteworthy example? One VHS tape had a painting of Nicholson holding the plant, even though the two do not come into contact with each other at any point). This is also not a straightforward horror movie, despite being categorized as such on Hulu and YouTube or miscategorized on DVD shelves. In fact, when it was originally released, fans of the movie noted it for its Mad-like humor and satire.
- Punny Name: Siddie Shiva.
- Self-Plagiarism: Of Corman's earlier film, A Bucket of Blood. Same exact plot, same soundtrack, characters with similar personalities. It even ends in the same exact way.
- Spell My Name with an "S": Mushnik's name is spelled "Mushnick" on the shop's sign, and in the credits, "Audrey" is spelled as "Audry".
- To Serve Man: Audrey, Jr.'s preferred fare.
- We Named the Monkey "Jack": Audrey Jr., named for the human Audrey, whom Seymour has a crush on.
- What Do You Mean Its Not Symbolic: From a dirty-minded point of view, Seymour's bringdown of Audrey, Jr. is symbolic of sexual intercourse. The female partner (Audrey, Jr.) has a large opening (the large mouth with which she drinks blood and eats body parts, later moving on to whole humans) and the male partner has a large, pointy thing (his large knife) that he inserts into the large opening. From this, both partners die. Due to the Audrey's Big Eater habits when it comes to people, some Vagina Dentata symbolism is added to the already-existing intercourse symbolism.]]
- On the other hand, many of the themes about "the temptation of man" found in the Broadway and Oz version are not present here. Corman just wanted to make a silly monster movie.
- World of Ham