Roger Corman’s ‘A Little Shop of Horrors’ (1960): Feeding Us 60 Years Of Comedy Horror

They say the classics never die, and that is true in the case of A Little Shop of Horrors which turns 60 in September 2020. A unicorn of its time in terms of quirky horror and creative, comedic drama, the timeless underground flick has been beloved for decades. A little Shop of Horrors is a one of a kind gem all on its own, feeding us a fun 1986 remake, a musical on Broadway, and more.

The initial release of A Little Shop of Horrors was September 14, 1960. The campy classic stars Jonathan Haze (Gunslinger 1956, The Terror 1963), Mel Welles (Chopping Mall 1986 – read our retro review here, Wolfen 1981), and starlet Jackie Joseph (Gremlins 1984, Get Crazy 1983). In the movie, a young, somewhat clumsy but charming Seymour (Haze) is on the verge of losing his job at Mushnik’s Flower Shop, run by his boss, Mr. Mushnik (Welles).

Stanley feeding his baby

Seymour still has the love and devotion of his girlfriend, Audrey (Joseph), but in his heart, he must prove he is the man he wants to be, and that his love for plants is a passionate one. He creates a super plant, which he lovingly names after Audrey.

This creation is a type of Venus Fly Trap. Everyone knows that these types of plants love to eat insects and bugs, and will snap on your fingers if they come in contact, but when Audrey won’t grow, it is discovered the only thing standing between Seymour and his dreams is a little blood, sweat, and tears. That’s right, Audrey is a full on thirsty vampire of a flower and will only thrive when feasting on the blood of humans. What’s a boy to do?

What ensues is both comedic—and, when you really think about it—kind of scary. Scenes involve a masochistic dentist, a sadistic client, and a bizarre but genius scene involving a stop light. A Little Shop of Horrors was written by Charles B. Griffith (Not of this Earth 1957) and directed by Roger Corman (The Terror 1963). The film is believed to be inspired by an H.G. Wells story, titled “The Flowering of the Strange Orchid,” written in 1905. Interestingly enough, it was originally released as a B movie in a double feature to the horror classic, Black Sunday (1963 – read our retro review here), directed by Mario Bava.

A Little Shop Of Horrors began to achieve cult status through this coupling and word of mouth. Also featuring one of the first roles of the amazing Jack Nicholson (The Shining 1980 – read our retro review here) as a pain-loving patient of the dentist, the film was often advertised with Nicholson’s mug gracing VHS covers and posters as his incomparable star grew.

The Little Shop of Horrors (1960) Jack Nicholson ecstatic in his dentist’s chair

A Little Shop of Horrors also went on to achieve Broadway status with the 1982 off-Broadway release, and 1983 on the West End in London. The musical continued to receive a devoted and adoring audience until 2016. I, for one, would consider myself quite lucky to be able to obtain tickets for that feature which would undoubtedly prove to be both outstandingly entertaining and also visually stunning.

Frank Oz went on to direct the well-known 1986 remake starring film and comedy legends Rick Moranis (Ghostbusters 1984, Spaceballs 1987) as Seymour, Steve Martin (The Jerk 1979, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels 1988) as the psychotic dentist and Bill Murray (Ghostbusters 1984, Scrooged 1988) as the pain-loving patient. For most of us, this was how we were introduced to the film, and to be honest, it is an amazing, visual, and musical elevation to the original. However, one can not appreciate the stunning remake without first acknowledging the impact and uniqueness of the original.

The original and classic A Little Shop of Horrors is available for free streaming on YouTube, so if you have not had the pleasure of experiencing it, it is very easily accessible, and I would highly recommend it.

 

Imagine 1960 … a time of a blooming revolution, yes, but also a time of quite a conservative mind frame. In terms of horror, we had seen some monsters and ghouls at this time, but a plant which devours humans in a blood thirsty frenzy to survive, and an owner/father willing to do anything to see their baby thrive, all of this taking place with a comedic and dark twist … viva la revolucion of filmmaking! A Little Shop of Horrors has, for 60 years now, inspired the minds and creativity of art and cinema lovers everywhere, and whether you love horror or comedy, this movie should always be found high on your list of faves, continuing to feed us what we want for decades to come!

About Lauraplant82

Hi there! I'm a mid-30s, Torontonian, virgo, true-crime obsessed, horror-obsessed, travel-obsessed, ...scrabble-obsessed, stargazing wannabe-novelist. I'd love to meet ya! :D Here is the link to my submission for Pophorrors 'meet the writers' segment: https://pophorror.wpengine.com/meet-our-writers-laura-plant/

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