Why LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS is Your Halloween Must-See

Why LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS is Your Halloween Must-See
Audrey II and Ellen Greene.
Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.

Cult classic movie musical LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS is coming back to theaters this Halloween? Despite the screenings not happening on the twenty-third day of the month of September, there is no doubt that this thing will be bigger than Hula-Hoops! Whether downtown is your home address; you're definitely in need of a long, slow root canal; or you're just trying to find a way to better yourself, we've got five reasons why the time has come for you to see this beloved masterpiece on something larger than your big, enormous twelve-inch screen.

5. In Honor and Memoriam of Legends Levi Stubbs, Vincent Gardenia, John Candy, and Stanley Jones.

Levi Stubbs, the lead singer of Motown pop group The Four Tops, helped to make Audrey II a true cinematic marvel. His spirited, charismatic signing voice ensured that this big green mother from outer space became one of the most beloved villains in cinematic history. As Mushnik, the legendary actor of the stage and screen Vincent Gardenia added another layer of sophistication and credibility to this quirky film. In addition to Rick Moranis and Steve Martin, also established names in cinema, having a well-known star like Gardenia tied to the project proved to movie-going audiences that this wasn't some ignorable cheeseball oddity. Also, titan of comedy John Candy has a hilarious cameo in the film. Candy creates a memorable radio announcer with a penchant for wacky voice modulations and sound effects. Likewise, prolific voice actor Stanley Jones provides the narration during the film's prologue.

Why LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS is Your Halloween Must-See
Audrey II.
Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.

4. Ellen Greene as Audrey.

Ellen Greene delighted audiences as Audrey when the musical first premiered in 1982 at the Workshop of the Players' Art (WPA) Theatre. She transferred with the show from WPA to Off-Broadway's Orpheum Theatre, where theatergoers continued to be dazzled by her. Despite the acclaim and picking up a Drama Desk Award nomination for Outstanding Actress in a Musical and a Laurence Olivier Award nomination for Best Actress in a Musical for her portrayal as Audrey, she actually wasn't the first or possibly even the second choice to play the role for the film adaption. The role was initially offered to Cyndi Lauper, who turned it down. And, Barbra Streisand is rumored to have been offered the role too. We can only imagine what the film would be like with someone else as Audrey. But, in all honesty, why would we want to? Greene is perfect in the part.

3. Alan Menken's Iconic Score

I'm personally too young to have seen this film in movie theaters originally, but LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS is just one of a slew of Alan Menken's scores that informed my childhood. Having been born in 1985, I knew this music by heart before Disney's THE LITTLE MERMAID, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, ALADDIN, NEWSIES, POCAHONTAS, THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME, and HERCULES were scores I obsessed over. Menken is undeniably skilled in crafting music that is infectious and truly unforgettable. The 60s rock, soul, and do-wop vibes for LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS are no exceptions. And, when paired with Howard Ashman's clever and witty lyrics, each tune is a verifiable and enjoyable earworm worth revisiting many times.

2. Puppets, Puppets, Puppets!

When David Geffen began planning to produce the film adaptation of LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, he was courting Steven Spielberg as executive producer and Martin Scorsese as director. That fell through, and eventually the film was offered to cinematic genius Frank Oz, a puppeteer who had co-directed THE DARK CRYSTAL and directed THE MUPPETS TAKE MANHATTAN. Oz, though, originally turned the project down. However, it was his directorial vision and Lyle Conway's puppet designs for Audrey II that helped make this carnivorous plant leave an indelible mark on American cinema. Together, the team figured out a way to make Audrey II grow before our eyes, eat its victims, and most spectacularly have a convincingly lifelike mouth and lips for both dialogue scenes and musical numbers. All of this is done mostly without blue screens or opticals, exceptions include the reshot ending, where the plant is electrocuted, and in some of the shots during the rampage in the original ending.

1. You Can Finally See the Original Ending On the Big Screen!

Yeah. You read that right. The director's cut ending that made the October 9, 2012 DVD and Blu-Ray release a must own item is being widely screened in movie theaters for the first time ever. This ending hasn't been shown on a silver screen since it was shown at the 50th New York Film Festival on September 29, 2012. Prior to that, it hadn't been seen on a large screen since test audiences in San Jose reacted negatively to the deaths of Audrey and Seymour. Warner Brothers was looking for at least 55% of the test audiences to "recommend" the film if they were going to release it. Yet, the faithful-to-the-stage-musical ending upset audiences so much that the film only got 13%. This meant that the ending had to be completely reshot, and a 23-minute chunk of the movie that is said to have cost about $1 million of the film's $25 million budget to produce was completely cut and replaced. Although, a black and white, unfinished work print from a VHS master of the original ending did find its way on the original DVD release in 1998. It was missing some sound, visual, and special effects. Needless to say, the footage looked awful, and its availability for purchase and consumption was short lived. The studio quickly recalled the DVDs and replaced them with a version that did not include the footage. But, now, after enjoying the restored original ending on home media for five years, we can all sit in the mesmerizing glow of a movie projected on a large screen and experience this classic the way that Frank Oz, Howard Ashman, and team originally intended.

Why LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS is Your Halloween Must-See
Ellen Greene and Rick Moranis sing "Suddenly Seymour."
Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.

For the first time ever in a national theatrical release, LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS will be seen with its original ending, fully restored and digitally projected, finally realizing the original vision of director Frank Oz and screenwriter and lyricist Howard Ashman. Screenings are scheduled for 2:00pm and 7:00pm each day on Sunday, October 29 and Tuesday, October 31. For more information and tickets, please visit https://www.fathomevents.com/events/little-shop-of-horrors.

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From This Author David Clarke

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