11/25/08

R073 Little Shop of Horrors (Three Riffer Version)

(1960, Horror/Comedy, color)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy

Are you sure this is Little Shop of Horrors and not Little Shop of Half-Baked Shtick?

Rating: ***1/2

In a nutshell:

A flower shop worker raises a man-eating plant.

Summary:

They're mean green mothers from outer space.[Once again, the following summary has been shamelessly recycled from the last time I reviewed this film.]

Bumbling doofus Seymour Krelboin (Corman regular Jonathan Haze) works in a flower shop on skid row, but he’s really, really bad at it. So bad, that his growly boss Mushnik tries to fire him at the beginning of the movie, over the objections his sweet-tempered and brain-damaged fellow flower worker Audrey. A random, flower-eating customer stops by to graze and offer advice; an unusual or exotic plant would really bring in the customers, he opines. Desperate to keep his job, Seymour declares that he has just such a plant at home. Mushnik lets him go home and get it.

At home we meet Seymour’s domineering hypochondriac alcoholic mother, and Seymour’s football-jawed plant. He leaves the former at home while he takes the latter to the shop. Mushnik agrees that the plant is unusual, but remains doubtful about its anemic appearance. He gives Seymour one week to get it into shape.

Seymour stays at the shop that night to avoid his mother...er, nurse the plant back to health. No matter what he tries, the plant won’t eat or perk up until he accidentally pricks his finger over the jaws. The plant slurps down blood as Seymour pricks all his fingers to keep it happy. This makes it lush and green for a while, until it suddenly wilts again the next day. Mushnik flies into a growly rage. Seymour promises to make it better.

Seymour sits up the next night as well, but he’s run out of fingers to prick. “Feed me!” the plant cries. Seymour grows despondent at the constant demands of his talking, bloodthirsty plant, and stumbles out into the night. He pauses at the rail yard to throw rocks at a bottle. A bum pokes his head up just in time to get hit with the rock and fall across the tracks. Of course a train is coming. Rather than do something sensible, like, say, call the police or just walk away, Seymour gathers the dismembered pieces of tramp into a handy sack and takes them back to the shop. The plant begins to demand food again. It only takes a couple of minutes for Seymour to realize that he has a handy sack of food with him...

Suddenly, Seymour is standing beside you...Meanwhile, Mushnik and Audrey are out to dinner when Mushnik realizes he’s forgotten his wallet. He leaves Audrey at the, er, “diner” (actually someone’s house with checkered cloths thrown over a couple of tables) and returns to the shop just in time to see Seymour feeding bits of hobo to the plant. He determines to get drunk and call the police in that order, but the next morning, the plant has grown to enormous size, attracting huge crowds of admirers and flower-buyers. He obliquely asks Seymour if it’s going to need to eat anymore. Seymour doesn’t think so. Mushnik decides to leave it be.

But the plant does want to eat more. The next day, Seymour accidentally kills a sadistic dentist with his own drill during a violent tooth extraction. As he’s cleaning up the body, a masochistic patient (a young Jack Nicholson) shows up to demand a painful check-up. Seymour obliges him, and then drags the body back to the store that night to feed the plant. The next night, Mushnik himself stays up with the plant while Seymour and Audrey go on a date at hypochondriac mom’s house. A robber bursts into the shop to steal the day’s receipts. Mushnik tells him that they’re in the plant. The credulous crook climbs right in, and you know the rest...

By now, business has grown tremendously thanks to the enormous man-eating plant’s appeal to teenage groupies and skid row carnivorous plant fanciers. (Who knew there were so many?) Even the Society of Silent Flower Observers of Southern California has noticed. They want to give Seymour a medal as soon as the blossoms open. Seymour determines that this will be tomorrow night. He stays overnight again, this time to woo the lovely Audrey, but the plant’s constant demands offend her and she leaves. He refuses to feed the plant any more people, but the plant hypnotizes him into going out to look for likely subjects anyway. In this entranced state, he happens upon Leonora, a remarkably persistent hooker determined to get his business. An unlikely set of circumstances leads Seymour to accidentally bonk her on the head with a large rock. He carries her body back to the shop.

By now, so many people have gone missing that a pair of deadpan cops has gotten involved; they happen to be present the next evening for the medal ceremony when the blossoms open. They open all right, displaying the face of everyone the plant has ever eaten. The cops close in on Seymour. He shrieks, “I didn’t mean it!” and runs into the night. After a long chase across a field of tires and a large pile of toilets, he arrives back at the shop and curses his man-eating plant. He takes a knife and climbs inside, hoping, I guess, to stab it to death as it eats him. It doesn’t work; when the cops catch up, the plant has a new blossom with his face. “I didn’t mean it!” the blossom cries.

Thoughts:

Neither of whom are depicted here.My expanded thoughts on the film can be read in their entirety by heading back to my original review. For now, I will simply observe that someone appears to have directed the actors to behave as goofy as humanly possible, but neglected to provide them with actual jokes. I’d compare it to a seventy-minute sketch by an amateur improv troupe, but those at least have energy and immediacy going for them. Little Shop of Horrors amounts to little more than a canned and often arbitrary movie-length spaz attack. As I’ve said before, at least it’s not boring.

The commentary is vastly improved from Mike’s solo version, probably the most improved of any three-riffer do-over thus far. The fact that this film lends itself to mockery better than previous subjects might have something to do with it. Though Mike’s best solo jokes have, of course, been recycled, it feels like this one has a lot more new material to it as well. A few of my favorite comments: During the opening credits, Mike relates a little story about asking a female video store clerk for this film. “You should always pronounce ‘horrors’ with two syllables,” he advises. As the man-eating plant grows in size while shrinking in production values, Kevin says, “If the prop guy worked for free, he was overpaid.” When Audrey and Seymour eat at Hypochondriac Mom’s house, Bill notes, “The first course is a dish of salmonella in a light botulism sauce.” My favorite part comes near the end, when Kevin goes on a Tourette’s-style rant consisting entirely of tire puns. Mike puts a stop to it with (appropriately enough) a tire iron. It’s the best do-over thus far, and worth picking up.