Cast & Crew
On Los Angeles' skid row, penny-pinching Gravis Mushnik owns a florist shop and employs sweet but simple Audry Fulquard and clumsy Seymour Krelboin. Although the rundown shop gets little business, there are some repeat customers; for instance, Mrs. Siddie Shiva shops almost daily for flower arrangements for her many relatives' funerals. Another regular customer is Fouch, who eats the plants he buys for lunch. When Seymour fouls up dentist Dr. Farb's arrangement, Mushnik fires him. Hoping Mushnik will change his mind, Seymour tells him about a special plant that he cross-bred from a buttercup and a Venus flytrap. Bashfully, Seymour admits that he named the plant "Audry, Jr.," a revelation that delights the real Audry. From the apartment he shares with his hypochondriac mother, Winifred, Seymour fetches his odd-looking, potted plant, but Mushnik is unimpressed by its sickly, drooping look. However, when Fouch suggests that Audry, Jr.'s uniqueness might attract people from all over the world to see it, Mushnik gives Seymour one week to revive it. Seymour has already discovered that the usual kinds of plant food do not nourish his strange hybrid and that every night at sunset the plant's leaves open up. When Seymour accidentally pricks his finger on another thorny plant, Audry, Jr. opens wider, eventually causing Seymour to discover that the plant craves blood.
After that, each night Seymour nurses his creation with blood from his fingers, and although he feels increasingly listless, Audry, Jr. begins to grow. When the shop's revenues increase due to the curious customers who are lured in to see Audry, Jr., Mushnik gives Seymour a raise and unofficially adopts him. Impressed by Audry, Jr., teenaged girls decorating a float for the Rose Parade ask their committee for permission to buy $2,000 worth of flowers from Mushnik's shop. As Mushnik dreams about building a greenhouse for Seymour to breed plants and owning a shop in Beverly Hills, Audry, Jr. wilts. The now anemic Seymour stays up all night feeding the plant his blood, but the plant, which has begun to talk at night, demands, "Feed me more!" Not knowing what to feed the plant, Seymour takes a walk along a railroad track. When he carelessly throws a rock to vent his frustration, he inadvertently knocks out a man, who falls on the track and is run over by a train. Miserably guilt-ridden, but resourceful, Seymour collects the body parts and feeds them to Audry, Jr. Meanwhile, at a restaurant, Mushnik discovers he has no money with him, and when he returns to the shop to get some cash, he secretly observes Seymour feeding the plant. Although Mushnik intends to tell the police, the next day, when he sees the line of people waiting to spend money at his shop, he procrastinates. When Seymour later arrives that morning, suffering a toothache, Mushnik confronts him about the plant's "food."
Seymour claims that, based on information he read about the plants he cross-bred, Audry, Jr. should require no more feedings. Placated, Mushnik sends Seymour to Dr. Farb for his toothache, but at the office, Seymour sees other patients suffering and realizes the dentist is sadistic. He tries to flee, but Farb prevents him from leaving and tries to remove several of his teeth. Grabbing a sharp tool, Seymour fights back and accidentally stabs and kills Farb. Just then, a pain-loving patient, Wilbur Force, mistakes Seymour for the dentist and insists that Seymour treat his "three or four abscesses, nine or ten cavities" and other dental problems, and that he not use an anesthetic. Seymour gallantly does his best and Wilbur later leaves happily without several teeth. Seymour is disturbed that he has now murdered twice, but nevertheless feeds Farb to Audry, Jr. At the police homicide division, Sgt. Joe Fink and his assistant Frank Stoolie discover that Farb and the man at the railroad tracks have disppeared. They question Mushnik and Seymour, who acts suspiciously nervous, but conclude that he knows nothing. Audry, Jr., which has grown several feet tall, is beginning to bud, as is the relationship between Seymour and Audry, whom Seymour invites on a date.
When a representative of the Society of Silent Flower Observers of Southern California comes to the shop to check out the plant, she announces that Seymour will soon receive a trophy from them and that she will return when the plant's buds open. Unwilling to risk that the plant will eat more people, Mushnik decides to stay at the shop all night to watch it. When Audry, Jr. begins to call out for food, Mushnik refuses to feed it. Because he has no money, Seymour takes Audry home for dinner. Winifred has prepared a first course of cod liver soup garnished with sulfur powder. While eating chow mein flavored with Chinese herbs and Epsom salts, she tries to discourage Seymour and Audry from marrying until he buys her the iron lung he has promised her. When an armed burglar breaks into the shop, Mushnik hides in the refrigerator case, but is soon found by the burglar to whom he offers the contents of his cash register. When the burglar holds a gun to his head and demands more money, Mushnik directs him to look inside the open plant, and when the burglar climbs, he is eaten.
The next day, Mushnik tells Seymour that they must destroy the plant after he receives the trophy and orders him to stand guard that night. Because Seymour must work at the shop that night, Audry suggests that they have a picnic there, and while they are eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Audry, Jr. interrupts by yelling, "Feed me!" Unaware that the plant can talk, Audry assumes Seymour is being rude and leaves in tears. Seymour chases after her, trying to explain, but she will not listen to him. Angry, Seymour returns to Audry, Jr. and vows never to feed it again, but the plant hypnotizes Seymour to go out in search of "food." In a trance, Seymour walks through the streets, past beckoning prostitutes, looking for food for the "master." When another prostitute approaches Seymour, he thinks she is "volunteering," knocks her on the head with a rock and carries her to the shop. Still lacking clues about the mysterious disappearances of the two men, Fink and Stoolie attend a special sunset celebration at the shop during which Seymour is to be presented with the trophy and Audrey, Jr.'s buds are expected to open.
As the attendees look on, four buds open. Inside each flower is the face of one of the plant's meals: the man at the railroad tracks, Farb, the burglar and the prostitute. Seymour panics and runs through the streets, and police lose his trail later when he takes refuge in a yard filled with sinks and commodes. Seymour eventually makes his way back to Mushnik's shop, where Audry, Jr. is yelling for food. Ignoring the plant's demands, Seymour blames it for ruining his life. He takes a knife and climbs into the plant, intending to cut it up. Later, when Audry, Winifred, Mushnik and the police return to the shop after searching for Seymour, another bud on Audry, Jr. opens, revealing the face of Seymour, who moans "I didn't mean it!"
Little Shop Of Horrors
The use of a standing set at the old Chaplin Studios set the project in motion. Griffith had proposed a detective story lampoon whose villain was a music critic turned vampire; when Corman rejected that logline, Griffith countered with the idea of a professional chef who uses his regular customers as soup stock. Stymied by a Production Code resistance to cannibal stories, Griffith proposed making the bogey-in-question a man-eating plant. (Early on, the insatiable sapling bore the vaguely Joycean moniker of Oriole Bloom and future Beverly Hillbillies cast member Nancy Kulp was considered to provide the voice.) The Little Shop of Horrors went into production under the title The Passionate People Eater, with principal photography set for the week between Christmas Day 1959 and New Year's Day 1960. (One of the film's often contradictory origin stories avers that Corman was eager to wrap before the adoption of new union rules that would make his style of filmmaking more cost-prohibitive.) The film's cast was rehearsed between Monday December 28th and the 30th before shooting began at 8:30pm on the night of Thursday, December 29th. Having grabbed all of his interiors in two days, Corman allowed three days for pick-up shots and second unit work, some of it shot by writer Charles Griffith on LA's Skid Row.
Shooting at around the same time in another part of Hollywood (albeit at a much more leisurely pace) was Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960), which shares with The Little Shop of Horrors certain key plot points and also foregrounds as a problematic protagonist a mother-dominated manchild who, though he lacks conscious ill intentions, leaves a corpse-pile in his passing. Griffith's conceit of a man-eating plant has known antecedents, among them the 1932 John Collier novella "Green Thoughts," John Wyndham's 1951 science fiction classic Day of the Triffids (adapted for films in 1963), Arthur C. Clarke's 1956 short story "The Reluctant Orchid," and such killer tree movies as From Hell It Came (1957) and The Woman Eater (1958). Yet as written by Griffith, The Little Shop of Horrors is entirely its own creation, occupying a world guided by neurosis in a manner that would not become fashionable until Robert Altman switched focus from documentaries to quirky, character-driven social comedies of manners. (It would not be unreasonable to imagine that Griffiths' Seymour Krelboyne and Altman's Brewster McCloud would, in another life, be at least Facebook friends.) Speaking of Altman, one of Little Shop's many contributors went entirely uncredited: before she scored as an actress, future M*A*S*H* (1970) star Sally Kellerman allowed customers Corman and Griffith to try out their ideas on her as she toiled as a waitress at the Sunset Strip coffee house Chez Paulette.
In retrospect, the film's biggest casting coup came with the hiring of Jack Nicholson, then veteran of only a few feature films. (Nicholson was then a student of acting coach Jeff Corey, whose class also included Kellerman, Robert Blake, Roy Thinnes, and Corman himself, who audited in order to understand how actors worked.) Denied a shot at the starring role because Corman felt he lacked experience (the part of Seymour went instead to another Corey mentee, Jonathan Haze), Nicholson was slotted into the part of Wilbur Force, a masochist whom Seymour encounters in a dentist's office, leading to Little Shop of Horrors's most talked-about scene. Recalling the assignment in later years, Nicholson maintained that the setpiece was almost entirely ad libbed and that Corman called "cut" well short of the scripted fadeout due to the accidental knocking over of an expensive dental drill (which belonged to his dentist at the time). Nicholson also recalled that Corman was so budget-conscious that he printed only one or two copies of the script, tearing out pages to give to actors with speaking parts rather than pay for multiple copies. Shot for $27,000, The Little Shop of Horrors made back its negative cost but its true dividends would come in later years, with its acceptance as a cult classic and then as the source of both a long-running Off-Broadway musical and Frank Oz' 1986 film adaptation.
By Richard Harland Smith
Here Lies a Man Who Was Not of This Earth: A Eulogy for Charles B. Griffith by Justin Humphreys (Video Watchdog no. 141, 2008)
How I Made 100 Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime by Roger Corman (Da Capo Press, 1998)
Roger Corman: An Unauthorized Life by Beverly Gray (Thunder's Mouth Press, 2000-2004)
The Films of Roger Corman: "Shooting M Way Out of Trouble" by Alan Frank (BT Batsford, Ltd. 1998)
Roger Corman: Metaphysics on a Shoestring by Alain Silver and James Ursini (Silman-James Press, 2006)
Jack's Life: A Biography of Jack Nicholson by Patrick McGilligan (W. W. Norton & Co., 1994)
Five Easy Pieces: How Jack Nicholson Became the Biggest Movie Star in Modern Times by Dennis McDougal (Wiley, 2008)
"Wild Imagination: Chuck Griffith, 1930-2007" by Roger Corman, Los Angeles Times, October 17, 2007
Profile of John Collier by Christopher Fowler, The Independent, May 24, 2009
Little Shop Of Horrors
I remember in one flower shop there was a whole wall covered with poison ivy and people came from miles around to look at that wall and they stayed to buy.- Burson Fouch
And the owner got rich?- Gravis Mushnik
No, he scratched himself to death in an insane asylum.- Burson Fouch
No novocaine. It dulls the senses.- Wilbur Force
I'm getting pretty tired of you.- Seymour Krelboined
I need food.- Audrey Jr.
I don't care what you need. Look what you've done, you not only made a butcher out of me but you drove my girl away.- Seymour Krelboined
Shut up and bring on the food.- Audrey Jr.
Look at it, it grows like a cold sore from the lip.- Gravis Mushnik
Flowers, fresh as the springtime, Mushnik's- Gravis Mushnik
My name is Burson Fouch.- Burson Fouch
Excellent. I am Gravis Mushnick.- Gravis Mushnick
Oh, that's a good one.- Burson Fouch
The shooting schedule for this film was two days.
Was remade as a successful stage musical that was later adapted into a film as well.
The manager of Producer's Studio informed Roger Corman that a large office set had been constructed for a production that was about to wrap. Corman arranged to used the standing set, redressed, as the main set of this film.
The working title for the film was "The Passionate People Eater".
The working title of the film was The Passionate People Eater. Opening and closing actors' credits differ slightly in order, and actress Dodie Drake is credited only in the opening credits. Some of the opening crew credits also appear in the end credits. Crew member Archie Dalzell is credited as "Cameraman" in the end credits and "Photographer" in the opening credits, and screenwriter Charles B. Griffith is listed in the closing credits as "Charles Griffith." The last name of the character "Seymour Krelboin," which does not appear onscreen, is spelled different ways in various sources.
Although the film was not copyrighted at the time of its release, it was registered to Santa Clara Productions, Inc. in 1985 under the number PA-301-210.
Before the opening title card, the voice-over narration of Wally Campo as "Det. Sgt. Joe Fink" begins describing how "the most terrifying period" in the history of his "beat" began at Mushnik's shop. Line drawings of the skid row neighborhood appear under the title and credits at the beginning and end of the film. Campo speaks in a style parodying the character "Sgt. Joe Friday" of the television series and film Dragnet (see entry above). Campo's voice is heard occasionally in narration at other points in the film. At one point, he tells a character, "Just the facts, ma'am," which is one of Joe Friday's famous lines.
In another joke in the film, "Audry" and Seymour refer to Luther Burbank, a California botanist who cross-bred plants, and in the same joke mention Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena, three cities in the Los Angeles area. The film includes several sight gags, among them: Seymour and "Dr. Farb" dueling with the dentist's equipment; Seymour slipping on a banana peel thrown by a prostitute trying to attract his attention; and, in the scene set in a yard of toilets and sinks [which a modern source reported was shot at the Santa Fe train yards], Seymour disguising himself by placing a toilet seat around his neck. Several characters speak in malapropisms.
Although in the screen credits and other contemporary sources only Griffith is credited as the screenwriter, in modern interviews, producer/director Roger Corman stated that he was also a co-writer. Corman continued that, contrary to legend, the script was carefully adhered to during shooting, although there were some improvisational exchanges between various characters. In a modern source, Griffith stated that he played the burglar and when he and actor Mel Welles, who portrayed "Mushnik," forgot their lines during the robbery scene, they improvised.
According to the Variety review and a December 30, 1959 Hollywood Reporter news item, The Little Shop of Horrors was shot in two days in late December 1959 for about $22,500, using two cameras and working from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Although an December 18, 1959 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that production began on December 21, 1959, Corman stated in his autobiography that the film was shot between Christmas and New Year's Eve of 1959. According to modern sources, Corman shot for two days on a soundstage, while Griffith debuted as a second unit director to film exterior shots. (Some modern sources state that portions of the film were shot late in the night.) Griffith hired street people and asked his father Jack to play bit parts, and his grandmother, the former radio performer Myrtle Vail, played Seymour's mother. Modern sources also add Bobbie Coogan to the cast.
One of the film's most memorable scenes depicts a masochistic patient of Dr. Farb, portrayed by future Academy Award winning actor Jack Nicholson, who had appeared in only a few films prior to Little Shop of Horrors . In a modern source, Nicholson stated that the part was written for a forty-year-old, but he asked to audition for it. The "character" of Audry, Jr. was worked using monofilaments, according to a modern source. Modern sources state that Corman's inspiration for the film came when his brother and fellow producer Gene offered him the use of a storefront set and wagered that he would not be able to use it.
The Daily Variety review described the film as a "serviceable parody of a typical screen horror...[it is] one big `sick' joke, but it's essentially harmless and good-natured and there's an audience for it. [The] film comes up with several good laughs via its wild disregard for reality and its wacky characterizations....Horticulturalists and vegetarians will love it." At the box office, the film was moderately successful, but it covered the cost of the negatives plus a modest profit, according to a modern source. According to a May 1961 Variety article, The Little Shop of Horrors was shown out of competition at the Cannes Film Festival.
An unsourced April 1961 news item found in the file for the film at the AMPAS Library reported that The Little Shop of Horrors was pulled from general release and then shown in art houses. For thirty years, it appeared at midnight showings on college campuses and art houses, leading to its "cult" status. Like audiences for the 1975 The Rocky Horror Picture Show, audience members for The Little Shop of Horrors would sing along and shout out key lines. In modern sources, Corman stated that he believed The Little Shop of Horrors was his best loved film. In 1982, after the film's success on video, Alan Menken and Howard Ashman created an off-Broadway musical based on the film, which became an international success and was mounted on Broadway in 2003. In 1985, as noted in a March 1985 Los Angeles Times news item, Rhino Records issued a soundtrack of the film featuring Fred Katz's jazz-style score.
In 1986, Corman negotiated a licensing deal with Warner Bros., the studio that released a 1986 musical film version called Little Shop of Horrors based on both the 1960 film and the Broadway musical. That film was directed by Frank Oz and starred Rick Moranis as Seymour and Steve Martin as Dr. Farb. The 1986 agreement stated that Corman could "put back his [original] film into the domestic theatrical marketplace six months after the new film was released" and that Warner Bros. would acquire certain rights to the property, including video rights to the 1960 film in 1991, following the expiration of Vestron Video's video rights in that year. A March 1987 Billboard article reported that Corman threatened to sue public domain video suppliers of the film who refused to remove the black-and-white and colorized versions of the film from their catalogs. No further information about this action has been found.
Released in United States 1961
Film was reportedly shot in two days.
Released in United States 1961