Little Shop of Horrors: The Director’s Cut

Audrey II and Seymour Krelborn (Rick Moranis) in Little Shop of Horrors. Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Little Shop of Horrors: The Director’s Cut replaces the theatrical ending by restoring musical’s original ending to the film.

Before The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin, both Howard Ashman and Alan Menken adapted a 1960 film, Little Shop of Horrors, as an off-Broadway musical. Roger Corman did the original film as a joke. It would go on to grow a cult following. The musical is proof that one can turn a bad film into a funny musical. It’s Ashman and Menken so of course,  the music is awesome. David Geffen thought it was a bad idea but the rest is history! There’s a universe were Martin Scorsese directs the film and Steven Spielberg is an executive producer. Of course, this is not what would happen. Instead, Frank Oz–best known for playing Yoda and his work with Jim Henson–would helm the film. Oz would rework the script but the final product would still keep the spirit of the musical.

Ashman and Menken earned an Oscar nomination for “Mean Green Mother from Outer Space.” The film would also in a deserving nomination for its visual effects. Unfortunately, it lost for both nominations. Behind the scenes, there were roughly 60 puppeteers performing as the full-size Audrey II.

The other day marked my first-ever viewing of the director’s cut as both Frank Oz and Howard Ashman intended. Suffice it to say, I was in for quite the treat. It’s been a while since my last viewing of them so you can imagine my surprise when Seymour Krelborn (Rick Moranis) and Audrey (Ellen Greene) did not get married. This ending is substantially different in that the carnivorous plant takes over the world. I understand why the San Jose audiences were disappointed with the first preview. It’s always going to hurt when you kill off the leads. I have never seen the musical performed on stage so I wasn’t aware that they changed the ending for its theatrical release. In any event, the planned theatrical remake was cancelled as of 2022. Let’s be honest–if you cannot improve on the original film, there’s no need to remake it.

Rick Moranis is absolutely perfect in the role of Seymour. It’s hard to imagine any other actor playing the role on screen. Ellen Greene performed the same role on Broadway but of course, the studio wanted a bigger name. At the end of the day, both Moranis and Greene have the chemistry required for the role. If they didn’t have chemistry, the film just wouldn’t work. Meanwhile, you have some supporting characters and cameos filled by some of comedy’s biggest names such as Steve Martin, Christopher Guest, Bill Murray, and Paul Dooley to name a few. Steve Martin’s work as a sadistic dentist puts the entire dental profession to shame. He get one of the film’s best numbers–“Dentist!”–in the soundtrack. If Rick Moranis didn’t retire from acting, I would love to see him cameo and reunite with Martin on Only Murders in the Building.

The director’s cut features the original ending as Howard Ashman intended it. It’s the same ending from the off-Broadway musical. Unfortunately, previews–as one would expect–did not play well with audiences. Not with Audrey dying and then Seymour joining her in death. Frank and Howard were in agreement, David Geffen, whose company produced both the musical and film, did not think it would work. He still approved the production going ahead with this Godzilla-esque sequence. The sequence is heavy on VFX–models supervised by Richard Conway and VFX supervised by Bran Ferren. My TV probably didn’t do the sound effects justice in the ending. It’s one of those endings that one should be able to experience in a theater!

The film is currently streaming on Max at press time. However, the version on the streaming service is the theatrical version. They are doing themselves are major disservice by not streaming the newer cut. It is still a funny film, don’t get me wrong, but it would be nice if they would stream the newer version. Regardless, it is only a matter of time before the studio releases the film in 4K Ultra HD.

If you’ve only seen the original theatrical cut of the horror comedy musical, it’s worth watching Little Shop of Horrors: The Director’s Cut!

CAST: Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene, Vincent Gardenia, Steve Martin, John Candy, Paul Dooley, Christopher Guest, Bill Murray, Levi Stubbs, Tichina Arnold, Michelle Weeks, Tisha Campbell

Warner Bros. released Little Shop of Horrors in theaters on December 19, 1986. Little Shop of Horrors: The Director’s Cut was released on October 9, 2012. Grade: 5/5

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.