"Little Shop of Horrors," the movie adaptation of the off-Broadway hit musical (which was itself an adaptation of a low-budget cult classic), wasn't a big hit when it first appeared on the big screen in 1986. But the oddball story of a man-eating plant gained a dedicated fan following on home video.
Even if you're a "Little Shop" devotee who memorized every song and wore out your VHS copy, you still haven't seen the whole movie. That's because the original ending to the film was cut entirely after it failed with test audiences. But now, 26 years later, the long-lost finale can finally be seen in the new "Little Shop of Horrors" Director's Cut on Blu-ray.
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The ending that was first filmed closely resembled that which was in the original stage production. Mild-mannered florist Seymour (Rick Moranis), who harbors a hopeless crush on his coworker Audrey (Ellen Greene), gains fame by feeding human remains to his carnivorous, talking plant. But then the plant, named Audrey II, turns on Seymour, revealing its plans for world domination.
In the play, Audrey II ends up eating Seymour and his gal before turning on the audience, and the movie also originally takes that dark turn. But it didn't just stop there. As the chorus sings the tune, "Don't Feed the Plants," Audrey II keeps growing and growing to Godzilla-like proportions, and the film became an homage to classic monster movies as the plant demolished New York.
Watch a clip from the original deleted ending:
'Little Shop of Horrors' Original Ending
The first ending was audacious, elaborate, and expensive, reportedly costing $3 million out of its estimated $25 million budget. Audiences, however, did not go for it. When early versions of the film screened for test audiences, the public rejected the downer ending. Director Frank Oz said in a letter from the new Blu-ray edition that he understood why viewers reacted with "upset and anger." He stated, "They'd come to care for Seymour and Audrey and wanted them to survive. But if our two lead characters were to live, it meant that the plant would have to die."
So why did the dark ending that worked on stage fail on screen? Oz has said that he felt audiences related to theatrical actors differently, since they know that even if the characters die, the stars will come back out safe and sound for their curtain call.
The characters in the film were also more sympathetic than in the original production. In the movie, Seymour isn't as responsible for the deaths of the other characters who get fed to Audrey II. Ellen Greene told Entertainment Weekly, "As Audrey on stage I was kind of sillier, a little funnier... so when I died, I'd gotten some giggles." Since the movie gave a bit more depth to her ditzy blonde character, Greene said her death scene became "truly sad."
Oz and his crew went back and reshot the entirely different ending that became a part of the theatrical release, and the first version was shelved and presumed lost. A rough black-and-white version was included in the first DVD release of the film, but it was quickly removed because the quality was so poor. This new Blu-ray release, though, restores the 20-minute long original ending with all the visual effects in full color.
"Little Shop of Horrors - The Director's Cut" is in stores now.
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