As I mentioned yesterday, due to a bad back all I was good for was watching cheesy movies — uh, I mean horror classics. I continued my viewing with Roger Corman’s Little Shop of Horrors (1960).
The movie later became an off-Broadway musical, which was also made into a movie with Rick Moranis and Steve Martin. I never saw the play, and I did not like the movie (although in general I like both Moranis and Martin). However, I saw a trailer for the original movie on the Extra Features of Horror Hotel, and I was intrigued. I found it in Steven’s Collection of 50 Horror Classics.
In case you’ve never heard of the movie or play, it is about a man-eating plant. The plant is raised by a nebbishy loser who is on the verge of getting fired from a Skid Row florist at which he works. He doesn’t exactly know what he’s raising and discovers quite by accident that the plant craves blood and eats people. Complications ensue.
I have to say I liked it. Corman throws in a lot of comedy, some of which is heavy handed. For example, at every opportunity, the nebbish sticks his foot in a bucket and trips. It takes some finesse to pull off a bit like that and not have your audience say, “Where do all these empty mop buckets keep coming from?” Roger Corman films are not known for use of finesse. However, that is part of their charm, and I did get enjoy a chuckle or two.
I especially liked the florist’s one regular customer, a lady with an apparently infinite supply of relatives who died and needed flowers sent to the funeral. I also like the florist, the struggling businessman who is alternately ready to fire the nebbish or adopt him as a son and is reasonably torn between doing the right thing and making money.
The big name in the cast is Jack Nicholson. I had known he was in the movie, but I was under the impression he played the sadistic dentist later portrayed by Steve Martin. Not so: Nicholson is hilarious and a little scary as a masochistic patient. It is not a large part. At Nicholson’s stature now it would be a cameo. At his stage of career then, it is a memorable bit.
Leonard Maltin in his 2007 Movie Guide (Penguin Group, New York, 2006) says the movie is now seen as one of Corman’s best. I can see why. The plot moves right along, there are some good scares, and the dramatic conclusion is fitting. An enjoyable interlude on a Saturday afternoon. I may try it again sometime without the backache.