A Drive-in Theater Became a True Little Shop Of Horrors

The 1986 musical Little Shop of Horrors differed from the Broadway version, which in turn differed from the 1960 Roger Corman movie. The big difference in the 1986 movie was that it featured a happy ending. Frank Oz shot the movie with a horrific ending, but test audiences hated it, and it was changed. Still, a director’s cut exists with the cautionary ending, which was shown to a drive-in audience in Nova Scotia during a ’50s-themed double feature, right after Grease. Scott MacDonald was there, and was shocked.

For my part, I’d seen this original ending before via black and white YouTube clips, but I still wasn’t prepared for how it’d play in context. Not to belabor the point, but it’s devastating. Moranis’ rumpled Seymour and Greene’s bubbly Audrey are perhaps the most irresistible leads in movie history—name a more charming screen duo, I defy you—and it’s simply too much to watch them come to such horrible ends. Audrey’s fate—Seymour reluctantly slides her dead body ever so gently into the plant’s jaws—is at least poignant. But Seymour’s death is excruciating. In the original off-Broadway play, Seymour grabs an ax and jumps into the plant’s mouth to hack it to bits; he fails, but at least he goes down swinging. Here, the plant simply mocks Seymour, trusses him up with his tendrils, then lowers him—agonizingly slowly—down his laughing, gaping maw. Our hero is helpless the whole time, and the look of terror on his face as he dies is practically unbearable. You wish you could un-see it.

However, another viewer wasn’t bothered at all because he’d never seen the movie theater version. Read about how Little Shop of Horrors went from horror to a love story -and back again, in the director’s cut, at the A.V. Club.

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