Rambling ...

I'm an Irish Girl, A Dubliner, with the 'Gift of the Gab' ... I like to talk & to tell you things. In Celtic times news, views and comment were carried from place to place by wandering Seanachaí ~ Storytellers ~ who relied on their host's hospitality and appreciation. I will need that from you too, as I venture to share Politics, Poetry, Laughter, Love, Life & everything in-between ... from Bog to Blog!!

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Mean Green Mother ...

"I'm a mean green Mother from Outer Space"

 Monday Movie ....... & this Monday it's a Mean Musical !!!!!

Frank Oz oddity ~ a Musical Movie ~  based on the stage musical   Ashman and Menken  developed in the early 1980s,  & on  Roger Corman's much loved 1960 movie,  'The Little Shop Of Horrors'.

The tale of a Faustian pact between a weedy florist and a fiendishly hungry human-eating plant.   Filmed entirely on Western Europe's largest soundstage at Pinewood Studios in London,   Little Shop of Horrors  tells the sick-joke story of a diminutive man's impetuous rise from poverty and loneliness to fame, riches, and companionship.   
Since it was adapted from a stage play,  Little Shop of Horrors  doesn't have many sets.  Much of the action takes place within Mushnik's Flower Shop.   'Suddenly Seymour'  is sung in a debris-littered back alley with a fire escape that makes for the perfect setting for Audrey and Seymour's first kiss.

Rick Moranis plays the hapless Seymour,  an assistant in Greedy Gravis Mushnick's Skid Row (Vincent Gardenia).  Business is not exactly blooming at the shop,  however, and his secret romantic interest,  Audrey (Ellen Greene from the original Broadway cast) who willingly suffers the bondage and discipline of the notorious  Orin Scrivello,  biker-dentist (Steve Martin).    The hillarious number  'Dentist'  follows a leather jacket-clad  Steve Martin from his motorcycle into the office where he terrorizes his patients and punches out his nurse.

One day, however, things start to look up for Seymour.  He finds & brings a very 'strange and interesting' plant, he calls Audrey II, to his shop.   Suddenly, business explodes.  The plant grows to monstrous proportions when Seymour discovers its appetite calls for human flesh and blood.   Then Audrey II begins to demand full bodies,  and the corpses start piling up.   Seymour must decide whether he wants to continue his life of fame and fortune and impressing Audrey, or destroy the plant altogether.
Rick Moranis delivers a meek, timid & hugely empathetic performance,  perfect for his gentle, submissive character. Vincent Gardenia gives a conniving, greedy character colour and persuasive personality. Whilst Ellen Greene's charm shines through some of her characters nuisances ... her annoying, squeaky voice and her stereotypical bimbo traits remind me of Grease's 'beauty school dropou't & Pink Lady, Jan!   She's also probably got the best singing voice this side of Skid Row.   But Greene is Great !!!    

Oz's interpretation of Audrey's dream house,  complete with  Tupperware,  "I Love Lucy" on TV,  and plastic on the furniture  ("to keep it neat and clean"),  is Magical.   The outside props are obviously (and intentionally)  two-dimensional and the grass that Seymour is cutting is fake.   Moranis and Greene make for a comely-homely pair of thwarted lovers, and Martin is his hilarious self, libelling all dentists who had just managed to forget Marathon Man.   Bill Murray shows up as the perfect dental patient, sublime masochist to Martin's cheerful sadist.  The impressive guest appearances include delicious, hilarious, scene-stealing performances by Christopher Guest, James Belushi, and John Candy

 Of course, the most impressive aspect of this movie is the monstrous carnivorous plant,  Audrey II,  which comes alive and grows before our very eyes ~  it's as real a character as any other!!   You can try not liking this adaptation of the Broadway musical hit,  but the movie sneaks up on you,  about as subtly as Audrey II.   The plant is an animatronic wonder,  all blue gums,  naughty tendrils and mighty mouth.  The filmmakers constructed several models of Audrey II,  with the largest weighing a ton and requiring about sixty operating technicians.   In addition,  to capture more fluid movement,  the scenes featuring the largest plant were shot at sixteen frames per second, meaning the actors had to sing, dance, and act at a slower pace.   These guys do these scenes with stunning versatility  ....  they make it look all soo easy!!

The musical element is provided by a Kick Ass soundtrack,  staying true to the original movie's 60's vibe,  with songs every bit as good as their titles ~ 'Mean Green Mother From Outer Space'  and   'Suddenly Seymour'  are my two particularly favourite numbers.  So too is 'Skid Row'.  
The songs have the feel and sound of Broadway production numbers crossed with Motown tunes,  and the lyrics are subversive and satirical.   Music so memorable you'll be singing for hours,  days & weeks to come.   The soundtrack is superb stuff & a staple in my car!

 The ending of   Little Shop of Horrors  has been drastically altered.  Initially,  it was filmed with the original conclusion ..... Audrey II  gobbles up  Audrey and  Seymour,  then escapes to "eat Cleveland, and Des Moines, and Peoria, and New York, and where you live."    Director Frank Oz  created an elaborate special effects sequence showing  Audrey II acting like King Kong and spreading mayhem through New York City.   But,  the deaths of Audrey and Seymour proved to be too grim &  Oz binned the big ending in favour of a happily-ever-after conclusion that is surprisingly effective.
Few Films are as lively and fun as  Little Shop of Horrors.   It's humorous,  buoyant, irreverent,  and, against all odds,  touching.  Production design is stupendousall action looks like it takes place in a surreal amalgamation of  New York and  Chicago during an era "not too long before our own."    One and a half hours of silly,  scary nonsense set to a killer doo-wop soundtrack  .....   the thing is though, you'll never look at your houseplants (or your Dentist) in the same light again!!

1 comment:

  1. One of my very favorite movies. I remember the first time that I saw it, my initial impression as it was starting was of a cheap, low-quality B-film. By the end of the first main song - "Skid Row", I realized how wrong I had been and I was completely riveted.

    And who would have thought that Rick Moranis could actually sing somewhat decently...?