Film: The Little Shop of Horrors

Look at it, it grows like a cold sore from the lip.
Gravis Mushnick, regarding Audrey Jr., the man-eating plant.

Often confused with the 1980s musical that it inspired, The Little Shop of Horrors is a low-budget Comedy Horror movie by Roger Corman, released in 1960. The rather loose plot concerns a bumbling florist's assistant whose plant cross-breeding experiments accidentally create a talking plant with hypnotic powers that feeds on human blood.

It was famously filmed in under 48 hours, using pre-existing sets that were built for a different film. The other thing the film is famous for is a small role by the then-unknown Jack Nicholson as masochistic dental patient Wilbur Force, who consequently tends to get top billing whenever the film is released on home video.

Although the movie was profitable, it wasn't a major hit by any stretch of the imagination, but developed a cult following via drive-in and television screenings, eventually leading to a successful stage musical adapted by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken. The musical streamlines the plot, ditching a lot of incidental characters and giving it a proper dramatic arc. It scores about a 2 on the Sliding Scale of Adaptation Modification. The film and/or musical also probably served as partial inspiration for the plant in Stephen King's The Plant. Probably the biggest impact this movie had on pop culture? The Piranha Plants in Super Mario Bros..

Since this movie is in the public domain, you can watch it for free or download it from a bunch of sources, including Hulu, Internet Archive and YouTube. The film is also streaming in its original widescreen theatrical screening aspect ratio on the website of independent comic book publisher Horndog Studios here.

The film provides examples of:

  • Adorkable: Seymour and Audrey.
  • All Jews Are Cheapskates
  • And I Must Scream: At the film's ending, Audrey Jr. puts forth a flower with Seymour's face in it, with Seymour then pitifully wailing "I didn't mean it!" Implying he's still alive and conscious inside of Audrey Jr.
  • B-Movie
  • Big Eater: Audrey, Jr., of people
  • Brainwashed: Audrey Jr. hypnotizes Seymour to make a final kill.
  • Brain Bleach
    Mr. Mushnik: I've got to get drunk, now!
  • Brick Joke: Frank Stoolie speaks extremely casually about his child dying in a fire. Turns out that the child is yet another relative of Siddie Shiva.
  • Catch Phrase:
    • Seymour: "I didn't mean it!"
    • Audrey Jr.: "Feed me!"
  • Creepy Physical
  • Deadpan Snarker: Gravis Mushnick for most of the movie. Audrey Jr. also gets in on the action after revealing its man-eating nature to Mushnick, who invokes this trope:
    Mushnick: Who would you like to have tonight?
    Audrey Jr.: You look fat enough.
  • Depraved Dentist: The psychopathic dentist who enjoys hurting his patients. And ends up being fed to Audrey Jr.
  • Disappeared Dad: Seymour's father left him and his mother.
  • Esoteric Happy Ending: The finale of the movie: Seymour gets so upset with Audrey Jr. that he tries to kill it, only to end up being eaten by it. On the other hand, due to the framing device of the film being that it's the recollection of a cop who got involved with the case, it's pretty obvious Audrey Jr. got destroyed afterwards (in contrast to the later theatrical version, where Audrey I Is kill off humanity) and, hey, Seymour was a murderer, so it's kind of a Karmic Death.
  • Eat the Evidence: Invoked when Seymour and Mushnik respectively dispose of corpses in Audrey Jr's stomach.
  • Fed to the Beast: Mushnik pulls this on a robber.
  • Fluffy the Terrible
  • I Didn't Mean to Kill Him: The final line, a repeat of Seymour's Catch Phrase.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Mushnik, after he catches Seymour feeding body parts to the plant.
  • Jewish Mother: Seymour's mother.
  • Karma Houdini: Mister Mushnik actually killed one of the victims. This does prevent the blame falling squarely on Seymour.
  • The Klutz: Seymour Krelboin
  • Large Ham: Pretty much everybody, but Mel Welles as Mister Mushnik really stands out.
  • Lethal Klutz: Seymour. First, he throws rocks at a bottle on a roof until one of them hits a bystander who falls onto train tracks and gets hit by the train. Then he stabs a dentist with one of his own instruments in self-defense, and then he throws yet another rock while under the plant's hypnosis and hits a call girl in the head.
  • Malaproper: Both Audrey and Mr. Mushnik.
  • Man-Eating Plant
  • Meaningful Name: The detectives Fink and Stoolie, as well as Siddie Shiva ("sitting shiva") and the masochist, Wilbur Force.
  • My God, What Have I Done?
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: Audrey Junior's hypnotic ability.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: The very persistent woman going after Seymour seems to do this often.
  • Only Sane Man: Mister Mushnik and the robber.
  • Paste Eater: Burson Fouch buys flowers from the shop as take-out meals, and furthermore is something of an epicure, having eaten at florist shops all over the country. He even sees Audrey Jr. as a potential food item (complaining that it looks "stale"). When he finally leaves it's because his wife is making gardenias for dinner.
  • Planimal: Audrey, Jr. is a plant, but has vocal chords and apparently, a full digestive system in its stalk.
  • Police Are Useless: What a bunch of finks!
  • Public Medium Ignorance: Fans of the Frank Oz movie are not aware that it derived from this movie, and the two are often confused as a result. Jack Nicholson is also not the star of the movie, despite a memorable role and being top billed on many home video releases (a noteworthy example? One VHS tape had a painting of Nicholson holding the plant, even though the two do not come into contact with each other at any point). This is also not a straightforward horror movie, despite being categorized as such on Hulu and YouTube or miscategorized on DVD shelves. In fact, when it was originally released, fans of the movie noted it for its MAD-like humor and satire.
  • Punny Name: Siddie Shiva.
  • Single Specimen Species: Seymour states that Audrey Jr. is most likely the only one of its kind that will ever exist.
  • Self Plagiarism: Of Corman's earlier film, A Bucket Of Blood. Same exact plot, same soundtrack, characters with similar personalities. It even ends in the same exact way. The two movies were also written by the same person (Charles B. Griffith), were shot back-to-back, and were shot on the same set.
  • Third-Person Person: Gravis Mushnik.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Seymour. It's wat turns him into a murderer in the first place, and it's how the film ends; he decides the best way to kill Audrey Jr. is to climb into its mouth to start hitting it with an axe. Naturally, he gets eaten.
  • To Serve Man: Audrey, Jr.'s preferred fare.
  • We Named the Monkey Jack: Audrey Jr., named for the human Audrey, whom Seymour has a crush on.
  • World of Ham