The Travesty That Is The 1986 Little Shop Of Horrors Theatrical Release

Welcome to the 1980s – where all of your sins can be instantly forgotten by having a sudden change of heart…

I must preface this by saying that if it wasn’t for the theatrical release of this movie, my 6 year old self probably wouldn’t have fallen in love with this quirky movie musical starring one of my childhood favorites – Rick Moranis.  But as an adult that knows right from wrong and understands the moral dilemma involved with greed and how it destroys who you are at your core – the theatrical ending is trash.  In my opinion, of course.  You’re allowed to love it if you do, though.  Don’t let my click bait article title fool you!

Picture that you are Frank Oz, and you just pieced together a movie adaption of the off-broadway hit Little Shop of Horrors, which is a loose, modern day retelling of Faust.  But it’s the 1980s, and the American movie going public isn’t really interested in a dark comedy about how the pursuit of your deepest dreams, if begotten through making a deal with the devil, will end badly.  Early test screenings trashed the original stage ending, where Audrey dies after her encounter with the plant, is fed to it at her own urging, and then Seymour is eaten while trying to finally stop the reign of terror he started.  So, Oz had to go back to the drawing board, even after tons of work went into the creation of an ending sequence where the plants take over the world.

So much model work wasted…until 2012

The new ending they came up with – where Audrey miraculously survives being half-eaten, Seymour triumphantly kills the plant, and the two love birds end up living out their dream “Somewhere That’s Green” – tested much better, and was released as the theatrical version.  It was almost fitting that the idea of the “American Dream” circumvented a cautionary tale about greed in the Reagan Era.  But I digress. 

I can't be the only one that thinks "Greed will get you in the end" is a better lesson than "Do all the bad shit you want as long you don't get caught"

That brings me to tonight.  I finally saw the stage musical performed by professional actors.  It was like I was seeing this all over again for the first time.  6 year old me was happy, 39 year old me was also happy.  The actors were incredible – I liked how the man who played Orin (The Dentist) also played all of the people hounding Seymour with contracts during ‘The Meek Shall Inherit’.  It was like Seymour saw the face of his first victim everywhere.  Nice touch.  Thankfully, they released the restored original ending in 2012.  I remember getting the Blu-Ray and promptly watching it and all of the special features.  Before I read about the impending re-release, I never knew they even filmed the original ending.  My only access to this ending was a community theater performance I watched in college back in 1998.  I remember being blown away by how this quirky little musical could pack a meaningful, yet old-as-time lesson around all of the goofy dentists in gas masks and bloodthirsty cartoonish plants, and how it made the movie version’s ending stupid in comparison, while simultaneously cementing the story as one of my all time favorites.  So I was definitely happy in 2012!

If you’re in the Pittsburgh area, do yourself a favor and go see this (It’s here until February 23), or watch the 2012 Director’s Cut of the movie if you’re not or can’t.  Even if you’re a fan of the original movie ending, it’s always nice to see where things came from, and it gives you a different perspective.  


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