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Little Shop of Horrors (1960)

Force Entertainment/Force Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 72 mins . PG . PAL

  Feature
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Whether you love or hate his work, you have to admit that Roger Corman had a talent for making films. Certainly, his choice of collaborators was superb, introducing the world to Martin Scorsese, Joe Dante, James Cameron, Francis Ford Coppola and others. What he was really known for, though, was his ability to churn out entertaining films quickly and cheaply. Apparently he never lost money on a picture, and when you've been involved with about 300 of the suckers, that's a pretty impressive achievement!

Little Shop Of Horrors might just be the best example of his work ethic. Legend has it that it was written in a week and shot over two days and a night. With a tiny cast, a few locations and a lot of on-set improvisation, Corman made one of the most engaging low-budget efforts I've yet seen. Obviously, the film has dated and the lack of money spent shows clearly, but the script is wonderfully bent and the lead actors really have fun with their roles. Despite being made into a musical in the 80s (and then remade in 1986 with Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene and Steve Martin), the original has the most charm.

If you're not familiar with the Shop story, it's about a geeky guy named Seymour Krelboined (Jonathan Haze, a Corman regular) who works at a florist on Skid Row. The store isn't doing so well and the owner, Gravis Mushnik (Mel Welles), threatens to fire Seymour after he screws up one time too often. Mushnik is convinced to keep him on by one of his customers, with the proviso that Seymour can raise a special plant to attract new clients to the struggling business.

Seymour has such a plant - the problem is that it only seems to thrive on blood, and before long Seymour is an unwilling killer, bringing corpse after corpse to the ravenous talking plant. Yes, it's odd. Jack Nicholson has a 5-minute cameo which seems to be enough for Force to give him top billing on the cover.

  Video
Contract

Like I said, dated. This isn't an impressive looking disc. Shadow detail is generally below average and the image has a two-tone appearance, probably reflecting the extremely quick lighting setups that would have been required to get the film made in the time it was. For a low budget film of this age, though, the film stock is in pretty good shape.

There are no show-stopping film artefacts, hairs, scratches, what have you, and the image is quite free of grain, but the MPEG authoring is subpar, reducing detail on fast-moving objects. The opening credit sequence, which consists of a long pan across an illustration, displays the problem nicely.

  Audio
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Again, hardly impressive, but an accurate reflection of what was captured at the time, which sounds to me to be a single boom mike held above the set. Dialogue is often a little difficult to make out, with excessive room sound colouring the actors voices. The sound is thin with no real weight or body to the dialogue or the score. Despite sounding edgy, the soundtrack doesn't break into harsh distortion like some other discs I could mention, but it's certainly not something you'd use to show off your system to your mates.

  Extras
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Nothing of real value here, just a couple of pages of production notes. You would have thought more could have been put together for a film such as this - at least some information on the musical and remake.

  Overall  
Contract

Well, the film itself, although short, is a lot of fun, with some inspired lunacy on show both in the script and the ad-libbed performances. The disc itself is pretty unimpressive, though. Apparently a R1 special edition is in the works - aficionados would want to hold out for it, as there must be more that can be done with both the print and the legacy of the film. As a fun rental, though, this is a pretty good choice.


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      And I quote...
    "Written in a week, shot in two days, it could only be Roger Corman!"
    - Paul Dossett
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Rom:
          Pioneer 103(s)
    • MPEG Card:
          RealMagic Hollywood Plus
    • TV:
          Mitsubishi Diva 33
    • Amplifier:
          Yamaha DSP-A1
    • Speakers:
          Richter Excalibur
    • Centre Speaker:
          Richter Unicorn
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    • Audio Cables:
          Monster RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Monster s-video
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