Friday, May 27, 2011

v2, d346: And speaking of plants...

****Editor's note: I know, you're tired of it, so I'm giving you all a playoff break.  I'll mourn my Tampa Bay Lightning on my own.  It's Boston/Vancouver for the Cup.  The remainder of this post will contain massive spoilers for just about every incarnation of The Little Shop of Horrors.*****

I think just about all of my readers are familiar on some level or other with Little Shop of Horrors.  Many have seen or done the musical, a few have seen the original black and white film. I was somewhat Little Shop-obsessed my senior year.  I'd always liked the musical movie since I'd seen it as a kid, and I got to play the lead in my last high school musical.  I could go into details about all the differences between the original black-and-white film, the stage musical, and the '80s movie musical, but I won't.  Would take way too long.  Suffice it to say the original was a crazy campy B-movie/monster movie where the good guy dies at the hands (vines?) of the monster, a plant that eats blood, at the end.  The stage show is somewhat similar, only it becomes more of a clear Faustian tale where the little guy sells his soul, more or less, and it coaxed into letting/helping the plant eat people, and in the end it eats him and takes over the world.  The film adaptation of the stage musical, the hero kills the plant and gets the girl.

Or does he?  Many of you already know the happy ending on the movie was not the original ending.  Instead, the filmmakers had filmed a tragic ending, using the same finale song from the stage version, in which the plant kills everyone and (in what I have to imagine was a fairly expensive sequence) pretty much takes over the world. You get plants killing people, plants destroying building, plants eating trains, plants fighting the army.  It's pretty much an American Godzilla movie.  (Not to be confused with the American Godzilla movie, of course)  They showed the film with this original ending to test audiences, and the audiences hated it!  They hated it so vehemently and universally that the filmmakers called the cast back, shot an entirely different ending, and released the new cut of the movie in theaters, and the rest is history. 

Why did the monster-movie ending work on the stage and not in the film? In my opinion, the reason is simple: in the stage version of the script, Seymour becomes increasingly more guilty with each murder.  True, he doesn't cause the dentist's asphyxiation, but you see him make a conscious choice not to save him.  In the movie, Steve Martin pretty much goes crazy and Rick Moranis just sort of watches, confused, until he's dead.  Similar, but from an audience perspective, it just kind of happened around him, not because of him.  Next, you have Mushnik's death: in the movie, the plant opens to eat Mushnik, and Seymour doesn't warn him.  It's pretty much played for laughs, the "Uh-oh, what's that behind Mr. Musnik?  Oh hey, it's a gruesome death!"  In the stage show, Seymour actually tricks Mushnik into stepping inside the plant!  In both cases, Mushnik is about to turn Seymour in for the murder of the dentist and the plant convinces Seymour he's got to get rid of Mushnik in order to continue his dream life with his dream girl, and because Seymour isn't that smart he buys it.  Again, in the movie, the evil plant continues to manipulate the lovable Seymour into despicable acts he wouldn't ordinarily do on his own.  In the play, he's becoming a bit of a schemer on his own.  Also, in the play, there's my favorite scene in the whole show, "The Meek Shall Inherit," where he basically chooses to let the plant keep on living rather than killing it, knowing what it means for the plant to keep living, because he's afraid of losing Audrey.  In the movie, "The Meek Shall Inherit" is basically showing how overwhelmed and stressed Seymour is with stardom.  (This, also, is a post-test audience edit, as the original was closer to the stage show) 

All this to say, stage Seymour makes his bed.  When the plant ends up eating Audrey and he says "You're a monster and so am I," it's true.  In the movie, the poor guy just sorta got suckered into the whole thing.

But that's not really the point of today's post.  The point is, I finally found the lost original ending to the '80s musical movie.  I've been searching for about a decade, so I'm pretty excited to finally see it.  Note: it's gruesome in that old monster-movie sort of way.  Not graphic or explicit, but a lot of people get killed.  It's also surprisingly long.  That's a lot of film they scrapped just to get our happy ending!  Also also, for those who don't remember: the language is kinda bad. 

And finally, DANG but that plant muppet was freaking cool!!!