Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Guest Review: Little Shop of Horrors

True story: I was going through my email a few months back and got an email from someone saying they're a freelance writer and would love to write for my site/blog, but I gotta mention some other thing they do or whatever. Thinking this was clever spam, I ignored it and went on with my life.

Flashforward to a month later and Nolahn on his site put up a guest review...from the same person. Realizing this was a real person who wanted to write for my site in exchange for a link, I emailed her back and said, "Oh ok." So after some exchanges, this is what she came up with.

To get the linkage out of the way, here's her info/bio/whatever:
As unexpected as her path was to loving all things weird, more unexpected is her ability to get attention for writing about the stuff. From Japanese horror and Korean melodrama, to the acid soaked animation of the 70s, Camiele White loves to talk about, debate, and watch film that teases, pleases, and trashes the senses. Right now, she gets her jabberjaw jollies writing about Halloween costumes. If you want to give her a buzz, she can be reached at cmlewhite at gmail [dot] com.

And here's her review of "Little Shop of Horrors", the original.

Curious Botany: The Little Shop of Horrors

For the most part, I’m staunchly against any and all remakes. When it comes to reinventing the wheel, as it were, most film studios are found wanting. They usually miss the original intent, completely disregarding the spirit of the original film and opting for an update that takes the very soul out of the original film.

However, my friends, there are those rare moments when the original was nothing more than a cosmic joke, and by divine intervention a half-crazed puppeteer stumbles upon it, letting his wild imagination take the film to new heights. As it is, The Little Shop of Horrors is one such cosmic joke. Quite literally, it came about as an excuse to use left over sets and see what he could do with them. With a budget of $30,000 and a two day old script, Roger Corman, whether he realised it at the time or not, created what would become an instant cult classic.

In 1960, Roger Corman and Charles B. Griffith were just sitting around slinging liquor and ideas back and forth about their newest cinematic venture. At the time, they were playing with the idea of gluttony, Griffiths had the brilliant idea of making a story about a salad chef who went all demonic-barber-of-Fleet-Street one day and decided to start using the customers as the food. Because of the moral code of Hollywood in the 50s and 60s, that idea was a big no-no. So, in a drunken haze, he said, “Well, why not a man-eating plant?” To which Corman eagerly agreed.

What came out of that midnight jaunty on the town was a script written with the speed of a midnight bullet train and produced in half that time. Corman, while walking through the sets of Chaplin Studios, devised some incredible possibilities for his drunken script idea. From it came a two day shoot that culminated in one of the most beloved and unusual films to come out of the low-budget goldmine of late 50s and early 60s Hollywood.

Using stock characters from previous films, family members, and a thick coating of Jewish sarcasm, Roger Corman succeeded in bringing a concept to fruition that would’ve probably been lost on anyone who lacked even an ounce of this man’s crazy genius. The mythology of the film is as memorable as the vanishing act done by the characters in the film. From the two day shoot being a bet between Corman and a friend that he couldn’t possibly conceive a film in that amount of time, to the script being half ad-libbed, The Little Shop of Horrors managed to change the game ever so slightly.

What tickles me is that it didn’t even get a great deal of recognition in its original permutation. It was basically a way to keep prices down and still manage to make a passable attempt at a film. What came later in the film’s lifetime was an off-Broadway, Motown laced masterpiece; a 1986 reimagining with puppet freak Jim Henson at the helm; a 1991 cartoon on Fox Kids (which I did watch, thank you very much, along with the animated version of Bettlejuice); and a 2003 Broadway revival --all of this from a film that was just something for Corman to do on the week-end.

You’ll notice that this blog is plot-lite. It’s only because the concept of a man-eating Venus flytrap practically writes itself. Imagine if you will Chicago’s Skid Row: rain, desolation, hookers and stay at home moms sharing the same apartment buildings. In the midst of all this depression is a little flower shop hard on its luck run by a crazy German expat named Mr. Mushnik and his delinquent, absent-minded store clerk, Seymour Krelboin (changed to Krelborn in the musical and 1986 film adaptation). Seymour sews the seeds of a man-eating new species of plant hell-bent on taking over the world. What’s there to write about?

What’s truly admirable is that the film actually became greater than the sum of its parts. It became of a piece of film history that transformed into a piece of Broadway fanaticism, as beloved and praised as Les Misérables or The Phantom of the Opera. I can’t stress enough how much of an impact this film’s 1986 remake had on my childhood. Truth be told, it’s the first remake of a very scarce few that has exceeded the mission and glory of its former self. For that, I tip my hat to Roger Corman for the balls it took to take a sketch budget and leftovers and create a masterpiece.

See? It's that easy! If YOU want to write something for Invasion of the B Movies, send something saying so to invasionofthebmoviesatgmaildotcom. You can break that apart easily, I think.


Jess said...

Wow - she's awesome. She did a guest spot on my blog (http://insightintoentertainment.blogspot.com/2010/09/guest-post-films-that-take-you-back-to.html) and I too figured she might be a flake, but she writes really well in multiple genres. I don't know why she doesn't have a blog of her own. I'd follow.

Nick said...

Yeah, she sent me an email ages ago, too. I kinda forgot about it and meant to respond back. I should probably do that.