Colin Timothy Gagnon (sacredspud) wrote,
Colin Timothy Gagnon
sacredspud

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"...but whatever they offer you, don't feed the plants!"

During my lunchbreak today, I managed to see the original deleted ending of Little Shop of Horrors. I've never seen it before -- it's one of those things that you have to go out of your way to find, but it's fantastically worth it. In order to explain the deleted ending, I should probably explain a little about the film's history. I'll take it as read that you're already familiar with the 1986 musical.

The musical most of us know is actually a remake of The Little Shop of Horrors, a low-budget Roger Corman film from 1960. The original film is funny and an interesting piece of movie history (if it often referred to as "the fastest movie ever made" because the script was written in a single night, and most of the photography was completed within a week), but it's so dated that I can't recommend it to anyone not interested in black and white B-movies. Nevertheless, The Little Shop spawned a cult following, a pornographic pseudo-remake (1973's Please Don't Eat My Mother), and, eventually, the 1982 stage musical and 1986 movie adapted by Howard Ashman and Allan Menken who would go on to write songs for several Disney's The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin.

When Ashman and Menken adapted the story to stage, they made a lot of changes. They moved the setting from Los Angeles to New York. Superfluous minor characters were removed, along with subplots involving an inept police investigation and Seymour's hypochondriac mother who has raised him on a diet of medicine. The dentist, a minor character in the original, became Audrey's sadistic boyfriend, and a new subplot was added in which Mr. Mushnik tries to adopt Seymour as a son (this was removed for the 1986 movie). One of the elements that remained intact is the rather silly fate of Audrey II's victims, their faces blooming into flowers on her vines. In Corman's film, the flowers cast the suspicions of the police on Seymour. He is eaten, and his flower blooms in the final scene just as they arrive to apprehend him.

Having cut the police investigation, the stage musical handles the end somewhat differently: Audrey is eaten, as is Seymour when he tries to rescue her. The Greek Chorus sings a short, Amazing Criswell-esque epilogue detailing the future of the story in which the plants take over the world. This segues into another song called Don't Feed the Plants, which is sung by the flower-heads of Audrey II's victims presented as puppets being manipulated from backstage.

Don't Feed the Plants is a great song. It was recorded for the movie and is included on the soundtrack, but the unhappy ending tested poorly with audiences and was scrapped. A new ending was shot, and that's the one you've seen: Seymour electrocutes the plant and goes off with Audrey to live Somewhere That's Green. An incomplete work-print of the original ending was included on the laserdisc and 1998 special-edition DVD, but the DVD was recalled two days after its release because producer David Geffen wanted to re-release the film theatrically in its original format. A new DVD became available later, which includes all of the same special features, minus the alternate ending.

And it's a shame. The original ending is incredible. It's also an incredible downer. In this version, Seymour arrives too late to save Audrey from the plant. She's dying when he pulls her out. He reveals to her the gruesome fate of Mushnik and her boyfriend, and she spends her last gasps begging him to feed her to the plant so that his fame will go on, and they can (more or less) still be together. It's a touching moment. Tearfully, Seymour carries Audrey's corpse back into the shop and drops her into the gaping jaws of Audrey II. He leaves and is about to commit suicide by jumping off a building, when a salesman interrupts him with a plan to take cuttings and sell an Audrey II to every household in America.

Seymour decides that the plant must be stopped, and returns to the store. At this point, Audrey II sings the song Mean Green Mother from Outer Space. It's the same footage as you've seen, except that at the ending, she scoops Seymour up in her vines and devours him.

The Greek Chorus appears, silhouetted against the American flag, and sings the epilogue. Interestingly, the lyrics to the song are the same as those in the stage musical, but the DVD subtitles contain numerous misprints, which I have transcribed because that's just the sort of person I am. It's a little weird because (being already familiar with the song through the original cast recording) I know exactly what the correct lyrics are, I can hear that they're exactly what's being sung, but the subtitles are clearly wrong:

CORRECT LYRICS

Subsequent to the events
you have just witnessed,
similar events in cities
across America --
events which bore
a striking resemblance --
to the ones you
have just seen
began occurring.

Subsequent to the events
you have just witnessed,
unsuspecting jerks
from Maine to California
made the acquaintance
of a new breed of flytrap
and got sweet-talked
into feeding it blood.

Thus the plants
worked their terrible will,

finding jerks who would
feed them their fill,
and the plants
proceeded to grow
and grow
and began what they came here to do
which was essentially to

EAT CLEVELAND!
AND DES MOINES!
AND PEORIA!
AND NEW YORK!
AND WHERE YOU LIVE!
MISPRINT LYRICS

Subsequent to the events
you have just witnessed,
similar events in cities
across America --
events which bore
a striking resemblance --
to the ones you
have just seen
begin a career.

Subsequent to the events
you have just witnessed,
unsuspecting jerks
from Maine to California
made the acquaintance
of a new breed of flytrap
and got sweet-talked
into feeding it blood.

Flytrap plants
with their terrible will,

finding jerks who would
feed them their fill,
and the plants
proceeded to grow
and grow
and beware what they tell you to do
which was exceptionally cruel

IN CLEVELAND!
AND DES MOINES!
AND OREGON!
AND NEW YORK!
AND WHERE YOU LIVE!


What follows the epilogue is the most expensive sequence in the entire film, and even presented in black and white without sound effects, it's glorious. Don't Feed the Plants is played over an orgy of descruction as Audrey II and her children rampage through New York. They destroy the Brooklyn Bridge and cuddle the Statue of Liberty amid the Army's futile hail of bullets and explosions. It plays like a montage of the climactic effects scenes from all the major monster/disaster B-movies of the '50s, with direct visual references to Godzilla, When Worlds Collide, and (especially) George Pal's version of The War of the Worlds. As the song concludes, the picture fades out and the words "THE END?!?" appear onscreen for a moment before Audrey II bursts through the screen, laughing diabolically.

The alternate ending (which clocks in at 23 minutes, by the way) wasn't the only unfortunate cut to the movie. There's another song called The Meek Shall Inherit in which Seymour is assailed by various executives and marketing personnel who want to "help" him capitalize on the novelty of Audrey II. In the original stage production this is drawn out over a couple of speeches by different characters, but the movie soundtrack condenses it considerably, adding an appropriately claustrophobic feel to the number. All of this appears in the film, but the second half of the song -- which can be heard in its entirety on the soundtrack -- was filmed and cut before the film's release. What's missing is Seymour's internal struggle with himself: "I take these offers, that means more killing. Who knew success would come with messy, nasty strings?" He concludes that he must destroy the plant, but then realizes that the loss of Audrey II might mean the loss of Audrey I. He resigns himself to a horrific, secretive life of murder in exchange for fame, comfort, and love.

It's an important song which, like the original ending, harkens back to the B-movie roots of the source material. In the final cut of Little Shop of Horrors, Seymour gets away with everything, little the worse for wear. Yes, he spent a sleepless night huddled in a corner after he hacked up Orin Scrivella D.D.S., but The Meek Shall Inherit adds an important emotional and moral dimension to his character. It's probably better, in light of the happy ending, that we didn't see him lose the battle between his brain and his pants, but beneath the veneer of plastic, "gee whiz!" suburban bliss lurks the fact that Seymour is not a good guy. He's a murderer (well, almost). He turns against the plant only after Audrey is endangered; up until that point he's happy (well, almost) to kill for her.

It's been eight years since the original DVD of Little Shop of Horrors was pulled off the shelves in anticipation of a theatrical re-release, and in those eight years the re-release has entirely failed to happen. Right now anyone wishing to see the original ending has to find either a bootleg (which is what I did), or a copy on eBay (where it sells for around $175). Regardless, those of you still reading should definitely check it out if you ever get a chance. It's quite a treat.
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