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Roger Corman
Jonathan Haze, Jackie Joseph, Mel Welles
Writing Credits:
Charles B. Griffith

A clumsy young man nurtures a plant and discovers that it's carnivorous, forcing him to kill to feed it.

Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA Monaural
English Dolby Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 73 min.
Price: $29.95
Release Date: 12/12/2023
Available as Part of 2-Film Set with The Terror

• Audio Commentary with Film Historian Justin Humphreys and Actor Jonathan Haze
• “Hollywood Intruders” Featurette
• Trailer
• Booklet


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The Little Shop of Horrors [Blu-Ray] (1960)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 6, 2023)

Most folks these days know The Little Shop of Horrors as either a stage musical or a 1986 movie based on that show. Those properties adapted a 1960 Roger Corman flick, one that featured a 23-year-old Jack Nicholson.

Nerdy Seymour Krelborn (Jonathan Haze) works at Mushnik’s Florist, but his many goofs leave him on the verge of termination. Seymour convinces store owner Gravis Mushnik (Mel Welles) to give him another shot when Seymour produces an unusual plant he names “Audrey Jr.” after Audrey Fulquard (Jackie Joseph), a co-worker on whom he maintains a crush.

When Audrey Jr. starts to wither, Seymour soon learns what it needs to survive: human blood. When fed, Audrey Jr. also starts to talk, and it demands more and more from Seymour as he leans toward murder.

Before the success of the stage show/1986 film, the 1960 Shop enjoyed fame mainly due to Nicholson’s presence. However, as that synopsis likely implies, Jack doesn’t get a ton of screen time in the movie.

Indeed, Nicholson lands toward the bottom of the credits. He plays Wilbur Force, a masochist who enjoys dental visits just for the pain.

Bill Murray took on that role in the 1986 version in a cameo. Murray’s turn acted as a highlight of that film.

Nicholson’s Wilbur lacks the same impact. Indeed, the role exists for nothing more than some cheap laughs, and even while he plays the part ala Peter Lorre on steroids, Nicholson doesn’t stand out from the cast.

That happens because Shop offers such a broad affair. A campy mix of sci-fi, horror, parody and wild comedy, the end result seems like a mess.

Though not an unwatchable mess, however. Shop comes with a terrific concept and it occasionally mines this material for entertainment value.

However, Shop tends to feel more like a collection of nutty scenes than a coherent story. We get a mix of weird and wacky roles in search of a true narrative – or anything beyond a bunch of wild stabs at comedy.

Corman clearly intends much of the film as spoof, as right from the start, we get satire. Shop starts with an intro from Skid Row cop Sgt. Joe Fink (Wally Campo), a role obviously intended to poke fun at Dragnet and Sgt. Joe Friday.

Sgt. Fink actually provides some laughs, mainly via the black comedy of scenes such as his emotionless reaction to his son’s death. A few other elements manage some amusement as well.

However, the attempted mirth of Shop often feels forced and not especially clever. Shop throws so much at the wall that some sticks, but it feels like a low ratio.

Shop also tends to come across as pretty amateurish. Even with folks like Nicholson and Dick Miller in the cast, the performances either come across as too flat or too over the top, without anything between those two poles.

Again, none of this makes Shop an unpleasant viewing experience, as its creative concept and brief running time ensure we stick with it. The movie simply lacks the quality it needs to fulfill its promise.

The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus C+

The Little Shop of Horrors appears in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though I’ve seen many better transfers for old films, this one was more than acceptable.

Sharpness varied but was usually nice. Although some shots tended to be a little fuzzy, overall definition was very good, so the majority of the movie displayed solid delineation.

No issues with jaggies or moiré effects occurred, and edge haloes remained absent. The film came with a good layer of grain and lacked print flaws.

The black and white photography looked fine most of the time. Blacks seemed dark and tight, and contrast usually worked well, though some shots felt a bit bright. This became a pretty appealing image.

I thought the movie’s DTS-HD MA monaural soundtrack seemed dated but adequate. In terms of dialogue, the lines remained intelligible and offered reasonable clarity, without much edginess.

Neither music nor effects boasted much range or dimensionality, but both appeared clean and accurate enough, without distortion or problems. This mix felt acceptable for its vintage.

A few extras appear, and we get an audio commentary from film historian Justin Humphreys and actor Jonathan Haze. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific look at cast and crew as well as production elements and views of the movie.

This turns into a lackluster chat, partly because Haze doesn’t really seem to remember much about the production. Given that the shoot happened 63 years ago and Haze is now well into his 90s, this comes as no surprise, but it nonetheless means he fails to add a lot.

Humphreys doesn’t really pick up the slack, as he mainly tells us how much he loves the movie. We do find sporadic tidbits of valuable information, but don’t expect a lot of substance across this iffy commentary.

In addition to a “2023 recut” trailer for Shop, we get a featurette called Hollywood Intruders: The Filmgroup Story Part 2. It spans 17 minutes, 14 seconds and brings info from film historian C. Courtney Joyner.

“Filmgroup” was a production company Roger Corman used for movies he didn’t distribute via AIP. Joyner gives us notes about their work in this tight summary.

The package also includes a booklet that provides two essays. Mark McGee’s “Faster! Faster!” covers Shop and C. Courtney Joyner’s “Boris Karloff and the Long Shadow of Poe” examines 1963’s The Terror. It completes the set well.

63 years after its release, The Little Shop of Horrors remains remembered for its 1980s adaptation and its early big screen appearance from a young Jack Nicholson. Otherwise, we get a movie with a clever premise and iffy execution. The Blu-ray provides pretty good picture as well as acceptable audio and a few bonus materials. Shop becomes interesting more for historical reasons than as an enjoyable experience in its own right.

Note that this Blu-ray for The Little Shop of Horrors comes packaged with another Corman/Nicholson movie: 1963’s The Terror. Though the set treats Shop as a “bonus”, I thought it deserved its own review.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
0 3:
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