What’s the matter little plant? Haven’t I done everything I could for you? Where did I goof? You’re the first little plant I ever tried to grow, and if you die, I dunno what I’ll do! Please don’t die.
I’ve seen the musical version of this but never the original film. I actually wasn’t going to review this film, but decided to as we planned to show it at my job and I wanted to make sure the quaintly of the film was good enough to screen. Since I had to watch it I decided why not kill two birds with one stone and add it it my lineup.
The original film came out in 1960 and what I know of it, was that it has Jack Nicholson in one of his first performances and an unhappy ending.
This film was made in 2½ days on a budget of $22,500. There was a rumor that the film’s shooting schedule was based on a bet that Roger Corman could not complete a film within that time, however, the truth it that he wanted to beat changing industry rules that would have stopped him from producing low-budget movies in the same way. Before these rules went into effect, Corman decided to shoot one last film. To save money they put several relatives in the film, actually filmed in skid row and hired children and people off the street, paying them hardly anything to be extras.
The film starts off with a cop narrating in a gruff 1960s voice “our story”.
Mr. Mushinick runs a flower shop in Skid Row and has no money coming in. His assistant Seymour sings (Jonathan Haze) and Mushinick hates it, wow you’re really not going to enjoy the remake.
The dentist calls in an order and talks while working on a patient. He orders flowers and a fern for his clinic, as he doesn’t have more to spend, as you can’t make money on skid row.
Musinick gives clumsy Seymour the order but the jury’s still out if he will complete it.
Another character enters, Dick Miller as Fouch, and wants a dozen carnation. The guy eats them? It turns out they are edible and have a “spicy clove-like flavor”.
Where is the cop who “saw this happening”?
Seymour messes up for the thousandth time and it is the last straw. Mr. Musinick fires him and everyone pleads with Musinick to give Seymour another chance, but I don’t know…I’m with Mr. Musinick. Seymour is unreliable and a disaster.
Seymour shares that he has a new flower he’s been working on and Fouch wants to see if as he has been in flower shops all around the world and knows people always come to visit shops who have weird plants.
Seymour knocks some more stuff over, rushes home to get his plant, with everyone forgetting the doctor’s order.
Seymour brings in the plant and they like how it looks but it’s doing poorly. Seymour doesn’t know what they are as he got them from a gardener who receive them accidentally in an order. Fouch leaves and they all look at the plant. Mr. Mushinick gives Seymour one more week, bring the plant back to life or else he’s fired.
Every night at sunset the plant opens up but nothing helps it grow. Seymour works on some roses and accidentally cuts his hand, the blood falling on the the plant and the plant loves it.
Seymour keeps it, but if I had a plant that consumed blood I would burn it. Salt and burn it up!
Mushinck gives Seymour a $2 raise as the plant grew and everyone loves coming to see it and buy flowers.
This Mr Mushinick is very observant as he notices the band aid and asks Seymour about it, not believing his “bee sting” story. He gets distracted by customers and stops his grilling; but I have to say I like this Mushinick a lot better than the later one.
Mr. Mushinick has big plans for the future: a greenhouse, new plants, a big shop in Beverly Hills, and money to all! Mushinick, Audrey, and Seymour dream about the future, and get a little too caught up in their dreams that they give the flowers away for free. However the plant has “died”.
That night Seymour hears a strange voice call out to him, feed me! Charles B. Griffith stood off-screen providing the voice of Audrey Junior as a reference for the actors and actresses. The voice of the plant was supposed to be dubbed in by another actor in post-production, but Roger Corman was notoriously cheap, so Griffith’s voice remained in the final print of the film.
Seymour wants to help the plant and feed it but he doesn’t have any more blood to give. Seymour decided to go for a walk trying to figure out what to do to help keep his plant alive. While out he throws cans and accidentally hits a guy who falls in the train tracks and dies. Seymour is horrified but also doesn’t let a body go to waste.
Mr Mushinick goes to the shop that night as he was eating out and forgot his wallet and sees Seymour feeding the plant a dead body and singing Christmas songs. He goes back to the resturant and is in shock.
Mushinick plan to go to the police and end this; but then greed got in the way as a bigger plant brings in more business.
Mr. Mushinick does tell Seymour not to feed it anymore as it is big enough.
Seymour has to go to the dentist who is terrible and wants to remove like three teeth and drill the rest. I guess he’s really mad at not getting those flowers.
Seymour fights the dentist and kills him but the next patient comes in, Wilbur Force, played by Jack Nicholson in his first horror movie. He’s an undertaker, creepy, and strange as he likes pain and wants to be worked on. He’s so weird and it’s even creepier seeing Jack Nicholson as he can’t stop smiling. Seymour pretends to be a dentist and totally messes up Force’s teeth
The police start noticing that there are more disappearances at Skid Row than normal. Our narrator the cop finally has entered the film.
The cops come to see Mr. Mushinick and he acts super guilty, but recognizes their missing man, the dentist. Afterwards Mr. Mushinick grills Seymour again about the plant as it is much bigger. Again Seymour promises to stop feeding it.
To try and keep Seymour accountable, Mr. Mushinick encourages him to take Audrey out that night. Audrey seems a good distraction except that the Society of Silent Flower Observers of Southern California sends someone over to look a the plant and she’s not only interested in giving him an award but she is also hoping that there might be more available. Oh please no!
The plants does have buds which will open soon….
That night Audrey and Seymour go to Seymour’s house for dinner. Seymour tries to be smooth but takes Audrey’s sweater and just chucks it across the room. Seymour’s mom is a hypochondriac and serves cough syrup and cod liver oil soup. Ugh! At least when Mr. Woodhouse was trying to fight off diseases he never served that!
That night Mr. Mushinick is in the shop looking at the plant.
When the plant does wake up it talks to Mr. Mushinick and freaks him out. Mr. Mushinick asks who Audrey Jr. would like to eat and he tells Mr. Mushinick that he looks fat enough. Ouch, burned by a plant. Mr. Mushinick tells him he won’t be fed at all, and the plant warns that Mr. Mushinick that he will be sorry about that.
Again they should salt and burn that plant!
So Seymour and Audrey have just had their first date and are planning on getting married what?
Meanwhile back at the flower shop, a robber comes in and points a gun at Mr. Mushinick. The robber is crazy and doesn’t listen when Mr. Mushinick tells him that he has no more money than what he already gave. Mr Mushinick, afraid the end is near, tricks the robber into waking up Audrey Jr. and getting eaten.
Mr. Mushinick feels bad about it, even though it saved his life and tells Seymour he no longer wants the plant. After the SOSL gives Seymour his award, the plant will be tossed out.
Seymour goes on a date with Audrey, a picnic in the flower shop. The two are eating PB&Js and it’s his first time ever eating them.
The have a romantic time…except that the plant is talking and says it is hungry. Oh my that voice sounds so weird coming from the plant. Audrey believes Seymour when he says he is a ventriloquist but as he keeps saying “he’s hungry” Audrey gets mad and runs out. Really. That’s her boundary and red flag? She is upset he wants to eat rather than kiss. I would think his strange taste in foods and mom would be the dealbreaker.
Seymour is angry with the plant and stars yelling at it, but the plants end this. He is hungry and hypnotizes him to get him food.
Seymour is out walking and a girl tries to get Seymour’s attention but he’s in his hypnotized state and doesn’t even register her until she trips him and introduces herself. She won’t let up their exchange is hilarious as she is coming in to him hard, but he’s so oblivious. He flips a rock to see who’s place they should go to and accidentally kills her.
The police keep seeching and still haven’t found any clues or their killer.
Everyone we have seen before all come back to the shop and they have the ceremony as Audrey opens and all the buds open as well. On each bud are the faces of all the people Audrey Jr. ate.
The cops go after Seymour and chase after Seymour, who outruns them to a tire factory; followed by Mr. Mushinick. Mr. Mushinck tries to end the chase by tripping Seymour but Seymour ends up clumsily hopping over and he trips the cops instead. They continue to chase him, losing him at the Toilet junkyard?
Seymour goes back to the shop angry at the plant and tries to destroy it, however he ends up being eaten as well. The new bud on the plant is his face and that’s the end.
This film was a trip. I never knew what was going to happen next. I actually like the end of this film better then the musical. It was like a twist you’d find in an Edgar Allan Poe story, the guilt can only be hidden for so long before revealed in front of all.
The beginning is really slow and the characters are so so, but that end. What a way to go.
For more Roger Corman, go to The Place of Torment: The Pit and the Pendulum (1961)
For more Jack Nicholson, go to Do You Like This Hotel?…I Guess So. Good. I Want You to Like It Here. I Wish We Could Stay Here Forever… and Ever…: The Shining (1980)
For more monsters, go to I’m Not Special, I’m a Monster!: Firestarter (2022)