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Little Shop of Horrors refers to two movies and a musical. The first film was a 1960 comedy. The off-Broadway musical of Little Shop of Horrors, adapted from the film, opened in 1982 and had a Broadway revival in 2003. And the 1986 film, also called Little Shop of Horrors, is an adaptation of the musical.
In the 1960 movie version of Little Shop of Horrors, the story begins in a florist’s shop in Los Angeles, where Audrey and Seymour are employees of Gravis Mushnick. When Seymour makes a mistake in preparing an arrangement for a dentist, he is fired. Hoping the reverse the decision, Seymour brings in his plant named Audrey Jr. that he cross-bred himself from a Venus flytrap and a butterwort. Because the plant looks sickly, Mushnick is not impressed. But when a customer suggests that the plant might attract international interest, Mushnick gives Seymour a week to restore it to health.
Accidentally discovering that the plant craves blood, Seymour uses his own for a time, and while he grows weaker, Audrey Jr. grows stronger, bringing in customers. Audrey Jr. also develops the ability to speak and demands more food. Seymour doesn’t know what to do, until—throwing a rock in frustration—he accidentally knocks down a man who is then run over by a train. Seymour uses the body to feed Audrey Jr. Mushnick unexpectedly returns to the store and sees what Seymour is feeding the plant, but give up his idea of telling them police as more and more people come to see the plant.
When Seymour arrives at work with a toothache, Mushnick sends him to the dentist, Seymour resists having his teeth pulled and in a struggle, accidentally kills the dentist. Seymour is upset, but again, uses the body to feed Audrey Jr. The police interview Mushnick, who keeps quiet, and Audrey Jr. grows bigger and stronger and buds. About this time, Seymour and Audrey begin to date.
A botanical organization times an ceremony to honor Seymour with the opening of Audrey Jr’s buds, which is also attended by the police. When the buds open, the faces of the dead men appear inside the flowers, and Seymour runs away, with the police following. Evading the police, Seymour takes a knife and crawls into Audrey Jr’s mouth to try to kill the plant. When the police return with Mushnick and Audrey, they find Audrey Jr. beginning to die, and a final bud opening to show Seymour’s face.
The musical of Little Shop of Horrors, with lyrics by Howard Ashman and music by Alan Menken, has some alterations in the plot: Mushnik cons Seymour, and Audrey is dating the dentist who is abusive. The plant, Audrey II, incites Seymour to murder the dentist, both to help Audrey and to provide itself with food. Seymour sets up the murder, and then backs out, but the dentist accidentally overdoses on nitrous oxide, and Seymour allows him to die. Despite being disturbed by the dentist’s death and disappearance, Audrey admits to being in love with Seymour, and they make a plan to go away together. Mushnik accuses Seymour of murdering the dentist, and Audrey II warns Seymour that unless he gets rid of Mushnik, he’ll lose everything. Manipulated again, Seymour tricks Mushnik into reaching into Audrey’s mouth, and he gets eaten, with the result that Seymour inherits the flower ship.
Seymour considers destroying Audrey II, but he thinks that Audrey’s attraction to him is wrapped up in the plant, so he doesn’t do so immediately, though he soon changes his mind. But before he can, Audrey goes to the flower shop looking for Seymour when he isn’t there, and is lured by the plant close enough that it can grab her. Seymour tries to save her, but she dies in his arms, after requesting that she be fed to Audrey II when she is dead. Seymour honors her request.
A representative from a botanical organization comes the following day with a plan to take cuttings and propagate Audrey II all over the world, and Seymour suddenly realizes that the plant had intended all along to take over the world. He tries in several ways to kill it, finally taking a machete with an intent to kill it from the inside, but he fails, and the cuttings are taken. The musical ends with Audrey II edging menacingly towards the audience, intent on eating them.
In the 1986 film of Little Shop of Horrors, Seymour mysteriously discovers a plant from outer space during a solar eclipse. The plot proceeds pretty much as in the musical until after Audrey II eats the dentist. In this version, Mushnik makes a deal that he will protect Seymour from prosecution for the dentist if Mushnik is allowed to care for Audrey II. In the first test-run, Mushnik gets eaten. The plant tries to lure Audrey over to eat her as well, but Seymour saves her. He rejects the offer from the botanical organization and electrocutes the plant, which has offspring by now. Seymour marries Audrey, but in front of their home is a little bud of Audrey III. The film has an alternate ending that was cut.
One interesting story about the original movie concerns the sets. Another director was in the process of tearing down the sets from a different movie and Roger Corman asked if he could use them in his low-budget "Little Shop of Horrors" film. The actors literally had to get their lines right on the first or second takes, because the set would soon disappear around them.
There are several actors in the film who would soon become famous, including Jack Nicholson (as the masochistic dental patient), and two actors portraying baseball players, Clint Eastwood and Tom Laughlin (Billy Jack).