They may offer you fortune and fame
Love and money and instant acclaim
But whatever they offer you,
Don’t feed the plants!
Little Shop of Horrors has been one of my favourite films for a long time but it was only recently seeing it onstage that gave me the kick in the pants I needed to finally watch the director’s cut with the original ending. I already knew about the ending and had seen clips but actually seeing it in the continuity of the film feels entirely different.
Because I’m discussing the ending there are, naturally, spoilers but my blog is never spoiler free really (except for new releases).
As much as I’m a sucker for happy endings (which I admit begrudgingly) the original ending for Little Shop of Horrors is just so much better. The workmanship alone is something to behold, recalling The War of the Worlds and other monster/alien fare from the 1950s with cities being demolished and citizens gobbled up. The army of Audrey II’s are menacing and the miniatures are perfectly constructed by Richard Conway.
‘Finale Ultimo (Don’t Feed the Plants)’ is also a really great song, and a brilliant climax for the film – the entire sequence is just incredibly impressive in every way.
Technical achievements aside, it also makes more sense. There is a feeling of chaos building throughout the story as Seymour’s life spins out of his control, and the original ending, which is utter chaos and destruction, caps it off perfectly.
However, I also understand why test audiences reacted so badly. Aside from the fact that unhappy endings aren’t exactly par for the course in Hollywood, Audrey and Seymour are really likeable characters. We may laugh at them at times (“l’d put on…cheap and tasteless outfits, not nice ones like this.”) but we also feel a deep empathy for them (at least, I do). Audrey, especially, because Ellen Greene has a rare ability to be utterly camp while simultaneously imbuing the role with pathos.
So seeing them consumed by a hungry plant that’s bent on world domination is a bit difficult to swallow (if you’ll pardon the pun). Seeing Orin and even Mr Mushnik being eaten makes us feel a certain vicious glee but Audrey and Seymour’s deaths are just truly tragic, if inevitable.
As it mentions here when you see this onstage there is not only a certain distance because of the lack of close-ups but the actors come out for the curtain call, and Audrey and Seymour are alive again (they also perform in ‘Finale Ultimo (Don’t Feed the Plants)’). But this doesn’t happen when we see a movie. They’re just…gone. It’s obvious, though, from what I’ve read that its fans (now) acknowledge that the original ending is superior and more fitting.
It would’ve been a terrible shame, a tragedy really, if the original ending, that so much love and work went into, was lost forever. I’m glad it’s not. And I’m glad I get to choose which ending I want, depending on how I feel. Do I want Seymour and Audrey to go ‘somewhere that’s green’ and live happily ever after? Or is the ‘somewhere that’s green’ they go to inside Audrey II?