This Fall, the 1986 Little Shop of Horrors get the Blu-ray Book Pack treatment, with a Director’s Cut edition which will include a 20-minute restored alternate ending and 40-page booklet.
Little Shop of Horrors began life as a horror-comedy that was shot in three days by director and B-movie legend Roger Corman and released in 1960. More than two decades it was brought back to life as an off-Broadway stage musical that ran for over 2,200 performances and at the time was the highest-grossing off-Broadway production ever produced. In 1986, movie producer and music mogul David Geffen took Little Shop of Horrors back to the big screen in a $25 million musical extravaganza directed by legendary Muppet performer and filmmaker Frank Oz and starring Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene (who also starred in the off-Broadway show), Steve Martin, Vincent Gardenia, James Belushi, John Candy, and Bill Murray in an inspired cameo based on Jack Nicholson‘s performance in the 1960 original. It went on to become one of the year’s big hits in theaters and on home video, and at the following year’s Academy Awards the movie earned two nominations for Best Visual Effects and Best Original Song. Unfortunately the film lost in both categories to Aliens and Top Gun, respectively.
Prior to its theatrical release Little Shop of Horrors had to undergo extensive reshoots thanks to a decision by the studio and filmmakers to replace the movie’s original darker ending with a happier conclusion. In the original ending, Audrey II, the movie’s singing (and flesh-eating) plant, devours all the main characters in the cast and then grows to massive proportions to take over the world with the help of other giant plants. The 20-minute sequence cost $5 million to shoot and closely resembled the ending to the off-Broadway production, but test audiences didn’t enjoy seeing characters they had come to love and sympathize with being eaten and the evil plants winning the day. Thus the release date for Little Shop of Horrors was delayed while a more optimistic and satisfying ending was conceived and filmed. The decision paid off handsomely even though the original ending had come so close to appearing in the final cut of the film that stills from the effects-heavy sequence appeared in movie magazines and on the Little Shop trading card set.
It wasn’t until Little Shop of Horrors made its DVD debut in 1998 that home audiences were finally able to watch the alternate ending and experience what had only previously been glimpsed by preview audiences twelve years earlier. A scratchy, black & white copy of the sequence from the film’s workprint was included among the disc’s bonus features, but it had been included on the DVD without the permission of producer Geffen, who owned the rights to the ending. In the producer’s words the studio “put out a black-and-white, unscored, undubbed video copy of the original ending that looked like shit.” Claiming he had a color copy of the ending in his archives with plans to release a special edition of Little Shop to theaters a la the Star Wars trilogy, Geffen asked distributor Warner Bros. to pull the DVD from circulation. The studio acquiesced his request and Little Shop of Horrors became the first DVD to be recalled for content. A new disc was pressed and shipped to stores without the controversial ending and the recalled first pressing became one of the most sought-after collectible DVDs on the market. Sealed copies currently go for around $200 at online auction sites.
The original ending eventually made its way online a few years when people started uploading it in three parts to YouTube, which is where I first saw it. Pretty soon those rare DVD copies won’t be worth much because Little Shop of Horrors is finally coming to Blu-ray later this year with digitally remastered picture and 5.1 audio and a slew of new and vintage bonus materials. The Blu-ray will also include the theatrical version of the film as well as a new director’s cut featuring the restored original ending and come packaged with a 40-page book loaded with production photos and insights into the making of the movie from cast and crew members. The source for the restored ending is reportedly a recently rediscovered color negative.
Including both cuts of the movie on the same Blu-ray disc is a generous move on the part of Warner Bros. I’m looking forward to seeing the darker original ending in full color, even though part of me prefers it in the black & white version that’s been easily accessible online for more than five years. It looks like a grand-scale 1950’s B-monster movie, which Little Shop pays loving tribute to.
Little Shop of Horrors makes its Blu-ray debut on October 9, 2012 and will carry a suggested retail price of $34.99 (it’s available for pre-order at Amazon for $24.49). A DVD re-release will also be available the same day.
Here’s are a few scenes from the alternate ending.