Little Shop of Horrors – Directors Cut (1986)

lsohThis is a weird one. Usually my instinct is to prefer Directors Cuts if only from a position of purity of intent. Its the ‘original vision’, after all.  Usually the subsequent, post-preview weight of external forces result in ‘tweaked’ theatrical cuts that dilute that vision or intent, resulting in poorer films. But with LSOH I have to wonder, because I watched the recently released UK Bluray of the DC the other night and… well, I prefer the theatrical.

I know very little about the original source for LSOH; I haven’t seen the original Roger Corman movie and neither have I seen the stage version, but it would appear that the DC is faithful to them both, with a rather bleak ending. But while its  clearly intellectually the right ending it doesn’t satisfy emotionally. It sort of betrays the connection we have with Seymour and Audrey. Is it something unique to the movie, the performances of the actors or nuances of Frak Oz’s direction? Why does it work onstage but not onscreen? Its a curio. I can certainly understand why preview audiences were appalled at the screening of the original cut and their reactions sent the filmmakers hurrying into re-shoots.

I first saw the film on a VHS rental, not expecting to enjoy it. Instead I found the musical numbers enjoyable, the staging clever and the humour right up my alley. It was a great little movie and while I never bought the film on either VHS or later DVD,  I always seemed to enjoy it if I caught it on TV.  But I had read about its delayed theatrical release and the original ending in Cinefantastique, and you know how it is, that kind of stuff attains mythical properties over time. Those leaked images from the cut climactic effects sequence looked so cool. Back then directors cuts on home releases were not as common as they would one day become (I believe Oliver Stone has recently done yet ANOTHER cut of Alexander, a case where even the Final Cut wasn’t, in fact, quite as final as first thought).  So back in the day, the original cut of LSOH was instantly something we’d never see, a darker, more epic version. A better version, undoubtedly. At least that was the perceived wisdom of fans. Well, all good things come to those who wait,they say. To say I’m surprised, after all these years, that those preview audiences were right after all, would be an understatement.

Its enough to validate that most-derided tool of modern filmmaking, the infamous preview screenings.  Well OK, I guess they had to be right once in awhile. Of course, I’m sure there are many who prefer the DC. Fortunately the Blu-ray also includes the theatrical version so everyone can be happy. A great Blu-ray release.

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