Little Ending of Horrors

One of my favourite films is, I’m happy to admit, the 1986 musical version of Corman’s 1960 original, Little Shop of Horrors. Love the performances, love the choreography, love the music, love Audrey II in all his increasingly nasty glory.

As you probably know, it was based on a Broadway musical and caused some controversy when it turned the original’s “dark” ending into a “happy” one. Initially, however, the “dark” ending was filmed; it followed more closely on the stage play and it was test audience reaction that seems to lie at the heart of the decision to let both Seymour and Audrey survive the experience. The theatrical ending has, indeed, always seemed a little out of place and a little truncated — but frankly, I loved the characters so much, I’m happy to have them survive to live on in their artificial suburban paradise, as ironic as that may be. The final smirk of the “baby” Audrey II in their perfect garden is priceless.

I’ve always been curious in regards to the original ending but hadn’t seen it until recently. When I did, what surprised me was that it adds significantly to the film’s run-time — and culminates in an affectionate recreation of a Godzilla-like rampage. The original ending, it seems, was not only darker in that it killed off the two leads, but was darker because of the full-on apocalyptic invasion that it depicts.

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So here, below, is that original ending, in three parts. It’s in black-and-white and is a rough-cut (because apparently the colour negatives were destroyed in a fire), but hey, watch it! It’s something else. If you’re a giant monster fan, and impatient, skip straight to Part 3. That’s where the kaiju action happens.

Part One:

Part Two:

Part 3:

Which do I prefer? Hard to say really? The sentimentalist in me likes the theatrical one — but the kaiju fan in me really wants the original instead!

Addendum: For more on the story behind the original ending and its history, see this excellent DVD Savant article.

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4 Responses to Little Ending of Horrors

  1. Nick Stathopoulos says:

    I first saw the original ending on a documentary about the special effects technician Robert Able. The sequence was in colour, and filmed straight of his VCR so it was a bit grainy. This ending is brilliant. The “happy” ending resulted from test audiences responding that they were sad that Seymour and Audrey died…well of course it was sad! It was meant to be! It was the right reaction, but it didn’t mean CHANGE IT! Is there any doubt about the superiority of this ending???? It’s fantastic!!!!

  2. Avery says:

    This is fantastic!! I didn’t actually know about this one. To me it definitely makes an already awesome film better. Do you think there will ever be a ‘special’ edition that will include this ‘alternate’ ending?

  3. Backbrain says:

    Nick, I suspect that, no, there is no doubt about the superiority of the “dark” ending. Audrey’s death scene is brilliant and the fact that her ultimate fate changes the “meaning” of her signature song — “Somewhere That’s Green” — is so ironically perfect it’s hard to argue that the film should end any other way.

    Avery, I’ve read that the negs are all “lost” — but that has been said about other films in the past, some of which have turned up. So one can only hope. The version of this film with that ending in all its pristine colour glory goes straight into my Cosmic Film Library of Films That Weren’t But Should Have Been.

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