Sunday, December 30, 2012

LITTLE SHOP Cuttings Sprout Online


After their disappointing non-appearance on the recent Blu-Ray, I am thrilled to see that a heap of Little Shop of Horrors cut scenes and alternate takes has appeared online, including the infamous Steve Martin head (seen only from behind), "The Meek Shall Inherit" dream sequence, and a shorter version of "Don't Feed the Plants" which is generally more effective, though still rough.

These from from a time-coded videotape, with rough FX, but all in color. Whoever uploaded them says they are copies of the version shown to preview audiences - one wonders whence they came, and why WB Home Video was either unaware of them, or unwilling to include them?

There is some great material here - some that was wisely tightened or dropped, but all of it fascinating to see.  There are alternate cuts of "Downtown" and "Some Fun Now," a longer scene of Seymour chopping up the dentist with music by Alan Menken instead of Miles Goodman, and an alternate proposal scene that reprises "Suddenly Seymour."

The "The Meek Shall Inherit" dream sequence comes off rather better than I expected, and its disappearance from the final film now really seems a shame. Its surreal imagery is definitely at odds with the studied "realism" of the rest of the film, recalling some of the Vincente Minnelli dream sequences of yore. But the song deepens Seymour's character wonderfully, and Moranis does a great job with his solo.

In contrast to the kitchen-sink approach to the finale shown on the Blu-Ray, here the finale is edited rather too tightly; I'd love to see a version between the two lengths.  Some shots, like the Statue of Liberty, are alternate takes, and others, like the disco, the movie theater, and the final screen-burst, are missing altogether. This version of the finale also features some great laughter and other vocals from Levi Stubbs, missing from the disc (which uses an anonymous voice-over artist). I love the plant that comes out of the bay going "Oooohhm!"


While we're at it, it's come to my attention that storyboard books for the film are available from collector's shops. These also really should have been on the disc, with their wonderful art by Mike Ploog, in either a gallery or as a multi-angle feature.

OK I think it's time for a Special Edition of the Special Edition! What do you say, Kurt Galvao??








Monday, October 1, 2012

LITTLE SHOP: The Director's Cut at Lincoln Center

UPDATE!  Today is the day!  The legendary long-lost original ending of Little Shop of Horrors finally sees the light of day on Blu-Ray and DVD!  And here's a great interview with Ellen Greene about the film.

ORIGINAL POST:  Wow!  After 26 years of waiting, dreaming, imagining, and hoping to see the radically different Little Shop of Horrors "original ending," and carping for years about the folks at who gave the 1986 test screenings a big thumbs-down, I was so privileged to see the movie finally get its well deserved enthusiastic reception when the original version finally screened at the New York Film Festival on Saturday, September 29.  "Heartfelt tongue-in-cheek" was how Frank Oz described the movie in his introduction, and heartfelt indeed was the appreciation for the audience, all of whom were just bubbling over with anticipation.  You can see it for yourself when the "Director's Cut" edition arrives on Blu-Ray October 9.

The Walter Reade theater is a gorgeous house, with an excellent sound system and all 268 seats filled.  Frank Oz, Alan Menken and Ellen Greene were all in attendance, and Frank Oz welcomed us warmly to the first screening in 26 years for this legendary lost ending (newly edited from the color negatives by film restorer Kurt Galvao).  Then they rolled the film (in gorgeous digital projection), and it was just like watching a play - the audience was so into it - all the jokes got laughs and each song got a round of applause, as did the characters as they appeared on-screen.  And why not? Just like a play, we knew that the creators where there to hear and appreciate our feedback!

Afterwards there was a half-hour discussion with Frank Oz, Alan Menken and Ellen Greene, plus one of the program directors from the NY Film Festival, and the film restorer, Kurt Galvao.  After the talk, Alan Menken sang a Little Shop medley, and Ellen Greene gave a heartbreaking rendition of "Somewhere That's Green."  Then we got to hear the late author Howard Ashman singing the demo for "Crystal, Ronette & Chiffon" which was meant to play over the end credits, but was dropped.

Video of the panel discussion:  Part One.  Part Two.  Part Three.

And the film itself?  First, the movie looks gorgeous. The colors are lush and rich, the shadows painterly, and the details are very fine. I noticed little speckles and details on Audrey II's skin that were never quite visible before, and little things like being able to read some of the labels on the cans in Seymour's basement, etc.  If the movie looks that great digitally projected onto a full-sized screen, it should look even better compressed into home HD dimensions.

The 5.1 remix sounds excellent, and the sound system at Walter Reade really showed it off to great advantage.  I'm glad they didn't change the very well-done soundscapes and room-tone ambiances - one of the best things about Little Shop is that the songs generally sound as if they are being sung in the environments they were shot in, and they still do.  One hopes a remastered & expanded soundtrack CD is in the works.

As for the finale ultimo...it's insane.  I can honestly see why a family audience wouldn't like it - it's very dark and grim, and heartwrenching to see such endearing characters come to such terrible ends (though again, the whole idea of selling this as a feel-good family film for Christmas was misguided).  At the panel Frank Oz reiterated his point about the characters not coming back for a curtain call, and that the "end of the world" threat is very abstract in the theater - just the puppet surrounded by dry ice - whereas on screen it's explicit and a little scary.  (Here's a thought - what if the cast credits had played over behind-the-scenes blooper footage? Wouldn't that have given a similar reassuring feeling of "it's just a movie"?)  It's going to take a couple of viewings for me to really appreciate just how radically the film feels, overall, with the new ending. But it is powerful, and I thought it was quite funny in a very black way.

The film plays Audrey's death scene beautifully, and Seymour's confrontation with Patrick Martin on the roof is very well done.  Paul Dooley is great in the role of the marketing man peddling little Audrey IIs - he gives it the perfect combination of avuncular and sinister, with a fixed grin and a gleam in his eye.  Seymour working up the nerve to jump off the building still has no music under it, which makes it play a bit flat for me, but the "chop it up" music underlines the "every household in America" dialog, and is very effective.  "Mean Green Mother" now feels very dangerous in context, and unlike in the theatrical cut, Seymour finds that bullets just bounce off Audrey's hide (but he doesn't gasp "Outer space!").

The scenes of people flocking to buy little Audrey IIs (what happened to all those props, I wonder?) look great, and the scene of the couple in bed being attacked is actually pretty creepy.  I love the news flash from Cleveland, with the frantic reporter and firefighters facing down a rampaging "Mean Green" sized plant.  The discotheque scene has really bright, vibrant colors - and white brick behind the bar.  Galvao said they had to scour film archives all over the country to find the original color negatives of the ending, and very nearly had to release the film with the discotheque sequence in B&W, until the negative turned up just a week before the deadline.

Then the film cuts to the famous scenes of New York being destroyed, and boy, do they live up to the hype.  It is incredible footage. The model work is fantastic - the Brooklyn Bridge shot got a round of applause!  The new composite shots (like the mix of miniatures and live action when the plant smashes through the movie theater) are excellent. It's also wonderful to finally see the Statue of Liberty scene finished, with night sky and helicopters circling. The colors are vibrant, and you'll be amazed at how much detail the model cityscapes have. The sequence on Blu-Ray will definitely reward frame-by-frame appreciation.

The destruction is there in full - they have cut very little from the B&W version we saw.  Personally I feel like it goes on a bit, and they'd have been better served by condensing the action down more (to, say, a 36 bar instrumental, about 45 seconds, in the middle). But it looks amazing, and at this point, they might as well put everything they have out there for us to see.  As Frank Oz noted in his interview, it's a wonderful tribute to the months of work by Richard Conway and his team that this footage is finally seeing the light of day.

Nitpicks - the baby pods don't laugh as Seymour is being eaten, which they were obviously meant to do.  The final laugh from Audrey II after he spits out Seymour's glasses is by an anonymous voice over artist - and that same laughter is heard for the rest of the film. That's disappointing - did they not have any clean tracks of Levi Stubbs laughing they could re-use? Why not just keep the awesome Frank Oz laugh from the rough cut?  Also, there is no dissolve from Seymour's glasses to the American flag - it's just a cut. The work print definitely indicates a long dissolve - that is what the black line going from left to right means.  Also, though this is being marketed as "The Director's Cut," the end credits still call it "The Intended Cut."

"The Meek Shall Inherit" dream sequence is still missing, and it was not mentioned by the panelists. Taco Wiz buttonholed Frank Oz to ask about it, but he said he didn't know if it was going to be in the deleted scenes or not. Warner Home Video film restorer Kurt Galvao was on hand, but since there was no formal Q&A, the question was not asked of him to my knowledge.  I suppose we'll find out next week, but I suspect the sequence is lost forever.

UPDATE: Having seen the Blu-Ray, I am glad to report that the two missing sound effects are present, though the "Da Doo" has less reverb than previously.  However, the dissolve from the feeding scene to Seymour's bedspread is sadly fouled up. I am also told that the DVD version of the film IS missing those two sound effects.  In the Lincoln Center screening copy of the film there were some odd errors which I really hope don't show up on the Blu-Ray.  The single "Da Doo!" heard when Seymour tells Wink Wilkinson about the total eclipse was gone, and the little wheeze Orin's gas mask makes as he dies was also MIA.  Worse for me, the long slow dissolve from Audrey II's mouth to Seymour's bedspread (after Seymour feeds him the chopped-up dentist) was instead a very fast transition and not nearly as effective. Those are all disappointing, and kept this from feeling like a "definitive" cut to me, but I can live with it if they are, indeed, on the discs.

My video of Ellen Greene singing "Somewhere That's Green" didn't record properly, so do enjoy this version by YouTube user Joshheartstheater.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

LITTLE SHOP at WALTER READE!

I just got my tickets for the world premier screening of the Little Shop of Horrors director's cut at the New York Film Festival!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

When HAIR Came to Memphis

Via the ever-intriguing Dangerous Minds, here's a great documentary about a controversial production of Hair in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1970.



Thursday, June 21, 2012

Roger Waters Presents The Wall - LIVE!

My buddies and I went to see Roger Waters perform Pink Floyd's epic concept album "The Wall" in Nashville on Tuesday, June 19. I never thought I'd get to see this incredible show live, and it was truly spectacular. Waters was in fine voice, and seemed in a great mood as he bantered (minimally, due to the nature of the show) with the audience. They've updated the anti-war references to include our latest adventures in the Middle East, and some of the footage and photos used were truly moving.  Excellent work, sir.

For some reason Blogger has decided to stop letting me put things under a jump, but oh well. Check out my Flickr page for a full gallery of the photos I took during the concert.  And here is a video of Roger singing "Mother" as a duet with film footage of himself ("at the risk of appearing narcissistic," he noted wryly) doing the number at the famous 1980 Earl's Court show.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

RIP Susan Tyrrell

We're sad to see Susan Tyrrell has died at the age of 67. She was a unique character - read more about her over at Dangerous Minds, and enjoy some more tasty tidbits over at La Dolce Musto.

Back in 2009 I covered her appearance in the seminal mondo musical Forbidden Zone (singing songs by Danny Elfman).  Her number "Witch's Egg" is just too good not to repost.

Why, yes, that IS HervĂ© Villechaize.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

OCTOBER 9!

That's when the Director's Cut Blu-Ray of Little Shop of Horrors will be released!
I am so excited!  See this post below for more details.  Check out my Blu-Ray Wish List here.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Mega-Revivals!

Here's a great article from New York Magazine about the two new revivals of Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita, and a meditation on the rise and fall of the megamusical.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Il Cervello Poverello (My Poor Brain)

February 29, 1792, was the birthday of the genius composer Gioachino Rossini, whose operas count as some of the most popular of all.  Even today, people who'd claim no knowledge of or interest in opera know the William Tell and Barber of Seville overtures, and have heard somebody somewhere sing "Fiagro, Figaro, Figaro, Fiiiiiiii-ga-ro!"  As befits a Leap Day baby, Rossini was best known for his sparkling comedies.  He eventually retired from the theater and dedicated himself to food - a man after my own heart.

Here's the frantic finale to Act One of Il Barbieri di Siviglia.  "Il Cervello Poverello" (My Poor Brain) where the characters all babble endlessly about how they wish the others would shut up and give them some peace.  Thanks for the music, Maestro, and happy 55th birthday!

Happy Birthday, Frederic!


Back when I first started Mondo Musicals, one of my first posts was to celebrate the birthday of Frederic, the protagonist of Gilbert & Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance (1879).  A Leap Year baby, Frederic was heartbroken to learn that he was apprenticed to the Pirate King until his 21st birthday - not his 21st year - so duty dictated that he follow the letter of his contract and live the pirating life until 1940 ("It seems so long," Mabel sighs).

And indeed, the February 29, 1940 New York Times printed a brief notice headed "Frederic Goes Free" commemorating that he was at last out of his indentures and free to live a blameless life forevermore.  No word on whether Mabel did, indeed, wait for him.

So, happy birthday Frederic. You might be 156 by some calendars, but as we both have now reached our 39th birthdays, permit me to say we're looking fresh as ever!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Little Shop of Horrors - The Screenplay!

On this Valentine's Day, I'd like to link to the Little Shop of Horrors screenplay by Howard Ashman, which according to the title page was completed 27 years ago today.  We certainly miss the talented Mr. Ashman but his work lives on in the beloved modern classics Little Shop of Horrors, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin.

Here, he makes his first foray into Hollywood screenwriting, and I hope that fans of the film will enjoy this look at the story in a stage halfway between stage and screen.  Among the notable differences are the inclusion of a short scene showing Audrey and Orin's date to the drive-in movie theater (which made its way into the comic book), and a finale that is quite different from either of the two endings that were filmed.  One might also notice that the tone of the screenplay is quite a bit darker and more melodramatic than the finished film, and wonder about the script doctoring Frank Oz did before he agreed to direct.  I look forward to hearing comments on this trove of Little Shop lore!

View the screenplay here.  Would be awesome if a PFD of this, along with Mike Ploog's storyboards, were included on the Blu-Ray, hint-hint.

Little Shop Blu-Ray Coming Soon!

NEWS FLASH!  UNEXPECTED TOTAL ECLIPSE!
Updated June 12 - Street Date for the Blu-Ray is October 9!


So this has become The Post That Would Not Die, and I could not be happier! After a few months of murmurs, WB Home Video today started releasing materials about a Little Shop of Horrors "Director's Cut" Blu-Ray. Yea, verily, it's a red letter day for me. All my friends have heard me go on about this since 1986. I've collected a lot of related materials and memorabilia over the years, and I have dedicated quite a bit of space on this blog talking about how the new "happy ending" did such a violence to the emotional & moral core of the story. Plus, I just couldn't believe they'd cut such amazing (and expensive) sequence, a potential classic of monster mayhem which I think stands with best model FX work of all time. So glad to see the story told the way it was intended - I'm just sad Howard Ashman isn't here to see it.

Now that my dreams are coming true at long last, allow me to nitpick and kibitz about the cover art, which continues WB's grand tradition of marketing this as just another anodyne light comedy. Inviting the PhotoShop of Horrors joke are the pasted-on "Mean Green" plant and the cartoon vines tousling Seymour's newly-added rom-com necktie (and note that one leaf is cut off at the edge). Oddly enough, they've angled Seymour's eyebrows to give him more of a sheepish, sad-trombone look. I am weirdly impressed by the particularity of that! Check out the original photo to compare. Meanwhile, the famous logo is nowhere to be seen, replaced by Futura Extra Bold. The 1960s pop art look is very contemporary and Glee-friendly, but looks a bit chintzy, and the spare design belies the film's lushly detailed visuals. At the very least, I'd have put the character boxes at the bottom. Speaking of, no Bill Murray on the cover? Nice to see John Candy get some love, but really - no Bill Murray on the cover?

Here is my previous post detailing Frank Oz's discussions about this release:

The latest issue of Entertainment Weekly has an interview with Frank Oz (illustrated with links from yours truly) in which he discusses  the decision to change the ending of Little Shop of Horrors and explains why only the black & white workprint was available for release on DVD back in 1998. Apparently the preview copy of the original ending was disassembled when the new footage was edited in, and contrary to Geffen's supposition the clips were not stored.

But more importantly, ninja spies attending Oz's Q&A at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on May 16 report that Oz confirmed that the original negatives for the sequence do exist and that there will be a Blu-Ray available for Halloween 2012! Audio recording of the interview will be made available shortly is now uploaded (thanks to Kawlen Dram!). I am overjoyed at this news, as I've been obsessed with that "lost ending" for 26 years now!  Just in time for my birthday, too. There is a also a short article in the WSJ about the BAM screening.

Oz's interview also sheds light on why the Blu-Ray will apparently be billed as "The Intended Cut" instead of "The Original Cut" or "The Director's Cut."  The true original cut was not saved, so this will be a new edit of the ending "as intended," and Frank Oz himself is not involved in the project, so it's not a true director's cut.  He also mentioned that he doesn't know if other lost clips such as the "Meek Shall Inherit" dream sequence and shots of the plant eating Steve Martin's head still survive. (UPDATE, obviously the folks over at Warner's decided that "The Director's Cut" was more marketable and changed it, presumably with Frank Oz's blessing.)

In other news, it appears that Little Shop will be remade with personnel from Glee and the very talented and very cute Joseph Gordon Levitt as Seymour. I take this news with mixed feelings, as I fear a slick, homogenized CGI-fest. Get Basil Twist on it!  But JoGoLev would definitely make a great Seymour. I could even go for Zooey as Audrey if it comes to that. However, I have to say I'd be much more interested in seeing a grisly & weird remake of the Roger Corman black comedy.  Get Rod Zombie on it!

ORIGINAL ORIGINAL POST:

Some interesting things are afoot in the world of Little Shop of Horrors.

At his career retrospective at the Museum of the Moving Image last fall, director Frank Oz said that WB Home Video is working on an original-ending Blu-Ray for the musical.  This got everybody's hopes up, but there has been no announcement or confirmation of this project - until now, it seems.  Eagle eyes (thanks, Aryeh!) have caught mention of a January MPAA bulletin giving a PG-13 rating to something called Little Shop of Horrors - The Intended Cut for late 2012!  If this is true, then it will be truly epic!  This news is so exciting I can hardly even bring myself to think about it, just in case my hopes are dashed once more. 

Just in case this is really happening and anybody from WB might be searching the net for "what the people want," (hey, I'm people!) here's my Blu-Ray wish list of what I'd love to see on the disc, including the very rarely seen storyboards by legendary comic book and concept artist, Mike Ploog.

To tide us over, the original 1960 film is being released on Blu-Ray soon from Legend.  Legend usually does good work so it should be a nice presentation of the film, which is in the public domain and thus suffers from a glut of cheapie home video releases of appalling quality.  (For my money, the best version currently available is the one packaged with Trailers From Hell Volume 2 - and you get a ton of fun vintage trailers, too!)

And here's one more taste of Little Shop goodness: a TV spot for the original LA cast, featuring the cut song "Don't Feed the Plants."