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!

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!


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."