Sunday, May 6, 2012

Gravis Mushnick: "The Little Shop of Horrors (1960)"

Actor:            Mel Welles
Year:             1960
Beard Type:   Florist Beard

The Little Shop of Horrors remake we all know and love is a delightful little piece of Frank Oz-directed 80s magic starring Rick Moranis as Seymour and his giant, man-eating plant Audrey II. The elaborate puppet for Audrey II designed by a very bearded Lyle Conway stands to this day as one of the great examples of practical effects simply out-performing modern CGI in every way imaginable.

It all started when Roger Corman had a couple days left over on his sets from shooting Bucket of Blood. Roger Corman, being one of the most prolific and resourceful powerhouses in Hollywood history, saw those two extra days as an excuse to produce and direct another movie. The result? The Little Shop of Horrors was shot in two days and a night, and it later spawned a highly successful Broadway musical, a cult classic 80s film, and a not-so-memorable cartoon show.

The Little Shop of Horrors is a woeful tale of a skid row flower shop run by Gravis Mushnick, who specializes in tasty carnations and sarcastic yelling. The self-proclaimed "Bloom Tycoon" uses the power of the Florist Beard to turn his withering shop into a flourishing tourist attraction. One would expect a Florist Beard to accentuate the cheery, good-natured qualities of the man from whom it sprouts so that he may better provide his clientele with tasteful arrangements for a variety of occasions. Not Mushnick, though. Mushnick is a douche.

Mushnick's employee Seymour introduces a new butterwort/venus fly trap hybrid plant he's been developing on the side. Though the plant, named Audrey Junior, seems lifeless at first, it quickly grows and springs to life after Seymour realizes it feeds on human blood. The growing oddity attracts tons of new customers while earning Seymour some fame and Mushnick a beard-ton of money. However, Mushnick's brightened mood snaps when he arrives at his store at night to find Seymour feeding a human foot to Audrey Junior while singing "Deck the Halls."

At this moment, Mushnick loses control to the power of the Florist Beard, mirroring Seymour's loss of control with Audrey Junior. Without question, Mushnick should have gone straight to the police and said, "My employee murdered someone and fed the cold, lifeless body parts to a plant in my shop. While this weird thing will make me rich, I simply cannot deal with this shit today. Please arrest him at your earliest convenience."

Bam. Movie over. Everybody else is safe.

Instead, his Florist Beard buds and curls from his chin, grabbing hold of his cheeks to keep his mouth shut. As a result, Mushnick is indirectly responsible for the death of three more people as well as directly responsible for murdering someone else. With the Florist Beard in full bloom, the well-being of Mushnick's Florist is of a higher priority than the well-being of the human race. Sure, Mushnick realizes the true danger of Audrey Junior, but he lets it slide for the sake of his shop and even Seymour. Compliance to the Florist Beard does not always lead to complacency, especially in the wake of botanical homicide.

Word on the street is that Angels in the Outfield alum Joseph Gordon-Levitt is planning to revisit Little Shop of Horrors to give America a much-needed [insert-newest-Hollywood-"re"-term-for-"remake"]. So this new version will give us a movie based off a movie based off a musical based off a movie; it brings to mind Street Fighter II: The Movie: The Game, an incestual product of a video game based off a movie based off a video game. 

I'm indifferent to this new remake. However, Levitt, I ask of you two simple things:
1. No CGI Audrey II.
2. Put a damn beard in there, would you? I only counted three beards in the previous two films combined: Mushnick's Florist Beard, this guy's Extra Beard, and this dude on the wall:

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