A never-before-released director’s cut is the primary selling point of director Frank Oz’s “Little Shop of Horrors” Blu-ray. Featuring a great high definition presentation and a respectable set of special features, it's another great effort courtesy of Warner Home Video.
Release Date: October 9, 2012
Studio: Warner Home Video
Packaging/Materials: Blu-ray DigiBook
Running Time: Theatrical Version: 1:33:54 / Director’s Cut: 1:43:12
|THE FEATURE||SPECIAL FEATURES|
|Video||AVC: 1080p high definition 1.85:1||Standard and high definition|
|Audio||Director’s Cut and Theatrical Version: DTS-HD Master Audio: English 5.1 / Theatrical Version: Dolby Digital: French 2.0, German 1.0, Italian 1.0, Castellano 1.0, Spanish 1.0||Various|
|Subtitles||English SDH, French, Spanish, Castellano, German SDH, Italian SDH,||Various|
The Feature: 4.5/5
It’s a hard knock life on New York’s Skid Row. Just ask Seymour Krelborn (Rick Moranis), an orphan who grew up on the street but who now works for peanuts for Mr. Mushnik (Vincent Gardenia) and his florist shop. The only bright spot in Seymour’s life is Mushnik’s delicate floral arranger Audrey (Ellen Greene), but as she’s unavailable to him, dating the sadistic, motorcycle-riding dentist Orin Scrivello, DDS (Steve Martin), he spends all of his time cultivating various rare plants instead.
His latest discovery, literally falling from the sky in the middle of an eclipse, is a mysterious, Venus Flytrap-like specimen he names Audrey II. The plant is so intriguing in its shape and color that it’s soon attracting attention, bringing much needed business through Mushnik’s doors and even a bit of fame for Seymour. The only problem is Audrey II wants nothing but human blood for sustenance, and its hapless caretaker is quickly running out of fingers to prick. With Audrey II increasing in size and appetite with each feeding, it’s not long before Seymour begins looking for something - or someone - of more suitable size to appease it.
Adapted from one of Roger Corman’s eleventh-hour productions by the powerhouse writing/composing team of Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, the stage musical “Little Shop of Horrors” had its debut off-Broadway in 1982. After four years of critical and commercial acclaim in both New York City and London’s West End, the musical was brought to the big screen by David Geffen, one of the show’s original producers.
Directing reins went to longtime Jim Henson collaborator Frank Oz, who brought more than a few technical and creative touches to the movie. Combining an elaborate set built in Pinewood Studios and phenomenal creature design and puppetry, Oz effectively expanded the production beyond the confines of the stage, while keeping intact the source material’s instantly hummable musical numbers (favorites usually involving the sassy doo-wop Greek Chorus of Tichina Arnold, Michelle Weeks, and Tisha Campbell). Choice comedic appearances by the likes of Martin, John Candy and Bill Murray only enhance the production’s rollicking, darkly humorous screenplay, though things ultimately went too dark when Oz stuck with the stage show’s original, B-movie-inspired ending. With preview audiences responding negatively to it, the ending was changed to provide a storybook conclusion, though for some the alteration compromised the story’s integrity.
For many years the original ending languished on home video in the form of a rare, black-and-white outtake, but now viewers can see it re-constructed and re-integrated with the feature in the form of a sanctioned Director’s Cut. Though some of the pacing needs fine tuning and there are some unfinished aspects to the soundtrack, seeing the film as it was originally intended counts as a rare treat for first time viewers and long time fans alike. Regardless of one’s preference about the how the film should end, it’s wonderful now to have a choice in the matter, with both the theatrical version and the Director's Cut available on the Blu-ray release.
Video Quality: 4/5
Presented in 1080p with the AVC codec, the transfer approximates the 1.85:1 aspect ratio by filling the entire 16:9 display. The image features strong, inky blacks and deep, rich color, though contrast can be a little inconsistent, most often exhibiting a slight amount of compression that eliminates fine shadow detail. Detail is decent, sometimes looking quite exceptional in close ups and holding up nicely in wide and establishing shots as well. The transition to the restored ending in the Director’s Cut is seamless, with no evidence that the material was physically damaged or compromised in any way. In fact, the theatrical version’s ending now seems more obvious it’s a re-shoot, though without the opportunity to do an A-B comparison most would be hard pressed to point out the differences.
Audio Quality: 4/5
Dialogue and vocals in the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track are consistently clear and detailed, though I admit to having a little trouble understanding some of Audrey’s lines due to her accent and wispy voice. The film’s musical numbers get a great boost with balanced and seamless support in the surround channels, which tend to take priority over any kind of environmental or atmospheric effects. Bass frequencies never quite reach LFE depths, but there are some nice rumbly moments here and there for the subwoofer to handle.
Special Features: 3.5/5
The bonus material includes items from the 14-year old DVD release along with a few new items highlighting the Director’s Cut. Vintage promotional materials round out a solid, if somewhat perfunctory, set of extras.
Audio Commentary with Director Frank Oz: Ported from the DVD release, Oz offers plenty of anecdotes and technical details throughout the course of the film, though some may find his delivery a bit on the monotonous side (ironic considering his renowned character voice work).
Frank Oz and Little Shop of Horrors: The Director’s Cut (10:41, HD): Frank Oz and visual effects artist Richard Conway describe the creation of the ultimately excised original ending, explain why audiences responded so negatively to it, and discuss their personal impressions of the change and the re-creation of the Director’s Cut.
A Story of Little Shop of Horrors (23:04, SD): The 1987 documentary delves into the property’s history from its origination as a last-minute creation of director Roger Corman, to its adaptation into an off-Broadway musical, to a successive adaptation into a theatrical feature. The piece includes interviews with Corman, director Frank Oz, producer David Geffen, actors Rick Moranis and Ellen Green, and the technicians behind the creation and animation of the Audrey II animatronic puppet.
Outtakes and Deleted Scenes (8:42, SD): The material includes an optional commentary with director Frank Oz, but overall he doesn’t have much to say other than a few random observations and bits of trivia.
Director’s Cut Ending with Frank Oz Commentary (22:01, HD): Focusing mostly on the technical aspects of the scenes, Oz repeats some of the information from the earlier featurette, but overall the two pieces complement each other well.
Teaser Trailer (1:09, SD)
Theatrical Trailer (2:07, SD)
Collectible Book: Printed material incorporated into the packaging includes an essay about the film, actor and crew biographies, and numerous photographs from the film’s production and promotion.
The Film: 4.5/5
Video Quality: 4/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Special Features: 3.5/5
Overall Score (not an average): 4/5
Warner Home Video has cultivated a great high definition presentation of “Little Shop of Horrors,” director Frank Oz’s expertly handled adaptation of the celebrated off-Broadway stage musical. Incorporating the film’s original ending for the first time, the release stands as a long-awaited treat for fans, though new viewers should also be thrilled with the choice of having both versions of the film available. With bonus material highlighting the restored material, along with items from the previous DVD release, it all adds up to fine, highly recommendable release.