It's another not particularly busy day at the florist's owned by Gravis Mushnik (Mel Welles) and he's trying to complete a sale with Mrs Shiva (Leola Wendorff) who is looking for flowers for yet another funeral. Meanwhile, his lowly assistant Seymour Krelboyne (Jonathan Haze) sings his heart out in the back room, not the best accompaniment when Mushnik is trying to be respectful. The telephone rings and it's the dentist Dr Farb (John Herman Shaner) on the line asking for a whole two gladioli and one fern for his office, not the best order Mushnik has ever received. Yes, business could be better, but things may well pick up when Seymour's experiments with seed growing take off: the naive lad has just cultivated something highly unusual...
Legend has it that The Little Shop of Horrors was one of producer and director Roger Corman's speediest productions, a mere two days of filming in total. The truth - well, the truth doesn't matter when the legend is so good, although it certainly holds up when you see the amount of money that was spent on it, or the lack of it. The whole thing, the climactic chase sequence excepted, looks like a filmed play, with the world's least populated flower shop the main set, although they seem to have gone to town on the building of the man eating plant that serves as the film's villain.
Did I mention the man eating plant? Named Audrey Junior after Mushnik's other assistant Audrey (Jackie Joseph) who is the adoring Seymour's equal in intelligence and sweet nature, the plant starts out as a little bud that happens to open when Seymour accidentally drops some of his own blood into it. Thereafter, now its owner knows the thing is carnivorous, it demands flesh to eat - human flesh and it's not backward about coming forward. This plant can talk, shouting "Feed me!" (in the voice of inventive scriptwriter Charles B. Griffith), and has a needy personality that Seymour responds to, much as he does to his hypochondriac mother (Myrtle Vail). In fact, Seymour can be viewed Audrey Junior's mother in his own idiosyncratic way, more so than its father funnily enough.
The film is packed with actors and actresses doing their best to steal an admittedly impoverished film from each other, and one of the finest is Dick Miller as Burson Fouch, the story's plant eating man, a chap who likes nothing better than to feast on fresh flowers - watch him upstage his fellow cast members whenever he's onscreen. Also worth a mention, and difficult to ignore considering his following career, is Jack Nicholson as Wilbur Force, a grinning and masochistic dental patient who Seymour ends up operating on after he's accidentally killed the real dentist. This may be a black comedy, but Seymour cannot be blamed for what he feeds Audrey Junior, he never means to bump victims off and drop them into the plant, it simply happens that way. Add in a Dragnet parody and enough smart wordplay ("I could eat a hearse!") to keep events bubbling away, and you have no budget fun that against the odds produces laughter. Music by Fred Katz.