Little Shop of Horrors (1986) (NTSC)
Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Notes-Film To Stage And Back Again; A Happy Ending
Notes-On Location; Audrey II; The Greek Chorus
Audio Commentary-Frank Oz (Director)
Isolated Musical Score
Featurette-Behind The Scenes
|Year Of Production||1986|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (44:52)||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,4||Directed By||Frank Oz|
Warner Home Video
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Isolated Music Score Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Video Format||480i (NTSC)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Little Shop Of Horrors is one of my favourite movies. I love both the storyline and the music. Unfortunately, I missed out on buying the first R1 release, not realising that it would only be on the market for a very short time before it was withdrawn from sale. It was withdrawn because of the inclusion of the original ending (that test audiences did not like) as an extra. This is despite it being the ending used in the off-Broadway musical that the film is based on. The producer, David Geffen, had not approved the release of that footage on the DVD and thus it was withdrawn. I believe that copies appear from time to time on auction sites, invariably with quite large reserve prices. We learn a lot about this ending during the director's commentary - he basically talks us through which sequences are original and which are re-shot, and fills in the missing parts.
(SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) I have to agree with the test audiences here - I am a sucker for a happy ending. This is especially important here as the script, acting and stage presence of our two main characters almost guarantees that you will fall in love with them and to see them anything but happy would be a real tragedy.
Originally this was a very low budget schlock horror film that was shot in an incredible two days and later went on to be a cult classic. This film is available in R4 on DVD - you can read our review here. From this humble beginning, the story went on to become a very successful off-Broadway musical and then it returned to celluloid as this film.
I don't think that I was the only person to be surprised at the quality of Rick Moranis' voice; Suddenly Seymour quickly became a particular favourite of mine. Of course this is a duet, and the other half is the incredible voice of Ellen Greene. Ellen is the only person from the stage musical to also appear in the film. She plays her role with a wonderfully appropriate accent, one that she manages to maintain while singing. It is only at the top of her register that she loses the accent. Considering the accent involved, I regard this as an incredible achievement. As mentioned above, Suddenly Seymour is a favourite of mine from this film as is Somewhere That's Green. The entire musical tapestry of this film is great and moves from scene to scene and song to song in a wonderfully integrated fashion. Another great voice in this film is that of Levi Stubbs from the Four Tops. He gives voice to the plant and of course does a fantastic job.
The list of fantastic actors and performances just keeps coming in this film. Steve Martin plays a dentist and his theme song springs into my mind every time I even look at a dental surgery, let alone enter one. He creates a character that is absolutely despicable but at the same time funny, a difficult tightrope act at the best of times. The guest stars include Bill Murray, James Belushi, John Candy and Christopher Guest.
To top off and direct all this talent is Frank Oz. The director's commentary that accompanies this film is one of the best that I have heard. Not only can this director create wonderful films, but he can articulate the process and art that he practises. There are many great directors out there, but not many can convey what they do in the way that Frank Oz does.
The story is a simple one; a boy, a girl and a man-eating plant, all set to music. Seymour Krelborn lives with a flower shop owner that took him in as a child. The shop is located in skid row and is not doing well. Audrey also works at the same shop. Audrey's current boyfriend is a dentist, a mean sadistic and rather stupid dentist that beats her up on a regular basis. In an attempt to increase business, Seymour suggests that they place a plant in the window. A plant that he discovered just after an unexpected total eclipse of the sun. While his plan works, there is something very strange about this plant. Not only does it like to eat meat - human meat at that - but it sings! It metaphorically takes Seymour up to the mountain top and offers him all the riches of the world, or at least the girl that he hungers after and lots of money. Caught between money, love and the Motown Triffid, Seymour must find a way to save himself, the girl he loves, and maybe even the world.
All the above, of course, is the good news. Now the bad news. This is another of Warner Home Video's NTSC R4 releases. If you don't know what that little red triangle on the top right corner of the DVD case (the one that says "NTSC Region 4") means then you may be in for trouble. Your equipment must be capable of displaying an NTSC signal or your DVD player must be capable of converting NTSC to at least PAL 60 if not true PAL. You must also be willing to accept 3:2 shudder on all pans, less than perfect colour reproduction and black levels that are not black, not to mention less resolution.
Presented close to its original 1.85:1, this transfer is in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. Sharpness is pretty good, although it loses a few points to the grain and a few more during movement. Look at the people in the car as it goes past at 12:54 - they look barely human. Shadow detail is good but the blacks may cause you a few problems. Unless your player or display device automatically detects an NTSC signal and compensates for the black level of 7.5 IRE that NTSC uses as black, then you will see an image that contains very dark greys instead of black. If you notice this, a temporary lowering of the brightness control will be required. There is a small amount of low level noise triggered by the grain. There is a strange spot variation in the brightness from time-to-time, probably again caused by the grain. It can be annoying at times, such as in the background at 21:02.
The colours are well rendered, though again are slightly affected by grain.
MPEG artefacts are limited to almost constant mosquito noise triggered by the ever-present grain. The pan at 13:10 shows this at its worst. This minor pixelization does detract somewhat from the image but we should probably make some allowances for age here. I did not notice any wobble or aliasing. There are very few film artefacts beside the grain with fairly clean masters being used for the transfer. There is some minor edge enhancement present - look at the left elbow at 25:21 for an example (her left, not yours).
There are English, French and Spanish subtitles included on this disc. The English titles are about 99% accurate and easy to read. The only time they really get tripped up is in overlapping songs where two characters are singing something slightly different, but that is only to be expected.
This is an RSDL disc with the layer change placed at 44:52. It is on a scene change and works pretty well.
There are 5 audio tracks on this disc. The main English soundtrack is in Dolby Digital 5.1. The second English track is the Director's commentary, presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 with the surround flag set. The French soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 with the surround flag set and the Spanish soundtrack is Dolby Digital 1.0. The final track is an isolated music score presented in Dolby Digital 2.0, also with the surround bit set.
I listened to the main 5.1 soundtrack completely and then made comparison to the 2.0 isolated score. The 5.1 is definitely brighter and clearer and is the soundtrack of choice for the music. The vocals are also mixed slightly higher than in comparison to the 2.0. I wonder why they chose to put the isolated score in 2.0 instead of using 5.1, as they already had this track available. This is a shame as I quite like putting on isolated scores as an audio disc to listen to without the distraction of dialogue and other sound effects.
There are absolutely no problems with the dialogue quality, either spoken or sung. Despite all of the songs being lip-synched, I noticed no occasions where it appeared to be out.
The music is wonderful in this film. I personally put this film in the same category as The Rocky Horror Show and The Blues Brothers; a wonderful soundtrack with a great story. The music is interwoven with the story perfectly and can really lift your spirits.
The surrounds for the main Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack are very well done. They help produce a wonderfully expansive soundstage that surrounds you with the music. The choice of material to place in the surrounds is interesting: the backing music is placed in the surrounds, as are the backing vocals, while the main vocal material is locked to the centre channel. Have a listen to the song at 30:05 where the three girls that provide the chorus alternate between chorus and solo. The chorus is in the surrounds, the solos are in the centre. An excellent job by the sound engineers. My only complaint, and it is a minor one, is that occasionally the drums are a little too prominent in the surrounds causing me to turn my head unexpectedly towards the surrounds.
The subwoofer is used to support the music and on some occasions where appropriate, such as the plant moving when it is very large.
|Surround Channel Use|
Presented at 1.85:1 and 16x9 enhanced, this is a nice, simple, themed menu. Simple animated plant feelers drag in the menu selections accompanied by a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.
The first page on the special features menu has six entries. The first five, as outlined below are all text pages with some pictures. They are all at 1.85:1 and 16x9 enhanced and have no audio. The sixth entry takes you to the next menu that has the remaining special features.
There are fourteen entries on this screen. They include the main cast members and the director, producer, writer and composer. The kicker is that not all of these entries are selectable. Nine are selectable and take you to a number of text pages along with a photo of the person. The information includes a very brief biography and filmography.
Three text pages telling you a very short history of the story.
Three pages talking about the test audiences dislike of the original ending and the reshoot that was done.
Four pages telling us a little about the '007' soundstage at Pinewood Studios in England, which was the largest in the world at the time.
Five pages about the development of the plant and deciding who was to be the voice.
Two pages about the three girls that appear in various parts of the film.
One of the best I have heard. I learnt a lot about the film and about the art of film-making. I was fascinated to learn about the intricacies and difficulties involved with creating a musical. At one point in the film, Steve Martin's character is singing while entering a building. The musical phrase that he sings coming along the corridor is a certain number of beats long. As the director wanted the next phrase to be exactly when he opens the door into the next room and Martin was walking in time with the music, the corridor had to be built an exact number of paces long from the front door to the next. This kind of detailed planning, which took a very long time, pays off in a film that is on-the-money in every respect.
The commentary is somewhat unusual in that they did not mute the main soundtrack when Frank was talking but only lowered the volume. I am undecided if this was a good thing, as occasionally there was competition between the two soundtracks, sometimes dividing your attention and obscuring the occasional word. The audio track is Dolby Digital 2.0.
As mentioned above, this track is somewhat disappointing and pales in comparison to the Dolby Digital 5.1 track.
A series of outtakes and deleted scenes along with some gag reel material that the crew put together with explanatory commentary by Frank Oz. There is some great stuff in here, but alas not the famous alternate ending, though there is about ten seconds from that ending where the giant plants are eating the city. Presented at 1.33:1 and not 16x9 enhanced, the audio is Dolby Digital 1.0.
A fascinating look at the evolution of the original film, the stage play and then this film. Told with interviews with many of the people involved with inserted footage letterboxed at 1.85:1. The documentary is presented at 1.33:1 (not 16x9 enhanced) and accompanied by a Dolby Digital 1.0 soundtrack.
Two TV spots advertising the film. Fearless Hero (0:37) and Cast (0:37) are both presented at 1.33:1 and accompanied by a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.
Two theatrical trailers, Trailer 1 (2:09) and Trailer 2 (1:11). Trailer 1 is presented, somewhat strangely, at 2.35:1. It is cropped top and bottom to create this aspect ratio. It is accompanied by a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack with the surround flag set. Trailer 2 is presented at the film's correct aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is accompanied by a Dolby Digital 1.0 soundtrack.
If this was a PAL disc it would be in the must-own category. If this is all we are going to get, then it probably still is in that category, but only just. The film is fantastic, and when you hear that any scene with the big version of the plant was filmed at 16 frames per second and that the actors had to move and lip sync at this slower rate so that it could be speeded up later, your respect for all involved just gets higher.
The video is a little disappointing.
The audio is wonderful.
The extras are also very good.
|DVD||Skyworth 1050p progressive scan, using RGB output|
|Display||Sony 1252q CRT Projector, Screen Technics matte white screen 16:9 (223cm). Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.|
|Speakers||B&W DM305 (mains); CC3 (centre); S100 (surrounds); custom Adire Audio Tempest with Redgum plate amp (subwoofer)|