The Little Shop of Horrors (Roger Corman / U.S., 1960):

Theory of Creation, for the artist with bandaged fingers. "Who am I to argue with science?" The jumping-off point might be the squealing seedlings from The Thing from Another World, a jocular variation materializes in Mushnick's flower shop in a Skid Row California out of the Fifties but not quite yet into the counterculture. The nudnik (Jonathan Haze) makes a living tripping over things in the store, the merchant (Mel Welles) is about to send him out the door when he reveals his botanical experiment, a flytrap hybrid named after the ditzy ingenué (Jackie Joseph). Mineral water does nothing to the wilting snapper but bloody droplets make it grow "like a cold sore from the lip," nightly snacks of body parts are soon required if the trophy from the Society of Silent Flower Watchers is to be won. "Shut up and bring on the chow!" Roger Corman's brilliant vaudeville on the theme of success—a companion piece to A Bucket of Blood as a Yiddish fable framed by a mock-Dragnet investigation, all speed and vinegar. A mutant aestheticism for "that meshugganah plant," answered by the connoisseur (Dick Miller) who's "crazy about kosher flowers." (He orders a bouquet of carnations and reaches for the saltshaker in his pocket.) Two days of shooting are more than enough when the screenplay is Charles B. Griffith's richest, more than enough to excite Beckett's jealousy as the hero's head pops out of a toilet in the middle of a tire junkyard. Welles' kveching master-class and Myrtle Vail's cough-syrup toast are but two gems in a most inspired ensemble, and then there's Jack Nicholson's unforgettable turn as a bow-tied masochist giggling himself into a climax under the dentist's drill ("No novocaine. It dulls the senses"). The punchline is a literal blossoming, along the way there are foretastes of The Loved One and Eraserhead. With Karin Kupcinet, Toby Michaels, Leola Wendorff, John Herman Shaner, and Lynn Storey. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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