Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Portrait of a Badass: Audrey II

Character: Audrey II
Actor: Levi Stubbs (voice)
Film: Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
Badass Moment: Twoie sings "Feed Me"

I saw Roger Corman's original 1960 B-horror film The Little Shop of Horrors for the first time when I was a kindergartener. Or most of it, anyway; it was being projected in a park in Minneapolis and I think I fell asleep and was taken home by my parents before the ending. Kind of a gruesome film for a little tyke, in retrospect. Fast forward to the VHS release of Frank Oz's film based on the stage musical based on the Roger Corman film, and one would see a nine-year-old me singing along with one of very few musicals I would ever deem "un-stupid." The damage was done. At a very tender age I had been inundated with images of sadistic dentists and man-eating plants.

The plant in question is Audrey II (affectionately called Twoie), whose soulful singing voice serves to convince geeky flower shop employee Seymour Krelborn (Rick Moranis) to feed her as many unfortunate humans as possible. Over the course of the film, viewers witness Audrey II's gradual transformation from a cute little flytrap, to an obnoxious, man-sized adolescent, to a bellicose, room-sized threat to humanity. And all to the tune of one of the catchiest soundtracks ever to deal with the topic of horticultural manslaughter.

Fans of the Corman film and the stage play with their tragic/comic endings might have taken issue with the remake's radically different climax, in which Seymour and Twoie face off in an explosive (literally, explosive) battle to the finish. The way I see it, the ending of the 1986 version is a prime example of the disasters that can come of market research. The remake originally called for a final scene in which giant flytraps run amok, destroying New York City, crawling up the Statue of Liberty, etc. This scene was shown to test audiences in an unfinished state; it was black and white with rudimentary visual effects. I'm willing to bet money that the test audiences saw this and, completely missing the point of the test screening, said "I didn't like the ending," because it looked crappy.

People are stupid that way. I used to work for a market research group that showed movie trailers, sometimes with unfinished effects, and no matter how many times you tell the test audience that the film is not yet finished, they ignore you and say dumb things like, "Why does Lara Croft look like a computer-generated wireframe?" The studio, in turn, misinterprets the test audience's gripe and makes radical changes to the film. Stupid, stupid market research.

Audrey II, you are a mean, green badass from outer space. We salute you.

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