When asked where Seymour got the plant, he replies that the seeds were obtained by a Japanese gardener who found the bulb in a "plantation next to a cranberry farm." This joke is lost on modern audiences. In 1959, it was announced that cranberry crops were tainted with traces of the herbicide aminotriazole, and as a result, cranberry sales plummeted.
A young Jack Nicholson has only a small part as Farb's masochistic patient, Wilbur Force. Later, however, as the actor's career began to take off, he was prominently featured on the home-video releases to help generate interest in the film.
Charles B. Griffith stood off-screen providing the voice of Audrey Junior as a reference for the actors and actresses. The voice of the plant was supposed to be dubbed in by another actor in post-production, but Griffith's vocalization of the plant got laughs, and Producer and Director Roger Corman was notoriously cheap, so his voice remained in the final print of the film.
The shooting schedule for this film was two days and one night, because Roger Corman had made a bet that he could make a movie in two days. Charles B. Griffith took a little more than that to write it.
Charles B. Griffith put several of his relatives in the film; Myrtle Vail, "Grandmother" Myrt, for example, is actually his grandmother, and the hobo who Dr. Farb tortures in his office is Griffith's father. He also placed several of his relatives in crowd scenes. The bums in the background of the street shots on Skid Row are real transients, however, and were filmed in the actual skid row area of Los Angeles, California.
Charles B. Griffith not only wrote most of the screenplay, he also appears (uncredited) as the screaming dental patient who runs out of Dr. Farb's office, the burglar who breaks into the flower shop, and the voice of Audrey Junior.
Remade as a successful stage musical that was later adapted into the film Little Shop of Horrors (1986). The success of the musical led to the animated series Little Shop (1991), which director, Roger Corman served as a consultant on.
The manager of Producer's Studio informed Roger Corman that a large office set had been constructed for a production that was about to wrap. Corman arranged to use the standing set, redressed, as the main set of this film.
Howard R. Cohen learned from Charles B. Griffith that when the film was being edited, "there was a point where two scenes would not cut together. It was just a visual jolt, and it didn't work. And they needed something to bridge that moment. They found in the editing room a nice shot of the moon, and they cut it in, and it worked. Twenty years go by. I'm at the studio one day. Chuck comes running up to me, says, 'You've got to see this!' It was a magazine article--eight pages on the symbolism of the moon in Little Shop of Horrors."
Griffith and Welles paid a group of children five cents apiece to run out of a subway tunnel. They were also able to persuade winos to appear as extras for ten cents apiece. "The winos would get together, two or three of them, and buy pints of wine for themselves! We also had a couple of the winos act as ramrods--sort of like production assistants--and put them in charge of the other wino extras." Griffith and Welles also persuaded a funeral home to donate a hearse and coffin--with a real corpse inside--for the film shoot. Griffith and Welles were able to use the nearby Southern Pacific Transportation Company yard for an entire evening using two bottles of scotch as persuasion.
Jack Nicholson, recounting the reaction to a screening of the film, states that the audience "laughed so hard I could barely hear the dialogue. I didn't quite register it right. It was as if I had forgotten it was a comedy since the shoot. I got all embarrassed because I'd never really had such a positive response before."
It had been rumored that the film's shooting schedule was based on a bet that Corman could not complete a film within that time. However, this claim has been denied by Mel Welles. According to Joseph, Corman shot the film quickly in order to beat changing industry rules that would have prevented producers from "buying out" an actor's performance in perpetuity. On January 1, 1960, new rules were to go into effect requiring producers to pay all actors residuals for all future releases of their work. This meant that Corman's B-movie business model would be permanently changed and he would not be able to produce low-budget movies in the same way. Before these rules went into effect, Corman decided to shoot one last film and scheduled it to happen the last week in December 1959.
Interiors were shot with three cameras in wide, lingering master shots in single takes. Welles states that Corman "had two camera crews on the set--that's why the picture, from a cinematic standpoint, is really not very well done. The two camera crews were pointed in opposite directions so that we got both angles, and then other shots were 'picked up' to use in between, to make it flow. It was a pretty fixed set and it was done sort of like a sitcom is done today, so it wasn't very difficult."
At the time of shooting, Jack Nicholson had appeared in two films, and had worked with Roger Corman as the lead in The Cry Baby Killer. According to Nicholson, "I went in to the shoot knowing I had to be very quirky because Roger originally hadn't wanted me. In other words, I couldn't play it straight. So I just did a lot of weird shit that I thought would make it funny."
According to Nicholson, "we never did shoot the end of the scene. This movie was pre-lit. You'd go in, plug in the lights, roll the camera, and shoot. We did the take outside the office and went inside the office, plugged in, lit and rolled. Jonathan Haze was up on my chest pulling my teeth out. And in the take, he leaned back and hit the rented dental machinery with the back of his leg and it started to tip over. Roger didn't even call cut. He leapt onto the set, grabbed the tilting machine, and said 'Next set, that's a wrap.'" By 9 am of the first day, Corman was informed by the production manager that he was behind schedule.
The scene in which a character portrayed by Robert Coogan is run over by a train was accomplished by persuading the railroad crew to back the locomotive away from the actor. The shot was later printed in reverse.
During a scene in which writer Charles B. Griffith plays the robber, Griffith remembers that "When [Welles] and I forgot my lines, I improvised a little, but then I was the writer. I was allowed to." However, Welles states that "Absolutely none of it was ad-libbed [...] every word in Little Shop was written by Chuck Griffith, and I did ninety-eight pages of dialogue in two days."
The film's musical score, written by cellist Fred Katz, was originally written for A Bucket of Blood. According to Mark Thomas McGee, author of Roger Corman: The Best of the Cheap Acts, each time Katz was called upon to write music for Corman, Katz sold the same score as if it were new music. The score was used in a total of seven films, including The Wasp Woman and Creature from the Haunted Sea. Katz explained that his music for the film was created by a music editor piecing together selections from other soundtracks that he had produced for Corman.
Opening credits: All events, characters, firms and institutions in this photoplay are fictional and any similarity to any persons, living or dead, or to any actual events, firms and institutions is coincidental and unintentional.