No medium is too new to produce a collector’s item. DVD claimed its first in February when Warner Home Video mysteriously recalled Little Shop of Horrors: Special Edition just a week after release, sending aficionados of both the format and the offbeat movie musical scrambling to find copies in stores with sluggish stock boys. Hardly defective, the coveted disc actually sported one bonus too many: the original 23-minute ending, heretofore seen only by 1986 preview audiences, who got so angry when Rick Moranis and Ellen Greene were eaten by the movie’s basso profundo-voiced plant that director Frank Oz was forced to shoot a cheerful capper, scrapping the leads’ death scenes and a sardonic, effects-filled epilogue in which Godzilla-size flora conquer the world.
Warner wouldn’t say exactly why this footage died a second death, but producer David Geffen cops to rumors he was behind it. ”Of course I objected,” says Geffen. ”They put out a black-and-white, unscored, undubbed video copy of the original ending [that] looked like s—.” Adds Oz: ”David called and was kind of upset it was coming out, because he always wanted to rerelease the movie. And while I had a black-and-white version of that ending, David has it in color, and I didn’t realize that.”
The intended Faustian climax — as conceived by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken — worked swell off Broadway. But Oz recalls test audiences who ”were ecstatic, applauding every number — until Rick and Ellen died, and then it turned stony silent. I learned a lesson: In the theater, your main characters die and come back for a curtain call, but in the movies, they’re dead, and audiences are annoyed at you.” Greene, who had no inkling of the DVD (”Should I go see if I can find it?” she asked), remembers rationalizing that ”audiences’ not wanting to lose us was a compliment, I suppose.” But Oz wonders if ”maybe we’re okay to see this kind of dark, grotesque ending now.” If he and Geffen ever find time to touch up the footage for a theatrical rerelease, there could be a happy ending for the tragicomic finale yet.