How “Little Shop of Horrors” got its ending back

little shop of horrors

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“Little Shop Of Horrors: The Director’s Cut” hits shelves today, and for those involved with assembling this version of the 1986 big-screen musical, the task amounted to more than just cutting and pasting a few archived scenes and adding the original, 20-minute ending that was scrapped after test audiences found it too dark and depressing. In many ways, the process of restoring the initial ending for the film — in which an army of monstrous alien plants destroys the nation’s largest cities — was an archeological quest of cinematic proportions, complete with missing frames scattered around the world, some creative editing of existing material, and the chance to right a few wrongs that left key figures in the film’s development out of the picture until now.

Leading the charge to give “Little Shop Of Horrors” the director’s cut it deserved was Kurt Galvao, Warner Bros. Pictures’ Vice President of Assets & Technology/Post Production, whose work on 2007’s “Final Cut” edition of Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner” earned high praise from fans and stands out as one of the most highly praised (both for its content and quality) versions of the sic-fi classic to date.

During a recent press junket for the Blu-ray release of the “Little Shop” director’s cut, IFC spoke with Galvao and director Frank Oz about the painstaking process of giving the world the ending the film should’ve had from the start.

“The most important thing was not to draw people away from the story because of the new ending,” Galvao told IFC. “Going into this, I knew it had to have the same amount of grain and the same warmth, color-wise. And I wanted to make sure, sound-wise, that it sounded the same [as the rest of the movie] and just… flowed. To achieve that, first we had to find the parts of each of the original pieces.”

And this was no small task, according to Galvao, whose team found themselves digging through piles of reels in Los Angeles, London, and Kansas in order to locate the missing film. With much of the film initially shot in London, the masters stored in L.A., and a massive vault of reels archived in Kansas (in order to protect the material from earthquakes), pulling everything together quickly became a globe-hopping endeavor.

Finally, on top of any logistical concerns, the rushed re-shoot of the film’s ending more than two decades ago left elements like the music, sound, and portions of the footage that would’ve been tweaked before release painfully incomplete.

“I started searching at Warner Bros., obviously, and from there to the deep mines of Kansas where there were some films, and followed the paperwork trail to London,” laughed Galvao.

“It was difficult finding all the pieces,” he said. “They weren’t where the boxes said they were, but we went through every piece, and I had guys on boxes for weeks looking at every frame. It took about a year and a half to pull it all together. And then on the sound side, we had to locate the original track of singing, get the original tracks in there, and find the dialogue tracks from the dailies. Some of them had damage, so we had to filter out the damage in some cases.”

Along with filtering out some of the negative effects of time, Galvao and his team were also called upon to add upon the existing material — a task that was actually made easier by the 26 years that had elapsed since the film’s premiere.

“We’re lucky to be in a digital world where we can scan the original negatives and have that as our base, then find all of the other elements of the other parts and recreate what they were originally trying to finish,” explained Galvao. “That included a lot of the optical effects, but back then the visual effects were all optically based. They didn’t have digital effects. So what I tried to do with our team was to stick with using all those frames of optical effects at whatever extent they were finished at, and then finish them digitally. But we always had to keep that look from the optical effects. We didn’t want it to be squeaky clean, so we actually had to add some grain here and there.”

Restoring the ending for “Little Shop Of Horrors” also gave Galvao and Oz the opportunity to see some of their favorite elements from the original finale returned to their proper place in the film. Oz told IFC he was particularly happy to give model designer Richard Conway a call to let him know that the massive amount of miniatures he had created — and subsequently destroyed — for the final montage of plants conquering the world would finally get its time in the spotlight.

For Galvao, one of the highlights of the restoration process was putting actor Paul Dooley back into the film. In the original ending for “Little Shop,” Dooley appears as a businessman who tells Seymour (Rick Moranis) that, thanks to some cuttings he took from the plant, his company has plans to mass-market “Audrey II” seedlings and make it the next big thing to fly off the shelves. This is followed by scenes of shoppers buying up the plants all around the country, which then leads into the destruction they cause around the world.

When the call came down for re-shoots, Dooley wasn’t available to film new scenes, and James Belushi was swapped in for Dooley’s role. Dooley was later given a “Special Thanks” in the credits, but never appeared in the theatrical version of the film.

“One thing that was really, really great was finding the piece with Paul Dooley and putting it back in there,” said Galvao.

For Galvao, when it comes to these restoration projects, the task of piecing everything back together is more than just a job — it’s personal.

“It becomes my baby, too,” he laughed. “I know Frank is the genius and the one who created it, but when I take one of these on, it’s my child. It’s a labor of love doing one of these, just like it is originally creating it. I just can’t stand seeings something that was slapped together put out there, so I like getting it down to the exact way it was meant to be and then making it as pretty as possible.”

“Little Shop Of Horrors: The Director’s Cut” is available now on Blu-ray. Make sure to checkout our extended interview with director Frank Oz and star Ellen Greene here on IFC.com.

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Watch the two-part finale of Documentary Now! this Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

In its upcoming two-part finale, Documentary Now! spoofs the crown jewel of docs: The Kid Stays In The Picture. It’s the autobiographical documentary about Robert Evans, the unlikely Hollywood mogul whose mix of self-aggrandizing bravado, classic good looks and extremely circumstantial good luck took him from being a salesman to an actor to the head of Paramount Pictures.

If you’ve never seen the film, it’s totally worth it. Rotten Tomatoes agrees, with a staggeringly-high approval rating. Watch it before, or watch it after — doesn’t matter. You’ll appreciate it whenever.

In the meantime, here’s a bit of background that will come in handy…

Robert Loves Robert

Robert Evans desk

USA Films/Everett Collection

Robert Evans is the ultimate Robert Evans fan. The movie was narrated by Robert Evans and based on his memoir of the same name. It is totally unbiased.

He’s Kind Of A Big Deal

Robert Evans, Chinatown
Paramount Pictures

Evans produced some of Hollywood’s true classics: Chinatown, Rosemary’s Baby, The Godfather, Love Story…the list goes on. Totally legit and amazing movies.

He’s Also Kind Of A Joke

Wag The Dog
New Line Cinema

Evans has been parodied in TV shows and movies like Entourage and Wag The Dog. He is the quintessential “producer” you already have in your head.

So Wrong He’s Right

Robert Evans Slap
20th Century Film Corp

Robert Evans is a notorious narcissist whose love of self is so blind and sincere that it’s actually adorable.

There’s Something Missing

via Giphy

Entire sections of Robert Evans’ life are left out of the documentary. Maybe it’s because of timing. Maybe it’s because real life isn’t a tidy narrative. Who knows.

He Blew It

Spider coke

Evans had a pretty spectacular fall from grace. He was convicted of cocaine trafficking in the early 80’s, and was connected to a contract killing during the production of The Cotton Club. Oops.

Losing Is For Losers

Everett Collection
Everett Collection

In the Robert Evans mythology, all tragedies are just triumphs in disguise, and every story has a happy ending…for Robert Evans.

Bill Hader Jerry Wallach

With these simple facts in hand you are now prepared to thoroughly enjoy the two-part finale of Documentary Now! starting this Wednesday at 10/9c on IFC.

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Catch Anthony Michael Hall in Weird Science on Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

Anthony Michael Hall was the quintessential ’80s nerd. We love him in classics like The Breakfast Club and National Lampoon’s Vacation. But even the brainiest among us has his weak spots. In honor of Weird Science airing this Rotten Friday, we analyze Hall’s worst movies.

Weird Science (1985) 56%

A low point for John Hughes, Weird Science is way too wacky for its own good. Anthony Michael Hall’s Gary and his pal Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) create the “perfect woman.” Supernatural chaos ensues. The film costars a young Bill Paxton, floppy disks, and a general disconnect from all reality.

The Caveman’s Valentine (2001) 46%

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All About the Benjamins (2002) 30%

Ice Cube plays a bounty hunter who teams up with Mike Epps’ con man to catch diamond thieves. Hall plays Lil J, a small-time drug dealer. It’s definitely a role we’ve never seen Hall in, but overall the movie isn’t funny or original enough to justify its violence.

Freddy Got Fingered (2001) 11%

This showcase for Tom Green’s goofy gross-out comedy is often hailed as one of the worst films of all time. Green plays Gord, a 20-something slacker, who dreams of having his own animated series. Hall is Dave Davidson, a CEO of an animation studio who eventually helps Gord find success. Too bad Tom Green wasn’t so lucky.

Johnny Be Good (1988) 0%

Hall plays against type as Johnny Walker, a star quarterback. Robert Downey Jr. is his best friend and Uma Thurman plays his devoted girlfriend. Despite the support of a future A-list cast, the movie lacks central conflict and charm. Or, as TV Guide put it, “Johnny be worthless.” Ouch.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” Weird Science this Friday at 8P on IFC.

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The perfect addition to your locally-sourced, artisanal DVD collection.

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End of summer got you feeling like:

Portlandia Toni Screaming GIF

Ease into fall with Portlandia‘s sixth season. Relive the latest exploits of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s cast of characters, including Doug and Claire’s poignant breakup, Lance’s foray into intellectual society, and the terrifying rampage of a tsukemen Noodle Monster! Plus, guest stars The Flaming Lips, Glenn Danzig, Louis C.K., Kevin Corrigan, Zoë Kravitz, and more stop by to experience what Portlandia is all about.

Pick up a copy of the DVD today, or watch full episodes and series extras now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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