This was a long time coming. Muppet man Frank Oz’s take on Roger Corman’s no-budget two-day wonder famously flopped in cinemas despite a prestigious production peppered with star turns. 1986 wasn’t a good time to be opening a film that mixed horror parody with science fiction and retro-pop songs, but there was another problem; Ellen Greene, who played squeaky-voice Audrey (the only transferring Broadway cast member) was so good that when she died onscreen, audience sympathy died with her.
A reshoot was hastily scheduled with a tacked-on happy ending that felt completely false and killed the film in its tracks – that’s what happens when you bow to audience research. Give the public what it wants and you end up with the Edsel.
For years, the original ending has been lurking around on YouTube as a scratched monochrome work print – it’s probably on this site somewhere – but it’s taken years for the director’s official cut to surface as a polished colour print on Blu-Ray. So what did we miss?
Well, an extended homage to Ray Harryhausen was what went out, as the plants grow to take over the world and demolish a city, destroying a train as in the original King Kong and smashing through a cinema showing ‘Jason And The Argonauts’. The lengthy sequence is a pitch-perfect parody of early sixties monster movies, and ends with one of the creatures bursting through the movie screen.
On the extras, Frank Oz explains the changes and there are a few pointless outtakes, but it’s good to see the film restored to its correct colours and sharp definition.