Notes from the Last Drive-In: S3E10 – The Little Shop of Horrors and Humanoids from the Deep
Tonight a living legend (who isn’t Joe Bob Briggs) makes an appearance on the show as Roger Corman walks us through The Little Shop of Horrors and Humanoids from the Deep. Can you believe it? Another season of The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs is over and done. We are also leaving the cabin in New Jersey, where the show has been since the pandemic started. It was a great night with solid movies and a sense of transition that, as we have seen on the show before, may also work as a series finale until Shudder finally confirms season 4.
So, how were the movies? What absurd cosplay did Darcy whip up? How many dogs were killed on screen this week? Let’s find out!
The Little Shop of Horrors (1960)
Opening: There is only one type of gym that gets the Joe Bob seal of approval: a real shithole.
Shot in the tail-end of the 1950s over the span of two days, Roger Corman’s The Little Shop of Horrors is one of those important chapters of film history as a foundational independent project. Roger Corman directed the film, written by Charles B. Griffith. There is some suggestion the film could have been inspired by few other carnivorous plant stories floating around, but that is a murky debate. The film also should not be confused with the later Broadway musical, which was the foundation of Frank Oz’s 1986 film. All of this emphasizes the influence of this film, and more to the point, Roger Corman on the world of film as Drive-In fans and mutants have come to know it.
The Little Shop of Horrors stars Jonathan Haze, Jackie Joseph, Mel Welles, and Dick Miller with a very brief appearance by Jack Nicholson, which became a major part of advertising the film in the decades since release. The whole cast is filled with Corman’s regulars, who could pull together an incredibly tight production. The movie follows Seymour Krelboined, a gardener in Mushnick’s flower shop who raises a strange plant that blossoms when it feeds on blood. What follows is a black comedy with elements of farce, rapid-fire dialogue, and a little bit of then-contemporary spoof. The cast finds themselves learning about the hunger of the plant and sometimes succumbing to it.
As a whole, the film is great. It is worth every bit of praise it deserves, even without factoring in the incredible circumstances of its production and conception. And Roger Corman, more known for his latter role as a producer, has great directorial chops here, rounding up disparate elements into a workable and compelling story. With that being said, sometimes the lassoing of broader ideas is a little more obvious. The dental scene, a classic, feels like more of an aside than a pivotal part of moving the story forward. The entire movie has this quality to an extent, feeling very stitched together but done well. It is just that some of the seams are fairly obvious. Given the speed at which the film came together, even in scripting, this isn’t surprising and is a testament to the talent of everyone involved. These issues are largely ironed out in Frank Oz’s musical adaptation in the mid-eighties, such as dropping the detectives and their narration.
The film does look rough in spots, with an obvious set for the flower shop, but it is also ridiculously charming, especially the Yiddish-influenced, handmade signs. Any time the movie is set outdoors, however, the screen becomes a blobby, shadowy mess. This isn’t uncommon in black and white films, and The Little Shop of Horrors is another example of this reality of limitations in 1950s films.
The film’s draw is the dialogue and the cast that delivers it with an incredible level of old Hollywood energy. Joe Bob mentioned that during the show, and it is something any film fan would be aware of – the dialogue was just faster back in the day. As for the crew, the four highest-billed actors, except for Nicholson, given his minor role, deliver masterclass performances. Jonathan Haze’s Seymour Krelboined is a neurotic, easily bullied bundle of anxiety that plays off every other character. Much can be said about Mel Welles’ blustery, scene-chewing Gravis Mushnick, but his performance is strengthened by the work Haze puts in. Another example of Haze’s talent comes with nearly any scene involving his hypochondriac mother, played by Myrtle Vail. In those moments, hilarious jokes fly fast, and the energy between them is stunning. Of course, Jackie Joseph is also fantastic as Audrey, playing a charming woman, but not adding much else, fairly common for the time, sadly.
It is no shock that Joe Bob Briggs, a Roger Corman super-fan, has high praise for the film. He provided several great details about the production and crew, but the night’s theme was mostly a tribute to Roger Corman, who served as the final guest of the season. Corman stuck around for both films, and his interviews were fascinating, particularly when it came to the craft of film production. It just seems like further evidence Joe Bob needs a second show where he talks to talent.
One of the best bits from the host segment revolved around just exploring how influential Corman was. He is a modest man, so Joe Bob had to do a lot of the direction of the conversation in that regard, seeding stories for Roger to build on. The stories, though? Incredible, such as Roger’s experiencing taking acting classes and the ridiculous number of contacts he established by taking those classes.
The Little Shop of Horrors is a classic film and an important piece of film history. It is not without its problems, however. Those problems made the film a bit more charming and ultimately allowed Frank Oz’s later adaptation to do its own thing – and quite well. They’re two different experiences grown in the same soil, but each stands on its own. Joe Bob Briggs gave The Little Shop of Horrors four stars, which is a fair, reasonable assessment of the movie. I am more of a fan of the musical, but I can recognize the original as the art it is. I still have some hangups regarding the film’s structure, but it’s definitely an objectively great film. I give it four and a half Cthulhus out of five.(4.5 / 5)
Best Line: “Now, no Novocain. It dulls the senses.” – Wilbur Force, Jack Nicholson’s kinky dental customer.
Humanoids from the Deep (1980)
Opening: Building on the energy of The Little Shop of Horrors… we’ve slowed down as a society.
Ah, Humanoids from the Deep. We are firmly in the Roger Corman production era, and perhaps Roger at his absolute heights as a figure in the industry with this film. Is it the best of the films Roger Corman produced under New World Pictures? Not really. But it is enjoyable and a great slice of what ended up a career retrospective for this evening on The Last Drive-In. The film has all the ingredients necessary for a Drive-In movie and absolutely delivers on all three fronts: blood, breasts, and beasts.
Humanoids from the Deep (or, MONSTER!) is a 1980 science fiction horror film starring Doug McClure, Ann Turkel, and Vic Morrow. Like many movies that show up on the show, this one had a trouble production: the film is nominally directed by Barbara Peeters, but Jimmy T. Murakami’s uncredited contributions are the behest of Corman. The screenplay was written by Fredrick James, based on a story by Frank Arnold and Martin B. Cohen, who served as a producer as well. Another credit of note, the music was handled by none of than James Horner.
The movie follows the local fisherman and community of Noyo, California. They are menaced by brutally escalating assaults by mysterious assailants who turn out to be murderous, raping fish-men from a nearby fishing company. Also, there is a subplot about indigenous cultures being abused by settling whites, themes of environmentalism, and small-town toxicity. There is also a bizarre scene with a puppet. It’s a great movie for Drive-In Mutants. For the normals? Not so much.
The plot is pretty loose, really only stretching a thin story over a few scenes of monstrous encounters. Nothing about the story itself comes off as surprising, either. It’s all very much in line with other films with the same sort of themes, but coming into Humanoids expecting something revolutionary in the narrative is a fool’s errand. Instead, the appeal from the film comes from the discrepancy between the actors and the material, the effects, and the unique way the monsters are handled.
The performances in the film are good, generally, and great surprisingly often. Given the nature of the film, some level of trickery was employed to get the scripts passed from the agents to the actors, and Roger confirmed as much in the show. Specifically, the film was pitched as a “psychological drama,” which is fantastic because that is so not what this movie is. But because a payday is a payday, the actors put their all into it. The performances range from the oddly compelling, if not a bit basic Doug McClure, to the incredibly compelling in Anthony Pena’s Johnny Eagle, to the ridiculously cartoonish villainy of Vic Morrow as Hank Slattery. The fact these actors put so much effort into this movie about killer fish-men snatching up women and slashing up men is astounding.
Oh, and those fish-men are amazing. A sizeable chunk of the film’s $2.5 million budget was wisely spent on the monster costumed by the legendary Rob Bottin (The Thing, RoboCop, The Howling). The monsters are damn good, especially when they emerge from the water. They also hold up incredibly well in a few underwater scenes. They are inevitably a bit goofy looking, as they are bipedal mutant salmon, but the elongated arms and strange features are the scary sides of goofy.
The movie, really, is all just set up from the final twenty minutes or so, featuring a massive attack on a local festival by the fish-men. It is a tight little film at under 80 minutes, but the story is mostly treading water until the attack. The film also, and perhaps most novelly, shows the monsters early on. Most creature features obscure the monster until the end. With Humanoids from the Deep, you’ll have seen at least a couple of the monsters in full during graphic sexual assaults or bloody slashing by the end of the first third of the film.
Joe Bob’s host segments continued to pull great anecdotes out of Roger Corman, especially on whether people can still produce films his way in today’s industry. To summarize Roger’s exquisite point: it’s hard today but still possible. Most of the other segment highlights were the increasingly absurd “six degrees of Roger Corman” reveals that emphasize his importance to cinema as a whole. Gale Anne Hurd? Martin Scorsese? Roger had a hand in shaping their careers. It’s astounding, really.
Humanoids from the Deep isn’t what you could call a great film, but it is a great movie if we believe such distinctions exist. Humanoids is entertaining and has a certain limited cultural relevance, but it’s not for everyone. This one is for the Mutants. By that assessment, Joe Bob Briggs’ four-star rating makes sense. I swim in a bit of a different stream in my reviews, though. I think it is a ton of fun and one I’d watch again and again, but it’s not one I would argue is great. I’d give it about three and a half Cthulhus.(3.5 / 5)
Best Line: “Oh, come on, show me more than the head.” – Becky, talking about a ventriloquist dummy.
Haunted MTL Drive-In Totals
Our final drive-in totals of the season. I miss them already.
As for our totals:
- 2 day shoot
- 4 Yuki Sightings
- 6 Degrees of Roger Corman
- 9 gym rules
- 14 dead dogs this season
- 67 years of Roger Corman films
- Flower Eating
- Self Medicating
- Vulture Joking
- Rapid Fire Dialogue Fu
- Self-financed Fu
- Darcy Cosplay: Audrey (the 1986 version), and a Humanoid… from the Deep!
- Silver Bolo Award: Good Bad Flicks
Tonight seemed to be the end to what I hope will be dubbed the “Cabin in the Woods”-era of the show, which means I also hope we’ll have multiple eras of The Last Drive-In. I know my criticisms of the isolation of the cabin set and some remote guests have been a running theme through my reviews of the season and the previous specials. Still, I ultimately feel this will be a nostalgic chapter of our collective Drive-In experience. It’s interesting how seeing Joe Bob and Darcy (in Humanoid cosplay) evokes that nostalgia, which of course, is the overall reason why Mutants tune in week to week to watch the show on Shudder, to begin with. Nostalgia, whether drawn from movies we know, or even the comforting presence of a guy in a bolo tie drinking beer and waxing wise about a movie, is something that we needed to get through the last year or so.
So, I guess while I had my gripes with the cabin, I am ultimately going to miss it. Funny how that will work – there will be the inevitable nostalgia. I think we’re going to be able to continue building memories of the show for a while to come. The slickly-produced Drive-In Oath between the two films felt like something you would produce for a show you plan to keep around, not send-off. Time will tell. Regardless, as with every season and special, we come to a close with a wistful Joe Bob and something that can work as the last Last Drive-in.(4.5 / 5)
Lastly, if you want a little more Joe Bob while you wait for the next special, consider Join Darcy’s Patreon, The Lost Drive-In. I am a member and have already received a great Blu-Ray full of great Joe Bob bits from his previous shows. She also posts fun clips from the archives on show nights, so there is a ton of stuff you can enjoy.
1971’s ‘The Corpse Grinders’ is purrrfect
Have you ever wanted a movie from the 70’s where a woman gets home from work, strips down to lingerie to lounge on her couch, only to be killed and eaten by her cat?
Of course, you’re a regular human, just like the rest of us. Who doesn’t fantasize about that?
Well, kids, I found us that perfect movie in the salacious and groovy Arch Hall Sr. film, THE CORPSE GRINDERS.
The Plot of The Corpse Grinders:
Corruption! Capitalism! Murder! Fake-ass sign language! Cats! This movie has IT ALL.
Partnering with a couple who owns a cemetery, they begin grinding up the mystery meat and sell it to unsuspecting consumers. But the consumers begin to be consumed themselves (that’s my best joke of the year, you’re welcome), a veterinarian begins to investigate the reason why our feline friends have turned feral.
Can this nefarious plot be found out in time by investigators? And by “investigators”, I mean, literally just this veterinarian and some nurse. Or will they too become victims in the feeding frenzy?
Thoughts on The Corpse Grinders:
This was only written by Arch Hall Sr. and not directed, but honestly, for being a low-budget comedy-horror, it cements him as a cult classic icon. Probably known most for Eegah, of MST3K infamy, he wrote and directed many camp movies during the 60’s and 70’s. Usually to showcase his son’s, er…talents.
But he legitimately had some fun ideas and execution, especially when someone else was in the director’s chair. THE CORPSE GRINDERS is fun and exciting schlock, a feast for the eyes in its limited cinematography, acting, and lighting.
And call this a hot take, but I think THE CORPSE GRINDERS would have made a better edition to MST3K than Eegah did because it works so incredibly well as campy horror. There’s a lot of honest humor in it, but metric tons of things to poke fun of and riff.
So, I have two brainrolls.
First, give me the rights. Gimme. Because this movie is RIPE for a reboot. Yes, that’s right. Not Pinhead, not Chucky, not gay icon Chucky – no! Corpse Grinders is a perfect example of something with enough cheese, enough spark, and enough of a story that still gels. With the right writers, director and cinematographer, this could really be a great reboot.
And I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – reboot movies like THIS. Old, beat-up movies with enough spit and polish to be fun and enjoyable. Something you could add to with more budget, technology and direction. Stop, please, stop making ‘I Spit on Your Grave’ part 24. It’s done, it’s old, lie those types to rest and focus on movies that kind of sucked but would be phenomenal after time has passed.
The second is, um…American Sign Language (?) in the film. Which, okay, I’m a million percent with having those with disabilities shown on screen. I love it. Gimme 2.0. But…But why this, specifically?
We have a side character who is Deaf, but…um…the ASL is, well…
Remember that séance scene from Wild World of Batwoman? Yeah. It’s on par with that.
In MY new Corpse Grinders, she’s going to have a much wider role and actually be a Deaf actress and not…whatever that was. Because you took a cool idea and made it incredibly offensive. So, six of one and half-dozen of the other.
If you love campy fun movies about cats eating people and-…
Jellybeans, what are you doing?
helloo itsme branyl i wriet horro movis nd not a jellllllybens cAt. can i haz humnbrger?(4 / 5)
February Titles for Arrow Streaming
Wow, January sure flew by fast! But guess what? It’s time to see what goodies Arrow is bringing to the small screen soon. Let’s find out!
Feb 3rd: Robert Altman: Giggle and Give In and Made in the USA
February 3 Joyce documentaries about the American indie film scene: Robert Altman: Giggle and Give In and Made in the USA (both US/UK/CA/IRE). Joyce’s documentary profile of Altman, originally produced in 1996 includes contributions from Altman, Elliott Gould, Shelley Duvall, assistant director Alan Rudolph and screenwriter Joan Tewkesbury.
Feb 3rd: Charles Band: The Puppetmaster
February 3: Charles Band: The Puppetmaster (UK/IRE/US/CA). Triple-threat writer-producer-director Charles Band has been pulling the strings making horror, sci-fi and fantasy features since the 70s and his films were a massive part of making the 1980s home video boom, well, boom.
Charles Band: The Puppetmaster brings together many of his wildest and most fun work, from murderous pint-sized puppets to re-animated horrors, from time-travelling Trancers to a terrifying Tourist Trap, and even the re-tooled Doctor Strange movie starring Jeffrey Combs as a slightly different sorcerer supreme. And I LOVE Jeffrey Combs!
Titles Include: Puppet Master, Doctor Mordrid, Trancers.
Feb 6: Killer Tech
February 6, while shopping for a gadget for your sweetheart, ARROW uploads Killer Tech (UK/IRE/US/CA) to the service.
We all want the latest gadgets, but in Killer Tech screen time means scream time.
From cursed videotapes and phone calls to the dangers of the dark web and vicious virtual reality, ARROW’s newest, smallest, lightest, fastest, most expensive curated collection doesn’t just have the best screen, largest amount of storage and the coolest camera – it also comes with a guarantee that the newest tech equals instant death.
Titles Include: .com For Murder, Laguna Ave, Edge of the Axe.
I recommend Edge of the Axe!
Feb 10: Cinematic Void Selects
February 10, ARROW hands the keys to the kingdom to Cinematic Void, a Los Angeles-based cult film screening series into the mouth of cinemadness. Focusing on all oddball gems of all genres, the Void unleashes an onslaught of horror, eurotrash, exploitation and gonzo action on the silver screen at the American Cinematheque. CV film programmer Jim Branscome has selected a few of his favourite films of the genre for your viewing pleasure in Cinematic Void Selects.
Titles Include: Deadly Games, Deep Red.
February 14 celebrates Valentine’s Day with the perfect pairing: the undead and the living dead.
Two Orphan Vampires (UK/IRE/US): A pair of teenage girls, who are blind by day, but when the sun goes down, they roam the streets to quench their thirst for blood.
Zombie Lake (UK/IRE/US): In a small village, somewhere in France, German soldiers, killed and thrown into the lake by the Resistance during WWII, come back.
Also Valentine’s Day:
Jean Rollin: The Fantastique Collection Part IV (UK/IRE/US).
Led by the brand new and exclusive documentary from filmmakers Kat Ellinger and Dima Ballin, Orchestrator of Storms: The Fantastique World Of Jean Rollin, welcome to ARROW’s final volume of horrifying dream-like sauce from the master of conjuring up erotic nightmare fuel, Jean Rollin, The Fantastique Collection Part IV.
Titles Include: The Living Dead Girl, Lost in New York, Dracula’s Fiancee.
Feb 17: The French Hitchcock: Claude Chabrol
February 17, with The French Hitchcock: Claude Chabrol (UK/IRE/US).
For five decades Claude Chabrol navigated the unpredictable waters of cinema, leaving in his wake more than fifty feature films that remain among the most quietly devastating genre movies ever made. Sardonic, provocative, and unsettling, Chabrol’s films cut to the quick with a clarity and honesty honed to razor sharpness.
Though influenced by Fritz Lang, Alfred Hitchcock and Jean Renoir, Chabrol’s voice was entirely and assuredly his own, influencing in turn filmmakers like Bong Joon-ho, James Gray and Dominik Moll. His amused, unblinkered view of life and refusal to judge his characters makes his films timelessly relevant and accessible to all.
Dark, witty, ruthless, mischievous: if you’ve never seen Chabrol before, you’re in for a treat.
Titles Include: Cop au vin, Madame Bovary (1991), The Swindle.
Feb 24: King of Karate: The Sonny Chiba Collection
February 24 hits it off with King of Karate: The Sonny Chiba Collection (UK/IRE/US/CA).
Put up your dukes and prepare yourselves for brutal and lightning-fast martial arts action starring the King of Karate: Sonny Chiba.
Whether you’ve only heard of Sonny through Clarence and Alabama’s True Romance triple-bill, have seen him sword-making for The Bride in Kill Bill, or know Shinichi Chiba from way back in the 70s martial arts boom where his lethal mastery of karate, judo and kenpo made him an in-demand anti-hero to legions of fans, there’s plenty of bruising bad-assery to be had in King of Karate: The Sonny Chiba Collection.
Titles Include: The Street Fighter, Wolf Guy, Battles Without Honor and Humanity: Hiroshima Death Match.
Feb 28: Millionaires’ Express
February 28 closes out the shortest month of the year with Millionaires’ Express (US/CA).
All aboard for the all-star action-packed adventure of a lifetime as martial arts maestro Sammo Hung (Heart of Dragon) brings East and West crashing spectacularly together in Millionaires’ Express!
Sammo himself plays Ching Fong-tin, a former outlaw with a wild scheme to make amends with the citizens of his struggling hometown of Hon Sui: explosively derail a brand new luxury express train en route from Shanghai so that its super-rich passengers will have no choice but to spend money in the town. He’s not the only one with eyes on the passengers’ deep pockets, however; a gang of ruthless bank-robbing bandits are on the way, looking for a priceless map being guarded by a trio of Japanese samurai. Bullets and fists will fill the air in equal measure, but will Hon Sui Town be left standing?
Head over to ARROW to start watching now.
Subscriptions are available for $6.99 monthly or $69.99 yearly.
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ARROWEssentials curates collections based on genre, decades and themes; and ARROWStories takes a fresh look at the world of film and TV with exclusive documentaries, interviews and video essays diving deeper into the many curated seasons and titles on the platform for a richer and deeper viewing experience.
With a slickly designed and user-friendly interface, and an unparalleled roster of quality content from westerns to giallo to Asian cinema, trailers, Midnight Movies, filmmaker picks and much, much more, ARROW is the place to go for the very best in on-demand entertainment.
ARROW is also home to ARROW Stories – an ever-growing collection of interviews, trailers, documentaries and additional extras, both newly created exclusives for the service and from the company’s extensive archives. The service will be updated regularly with fresh content, new curation focuses and never-before-seen content, all selected by the ARROW team as well as the filmmakers themselves. With a slickly designed and user-friendly interface ARROW is the new alternative place to go for the very best in On-Demand entertainment.
Be on the look-out because in the coming months, ARROW will be adding Oscar-winning hits, European classics, Asian cinema masterworks, rediscovered Westerns, offbeat gems and much more as part of ARROW’s international strategy to support and celebrate the medium of film.
Dahmer, The Good Boy Box
I think if it were possible to awkward someone to death, Dahmer never would have had to use any other weapon. Because if episode four is any indication, the man was a walking personification of awkwardness.
We start this episode with Dahmer talking with the police detectives after his arrest. He doesn’t seem to have any issue laying everything out for them, starting with the murder of the hitchhiker from the last episode. He’s seeing a psychiatrist, which feels overdue. And the psychiatrist is bringing back some memories. Starting with his graduation from high school.
A few days after graduation, Lionel Dahmer finally decides to look in on his family. He comes home to find no one but Jeff there, drunk and scribbling out the faces of his classmates from his yearbook.
After taking some time to blame Joyce, Lionel sets himself to the task of fixing his son. He first sends Jeff to Ohio State. Within a semester, Jeff is expelled with a GPA of .45. So, Lionel sends him to the army. And for about a year, that seems to work out. Jeff goes through basic training and everything is fine. But then, he’s discharged.
It’s not outright said in the show why Dahmer was discharged. He later tells a woman that it was because of his drinking. But he lies and gives half-truths to everyone without any remorse. So there’s no way of knowing.
Finally, we pick back up where we left off a few episodes ago, with Jeff’s grandmother finding the stolen mannequin in his bed. She throws it away, and he starts to unravel.
He goes to a state fair and gets arrested for masturbating in public.
Honestly, there are a lot of masturbation scenes in this episode and the last. Probably more than we needed.
Every time Jeff seems to get some sort of handle on his life, he manages to mess it up. He loses jobs and starts drugging men at bars. Finally, he finds himself in bed with the body of a beautiful young man he brought home the night before.
I liked this episode. It was a deeply disturbing portrait of a mentally ill young man trying and failing to get himself together. It’s easy to feel bad for Dahmer. To feel like there should have been a way to save him from himself.
And there should have been, to be clear. Dahmer was throwing up enough red flags early enough that someone should have been able to do something.
And yet, nobody did until seventeen men were dead. It does make you wonder if it would have gone on so long if Dahmer hadn’t preyed on gay men. If he hadn’t been a white man. And maybe it should make us wonder that.
I’m sure this point will be made clear to us as we watch the second half of the season.(4 / 5)
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