I have no idea what Carl J. Monson was trying to do when, in 1973, he made Please Don’t Eat My Mother. I suppose the most likely answer is trying to make money. He must have seen Roger Corman’s Little Shop of Horrors and thought, “I can make that.” and then set about making it. It wasn’t that he was inspired by it or wanted to make a better one, he just went ahead and made it again. That’s not entirely fair, he added a whole smutty, Freudian, Oedipal, voyeuristic weirdness that was fortunately absent from Corman’s original.
In Monson’s version, our protagonist is a nebbish named Henry Fudd. If you are not familiar with the word nebbish, it is an excellent addition to any vocabulary. “Nebbish” is a yiddish term meaning someone who will never amount to much. They suffer from a pathetic lack of ambition coupled with bad luck. Something always goes wrong with their badly laid plans. Henry is a true nebbish. He lives with his overbearing Jewish mother and works a 9 to 5 job somewhere unknown. We never get to see where he works, instead we see where he goes every day for his lunch break. He goes to the park to watch young couples have sex. Apparently the youth of the 70’s had no shame and simply lay out a blanket where ever it might fall and commenced to fornicating.
The lunch break scenes wobble between softcore and hardcore. We get to see both male and female genitalia, but we don’t get to see the genitalia touch, except for one scene where we are treated to an angle that you would think pornographers would try to avoid. I have provided an example below, along with my apologies
These voyeuristic lunch breaks have no relation to the film or plot. It’s almost as if the film itself is on a lunch break and we are left to watch porn until it comes back. When it does come back, we witness Henry buy a small plant, bring it home, discover it can talk, and start feeding it progressively larger things. He goes from plant food to flies to dogs to cats and then humans. Unlike in Little Shop of Horrors, theplant offers Henry nothing in return. Henry feeds the plant out of a sense of obligation. This is where things start to turn Freudian. The plant has an adult woman’s voice. Not a breathy, sexy voice, but more of a matriarchal, authoritarian nag. The plant bullies and dominates him just like Henry’s actual mother.
His real Mom is constantly scolding him for making bad choices and not being attentive enough to her. The plant mother also craves attention, but in the form of food. The plant gets bigger and bigger until it’s 9 feet tall, and of course, it doesn’t want to eat just any humans, it prefers nubile, young ladies with the wrapping removed.
It’s not clear what Henry wants. Does he want a nubile, young thing for himself? Does he want independence from his overbearing Mom? He does eventually end up feeding his human-mom to his plant-mom. I wonder what Freud would say about that.
I could venture a guess at Freud’s overall diagnosis. Something like, “Henry desires his real mother, but represses his sexual feelings for her. All sexual desires are sublimated desires to eat one’s lover, so Henry, finding his incestuous desire to eat/shtup his mom morally unacceptable, gets a surrogate, vis-à-vis the plant, to eat his mother.”
Maybe the plant is a figment of Henry’s imagination! He is actually a delusional psychopath who is murdering dogs, cats and people in his bedroom and thinks that he is following the guidance of a talking plant. Now that could be a movie! A sort of Oedipal Son of Sam.
To tangle these relationships even further, the plant demands to have sex. Henry gets excited and tries to hump her, but she rebuffs him. It’s Oedipus all over again. The plant explains that she doesn’t want him. She needs a male plant, so Henry goes out and gets one for her. While the two plants get busy in Henry’s bedroom, Henry, ever the voyeur, goes off to spy on his neighbors having sex. Henry’s facial expressions while he watches couples screw are really creepy. He has this beatific, almost wholesome smile that seems to be more about appreciating the sweetness of youthful intimacy and less about lascivious arousal. It’s very unsettling.
The couple he is watching get into a fight over the size of the man’s penis, or really his insecurity over the size of his penis, and she ends up shooting and killing him. More Freudian fodder. A man’s fear of having an inadequate phallus causes his wife to castrate him with a phallic shaped gun in an expression of her own penis envy.
This whole altercation is filmed in some of the worst shot/reverse shot blocking I have ever seen. They both seem to be yelling at a wall. See below.
After the altercation, Henry steps out of the shadows and offers to dispose of the husband’s body for the wife. He takes the corpse and the wife back to his room and feeds the husband to the plants. In gratitude, the wife, despite the trauma of having just killed her husband, starts feeling a little frisky and offers to sleep with Henry. Henry is flattered and, instead of practicing a bit of caution, considering what his perspective lover just did to her husband, jumps at the chance to consummate the deal. Unfortunately for Henry, the mother plant eats the wife before Henry can get his hands on her. The overbearing mother lays claim to her child, and in one fell swoop, emasculates him while simultaneously destroying the female interloper.
In the end, the plants, who happened to be named Adam and Eve, spawn a slew of babies in ceramic pots, which Henry dutifully sells on the street. Henry becomes a slave to his mother’s will and she is determined to use him to enslave the rest of us. Society becomes a hollow and meaningless parade of slavery and consumption fueled by the repressed need for parental approval of the sexual desires that the super-ego rejects as deviant. Yeah, that sounds about right. I’m sure Monson would say I’m reading way too much into his schlocky money grab of a film, but denial is at the root of his problem, either that or I am symbolically masturbating by over-analyzing a cheap piece of filth and passing it off as an essay. I’ll let you decide.
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