Bucket of Blood, A (1959)

“The artist is; all others are not.”

Synopsis:
During the Beatnik era, a nebbishy busboy (Dick Miller) longs to become a great artist. When he accidentally kills his landlady’s cat, he is inspired to cover it in clay and call it art; when his “Dead Cat” is well-received, he soon moves on to killing and “sculpting” human subjects.

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Review:
This surprisingly effective low-budget thriller (directed by Roger Corman and scripted by Charles B. Griffith) is, along with Little Shop of Horrors (1960), proof of Corman’s ability to churn out entertaining movies with bare-bones budgets and minimal shooting schedules. While some of the production values in A Bucket of Blood are laughably bad (the newly-killed cat Miller pulls out of his wall is as stiff as a board), others — such as the atmospherically-shot climactic chase scene — are impressive. Perhaps most memorable, however, is the way in which Corman and Griffith deliciously satirize both Beatniks and artists, who are portrayed as pretentious, exclusionary, and not-just-a-little nutty. No wonder there are murders going on!

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Dick Miller as the desperate wannabe artist
  • Julian Burton as a Ginsberg-esque Beatnik poet, who spouts countless pompous lines:

    “Mark well this lad: his is the silent voice of creation. Within the dark, rich soil of humility, he blossoms as the hope of our nearly sterile century!”

  • A hilarious, spot-on satire of both Beatnik culture and pretentious artists
  • Charles Griffith’s cleverly morbid script

Must See?
Yes. This cult film is a surprisingly enjoyable low-budget thriller. It’s listed as both a Camp Classic and a Cult Movie in the back of Peary’s book.

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One Response to “Bucket of Blood, A (1959)”

  1. A must – in complete agreement here. It actually is “surprisingly effective”, and something of a cousin to writer Griffith’s script of the following year, ‘The Little Shop of Horrors’: underdog finds recognition and fame, only to then find his world turned upside down.

    The main difference here, of course, being that the protagonist is also a bit bonkers.

    And played by Dick Miller (in a leading role!) – still making films, and considered a bit of a cult movie icon. Not much of an actor, perhaps, but he nevertheless has a certain blue-collar sturdiness. (No doubt ffs have noticed him popping up in film with regularity and have said “Hey, there’s…that guy!” I personally enjoy him in ‘New York, New York’ and ‘Gremlins’. In a number of his film appearances, he has kept his name from ‘ABOB’: Walter Paisley.)

    In a less showy role, Barboura Morris turns in a nice, understated performance as Carla. (She rather reminds me of a more fetching Denise Richards.) I love how she takes a look at Miller’s sculpture of ‘Murdered Man’ and exclaims softly, “It’s hideous – and it’s eloquent.”

    No doubt, gore films of the future would have the seeds of this film. But the gore here is tastefully done (which explains the “laughably bad” dead cat – all the better to detract from the gore).

    This is the kind of guilty pleasure ffs may want to return to every once in a while.

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