A BUCKET OF BLOOD (1959) – The Dungeon Review!
I reviewed quite a few Roger Corman creature flicks for a feature I did last year called Eisenhower & the Horror Movies. You can not avoid Corman whilst covering horror films from the Eisenhower era, he directed a ton and produced a ton more. I’ve enjoyed every last directorial effort Corman made through the 50s and 60s. Granted some I have enjoyed because they are campy and ridiculous beyond belief like Creature from the Haunted Sea and Attack of the Giant Leeches. Corman’s directorial masterpieces were certainly his 60s Vincent Price/Edgar Allan Poe entries. There is however one other masterpiece in his resume I think also deserves special attention; the 1959 horror-comedy A Bucket of Blood. Made on the cheap, this riff on Beatnik culture tickles me every time I watch it. A Bucket of Blood is one of those films you find in dump bins for $1.99. In fact, that is exactly where I scored my copy of this immensely entertaining film. But wait! You can watch A Bucket of Blood on IMDB for free! It is definitely worth the price of admission! If you haven’t seen A Bucket of Blood go watch it right now here!
Socially awkward Walter Paisley is a busboy at a Bohemian joint called The Yellow Door Cafe. Misguided Walter desperately wants to be accepted by the artsy fartsy types who frequent the establishment; particularly the lovely Carla. He decides to buy some molding clay and try his hand at sculpting, but quickly becomes frustrated. It seems acceptance is out of his grasp until he accidently kills his landlady’s cat and decides to cover it in clay. Quicker than you can say dead cat, Walter becomes a minor star of the local art scene. In the art world however you are only as good as your next piece and staying on top can really be murder!
The goofy bunch of characters in A Bucket of Blood are all a riot! Beatnik poet Maxwell H. Brock recites some of the most hilariously outrageous nonsense! “Life in an obscure hobo bumming a ride on the omnibus of art. Burn Gas Buggies and whip your sour cream of circumstance and hope. Go ahead and sleep your bloody head off. Creation is, and all else is not. What is not creation is graham cracker. Let it all crumble to feed the creators.” Great stuff! There is a charming love interest named Carla, an art groupie named Naolia, a duo of dopey beatnik hangers-about, a nosy landlady and a couple of undercover cops. My favourite character by far (besides Walter of course!) is Leonard de Santis owner of The Yellow Door Cafe. Leonard de Santis is played by Corman regular Antony Carbone. I love this guy! His expressions are fucking priceless! Leonard figures out Walter’s deception when he discovers some fur sticking out of his dead cat sculpture. His initial reaction is to rat out Walter but after he is offered $500 he gets over it. Leonard’s reaction when he sees Walter’s first human project really slays me! The seriously underappreciated Dick Miller is superb as Walter Paisley. He is certainly not the sharpest pencil and you can’t help but feel sorry for the guy. He is painfully awkward and a little bit sad but it makes the whole scenario that much more plausible. Well, as plausible as you are going to get in a film about a busboy turned murdering pseudo-sculptor. It probably should have been questioned more seriously when the busboy produces a full sized human sculpture in a period of mere hours. But what fun would that have been?
Besides the initial (and amusing) accidental cat death early in the film A Bucket of Blood’s intentions are clear. It is no surprise that Walter’s next project takes human form. The basic idea behind the film had been explored in 1933’s Mystery of the Wax Museum and 1953’s House of Wax but Roger Corman makes this completely and utterly his own! A Bucket of Blood is comedy of the first order, but it does have a mild grotesqueness about it also. The “sculptures” Walter creates are actually pretty morbid. Especially his first human form…love the cracked skull! His first human form, like dead cat, could also be considered an accident, but nonetheless each death gets progressively grimmer.
Maxwell H. Brock says “I refuse to say anything twice. Repetition is death”, but I think telling you A Bucket of Blood is an immensely entertaining film warrants repeating. A Bucket of Blood is only an hour-ish long and just flies by; it has a jazzy soundtrack that fits perfectly, crazy beatnik poetry, outrageous characters, tons of laughs and a touch of grim that makes it the perfect re-watchable horror-comedy classic! Highest of Recommendations!
Dungeon Rating: 5/5
Directed By: Roger Corman
Starring: Dick Miller, Barboura Morris, Antony Carbone, Julian Burton, Ed Nelson, John Brinkley, John Herman Shaner, Judy Bamber, Myrtle Vail, Bert Convy, Jhean Burton, Bruno VeSota, Lynn Storey